1,000 Words On US-Syria Attack

When I started this site, I meant to blog only about media because I’m a working journalist and I thought it’d be beneficial to analyze industry news. But there are far greater things in my life that I’m passionate about, that move me to write. And today I find myself intensely driven to type up some words on the all-but-confirmed United States military strike on Syria. Human rights has and always will remain at the core of my heart; it’s what I hope to spend the rest of my life reporting on.

The Syrian Civil War is one I’ve followed closely since its fledgling days during the Arab Spring. If you’ve paid attention to my tweets, you’ll know this to be true. The war began as an understated, afterthought to the cause but is now the only country still fighting the same war more than two years later. Even Egypt has evolved into something far more politically convoluted.

Here’s some quick, consolidated background info on what I’m about to discuss: Syria’s been engaged in a brutal civil war since March 2011, the war involves mainly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military regime, the Free Syrian Army (rebels who seek to remove Assad), Hezbollah (sided with Assad), and Al-Qaeda (sided with the rebels), last year President Obama drew a “red line” for military intervention and that was chemical warfare, last week the Syrian army committed genocide with sarin nerve gas, the U.S. and its foreign allies are now weighing their options for a military strike. [UPDATE: Secretary Kerry just confirmed in a press conference 1,429 were killed in the chemical attack, including 426 children.] More than 100,000 Syrians have died to date (and that’s a very conservative estimate). Here’s an excellent interactive timeline for in-depth information on the war. The Washington Post’s Syria for dummies is a good primer too.

Without further rambling, I present my thoughts on U.S. military intervention. Disclaimer: These thoughts are my own; they stand independent of any media organization or publication I’m affiliated with. They are biased opinions. Treat them as such.

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Download Vertical Floor Now!

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In my life updates, I promised to tell you more about my grad program’s capstone when it dropped. Well, as of midnight Vertical Floor’s September issue is officially available for download on the iTunes App store for the low, low price of $0.00. That’s right, it’s completely free (so no excuses)! But before I ask beg that you download, read, and tell every single person you know to do the same, it’s only right I give some background on what Vertical Floor’s all about and the story behind its creation.

Me and the rest of my MNO cohorts launched this magazine as a means to serve the parkour and freerunning communities. It all started with a tablet competition (my team’s mag proposal was a finalist!) to see which team in the entire Newhouse master’s program could come up with the best pitch for a tablet magazine to be made from scratch by my grad program. In their first round presentation, the group that presented what was formerly known as Tracer stressed the lack of media representation for a rapidly growing niche discipline known as parkour — so rapidly growing, in fact, the NYT recently covered it. Well, that point resonated with second round judges from Conde Nast, Tumblr, and the Atlantic and it went on to win the competition and became the subject that consumed our lives for six week.

The MNO program (minus a few students that chose the internship/30-page paper option) along with our advisors Professors Melissa Chessher, Aileen Gallagher, and Doug Stralher met in late May to sit down and really begin conceptualizing our magazine. What it would look like, the name, our audience, and most importantly, the stories we would tell. It isn’t easy to dive into a subject like parkour; not a single person in our class had actually ever practiced parkour or freerunning prior to capstone. I never even heard of parkour until the first round of the competition. It took hours upon hours, pretty much the whole six weeks, to really immerse ourselves in the world of parkour. So in case the NSA is wondering what’s up with the spike in parkour-related Google search queries mid-May to the end of June out of Syracuse, here’s your answer.

Now, for a more in-depth look at my role in making Vertical Floor.

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Life Updates!

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I know what you’re thinking. Back in January when I relaunched my site, I resolved to embrace frequent blogging. Thing is, when I made that promise I severely underestimated my grad workload for the spring semester. I took three reporting/writing intensive courses which left little room for personal blogging outside my music Tumblr. My apologies. But despite my blogging hiatus, I never ceased paying attention to media industry news. Instead, I’ve adopted a better medium for sharing that information: Twitter. So if you’re looking to stay on top of what’s going on at the major magazines, newspapers, and digital media outlets, give me a follow.

Since my last blog back in March, I graduated grad school! In May, I received my master’s in magazine, newspaper, and online journalism from the greatest J-school on Earth: the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Now, I’m a fairly humble person who rarely brags about personal or even professional achievements. But I fought for years to get into this school and nearly gave up on my dream of being a journalist twice along the way. So, I can’t help but emit pride when I call myself an alumna of this prestigious school and a member of the powerful Newhouse Mafia. I was taught by the best, worked alongside the best, and became a better journalist because of it all.

