Zadie Smith, Anna Burns among winners of critics prizes
By HILLEL ITALIE
AP National Writer
Friday, March 15
NEW YORK (AP) — Anna Burns’ “Milkman,” her Booker Prize-winning novel about an 18-year-old girl during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction. Zadie Smith, best known for such novels as “White Teeth” and “On Beauty,” received the criticism award for her essay collection “Feel Free.”
Steve Coll was the nonfiction winner for “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” his sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ghost Wars.” Nora Krug’s “Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home” received the award for autobiography. Others winners Thursday night included Ada Limón’s “The Carrying” for poetry and “Christopher Bonanos’ “Flash,” about the photographer Weegee, for biography.
All the winners but Burns, a resident of the United Kingdom, were in attendance Thursday night at the New School in Manhattan. The acceptance speeches were expressions of gratitude for everyone from agents and editors to literary heroes and mentors, and the general theme was one of contrasting the perceived solitude of writing with the sense of community the winners felt. As Limón told the hundreds gathered, she “never wrote a poem alone.” Krug, meanwhile, recalled having a dream in which she had fallen asleep at the ceremony, and woke up in time to see a “more deserving” nominee get the award.
“I’m glad to say my dreams have not come true,” she said.
Honorary prizes were presented to NPR critic Maureen Corrigan and the Latino publisher Arte Publico, which helped launch the career of Sandra Cisneros and numerous other writers. Tommy Orange’s novel “There There” was named winner of best debut book. Orange is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and has been widely praised as a gifted new voice.
“It’s a good moment (for Native American writers) that I hope doesn’t come and go as it has in the past,” he said.
The critics circle was founded in 1974 and includes around 800 reviewers, authors, bloggers and others in the books community.
UK speaker stymies May’s bid for 3rd vote on Brexit deal
By JILL LAWLESS and LORNE COOK
Monday, March 18
LONDON (AP) — The speaker of Britain’s House of Commons dealt a potentially fatal blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s ailing Brexit deal on Monday, saying the government couldn’t keep asking lawmakers to vote on the same deal they have already rejected twice.
The government intends to try a third time to get lawmakers to back the deal, ideally before May joins EU leaders Thursday at a Brussels summit where she is set to ask the bloc to postpone Britain’s departure. May has warned opponents that failure to approve the deal would mean a long, and possibly indefinite, delay to Brexit.
Speaker John Bercow scuttled May’s plan, saying centuries-old parliamentary rules prevent “the same proposition or substantially the same proposition” from being brought back repeatedly for votes in the same session of Parliament.
He said a new motion would have to be “fundamentally different. Not different in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance.”
The ruling caused an uproar on the government side of the House of Commons. Solicitor General Robert Buckland said Britain was facing a “major constitutional crisis.”
As interpreter and enforcer of Parliament’s rules, the speaker has huge power. Bercow — whose booming cries of “Orderrrrr!” have made him something of a global celebrity — has often used his office to boost the influence of backbench lawmakers, to the annoyance of the government.
“Part of the responsibility of the speaker is frankly to speak truth to power,” he said Monday.
Even before Bercow’s ruling, May faced a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes last week.
Her goal is to win over Northern Ireland’s small, power-brokering Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP’s 10 lawmakers prop up May’s Conservative government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop their opposition to the deal.
Opposition centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no hard border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party that Britain couldn’t be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.
But with no sign of a breakthrough, May’s spokesman, James Slack, said the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success.”
Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May’s deal.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union,” he told LBC radio.
After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29 — although the power to approve or reject a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British prevarication.
May has said that if her deal is approved, she will ask EU leaders this week to extend the Brexit deadline until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve the necessary legislation. If it isn’t, she will have to seek a longer extension that would mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament — something the government is keen to avoid.
EU leaders say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the extra time.
“We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. “The longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: “We are not against an extension in Belgium, but the problem is — to do what?”
Lorne Cook reported from Brussels. Danica Kirka in London contributed to this story.
