Richmond Arts Therapist, Former Kindergarten Teacher Victims of Ghost Ship Fire

Thirty-six people died in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland on December 5. Two members of the West Contra Costa Unified School District family, Sara Hoda and Travis Hough, were among those lost.

Hough, 35, worked as an arts therapist at Montalvin Elementary School in Richmond through a partnership with the social services organization Bay Area Community Resources. After starting as an intern at Helms Middle School in 2014, he worked at King Elementary during the 2015-16 school year, before coming to Montalvin.

Hough provided services to students at Montalvin with a variety of needs, including emotional support to those experiencing grief or who were victims of bullying.

“He genuinely loved kids and loved being around them,” said Katherine Acosta-Verprauskus, principal at Montalvin Elementary. “Although he didn’t provide therapy to every single one of our students, every single one of our students knew him, they knew him really well.”

Acosta-Verprauskus said that it was a very hard week for the staff and the students of Montalvin.

Sara Hoda, 30, was a kindergarten teacher at Coronado Elementary in Richmond from 2014 to 2016 before moving on to teach in Oakland.

“Sara was a beautiful person and angelic. Just an awesome teacher,” said Tisa Smith who worked as a play works coach at Coronado alongside Hoda.

“It takes a lot of patience to deal with five year olds, especially some that didn’t go to preschool and it’s their fist time in a school setting where they have to follow direction,” said Smith.

“Her class was calm. The calming spirit that she had transferred to her class and it transferred to us.”

Linda Cohen, retired principal at Coronado, hired Hoda to her first full-time teaching job at the school. “She was calm, sweet, very dedicated and committed,” said Cohen. “She was very inspiring and extremely nurturing.

“She was just unique,” said Cohen, “very creative and wise beyond her years.”

Cohen said Hoda brought a special blend of being strict, organized and prepared along with kindness and a commitment to her job.

“Whatever the ‘it’ of a fabulous teacher is, she had it. She embodied total respect but also confidence and that’s something that all new teachers don’t always have.”

Bay Area Community Resources, along with West Contra Costa Unified School District, provided a crisis team of counselors and other support staff to both Montalvin and Coronado schools in the aftermath of the tragedy. The joint agencies provided two to three therapists a day this past week to help the community process the tragedy.

“Students wrote letters and made cards saying goodbye to Mr. Travis,” Acosta-Verprauskus said. “Some wrote down memories that they shared with him and we taped them all up by his door. We decorated his door and we created that as a space for kids to have somewhere to go to.”

Montalvin held a vigil for Hough on December 9. Students, families, staff and friends attended to share their memories and to pay their respects. “It was a real celebration of how hard he worked for the community and for the kids and how much we all loved him. It’s been hard but we’ve really just been leaning on each other as a community to get through it together,” Acosta-Verprauskus said.

Coronado held an event in celebration of Hoda’s life in the school’s multi-purpose room on December 13. With members of Hoda’s family in attendance, students gathered outside, some in tears, to watch the family and school officials release white doves in her honor.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Mr. Hough and Ms. Hoda’s families and all those affected by the loss,” said Superintendent Matthew Duffy, in a statement. “Mr. Hough and Ms. Hoda were vibrant members of our community and touched so many lives. The loss is heartbreaking and Mr. Hough and Ms. Hoda will be deeply missed.”

California Voters Could Reverse Ban on Bilingual Education

Nearly 20 years after California voters banned bilingual education, the issue is back on the ballot. And this time, voters could reverse the ban.

The reason? California is not the same state it used to be.

It was 1998 when voters passed Proposition 227. Under the law, English Language Learners were moved from special ELL classes to regular classes once they had gained a grasp of the English language. Under the law, the special classes could not last more than a year.

This year, bilingual education is back on the ballot.

Proposition 58 would allow a wider set of learning opportunities for English learners, essentially reversing the ban on bilingual education programs.

This proposition would allow parents to decide what kind of language program best suits their child. This is expected to impact not only English learners, but also all other students, since families would have more options to enroll their children in alternative language settings, like dual-language immersion and bi-literacy programs.

