Currently open for submissions, The Irish Times Amateur Travel Writing Competition will send one lucky winner abroad and publish the resulting article in the newspaper’s weekend magazine supplement. To help guide potential participants, the paper rounded up some tips from its professional writers.
There’s a lot of great advice here, starting with this bit from Fionn Davenport (pictured):
Avoid using the particularly noxious language that is travel-writerese. The sea is rarely (sadly) emerald green and there’s never been a “breathtaking” sunset, unless someone has punched you in the solar plexus just as the sun was going down. And, speaking of precious stones, the only time you can describe something as a ‘hidden gem’ is if you’ve actually unearthed a diamond from the dirt, in which case you’re in Clover and can write anything you want – but it’s never acceptable to describe a restaurant as an “eatery.”
Others chiming in with guidance are Saturday magazine editor Orna Mulcahy, travel writer Manchan Magan, feature writer Rosita Boland, feature writer Patrick Freyne, health editor Joyce Hickey, features editor Conor Goodman, features digital editor Gary Quinn, feature writer Ciara Kenny, food writer Marie-Claire Digby and special reports editor Edel Morgan. The beauty of this compilation is that it’s useful advice for any and all engaged in the travel writing game.
[Photo via: @fionndavenport]
Most media has traditionally been defined by geography — local newspapers and local broadcasters building up to national networks and national magazines. Before the web, people in London and New York got nearly all their news from different news sources — not to mention people in Tokyo and Tulsa, or Buenos Aires and Beirut. But as the world grows more interconnected, doesn’t our media need to keep up?
That’s the argument made by Bill Buzenberg is a new paper out of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Buzenberg is famous as former top executive at the Center for Public Integrity and NPR, and he wrote the paper while spending last semester as a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Journalism has fallen behind the way the world is organized. We live in a globalized society. Goods and commodities come to us from all over. Environmental consequences clearly cross borders. Multinational businesses are organized globally, with financial transactions as well as infractions also global. Crooks and hackers are cross-border too, with the World Wide Web as their oyster of opportunity while nearly every person, home, business and community is hyper-connected. In Internet parlance, climate and crime are at scale; journalism has traditionally not been organized that way.
We get events-based coverage from seemingly everywhere an earthquake, a hurricane, or a public health disaster strikes. A number of national wire services and a few thousand foreign correspondents do important work, but they are spread thinly around mostly capital cities on six continents.
News of the world is covered mostly by nation-state-based journalism, along with wire services, but they cannot easily provide the necessary robust investigative clout needed to see today’s borderless world in hundreds of places and thousands of ways simultaneously. It is difficult for any single reporter to follow secret transnational money flows, for example, or the adverse effects of global warming in every region. A global vision, using the latest technologies, is needed to make better sense of our cross-border world and to report it cogently for citizens wherever they may be on the planet. In short, the press is increasingly outmatched and outgunned, as well as underinvested, just when a bigger global watchdog is needed more than ever.
RELATED ARTICLEIntercontinental collaboration: How 86 journalists in 46 countries can work on a single investigationApril 3, 2013Buzenberg outlines a few recent successes in that vein, largely thanks to the collaborative International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. (We wrote about one of those collaborations — 86 journalists in 46 countries! — in 2013.) He also outlines the difficulties that are a natural part of any collaboration at that sort of scale.
The fact is, American news organizations of all sizes could collaborate much more with other media organizations, including their competition, on local, state, regional or national enterprise or investigative stories. Many more collaborations are taking place today, but they are mostly small and too often regarded as troublesome. Meanwhile, a much deeper investigative push is possible when multiple newsrooms reach out and join forces.
The attitude that “we know best” and “we do it all ourselves” is an increasingly antiquated notion in the digital age when knowledgeable members of the public and colleagues at other news organizations could be brought into an effective journalistic process in new ways to become part of a more robust collaborative investigative effort.
Bill Kovach, former Nieman curator and the co-author of the classic Elements of Journalism: What News People Should Know and the Public Should Expect, believes collaborations of all kinds can be one of the best ways to preserve the journalism of verification, certainly as ICIJ has shown on a global scale. Newsrooms are shrinking around the world as advertising and subscription business models succumb to disruption. Kovach says global collaborations like ICIJ can be “the bridge to take us to the next economic model to stabilize journalism,” in order to keep costly, in-depth investigations alive on a global scale. These collaborations could also energize investigative journalism on a local, regional, state or national level.
Here’s audio of Buzenberg discussing his paper on a Shorenstein podcast:
Amy Schumer is Glamour’s latest cover star. The comedian told the magazine that one uncomfortable aspect of fame is that strangers assume they know her.
“It’s overwhelming for somebody to come up and want to just be friends right away,” said Schumer. “People think comics are always funny and on. And we’re not. We’re pretty quiet.”
People, please stop being weird.
Reuters has made some changes to its banking team. Details are below.
- Lauren Tara LaCapra will add the intersection of technology and the financial sector to her beat. She has been with Reuters since 2011.
- Olivia Oran will cover Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. She most recently worked for Reuters’ mergers and acquisitions team. Oran has been with the company since 2012.
