I consume news in the form of two daily, hard copy newspapers (I know, I’m ancient), the Boston Globe and the New York Times. I also read online subscriptions of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as devour magazines, the New Yorker and New York Magazine (yes, in hard copy), and the online version of The Atlantic.
When I’m not busy reading all of that journalistic and literary goodness (I just added the literary magazine Creative Nonfiction to my subscription list), I’m reading books. Funny books. Serious books. Fiction. Nonfiction. New England-centric. Politically-oriented. My tastes run wide.
Halfway through the year I published a list on Instagram of the books I’d read starting in January 2021 through early June 2021:
Then, as 2021 drew to an ignominious close with lines for COVID-19 tests wrapping city blocks, I shared the second half of my 2021 reading list:
What did YOU read in 2021? Give the authors a shout-out. They’d appreciate some social media love.
The rapid development and rollout of coronavirus vaccines is one of the biggest news stories in recent memory. As the novel and highly communicable virus began spreading at the end of 2019, the hunt for a vaccine began in early 2020, relying heavily upon a foundation of knowledge created by little-known scientists and researchers. By the time vaccines were being injected into arms at the end of 2020, the United States had lost hundreds of thousands of people to covid-19.
A story this expansive and consequential could surely fill many books. (Think of how many have been written about the 1918 influenza pandemic.) So it really isn’t surprising that two journalists have tackled the same big story in separate new books — with similar titles and stark covers featuring syringes. The books offer dueling tales of how coronavirus vaccines were developed in what seemed like record time. While they cover some of the same territory and quote some of the same people, the books largely shine their respective lights on different narrative slices of the story.
The Disability Justice Project (DJP) is a strategic partnership between the Disability Rights Fund, an international NGO funding grassroots organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) in the Global South, and journalism educator and human rights filmmaker Jody Santos and other nationally recognized media makers from Northeastern University’s School of Journalism in Boston, Massachusetts. Based on a fellowship model, newer professionals with lived experience of disability from the Global South are paired with mentors/professional journalists in the U.S. In an exchange of ideas and experiences, the fellows learn about digital storytelling from some of the best in the industry, while the mentors learn about the global disability justice movement from frontline activists – with the goal of incorporating that new understanding into their reporting for publications like The New York Times and The Guardian or for broadcasters like PBS and ABC.
The group recently ran a feature story about me as I’m writer and journalism faculty member who has a disability (multiple sclerosis). The article entitled, “Meet DJP Mentor Meredith O’Brien,” began:
Disability Justice Project mentor Meredith O’Brien has always loved reading and writing. “As a kid, I was often reading and trying my hand at writing little stories,” she says. “I’d find notebooks around the house and just start writing stories in them.”
I had a blast chatting with Brad King on his Downtown Writers Jam podcast about writing and journalism, my medical memoir, and my childhood days of pretending to be a reporter when I’d read newspaper (for which I’d eventually become a reporter) out loud while recording myself with my mother’s old, gray tape recorder back when I lived in western Massachusetts.
Please take a listen. I’d love to hear what you think!
Leslie is a columnist for the Palm Beach Post and the author of Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books With Words Like ‘Journey’ In The Title. She lives in West Palm Beach with her mother Tina and her son Brooks.
You can watch the live-stream of this Facebook event — or watch it later, but then you won’t be able to ask us questions live — here.
For 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.
I climbed into the mental “way-back” machine at UMass-Amherst over the weekend at a reunion of fellow alums who’d spent countless hours tucked away in the windowless Campus Center basement working on the university’s student newspaper, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.
Invited to speak on a panel of alums — along with S.P. Sullivan, award-winning investigative journalist and Larry Bouchie, president of a public relations firm — we talked about our respective career paths, taking chances, and being willing to continually learn and update one’s skills. The intrepid B.J. Roche moderated. Meanwhile, the student editors schooled us as one introduced us to a new app (new to me anyway), Slack.
The afternoon event also included a keynote speech from Boston Herald sports columnist/UMass grad Steve Buckley, a discussion about local newspaper ownership in New England, and a presentation from the current Collegian editors on the publication’s evolution to a largely digital news outlet.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism think tank, the Poynter Institute, recently ran a column I wrote in response to news that reporters covering the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida were being sabotaged online by people posing as journalists on social media with the intent of further eroding the public’s trust in the news media. Given that those charged with gathering news and rooting out the truth are already under assault from those at the very highest levels of the U.S. government, the opening of this new front in the war against the news media is an unwelcome development.
A salient excerpt:
We are in a world where journalists don’t just have to worry about double-checking the information and material they gather via social media. They now have to worry about their identities being stolen and their work actively thwarted by nameless, faceless actors, hell-bent on discrediting journalism and journalists in real time.
The League of Women Voters of the Worcester Area recently posted the video of the late-2017 panel of journalists and news media educators discussing the importance of media literacy and how to combat the scourge of “fake news.”
The 33-minute video above is of the second half of the panel discussion, the academic portion in which I participated as a faculty member at Northeastern University’s Journalism Department. Joining me were fellow panelists Chris Gilbert, Assumption College assistant professor of Communications, and Mary Robb, Andover High School civics and media literacy teacher.
The two-panel forum included remarks from journalists (from MassLive, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Worcester Magazine) and academics (from Assumption College, Northeastern University — that would be me, and Andover High School) who urged news consumers to be smart about their media consumption and to read a wide variety of sources.
“Identifying fake news is no straightforward task, but a panel of local journalists and academics says there are strategies readers can take to stay accurately informed.”
Here’s how the Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s story, “Communicators on Worcester panel urge critical eye on media in age of ‘fake news,'” started:
“Understanding the ideas and motivation behind the notion of “fake news” is important, but as several panelists pointed out Wednesday night at a League of Women Voters forum, the onus on ferreting out truth in a broadly diversified media landscape is increasingly being put on the consumer.