“There has been a rebalance in the system of education,” said Dr. Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

“1998 was a battle over identity,” he says. “But in the 2000s, Democrats win by a two-thirds majority in regard to liberal policies, such as climate change and Obamacare. Latino voters and young voters have shifted the landscape.”

There also has been a strong shift in the way that educators, parents, and politicians have addressed the needs of bilingual students since 1998. California overall has become more open-minded about multilingualism in the classroom, and there’s also been a demographic shift that has brought with it changes in attitudes about immigrants.

That’s not true of everywhere else in the country, where concerns about immigration loom large.

“The United States today is like California in the 1990s,” says Sonenshein, referring to anti-immigrant attitudes. “[But] in California, there is recognition that the debate is over. California is now a different state than it used to be.”

Jesus Galindo is a third grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Richmond, which has an English Language Development program for the more than 60 percent of the school’s students who are English learners. Galindo, a UC Berkeley graduate originally from Los Banos, agrees with Sonenshein – with some caveats. “More people are becoming open-minded, but I think we need to reflect on what happened in 1998, with the passing of Prop. 227. That mentality and mindset are still present [in other ways].”

Galindo thinks that the anti-immigrant sentiments of the ‘90s have caused lasting damage. “When you spew language of that nature, it’s oppressive and it rubs off on the kids, and they start to deny their cultural inheritance.”

“I refer to my kids as the children of the storm,” he says. “In the environment in which they live, play and go to school, there is a lot of adversity. [But] not only do they have a tremendous amount of consciousness, but also tenacity and perseverance to constantly survive and thrive.”

Currently, Washington Elementary is the only school in West Contra Costa with a dual immersion program, which allows students to learn through their native language alongside their target language.

If Prop. 58 passes, it could mean more programs like this one.

Going to Class Behind Bars – Youth Speak Out About Court Schools

SAN FRANCISCO – Eddie Chavez, 20, who used to be incarcerated in Fresno’s juvenile hall, never had much support in school. Back and forth between the United States and Mexico, he missed several years of his education and ended up being placed in 10th grade without ever finishing 8th grade.

But after being arrested for grand theft auto and ending up in juvenile hall, things started to change when he found himself in a “court school” in detention.

It wasn’t that the school was perfect. Some teachers would just turn on a movie and give the students chips to snack on, he says. But there was one substitute teacher, “a very good man,” he says, who seemed to care deeply about the kids, and the school offered a controlled environment where Chavez could get his work done. He earned 15 credits, he says, the most credits he’d ever gotten.

But he still doesn’t have a high school diploma, and as an adult he has trouble finding employment.

Chavez spoke about his journey at a recent forum, “Young People in California’s Court Schools,” hosted by New America Media at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco.

A recent report by Youth Law Center in San Francisco found that California’s court schools are not serving their students well.

“[The court schools] are not equipping them to be in a situation where they can exit and be successful. Only half of young people that exit detention re-enroll in school in 90 days,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of Youth Law Center.

Rodriguez said that court schools need to get kids on the path to college and future employment – something that she said is not happening right now.

“If we were to pinpoint the source of this problem, it rests in many places,” she says. “There is not adequate transition planning as young people are exiting. There is a resistance from local schools to enroll young people. Oftentimes families lack the information about what their rights are. Young people are not necessarily eager to jump out of being locked up and go back to school where there is this stigma or the same crowd that they came from before.”

Another formerly detained young person on the panel, 22-year-old Ayanna Rasheed, is on the path to success now, but it’s in spite of her time in court school, not because of it. She thinks her time in detention in San Joaquin County set her education back.

Students were just given worksheets, she said, adding that it was like “giving a child a coloring book and saying ‘Here, do this.’”

“In juvenile hall, education is not really what they’re focused on,” she said. “The classes were very basic, math and social studies. Every six weeks we would rotate the same worksheets. It wasn’t beneficial at all.”

Rasheed is about to start working as a foster youth advocate at the West Coast Children’s Clinic and is continuing her schooling. But it’s been an uphill battle: She said she wasn’t even able to get her records from the court school after she was released, so she ended up losing whatever credits she’d earned.