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
10 things to know about the real St. Patrick
March 12, 2018
Author: Lisa Bitel, Professor of History & Religion, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Disclosure statement: Lisa Bitel does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and University of Southern California provide funding as members of The Conversation US.
On March 17, people around the world will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by parading in green hats, sporting images of shamrocks and leprechauns – tiny, grinning, fairy men – pinned to their lapels. Patrick’s picture will adorn greeting cards: an aged, bearded bishop in flowing robes, grasping a bishop’s staff and glaring at a coil of snakes.
The icon refers to one of Patrick’s legendary miracles in which he is said to have prayed to banish all snakes from Ireland. However, as a historian of medieval Ireland, I can assure you that the real St. Patrick, who lived and worked in the fifth century, never saw a snake or wore a shamrock.
Patrick’s own writings and early accounts of the saint’s career reveal many interesting details about the life of this patron saint of Ireland. Here are 10 things you may not know about St. Patrick.
1. Patrick was not Irish
Patrick was born around 450 A.D., just when Roman troops withdrew from Britain. His father was a gentleman and a Christian deacon who owned a small estate in a place called Bannavem Taburniae.
Scholars aren’t sure where this place was – it was probably on the west coast around Bristol, near the southern border of modern Wales and England.
2. Patrick was a slave
Irish slave traders sailed the waters off that same coast, and one day they came ashore to capture the teenage Patrick and his neighbors, to sell back in Ireland. Patrick spent six years tending sheep in the west of Ireland.
3. Patrick heard voices
While chasing sheep on the hills, Patrick prayed a hundred times a day, in all kinds of weather. It paid off. One night a mysterious voice called to him, saying, “Look, your ship is ready!” Patrick knew he wasn’t hearing sheep. The time was right for his escape.
4. Patrick refused to ‘suck a man’s breasts’
St. Patrick Catholic Church, Ohio.
Patrick made his way to Ireland’s east coast and sought passage on a ship bound for Britain. The captain, a pagan, didn’t like the look of him and demanded that Patrick “suck his breasts,” a ritual gesture symbolizing acceptance of the captain’s authority. Patrick refused – instead he tried to convert the crew.
For some reason, the captain still took him aboard.
5. Patrick had visions
One night Patrick dreamed that Satan tested his faith by dropping an enormous rock on him. He lay crushed by its weight until dawn broke, when he called out, “Helias! Helias!” – the name of the Greek sun god. The rock disappeared. Patrick took it as a kind of epiphany. He later wrote:
“I believe that I was helped by Christ the Lord.”
Patrick had other peculiar visions, too. Back home at Bannavem Taburniae, he was visited by an angel with a message from the Irish: “We beg you, Holy Boy, to come and walk again among us.” He trained as a bishop and went back to Ireland.
6. Patrick did something unmentionable
Years into his mission, someone, it seems, told a dirty secret about Patrick to his fellow bishops. “They brought up against me after thirty years something I had already confessed … some things I had done one day – rather, in one hour, when I was young,” he wrote.
Patrick did not tell us what he did – worship idols? Engage in a forbidden sexual practice? Take gifts from converts?
Whatever it was, Patrick retrospectively understood his zealous Irish mission to be penance for his youthful sins. While he spread Christianity around Ireland, he was often beaten, put in chains or extorted. “Every day there is the chance that I will be killed, or surrounded, or taken into slavery,” he complained.
7. Patrick dueled with druids
Two centuries after his death, Irish believers wanted more exciting stories of Patrick’s life than the saint’s own account.
One legend (written 700 A.D.) described Patrick’s contest with native religious leaders, the druids. The druids insulted Patrick, tried to poison him and engaged him in magical duels – much like students of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts – in which they competed to manipulate the weather, destroy each other’s sacred books and survive raging fires.
When one druid dared to blaspheme the Christian God, however, Patrick sent the druid flying into air – the man dropped to the ground and broke his skull.