Since graduating my life has kicked into overdrive. Here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been up to:

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The State Of Women In Mags

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I came across the above study by FolioMag last week, but thought it would serve a greater purpose to share it with you all as we begin Women’s History Month. As you all know, I am a journalist. And as you all also (hopefully) know, I am a woman. It’s been a big couple weeks for women in media, and for all the wrong reasons.

I think it all started to go south when the Women’s Media Center released its annual report on women in U.S. media, which found that despite “new media” — this misleading implication that the Internet actually changed media — women are still not getting bylines. In other words, the work of female journalists isn’t getting published nearly as much as their male counterparts even though the platform for that work is larger than ever.

Then, there was this gem of a personal essay by Marin Cogan called “House of Cads,” in which she exposed the hypocrisy of sexual politics for female reporters in DC. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, and its sentiments were echoed perfectly by Ann Friedman and the woman behind “Said to Lady Journos.” If you haven’t stumbled upon that Tumblr yet, I urge you to do so now with the disclaimer that your blood will boil.

But back to mags.

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Roland Martin: Tells It Like It Is

One of the great things about attending Newhouse is the opportunity to hear industry game-changers, past and present, speak candidly about their careers. Last night, SU’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) hosted a conversation with Roland Martin. For non-political junkies, Martin is one the finest political analysts and social commentators in the business. He’s worked for CNN, TV One, and BET — among a host of other U.S. media outlets. He’s also one of the only African-American faces you’ll see on primetime news networks.

I’ve followed Martin’s work for many years and, as an aspiring political journalist, deeply admire his fearless effort to educate American minds at all costs. As he put it, “I go into every job under the premise that I’ll eventually get fired.” While I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be that audacious, his talk last night reaffirmed my belief that to be a great journalist you must take risks and dare to cause some disruption.

“I’m not an activist, but I can use my voice to act on certain issues and causes.”

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MLK’s Influence On My Career

I just wanted to take a moment to honor Martin Luther King Jr. today and talk briefly about his influence on my life and, particularly, on my career as a journalist. For most, MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech is the pinnacle of his influence on not just the United States of America, but also the world. It’s his mark on history, one of the most widely read and watched texts of all time.

As a child, I remember my small, predominately-Caucasian Catholic elementary school setting aside time both on MLK Day and during Black History Month to educate us on his life and memory. Foregoing the predictable, we sat down and read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in its entirety, taking turns each paragraph. As I read these words today, that same feeling I felt as a child revisits me. There’s a passage from that letter that has not only become one of my favorite quotes, but also my personal mantra as a journalist.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.”

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How Deadspin Changed The Game

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One of the biggest sports stories of 2012 surrounded the Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o, a linebacker at the University of Notre Dame. The story began on September 11, 2012, when Te’o’s grandmother passed away. A mere six hours after one tragedy another occurred: Te’o’s girlfriend Lennay Kekua lost her battle with leukemia. Te’o continued playing, leading his team to an undefeated season and a trip to the BCS title game. It was the stuff of fairytales, the kind of story that comes once in the career of most sports writers.

It attracted greats like Pete Thamel who wrote “The Full Manti,” a celebratory piece on Te’o’s achievements in the midst of such personal turmoil, for Sports Illustrated. It garnered attention from ESPN, CBS Sports, the Associated Press, and the list goes on and on. It was a love story, one that captivated a nation that so longs for a little romantic respite from the chaos of daily life.

But it was all a lie.

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The Age of Sponsored Journalism

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Yesterday, The Atlantic came under immense scrutiny for publishing a story on the Church of Scientology’s alleged growth spurt in 2012. At first glance, it’s a headline that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. Look closer, and right above that unsuspicious headline is an eyesore in the form of a bright yellow box containing the words “Sponsored Content.” And therein lies the shock and dismay. How could a magazine as esteemed as The Atlantic publish an advertisement masquerading as journalism?

When I first caught wind of the controversy on Twitter, I was a bit taken aback. I won’t pretend like The Atlantic isn’t my favorite U.S. news magazine and a publication I aspire to see my byline in some day. I wear my bias on my sleeve. It felt like a personal slap in the face because as strong as The Atlantic’s Op-Eds are, its reporting outweighs the calculated thoughts of such legends as Ta-Nehisi Coates. The idea that The Atlantic would publish a story so poorly written on one of the most controversial religious organizations in the world stung. But, the fact that it was paid for by that same church left a bruise turning a darker shade of purple by the minute.

And, yet, I don’t fault the editorial staff for this blunder. Like that old saying about not mixing business and pleasure or church and state, that same rule applies for the editorial and ad staff of a magazine. Each staff’s decisions are its own and should have no influence in either direction. When the writers of The Atlantic saw this story, I have no doubt they felt the sting from that same slap because they know public perception means everything. And nothing is more important to the state of journalism than the perception that our work is fair.

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