State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), a longtime advocate for change in the education system, said she hopes there can be pilot projects based on Youth Law Center’s recommendations in order to better serve court school students.

For example, Hancock pointed to the successes of project-based learning and “developing curriculum in modules that recognize the short time periods” that students spend there – one of the biggest challenges of teaching students in juvenile halls.

Richmond Adult Literacy Program Opens Doors

Richmond resident Susana Cortez is about to get her high school equivalency credential, thanks to the help of a local program.

Cortez recently joined the Richmond Public Library’s Literacy for Every Adult Program (LEAP) to get help preparing for the General Educational Development (GED) test.

The test measures proficiency in various subjects including science, math, social studies, reading, and writing. Passing the test gives those who don’t have a high school diploma the opportunity to earn their high school equivalency credential.

“The classes [at LEAP] are very interesting and I am learning a lot,” Cortez said in Spanish. “There is a connection with the instructors. I get lots of help, support, and tutoring.”

Now in its 32nd year, the LEAP program was established as a literacy learning program center in Richmond. LEAP offers several free courses to tackle different portions of the test.

But the program also offers a spirit of learning and self-discovery, said Abigail Sims-Evelyn, learning center manager at LEAP.

“One of the things that people who come really need to embrace here is that they are the change that they are looking for,” said Sims-Evelyn, paraphrasing the famous quote from Mahatma Ghandi.

For those who have gone through school without getting the help they needed, it can be hard to connect with this mindset, she said, especially if they are at low point in their life or are questioning their own abilities.

“We are certainly aware of the type of instruction that must take place for people to get their GED or high school diploma,” said Sims-Eveyln. “But what we do well here is to be willing and able to consider different strategies for learning. We listen.”

The program monitors students’ progress each step of the way, said LEAP program coordinator John Adams. “Every time they complete a certain number of hours, we give them an assessment test to essentially figure out where they are,” he said. “Once we feel they are close enough to take the GED, we do intense GED training. Once they get a high enough score on the practice test, we send them to [take] the GED.”

Instructor Ellen Pechmen, who teaches a strategies class, says her biggest job is instilling the confidence in her students that they need to succeed.

In a recent class before California’s primary election, Pechman asked her students to look up different definitions of the word “civics.”

According to Pechman, over 40 percent of the questions on the social studies portion of the GED are related to civics in some way.

“I wanted to get them to see that when you see a word or an idea like ‘civics,’ the devil is in the details,” she said. “How do you figure out what the word means in that context?”

“I’m trying to heighten their awareness and problem-solving ability,” she said.

Students say the center provides them with a sense of community and a safe place where instructors serve as mentors.

“The teachers here seem to love the students,” said Maya Perkins, a student who fell short of some high school credits.

Another student, Mary Castle, agreed. “Sometimes when I feel tired and want to quit, they talk to me and convince me not to,” said Castle, who says she did not receive the same kind of support in high school.

For Manny Hermosillo, LEAP has taught him not to let life’s circumstances control his performance. “You have a job to do; just do it,” said Hermosillo. “If things change, you just rearrange it.”

Sims-Evelyn hopes that all LEAP students walk away with more than just their GED. She said the goal is to help them make a personal connection with the power that comes with reading and writing.

“Reading and writing gives you the opportunity for you to think,” she said. “And thinking opens doors.”

Thousands of Books Donated to Richmond Kindergarten Students

The sixth annual Richmond Book Giveaway helped distribute thousands of books to underserved kids in Richmond.

In total, there were 4,000 books distributed to 1,400 kindergarten students.

Community members came together last month to create goodie bags full of books that provided information and reading tips, booklets of summer events, and coloring books to keep kids busy throughout the summer.

One of the main goals of the book drive was to activate parents to become an essential part of their kids’ early learning experience.

“These resources and parent engagement are the first step,” said Laura Reed, program director of Literacy Labs, which organized the event at the Richmond Community Foundation.

Reed explained that the book giveaway started with an affiliate program called Bring Me a Book six years ago. This year, Literacy Labs decided to take on the challenge to encourage parents in the community to read to their children and get them to ask questions.