8. Patrick made God promise
Another legend from around the same time tells how Patrick fasted for 40 days atop a mountain, weeping, throwing things, and refusing to descend until an angel came on God’s behalf to grant the saint’s outrageous demands. These included the following: Patrick would redeem more souls from hell than any other saint; Patrick, rather than God, would judge Irish sinners at the end of time; and the English would never rule Ireland.
We know how that last one worked out. Perhaps God will keep the other two promises.
9. Patrick never mentioned a shamrock
None of the early Patrician stories featured the shamrock – or Irish seamróg – which is a word for common clover, a small plant with three leaves. Yet children in Catholic schools still learn that Patrick used a shamrock as a symbol of the Christian Trinity when he preached to the heathen Irish.
The shamrock connection was first mentioned in print by an English visitor to Ireland in 1684, who wrote that on Saint Patrick’s feast day, “the vulgar superstitiously wear shamroges, 3 leav’d grass, which they likewise eat (they say) to cause a sweet breath.” The Englishman also noted that “very few of the zealous are found sober at night.”
10. Patrick did not drive the snakes out of Ireland
As for the miraculous snake-charming attributed to Patrick, it could not have happened because there were no snakes in pre-modern Ireland. Reptiles never made it across the land bridge that prehistorically linked the island to the European continent.
Most likely, the miracle was plagiarized from some other saint’s life and eventually added to Patrick’s repertoire.
Party-goers on March 17 need not worry about ancient historical details, though. Whatever the truth of Patrick’s mission, he became one of the three patrons of Ireland, along with Sts. Brigit and Columba– the latter two were born in Ireland.
Wishing you “Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaiobh” – Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Escalator etiquette: Should I stand or walk for an efficient ride?
March 13, 2019
Author: Lesley Strawderman, Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Mississippi State University
Disclosure statement: Lesley Strawderman receives funding from a variety of organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the US Department of Transportation.
Partners: Mississippi State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Love them or hate them, traffic laws exist to keep people safe and to help vehicles flow smoothly. And while they aren’t legally enforceable, pedestrian traffic also tends to follow its own set of unwritten rules.
Most pedestrians use walking etiquette as a way to minimize discomfort – “Oops! Sorry to bump you!” – and to improve efficiency – “I want to get there faster!”
Without even thinking about it, you probably abide by the common pedestrian traffic rule that faster walkers should move to the inside of a path while slower walkers gravitate to the outside. In the United States, this aligns with street traffic rules, where vehicles pass on the left, while slower vehicles stay in the right lane of the road.
This approach to passing leads to the formation of pedestrian lanes of traffic. While they’re not painted on sidewalks like they are on roadways, these functional lanes can help pedestrians move more comfortably and quickly. Human systems engineers like me know that pedestrian lanes emerge naturally in crowded environments.
Within the built environment, designers have used different techniques to encourage particular pedestrian traffic patterns. One example is signs that encourage pedestrians to “stand to the right” on escalators. Riders will use the right half of the step if they are standing and the left half if they’re walking (or running!) to reach the end of the escalator.
But do two lanes of pedestrian traffic on an escalator actually help you reach your destination more quickly? Should there be a walking lane and a standing lane, or should both lanes be used for standing only? One study reported that 74.9 percent of pedestrians choose to stand on the escalator instead of walking. Should an entire lane of the escalator be left open for a small, impatient proportion of the crowd?
When designers plan spaces such as roads, buildings and corridors, they consider the space needed for each person in the environment. The space needed changes depending on how the space will be used. For a pedestrian, the “buffer zone” describes how much space a person needs to feel comfortable, and varies by activity. Someone standing needs, on average, a little over three square feet (0.3m²) of space, whereas a walking pedestrian needs more than eight square feet (0.75m²). That means a constrained space such as an escalator can comfortably hold more than twice the number of standing pedestrians as walking pedestrians.