- Dan Freed joins Reuters to cover Bank of America and Wells Fargo. He has been covering Wall Street for more than 15 years, most recently for TheStreet.
- Lawrence Delevingne will join the banking team to pen long-form stories on hedge funds. He most recently worked for CNBC.com.
The country’s safeguards against toxic workplace exposures are dangerously weak, but they don’t have to stay that way.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration takes years, sometimes decades, to develop rules for individual chemicals and other hazardous substances. That’s why most of the agency’s exposure limits haven’t been updated since 1971, and why the vast majority of chemicals have no workplace limits at all. It’s part of the reason that an estimated 50,000 Americans die from job-related illnesses each year.
Sweeping changes would require action from Congress, given how courts have interpreted what OSHA must do to set chemical limits. The agency could wait a long time for such assistance — Congress sometimes intervenes to make the process even harder.
But OSHA, employers and worker advocates can make strides against workplace disease and death right now. Here are some of the ways:
Approach health standards differently
OSHA sets exposure limits one chemical at a time, each with a long-slog rulemaking. As a result, it’s a rare substance that has an up-to-date limit in the U.S., and setting one can trigger “regulatory Whac-a-Mole,” as OSHA chief David Michaels puts it, with some companies turning to substitutes that have no legal threshold.
OSHA already tried updating many standards all at once, in 1989. A federal court ruled three years later that the abbreviated analyses the agency did weren’t sufficient.
But nothing’s stopping OSHA from regulating an entire industrial process, said Adam M. Finkel, who directed the agency’s health standards programs from 1995 to 2000. By setting standards for operations such as welding or dry cleaning, OSHA could reduce exposures for a variety of substitutes an employer might use, he said.
He suggested that idea to OSHA in the 1990s, and the agency included it in a list of possibilities released last year in a request for help to fix its bogged-down standard-setting process. Regulating chemicals by characteristic — for instance, the type of hazard — is also on the list.
Another thought kicked around over the years: Avoiding long fights by getting industry and labor on the same page. Finkel said he asked representatives from both sides in the mid-1990s whether they’d agree to live with the result if they helped set the ground rules. (Answer: Nope. But he thinks it could work if OSHA championed it.) When the American Industrial Hygiene Association got industry and labor groups to the table not long after, participants talked about asking for an OSHA advisory committee — with members drawn from both sides — that would hammer out recommendations for exposure limits in at least some cases.
“You could start with the noncontroversial ones and you’d build confidence in the process,” said Frank White, a senior official at OSHA in the 1980s.
Basing standards on what outside parties can agree on could run afoul of OSHA’s requirement to protect workers from significant risks with the lowest feasible exposure limits. Finkel, now at the University of Pennsylvania, sees a workaround: Make such agreements “enforceable partnerships” instead of standards and hold signers accountable.
There’s also the tack the United Steelworkers and beryllium producer Materion tried for that metal, which can trigger a potentially fatal lung disease. The two sides developed a recommended standard for the substance in hopes of speeding up OSHA’s efforts to enact its own rule. (The agency sent a proposal to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for vetting last September. It’s still in review.)
Why wait for a rule? The asphalt industry offers a model for cooperating to protect workers in the absence of specific requirements.
As concern heightened that asphalt fumes might cause cancer, OSHA proposed a standard in 1992. Nothing has come of that. But industry and labor representatives helped fill the gap even though they didn’t see eye-to-eye on the science.
It started with an idea in the 1990s from the National Asphalt Pavement Association: Why not adjust the paving equipment? To introduce a system that could protect workers and be widely adopted, trade group members decided to cooperate with labor and government. Soon, they were meeting regularly to develop paver ventilation systems that would keep fumes away from workers.
“There needed to be a paradigm shift,” said Mike Acott, president of NAPA, which represents asphalt producers, paving contractors and equipment manufacturers. “I would go to meetings, and it just seemed like we all wanted roughly the same thing.”
Dr. Jim Melius, director of research for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, was involved from the start. “The usual approach would be that we would go complain to NIOSH” — the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — “and OSHA and demand that studies be done, and industry would fight that,” he said. “But we thought we could work together. There were some pretty practical, straightforward solutions that could be applied.”
Manufacturers designed engineering controls that NIOSH tested, and by the mid-2000s, virtually all U.S. pavers had such technology to keep fume exposures below recommended levels.
The partnership opened the door to larger, industry-changing collaborations. Among them: development of lower-temperature asphalt mix that’s safer — and cheaper, too.
Use less-toxic chemicals
Workers wouldn’t need so many protections from chemicals, toxicologists say, if the U.S. had a good system for policing what’s safe for use. OSHA standards are the equivalent of chasing horses around the field after a massive barn escape.
“Chemicals need to be tested and they need to be monitored before they enter the market,” said Julia Quint, a toxicologist who ran California’s Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service before retiring in 2007. “Once they enter the market, it’s very hard to control them. … Consumers, workers, some small employers and others assume that they’re OK, why would they be on the market if they’re not OK … and then all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Oh, no, it causes cancer.’”