Literacy Lab’s goal was to create a space where all members of the community could contribute to the first steps a child takes in their learning experience. Because Richmond is one of the most underserved communities in the West Contra Costa School District, they wanted to start by providing children materials that could help them thrive.

The giveaway was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, the Richmond Community Foundation and the West Contra Costa United School District.

About 20 people took part in the packaging process. Volunteers included representatives of the offices of Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the Richmond Community Foundation and the TJ Long Foundation, along with parents and community members.

As one of the few parent volunteers, Paola Castrejon was excited to be involved in the process of guiding her children on the right path. She has two girls in Washington and Lake Elementary Schools and brought her youngest with her to the giveaway.

As Castrejon helped put together the goodie bags, her daughter kept herself entertained at a kids’ station that included coloring books and kids’ activities.

“I want the very best for my girls,” Castrejon said.

The goodie bags were dispersed by local firefighters May 25. The books will be handed out to students in the 19 elementary schools in Richmond.

Bill Clinton Becomes First U.S. President to Visit Richmond

Former President Bill Clinton visited Richmond the day before the primary election to campaign in support of his wife and possible Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Richmond Art Center on a sunny Monday afternoon to hear the 42ndpresident give his pitch to residents on why Hillary should be the Democratic nominee.

The excited crowd gave Clinton a warm reception as he spoke for close to 40 minutes.

As he began his remarks Clinton told the story of how Richmond Mayor Tom Butt’s father assisted Hillary long ago in their shared home state of Arkansas.

“She wanted to start a legal aid program for all the hillbillies working who never had any access to the civil justice system, a lot of working poor people.

“She had to get Mayor Butt’s father to approve the program. So he was responsible for giving her a chance to do it. And I really appreciate that,” Clinton said to applause.

Clinton said Donald Trump’s rhetoric was just a more crass version of a debate going on all over the world.

“All over the world, people are having the debate about how we’re going to relate to each other going forward. There’s an enormous amount of anger and rage and feeling that governments don’t work for people anymore,” he said.

He championed Hillary as the candidate that could get the best results.

“The only thing that will work is shared prosperity,” he said. “You can’t leave people behind.”

Clinton went on to mention issues like equal pay, paid leave and affordable childcare, immigration reform and “closing the gap between unemployment for veterans and for the rest of us.”

Throughout his speech, Clinton repeatedly spoke of building bridges instead of walls, referencing Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Should the bridges have security checks when we’re worried about security? Of course they should. But they should still be bridges, ” he said.

Clinton also praised California as a model for the world.

“What made California is what the world needs in the 21st century. It needs to be a place of constant becoming. A place where you’re making future greatness every day,” he said.

Clinton spoke about letting young people out of prison who, in his words, “have gotten sentences that were too long for crimes that aren’t serious. We should give them a chance to begin again.”

A member of the audience interrupted Clinton, calling him out for a piece of legislation he signed during his presidency. In 1994, Clinton signed into law a crime bill that included a “three-strikes” provision. It mandated life sentences for anyone convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes.

“How about the crime bill? How about all the money you imported to mass incarceration? Do you regret that? What about your role?” the audience member yelled.

Clinton responded, “The crime bill in 1994 came over from the House. It had stronger incarceration procedures than I originally asked for. They cover about 8 percent of total people in prison, over 90 percent are in state and local prison. Hillary’s opponent in the primary voted for that bill. When we got to the Senate, the Senate included an assault weapons ban with an ammunition clip limit which has never before been included in the law.”

It was just one of the three questions directed toward Clinton by audience members throughout the duration of his speech.

Several Hillary supporters were displeased with the questions directed to Clinton and made that very clear to the people asking the questions.

Clinton was able to limit the questions by requesting that the public respectfully let him finish.

The audience responded accordingly.

Meanwhile, several Bernie Sanders supporters outside the Art Center could be heard chanting “Bernie” throughout Clinton’s speech.

School Board Meeting Draws Crowds of Concerned Parents

The April 27 West Contra Costa School Board Meeting started off like any other meeting. There were about 20 community members in attendance by 6:00 pm, which is average for most meetings. But it quickly grew from there. By 6:30 pm, there were easily over 150 people in the room. The majority of them were parents.

