I am a Solution Journalist

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be able to sneak out of the office for a few hours and attend the Social Entrepreneurship talk at Chicago Ideas Week.

All of the speakers were incredibly inspiring, but my personal favorite was David Bornstein—who, among other things, founded Dowser.org and wrote one of my favorite books on social entrepreneurship, “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas.”

Bornstein also invented the term “solution journalism.” Essentially, the idea is for journalists to look objectively at social solutions instead of just assuming a project with good intentions is actually a good idea. The concept was explained in a series on the site. Writer Blair Hickman had this to say: Continue reading “I am a Solution Journalist”

Speaking to Emmett Till’s Cousin

Fifty-six years ago today, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American visiting Mississippi from Chicago was kidnapped. He was brutally murdered, and the two men were acquitted. In 2009, after a cemetery scandal (in the Chicago area) resulted in finding Till’s casket rotting, Till’s family decided to donate his original, glass-topped casket to the Smithsonian. I spoke with Till’s cousin Simeon Wright who was with him the night he was taken. You can read the interview here.

Hearing Wright recount the events that led up to his murder was a chill-inducing experience even if it was a phone interview. One of the things that stuck with me from our conversation was Wright’s theory that if the men had been convicted, Till’s story would have been forgotten: Continue reading “Speaking to Emmett Till’s Cousin”

In Good Company

Slate, where I began my first journalism internship almost exactly three years ago, laid off four staff members yesterday: Jack Shafer, Tim Noah, June Thomas and Juliet Lapidos. While I worked with all four of them in some capacity during my time at Slate, I spent the most time with Shafer.

There’s certainly a lot to say about him (see here, here and here), but I’m not going to say any of that. I met Shafer as a 21-year-old at her first journalism internship in the big, scary city of Washington, D.C., during the 2008 presidential election. I was young, impressionable. And an impression he certainly did make.

A few days after I started, he invited me for coffee by asking, “Do your parents let you drink coffee?”

They did, even though I didn’t. He bought me tea instead. At Slate in those days (god, how old do I sound?), it was all about coffee, Chop’t salads and the occasional Krispy Kreme box brought in by John Dickerson after a long stretch on the campaign trail.

Shafer and I worked together on a few projects that usually involved me doing some sort of LexisNexis research on an obscure term, but it was his presence in editorial meetings that I remember most. Never one to give up without a fight and always willing to play devil’s advocate, he’s the kind of guy you need in a newsroom full of opinionated journalists. I think it was even him who dubbed me Slate’s “office hipster” during one. Continue reading “In Good Company”

Jose Antonio Vargas Comes Out

I am amazed. Simply amazed. And terrified for the outcome. Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist formerly of the Washington Post and the Huffington Post “came out” as an undocumented immigrant yesterday, and I’ve been following the story as closely as I can from India. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have written quite a lot about undocumented immigrants—winning an award for a story about their options for higher education. I covered the Hispanic community of mid-Missouri, many of whom were undocumented immigrants, during an especially tense time for immigration law in the state.

The story was a powerful example of an undocumented immigrant living the “American Dream.”

There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.

But the issue with stories like this is the same reason it’s so powerful: it’s one man’s story. He is one out of 11 million. Policy doesn’t affect the singular, it affects the whole.

Unfortunately due to the nature of illegal immigration, getting accurate information about the group as a whole is difficult. How many have stories similar to Vargas’? How many work low-wage jobs that most Americans would refuse? How many work jobs that the 14 million unemployed Americans are qualified and willing to work? Continue reading “Jose Antonio Vargas Comes Out”

Does Congress Always Take Off for Rosh Hashanah?

The House of Representatives is taking two days off this week for Rosh Hashanah in the midst of an unresolved financial crisis. Meanwhile, the Senate is still in session. Do members of the House take off for every religious holiday?

No. Representatives get a break for Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Christmas Day. The Senate operates according to a very similar schedule, except it remains in session for Yom Kippur and, at least in 2008, for Rosh Hashanah.

Read the rest on slate.com

Swift Boat Watch: Does Obama Support Infanticide?

The first in our ongoing series: Swift Boat Watch.

Every campaign season, independent groups on both sides drop huge sums on attack ads targeting the presidential candidates. Sometimes, people even notice. (See: Boat Veterans for Truth, Swift.) But, for the most part, they sail under the radar.
So in case you’re not living in a swing neighborhood of a swing district of a swing state, where these ads air constantly, Trailhead will be tracking the latest ads from these 527 s—so named for their tax-code status—and other independent groups, such as 501(c)4s, that are diving into the fray. We’ll tell you who’s behind them, what they want, and just how sneaky their claims are. Depending on this last part, we assign between one and four Swift Boats.

Read this installment on slate.com

Banks, Firms, and Houses: Deciphering the terms in the financial crisis coverage.

This is the first Explainer piece I’ve done for Slate:

On Tuesday, the U.S. government announced that the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, would loan $85 billion to American International Group, an insurance firm, for fear that other financial institutions, such as investment banks and securities firms, would go belly-up in its wake.

What are all these banks and other financial institutions in the news?

Read the full story on slate.com