In London, planners reaped a 27 percent increase in the hourly capacity by switching to a “standing only” policy on a typically congested escalator at a subway station. No walking was allowed on the crammed escalator, which allowed more people to move through the station in the same amount of time as before. A highly efficient escalator is one that has the most output – that is, carries the most people to the destination.
But the change was contentious. Social convention in transport has often favored the individual traveler. For example, allowing people to walk up the left does allow some individuals to move faster, even though it reduces the capacity of the escalator and slows down the overall travel time for others. While using one of the escalator lanes for walking can help the walking pedestrian exit more quickly, walkers’ varied speeds relative to the rest of the traffic hinders overall efficiency. To improve the overall system, the system-level efficiency is what should be considered.
Engineers consider a lot of pedestrians in one area a high-density crowd. In these situations, pedestrians tend to walk much slower than when in a low-density or open space. This slower pace is caused by both a lack of space, as well as the need for each pedestrian to make more decisions – should I speed up? Slow down? Pass this person? Just wait? The overwhelming number of small decisions can lead to pedestrians behaving like those around them. This literally go-with-the-flow mentality makes walking less mentally fatiguing.
So when people approach an escalator, they’ll often just do what the person immediately ahead of them is doing. If the person in front of them walks, they walk. If the person in front of them stands, they stand. All it takes is someone to start the trend.
Stand on both sides of the escalator. The others will follow. Counterintuitive as it may seem, this one change will help everyone get to the destination faster, especially when things are crowded.
Sen. Birch Bayh, champion of Title IX federal law, dies
By TOM DAVIES
Thursday, March 14
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Birch Bayh pushed in the U.S. Senate for the landmark 1972 federal law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and athletics, women received fewer than 10 percent of all medical and law degrees and only one in 27 high school girls played sports.
Now, women make up more than half of those receiving bachelor’s and graduate degrees and more than 3 million high school girls — one in two — play sports.
Bayh reveled in the impact of the Title IX law in the years after his time as a Democratic senator from Indiana ended. He described the Title IX law as the most important legal step for equality since the right of women to vote was guaranteed in 1920.
“There was a soccer field I used to jog around,” he said in a 2002 interview. “One day, all of a sudden, I realized that half of the players were little girls and half of them were little boys. I realized then that that was, in part, because of Title IX.”
Bayh also sponsored a constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18 amid protests over the Vietnam War. Another amendment he sponsored allowed the replacement of vice presidents.
But it was his work to pass the landmark Title IX law that helped solidify his legacy before his death Thursday at age 91.
Tennis great Billie Jean King, who worked with Bayh on women’s rights issues, released a statement with his family Thursday saying the former senator was “one of the most important Americans of the 20th century.”
“You simply cannot look at the evolution of equality in our nation without acknowledging the contributions and the commitment Senator Bayh made to securing equal rights and opportunities for every American,” King said.
His family released a statement saying Bayh died from pneumonia while surrounded by his family at his home in Easton, Maryland. His son Evan followed him into politics and became Indiana’s governor and also a senator.
The elder Bayh, a liberal Democrat, had a back-slapping, humorous campaigning style that helped him win three narrow elections to the Senate starting in 1962 at a time when Republicans won Indiana in four of the five presidential elections. Bayh’s hold on the seat ended with a loss to Dan Quayle during the 1980 Ronald Reagan-led Republican landslide.
Bayh was the lead sponsor of the law prohibiting gender discrimination in education — known as Title IX for its section in the Higher Education Act. Bayh said the law was aimed at giving women a better shot at higher-paying jobs.
“It was clear that the greatest danger or damage being done to women was the inequality of higher education,” Bayh once said. “If you give a person an education, whether it’s a boy or girl, young woman or young man, they will have the tools necessary to make a life for families and themselves.”
As the Title IX law reached its 40th anniversary, North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow called it one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in the country’s history.
“Had it not passed, the options and opportunities for women in this country and the world would be vastly different,” Yow said.
Bayh used his position as head of the Senate’s constitutional subcommittee to craft the 25th Amendment on presidential succession and the 26th Amendment setting the national voting age at 18.