Many parents and community members showed up to express their concerns over the superintendent search and the short timeline allocated to elect a candidate by July 1. They said they were upset about the rushed timeline and lack of community engagement. They also expressed doubts about what they said were inequitable use of bond funds.

It was one of the few board meetings this spring when parents outnumbered general community members and educators. Also among the crowd were community members from the RYSE Center, GO Public Schools West Contra Costa, Ed Matters, Students for Education Reform (SFER) and Grant Elementary School.

The Board decided to shorten the time allotted for public comment to one minute and 25 seconds rather than the usual two minutes for each speaker. This threw off many of the community members who went up to speak.

In one case, a public comment prompted the Board to take action. Kate Stepansky, a former teacher at Coronado Elementary School, described an incident in which a student had been punished by having to eat his breakfast on the floor. “That was inhumane and I notified principal Cohen immediately,” she said. “I ended up resigning from Coronado Elementary because the children were being disrespected on a daily basis and usually it was African-American students,” she said.

She added that the school is not serving free breakfast at the required time. “The free breakfast is being served multiple hours after the start of school, which is illegal,” she noted.

School board member Liz Block responded, “Could I just ask that we follow up on that complaint about the treatment of students at Coronado? I am concerned about what I am hearing.” This elicited applause from the audience.

Several parents spoke to the Board in Spanish, expressing their concerns about the condition of their children’s schools.

A recurring theme of the night was the fact that bond funds focus on top performing schools. According to the Board of Education Workshop presented at the WCCUSD special meeting held on February 27, about $200 million is allocated to El Cerrito High School; in comparison, Kennedy High School in Richmond only gets half of that amount.

Grant Elementary School parents and teachers also voiced their concerns over the alleged misuse of bond funds. They argued that the system of navigating where money is being spent is skewed.

Public commenters also said the Board has focused on top performing schools that are in more affluent areas of the school district, like El Cerrito, Pinole, and Hercules. Meanwhile, they said, there has been little to no change in the schools of Richmond.

School District Holds 10th Annual Conference for Parents

The 10th annual West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Parents as Partners and Leaders Conference was held at Lovonya DeJean Middle School on Saturday, April 16.

Keynote speaker Barbara Logan Smith, executive director of Teach for America-Mississippi, discussed the importance of family involvement to support the elements of a quality life for students: healthy minds and bodies, strong and supportive relationships, financial stability, freedom to define their path and leave a positive legacy.

Marin Trujillo, Elizabeth Carmody, and the rest of the WCCUSD Community Engagement Department put together a safe environment where parents could express their concerns for their children.

About 200 parents attended the conference, along with two school board members, Liz Block and Valerie Cuevas, and several presenters and community members who led breakout sessions. The sessions were meant to spark conversations around a variety of topics including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), bilingualism and special education.

Among the more challenging topics at this year’s conference were sessions on “Keeping Our Children Safe from Drugs and Gangs” and “Restorative Practices – a Different Approach to Discipline.”

Antwon Clorid, chief operations officer of the community-based nonprofit Men and Women of Purpose, expressed concerns that few husbands and fathers were in attendance.

“Parents are the first teachers,” said Clorid, who led a breakout session on parent communication with their kids. “Being available to the kids is crucial, especially where they won’t be judged.” He stressed that once students know that they have a voice, they have power.

Two mothers and teachers’ aids, Raija Rickansrud and Naungyal Wabtsang, said the break-out discussions on bilingual families and special education were eye-­opening and addressed crucial questions such as how to make children better readers.

Wabtsang, a second-time attendee of the conference, added that she would like to see more parent involvement in the breakout sessions by having speakers and parents engage more with one another.

“It would be great if parents and teachers could be on the same page about their children’s development,” she said.

New York Times Magazine Live Debut

On Sunday, June 7, the New York Times Magazine held it’s first live discussion over Design and Technology with founders of various companies. The guest speakers included Ayesha Barenblat founder of REMAKE, Wences Casares founder and C.E.O of Xapo, Jalak Jobanputra founding partner of FuturePerfect Ventures, Mike Krieger co-founder of Instagram, and Stephan Thomas C.T.O. of Ripple Labs.

