teaching college journalism in the trump era

inside logoFor the past two years, an increasing number of my university students have been asking me whether what they’re seeing transpire between White House officials and members of the national news media is, for lack of a better word, “normal.”

They often refer to the death threats journalists like White House reporter April Ryan has received after being singled out by the president for verbal attacks. They talk about how the commander-in-chief routinely labels news reporters as the “enemy of the people” (a phrase applied by dictators like Stalin, as NPR’s Scott Simon said “to vilify their opponents … who were often murdered.”). They are aghast that the president once joked about killing journalists and routinely calls those who practice journalism as “fake.” During the presidential campaign, a Trump supporter wore a T-shirt to a Trump campaign rally suggesting that journalists be lynched.

I wrote a piece for the Inside Higher Ed website exploring my struggles with teaching students how to be savvy news consumers when things like basic facts are under assault.

You can read the full piece here.

Image credit: Inside Higher Ed.

 

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of black holes & brain damage

black holeThe National Multiple Sclerosis Society has published my latest piece, “Black Holes” on its MS Connection blog.

The essay was inspired by the historic image taken of a black hole in April. Here’s an excerpt:

It looked like a glow-in-the-dark doughnut.

When the first image of a black hole 55 light-years away from Earth was made public by astronomers this spring, it was heralded across the globe. Astronomers, the New York Times reported, had “captured an image of the unobservable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.” The writer described the image as “a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.”

The very idea of “a one-way portal to eternity” is terrifying in an end-of-the-world, Game of Thrones kind of way.

The very idea of a black hole becomes intimately and individually terrifying when you learn that you are carrying one around inside your brain. This is a real possibility for those with MS.

Read the full piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

new post: when ms messes with your sense of taste

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society published my recent post, “A Loss of Taste,” about my vanishing ability to taste foods, as comfort food that I once enjoyed now give me nothing but disappointment.

Here’s an excerpt:

Somewhere along the way, my ability to savor certain foods has waned. Actually, it’s done more than waned. In some cases, it has warped into a bizarro situation where items I’ve long loved now suddenly taste of bitter disappointment.
 
What food now tastes terrible to me? My beloved morning coffee (with the exception of peppermint-flavored java), several red wines I used to adore, some marinara sauces, toasted everything bagels, and even the heartiest of sandwiches, unless they’re slathered with this spicy chipotle mayo I found.
 
Over the past two years, my ability to taste these favorites has gradually diminished. More recently, it significantly ebbed to the point where several food and drink items no longer taste familiar. The caramel-flavored coffee I bought the other week? It was outright disgusting in my mouth.
 
Is MS the culprit? My taste thief?

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

are we in pottersville?

screenshot 2018-12-24 13.13.53Although It’s a Wonderful Life is powerfully associated with the Christmas season, to me, it’s about much more than wishes on Christmas Eve.

The classic film is about a little guy with a conscience and a strong sense of civic duty who is trying to succeed and help out fellow citizens in a world that is run by guys who lie and cheat and boast and hoard their ill-gotten-gains at the expense of others. It’s got an evergreen kind of message.

It’s in that vein that I wrote this piece of political satire on Medium, “The Chamber of Commerce Welcomes You to Pottersville.”

In the piece, the Pottersville of It’s a Wonderful Life, has emerged from the black-and-white film into America, circa now. Pottersville is America “made great again” by a Trump-Potter character. Scenes from the film, as well as quotes and policies from our current president, are melded together to create a vision of a modern day Pottersville hellscape, one I hope shall not come to pass.

I have no idea who our modern day George Bailey (or Baileys) will turn out to be, but I think we’re all waiting for the Baileys of the world to stand up and serve as bulwarks to fend off contemporary forms of Mr. Potter.

Here’s an excerpt:

Welcome to Pottersville, our newly-rejuvenated hamlet made great again by our super-smart leader, Mr. Potter!

Here, we banish things like locally-owned emporiums which turn no profits, so-called “friendly” watering holes where not nearly enough shots of booze are sold to boost our tax base, and mom-and-pop building-and-loan operations which recklessly approve mortgages for losers like cab drivers. Such fiscal impropriety there used to be in our old Bedford Falls businesses. Sad!

However, since the ascension of our illustrious stable genius leader, Mr. Potter, we are celebrating traditional values again, ones where we put Pottersvillians first, where we keep what we have piled up in our bank vaults and don’t, as the communist Bailey family used to say, “spread the wealth.” 

You can read the full piece here.

what’s it like to have an mri when you’re claustrophobic?

My new piece at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Connection blog tackles the topic of what it’s like for a someone (that would be me) to have an MRI when you’re claustrophobic, particularly when your head has to be enclosed by this lovely little thing called a “face cage.”

An excerpt of the piece:

“… [A] technician beckons me into the large room where the behemoth machine resides.

This is when the fun starts. And when I say ‘fun,’ I mean the opposite of fun. I really mean ‘terror.’ I mean a trapped-inside-something-and-can’t-get-out terror. It’s at this point when, after placing my head between two hard pieces of plastic, the technician clicks a hard plastic cage over my face and into those twin pillars. There is a relatively narrow rectangular opening above my face, but there’s no avoiding the fact that I am confined. The face cage is about two inches away from the tip of my nose. Its mere presence makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m being punished. Locked up.

Did I mention that I’m claustrophobic?”

Read the full post here.

essay: parenting in the age of school shootings

telegram_logoSomeone threatened to shoot up my son’s high school recently. Administrators alerted parents to the threat and assured us that there would be a strong police presence on the school campus.

When you are told that someone — likely an individual trying to get attention and spark a high-profile reaction — has threatened your child’s school, on a specific day, how are parents, in the age of Parkland and Newtown, supposed to react? What is a reasonable response? I wrote a piece about navigating this new terrain, “Parenting in the Age of School Shootings.”

An excerpt:

“… all I had were questions. Will there be an increased police presence at the high school because the shooting was threatened to occur tomorrow? Or will police be there just because there was a threat made? Is the high school graduation ceremony a few days from now at risk?

Facebook quickly became the virtual meeting spot for worried parents who wondered if it was safe to send kids to school the following day, for parents who said we shouldn’t live in fear, for parents who were hungry for more information, for parents who sought solace from one another because this is now the world in which we are raising our children.”

Read the whole piece at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette here.

essay: adventures with a dairy allergy

dairyIt was a serendipitous coincidence that my latest column for The Mighty website, “Got Milk? Adventures with a Dairy Allergy” was published as many were celebrating National Cheese Day an event in which I, sadly, did not partake.

The piece involves Thanksgiving dinner at my sister-in-law’s house, a jar of gravy, and a couple of doses of Benadryl. It starts this way:

My legs seemed to dissolve beneath me. My eyelids grew heavy as I plunged into sleep like I was falling off a cliff. Actually, it’s more accurate to describe what happened this way: I passed out in my sister-in-law’s guest bedroom, as if I’d been drugged. Blame it on the dry milk.

Read the whole essay here.

Image credit: The Mighty website via Getty Image/Baibaz.