The issue of presidential succession was fresh when Congress approved the amendment in 1967. The vice presidency had gone vacant for more than a year after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination because there was no provision for filling the office between elections.
The amendment led to the presidency of Gerald Ford less than a decade later when Ford first succeeded Spiro Agnew as vice president and then took over the White House after President Richard Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate scandal.
Bayh’s push to lower the national voting age from 21 to 18 came amid protests over the Vietnam War and objections that Americans dying on battlefields were unable to vote in all states. The amendment won ratification from the states in 1971.
Bayh also was a leading sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have barred discrimination on the basis of gender. It passed Congress but failed to win approval from two-thirds of the states by its 1982 deadline.
Bayh had begun preparing to make a run for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination when his wife, Marvella, was diagnosed with breast cancer. He dropped that campaign but entered the 1976 presidential campaign, finishing second to Jimmy Carter in the opening Iowa caucuses but then faring poorly in later primaries.
Marvella Bayh gained attention by speaking and making television appearances around the country promoting cancer detection and encouraging research. But her cancer later returned, and she died in April 1979 at age 46 — shortly before her memoir recounting her health fight was published.
Bayh sought a fourth Senate term the following year — with 24-year-old son Evan as campaign manager — but lost to Quayle, who was then a two-term congressman.
Born Jan. 22, 1928, in Terre Haute, Indiana, Birch Evans Bayh Jr. moved to his maternal grandparents’ farm at the nearby community of Shirkieville after his mother’s 1940 death and his father’s entry into World War II military service.
He graduated from Purdue University’s School of Agriculture after spending two years in the Army and met his future wife during a 1951 National Farm Bureau speaking contest in Chicago, which she won as an entrant from Oklahoma. They soon married and moved to the Shirkieville farm.
Bayh won his first election to the state Legislature in 1954, and son Evan was born the following year. Bayh rose quickly in politics, becoming the Indiana House speaker in 1959 at the age of 30. He earned a law degree from Indiana University, completing law school while serving in the Legislature.
Bayh entered the 1962 Senate race, taking on three-term Republican Sen. Homer Capehart. Bayh boosted his name recognition — and correct pronunciation — around the state with a catchy campaign song opening with the lines “Hey look him over, he’s my kind of guy. His first name is Birch, his last name is Bayh.”
Bayh was 34 when elected to the Senate and soon became friends with the only senator younger than him — Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Bayh and his wife were flying with Kennedy when their small plane crashed near Springfield, Massachusetts, in June 1964. The pilot and a legislative aide were killed, but Bayh pulled Kennedy, who suffered a broken back and other serious injuries, from the wreckage.
After leaving the Senate, Bayh worked as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington. He remarried in 1982, and he and second wife, Katherine “Kitty” Helpin, had a son, Christopher, who is now a lawyer in Washington.
Bayh largely stayed in the background of Indiana politics as his older son, Evan, was elected to the first of his two terms as governor in 1988. The younger Bayh built a more moderate image than his father, ending his eight years as governor with high approval rating and then winning his first of two elections to the Senate in 1998.
He didn’t seek a third term in 2010, saying the Senate had become too partisan. Evan Bayh launched an unexpected comeback bid in 2016 for the Senate, but he lost to Republican Todd Young.
Along with his wife and two sons, Bayh is survived by four grandchildren, according to his family.
Associated Press writer Rick Callahan contributed to this report from Indianapolis.
Rediscovering America: A Quiz on the Vietnam War
By David Tucker
National Vietnam War Veterans Day officially is observed March 29, which is the date in 1973 when the last of American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.
The quiz below, from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio, provides an opportunity for you to test your knowledge of the era in which the Vietnam conflict took place.