The discussions were broken up into different sections concerning the professions of the speakers. The first panel discussion was hosted by Nathaniel Popper, Business Reporter for the New York Times, was concerned about the growth of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a service that allows people to send and receive money through an address that is only used once for security reasons. Wences and Stephan both agreed about the strength of the cryptographic translation of Bitcoin. The Bitcoin site was successful when, according to Stephan, 6 out of 10 professors said it was impossible. Wences mentioned Bill Gates was skeptical of Bitcoin because of the criminal implications he associated to the currency. Wences attempted to persuade Bill Gates on the security and the practically of the crypto currency.

The second discussion over design secrets hosted by Farhad Manjoo, State of the Art Columnist for the New York Times. Mike Kieger discussed the popularity of hashtags in America and the interesting ways in which global users used Instagram. Mike found an interesting trend in Japan where users photograph everything but their faces. Instagram could also be used as a service where people can buy and sell various goods. Mike spoke about a fascinating user that sold sheep. Instagram was a Silicon Valley development but it has expanded and is now 70% international users.

The final discussion, hosted by Jenna Worthman, Technology Writer for the New York Times, was about how businesses succeed overseas. Ayesha spoke about the importance of knowing the people who create the clothes you’re wearing. Her company encourages connectivity between consumers and the individuals that produce their goods, which she calls digital storytelling. Jalak spoke about enabling innovation with limited resources that under-served markets can produce. These innovations are created by different types of technology that give different markets a competitive advantage.

The discussions on design and technology were very insightful and engaged a diverse audience. Jake Silverstein, the Editor in Chief for the New York Times Magazine, mentioned that NYT Mag Live will host events in Los Angeles and New York soon so look out for a talk in your area.

Going “Global”

UC Berkeley’s Chancellor Nicolas Dirks and a board of directors have made a decision to create the Berkeley Global Campus in Richmond. The campus will be three-fourths the size of UC Berkeley made up by lab and research facilities. The funding for this project comes from a group of anonymous public-private investors. Dirks and many other top officials, such as the Richmond City Council, have kept this issue free of mainstream press. 

This past Wednesday, the Respect Richmond Campaign, a coalition of many campus organizations including: Student Labor Committee, CalSERVE, ASUC, Black Student Union, et al. held a “Richmond Speak Out.” This forum allowed a few Richmond residents and panelists to express their opinions about the Berkeley Global Campus. The Panelists included Melvin Wells an Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) activist, Edith Pastrano also an ACCE activist, Tamisha Walker a Safe Return Project activist, and Maricruz Manzanarez a campus worker and union activist. Melvin And Edith shared the sentiment that Richmond residents need protection from displacement, their group is working hard to prevent housing finances from soaring in Richmond. Tamisha explained her efforts to get councilmen to agree with the demands through Richmond ‘s Working Group. Maricruz has worked for the campus for 16 years, fearing that her children will never get to benefit from Berkeley’s countless resources. 

The Respect Richmond Campagin has called for the campus officials to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that advocates against displacement, providing local training for campus jobs, aiding local small businesses, and creating a youth program to encourage students to strive for higher education. After a few rounds of questions were answered by the panelists, the group of campus organizers lead a thrilling protest to Dirks’ house to tape a cloth on his front door that included the CBA demands and a list of signatures. The group will have another demonstration on April 30th, Rally for Richmond, that will meet at Sather Gate at 4:30pm. With the end of the school year approaching, the group and myself really encourage students, Richmond residents, and anyone who believes in the cause to have their voices heard before the UC decides to start building the campus over the summer. 

Public Opinion

On Tuesday Trish Hall, the Op-Ed editor for the New York Times, paid a visit to the School of Journalism here at Berkeley. She is a UC Berkeley alumnus and she used to write for the Daily Californian. Hall actually realized, as she was talking, that a number of the people she works with at the Times are associated with Berkeley. 

 The setup of the talk was a forum in which Hall left it open for the audience to ask questions and she would answer. She described any form of writing as biased because of the ways in which information is gathered and the decision is made to choose certain stories over others, but it is important to keep traditional and opinion pieces separate. Hall finds it very important that her team work collectively as a group in order to get pieces published in print or online because the process is very time intensive. She apologetically mentioned that some opinion pieces are not responded to for 1-2 years. When the editorial is appropriate, she and her team will run it. 

Engagement with the material in the form of comments and shares online are very important because the impact of the editorial is directly shown. Hall provided insight on new developments that were occurring in the opinion pieces. There is now a way in which videos and documentaries are shown through UpDocs which are 5 to 30 minute videos of opinion pieces. She was very excited to state that UpDocs was Emmy nominated this year. She also mentioned the various growth and importance of foreign editorials and facilities. Overall the talk was inspiring and very informative.

Analysis of the Dress’ Coverage

Having access to any social media site, I’m sure you heard of a dress that went viral this weekend due to a over exposed photograph. People from all walks of life were debating the color scheme of the dress. Some people debated it was white and gold others said it was blue and black. I personally believed that the dress was white and gold, that might have been a bias I had because that would have been my preference for the dress itself. But as it turns out, I was wrong, the dress was actually blue and black.

What surprised me about this particular topic is, not that it went viral because there have been many mundaine things that have gone viral, but the fact that it got so much attention from the press. I expected Buzzfeed to cover a story like this, it fits the tone of the many things that are posted on this site. However, I was taken aback by the New York Times covering it as a front page story. It is an interesting debate for the many eyes of the Internet but was it really front page worthy? The dress even got coverage on talk shows such as the Ellen DeGeneres show. Ellen gave the family a stipend of $10,000 for reasons unknown other than for them to “start their lives.”

This dress got far more attention than the family expected. In no way would they have expected the dress to end up on the Times or to receive a sum of cash with an all expense paid vacation. But it is one of the many wonders of the Internet. This viral photo shows that the Internet, as a hyper networked technology, has a way of connecting a diverse populous.

Photo credit to

Dearly Missed

This past Friday, a well-known columnist of the New York Times died. Carr was a heavy cocaine addict, but this did not deter him from becoming “the embodiment of the New York Times” (Goldstein). He made an impeccable climb from his history of drug abuse to become one of the most celebrated columnists at The New York Times. Overcoming his struggles and building a strong reputation as columnist is what made him truly inspiring. His credentials were always there but as he wrote in his memoir “The Night of the Gun,” it was an unexpected turn from were his life was at the moment.

I did not know of Carr before this past week. Throughout Tuesday and Thursday I was able to watch Page One, which is a documentary of the inner workings of the New York Times. In watching the documentary I instantly connected with Carr. He had such a lovable personality. He was humorous and sassy.

In a speech that he gave to the Journalism School at Berkeley, he encouraged up and coming journalists to be present, attentive, and willing. Instead of filling his speech with exhausted advice, he gave a fresh spin to how these journalists should approach their careers and life in general. What I will remember from that speech is that if you think you can find a story in something you feel is important you should pursue it, or in his own words: “someone should write a story about that.”

Journalism or Popular Interest?

Today it was announced that Brian Williams, an NBC News Anchor, was suspended by the network for exaggerating on events that happened when he was in Iraq about a decade ago. He has been suspended for 6 months, without pay. It just goes to show that people on the news are just not as impartial as they could be. In his self interest, Brian spoke about an incident of RPG’s hitting the helicopter he was in. However, it turns out that he was not in the said helicopter, he was in the following aircraft.

In a recent paper I turned in for my journalism class, I quoted Paul Starr saying that a citizen journalist cannot be considered true journalists because their reports may be considered propaganda and biased. But it seems that these statements can be extended to those that are undeniably paid and recognized as true journalists. Brian spoke on the events in Iraq in his own self-interest. Could I have been wrong about who a true journalist is? Could a blogger like myself be more of a journalist than those in the face of the media that only practice the profession in their own selfish interests?

It can be hard quantify who is a real journalist and who is not. True journalism is a respectable career because it requires that said person to be trustworthy. At the very least, I hope I can work to be a respectable and trustworthy journalist someday.