1. Most historians trace the Vietnam conflict back to what year?
2. In what year did the United States officially declare war on Vietnam?
D. Never, since Congress didn’t issue a formal declaration of war against Vietnam
3. What motivated the United States to become involved in Vietnam?
A. The Domino Theory
B. Threat of the spread of communism
C. Threat of Chinese domination in Asia
D. All of the above
4. Which U.S. president did not play a role in Vietnam?
A. Richard Nixon
B. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
C. John F. Kennedy
D. Lyndon B. Johnson
5. Approximately how many American troops were deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict?
A. 1.4 million
B. 2.4 million
C. 3.4 million
D. 4.4 million
6. Which of the following declared the United States’ formal involvement in the Vietnam War?
A. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
B. Geneva Accords
C. Operation Rolling Thunder
D. Tet Offensive
7. Which of the following student groups was not part of the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War?
A. Students for a Democratic Society
B. Free Speech Movement
C. American Youth Congress
D. Underground Press Syndicate
8. Who leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers, the top-secret government study of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam that damaged the credibility of U.S. foreign policy in the eyes of many Americans, to the New York Times?
A. Daniel Ellsberg
B. Robert McNamara
C. Julian Assange
D. Hugo Black
9. Which journalist said, “For it seems now more certain than ever, that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.”
A. David Halberstam
B. Ben Bradlee
C. Ed Bradley
D. Walter Cronkite
10. Approximately how many Vietnam War troops still remain unaccounted?
Answers: 1-A, 2-D, 3-D, 4-B, 5-C, 6-A, 7-C, 8-A, 9-D, 10-B
ABOUT THE WRITER
David Tucker is the director of teacher programs at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University and general editor of Ashbrook’s “Core Document Collection” curricula resources, including the forthcoming collection “Vietnam and Social Change in the 1960s: Core Documents.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Journalists Would Do Well to Go Back to Basics
By Stephen F. Gambescia
I became an avid reader of newspapers in the fifth grade. I picked up this habit of industry from my grandmother who lived with us. She came to the United States in the early 1900s. She said she learned how to read and write English from reading a newspaper every day. She never mentioned formal schooling. This practice served her well.
I consider journalism a noble profession. I studied it formally in the early 1980s. While I did not become a journalist by trade, I keep a close watch on how news is gathered, written, disseminated and digested. We had excellent instructors in journalism school. They worked as AP reporters, city paper news writers, feature writers, sports writers, editors, and some as PR and copy writers.
There are several adages you learn in journalism training: Tell it first! The media does not tell you how to think, but what to think about. If it bleeds, it leads. Dog bites man is not news, but man bites dog is newsworthy. “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
And the media has grown in public policy importance to be dubbed “The Fourth Estate.”
A grounding principle we learned for the role of journalists is reporters should be objective purveyors of the news. Unfortunately, that principle has been lost today; hence journalists’ recent spiral to the bottom of respectability by the public. There are several reasons for this loss of confidence in our journalists.
One is not of their making. With the advent of cable, the internet, and the 24/7 need for “news,” the business model for newspapers has changed. Owners and editors need to think about new ways to make money and to be more sensitive to what the readers want to pay for. With the latter challenge, journalists are pressured to move away from “just the facts” to share space, and at times writing style, with commentary, opinion and entertainment. It is no longer your grandmother’s newspaper.
A second reason is the wearing thin of the long-standing explanation that while many journalists are supporters of the Democratic Party, they can keep at bay any bias in their news reporting. Truth be told for many writers today, the bifurcation does not work.
Another reason for the demise of the classic practice of journalism is the rise of what is known as public journalism. Proponents of this movement argue that journalists need to take on an advocacy style by not only reporting the news but pushing for policies for the common good, regardless of whether people actually understand what is good for them. The fear was the slippery slope of journalists advocating for public goods, such as clean public parks or rails to trails, to boosting their policy preferences, rather than reporting the news.
Enter Donald Trump! The 2016 election results not only exposed the dubious posture of journalists as a-political partisan but morphed the Fourth Estate to primus inter paris (first among equals) in our politics and policymaking.
We the people expected a modicum of reflection on the state of journalism and a mea culpa that many journalists had gone well beyond their scope of practice during and after this election. Instead, we get a doubling down with full-page ads reminding us that our national newspapers are the bastions of truth — “Trust us.”
Foundations are giving money to organizations to find a way to tell us of the virtue of a free press — as they see it. We hear loud claims that those “other guys” are to blame for fake news. We are told that the elected officials fighting back against a barrage of negativity are threats to the press and our democracy. We continue to get a steady reminder that the press needs to be free and independent; yet mums the word on being responsible.
Again, reflecting back to my childhood, our parents asked that we consider three questions before “spreading the news”: (1) Is it true? (2) Is it necessary? (3) Is it kind?
Invariably we failed on the latter question. Holding journalists to the third question may be too much to ask, but the first two questions of telling what is true and telling what is necessary, we learned in journalism 101.
For journalists to recapture the confidence of their readers, a back-to-basics strategy will be more effective than PR and ad campaigns trying to convince the reading public that we are way off script. The benefit of being a free press is earned by being a responsible press.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Stephen F. Gambescia is professor of health services administration at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Veterans Energize the Energy Industry
By Michael James Barton
Every day, 400 veterans receive honorable discharges and return to civilian life.
Fortunately for them, they’re entering the best job market for former servicemen and women in recent memory. Veteran unemployment recently hit an 18-year low, thanks in large part to America’s booming energy industry. Oil and natural gas companies already employ nearly 200,000 veterans. And they’ll hire tens of thousands more in the coming years, as long as politicians and radical environmentalists don’t impede their mission to provide cheap, reliable energy.
America’s energy companies are producing record levels of oil and natural gas. The United States pumps nearly 12 million barrels of oil a day — the highest level in almost 50 years and considerably more than any other country. Crude oil production has doubled in the past decade.
This production surge didn’t happen by chance. America has always had plentiful energy reserves, but they weren’t easily accessible until companies perfected “fracking,” the drilling technology used to extract oil and gas from shale rock formations buried deep inside the earth.
Fracking has created millions of jobs — and those positions are disproportionately filled by veterans. Veterans make up 7 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but they account for 11 percent of energy industry employees. The industry supports 10 million jobs in total. And according to the Chamber of Commerce, fracking will create an additional 3.5 million jobs by 2035.
Through programs like the Veterans Energy Pipeline, oil and gas companies actively recruit veterans for careers that leverage their military experiences. Companies prize veterans’ work ethic, attention to detail, poise in stressful environments and technical expertise.
These veterans receive excellent wages and benefits. The average salary in the oil and gas industry is more than $100,000 a year.
A strong American energy sector does more than just put veterans to work — it keeps troops from having to fight never-ending wars in the Middle East to stabilize global energy markets. For decades, oil has been a major cause of military conflict. Since 1973, up to 50 percent of all global wars have been linked to disputes over oil. If we continue to tap into domestic energy resources, the likelihood that we will have to send troops abroad in the future decreases.
Unfortunately, green activists are dead set on halting America’s energy renaissance — even while lamenting that U.S. wars are often brought about by oil shortages.
Last month, activists successfully lobbied Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to halt the construction of a new oil pipeline. This much-needed project would have created 8,600 American jobs and generated more than $330 million in wages for workers. The activists have no concrete backup plan, just talk. They weren’t going to get any of those jobs anyway, so they appear not to care that other workers are denied the opportunity.
Last year, activist group Colorado Rising gathered signatures for a ballot measure that would have banned oil and gas drilling throughout much of the state. Fortunately, Colorado voters defeated the measure, which would have eliminated close to 150,000 jobs.
The next time these activists want to raise energy prices and block jobs, tell them “You first.” Let them stop driving cars, flying in planes, and using computers and cell phones. Once they do that for a few years, maybe we will listen. Until then, let’s keep energy prices low and our veterans gainfully employed.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michael James Barton is the founder of Hyatt Solutions and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.