Reforming the system is a big fight, as the battle over the federal Toxic Substances Control Act illustrates. So what can companies do now? OSHA has a guide for firms (and workers) looking for safer alternatives to the chemicals they use, often dubbed “green chemistry.”
Pick up the pace
Even if new methods for setting health standards catch on, OSHA probably will need to address certain substances one by one. Doing so more expediently is critical.
The court decisions that require substantial analyses before OSHA can propose health rules were largely handed down in the 1980s. The last major one that spoke to the issue came out in 1992. And yet the agency managed to enact 11 health standards that decade. In the decade and a half since then? Just four, only one of which involves chemical exposure limits. Some of the delays, say former agency officials, are OSHA’s to control.
People who know what’s unsafe can avoid hazards and advocate for their own health. That’s why New Jersey worker-rights center New Labor recruited a group of day laborers in Newark to become “safety liaisons” in 2009. The workers trained in occupational safety practices and laws, then built up the courage to demand safe working conditions despite their concerns that speaking out might cause trouble for them.
Safety liaison Selvin Trejo joined the program four years ago, shortly after emigrating from Honduras and starting work in construction. “You begin to learn that you have rights in this country like anyone else,” he said. “That we have a right to dignified work and a dignified salary, and a job that’s free of hazards.”
The liaisons teach monthly safety classes and go to day-labor hiring spots in the mornings to help educate workers on their rights. Liaisons tell their employers and co-workers about the protections they need, sometimes reporting job sites to OSHA or refusing to work when a boss won’t fix hazards. They say they’ve seen results.
“We are the eyes and ears of our own circumstances,” said New Labor Executive Director Lou Kimmel. “So we should monitor them, knowing that OSHA can’t always be there for us.”
Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to do everything possible to protect journalists and media outlets in Afghanistan, where threats and attacks by the jihadi group Islamic State have been added to those by the Taliban, creating new information “black holes” in several provinces.
Although countries such as the United States, Iran, Norway and Qatar are “normalizing” their relations with the Taliban and certain Afghan politicians are sitting with them at the negotiating table, the Taliban have been intensifying armed attacks on civilians and openly threatening freedom of information.
The Taliban, and now members of Islamic State, are sowing terror in several northeastern provinces including Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Baghlan and Nuristan. Freedom of information in these provinces has gone from being limited to non-existent, giving rise to new information black holes.
Media outlets have been the targets of armed attacks. They include Radio Donya Novin in Charikar (Parwan province) and the regional bureaux of the independent Afghan news agency Pajhwok and the US government-funded Voice of America (VOA) in Jalalabad (Nangarhar province) on 12 June, when at least two VOA journalists were injured. Several sources described this as “the first Islamic State action” in Afghanistan.
Fighting has been so intense in some regions, especially in Badakhshan and Nangarhar, that journalists have been forced to stop working altogether and entire villages have fallen under rebel control. These provinces now rank alongside Helmand in the south and Khost in the east as regions where the Taliban have terrorized the media.
“Nangarhar has always been a violent province but the situation has become even worse in recent months,” said a journalist in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The rebels are carrying out attacks almost every day but we cannot cover them. The security forces have told us they cannot guarantee our safety and we don't want to put our lives in danger, so we cannot do our job. And working for the media has become even more difficult for women journalists. Sometimes they cannot even leave their homes.”
Jalalabad has eight radio stations, three TV stations and four newspapers employing a total of 60 journalists, of whom 20 are women.
The journalist added: “The civilian victims of the past few months include two former journalists who were members of the Jalalabad municipal council – Mofti Moinshah Haqani, a presenter on the religious radio station Sepinghar who was gunned down by unidentified persons on 29 June, and Angizeh Shinvari, a freelance journalist who was killed by a bomb in her car on 10 February. She had been repeatedly threatened for encouraging women, especially women journalists, to defend their rights, and for openly criticizing Pakistan's support for the Taliban on her Facebook page.”
According to the information gathered by Reporters Without Borders, six of the 22 municipalities in Nangarhar province are now under the control of armed groups that say they are affiliated to Islamic State. The situation is no better to the north, where Reporters Without Borders spoke to Shir Mohammad Jahesh, the head of local TV station Tanvir in Baghlan province.
“The fighting hadn't been expected to intensify in the north, especially in Badakhshan, a relatively calm area, but the Taliban presence is panicking the population, including journalists, obviously,” Jahesh said. “There is now a great deal of violence in the region and our work is directly influenced by these armed groups, who ask us to be ‘neutral' although in practice they want us to accept their rules.”
The Taliban and other armed groups are unfortunately not the only ones who target the media. Warlords, local politicians and government forces also help to create a climate of fear designed to keep journalists at a distance, especially during military operations.
As Afghanistan sinks deeper and deeper into a full-blown civil war, the enemies of freedom of information are doing everything possible to prevent the media from working freely.
At an emergency meeting ofthe National Security Council on 5 July, President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi accused the Taliban of committing war crimes after their bloody attack in Jalrez, in the central east province of Wardak on 2 and 3 July, in which more than 15 soldiers and civilians were killed.
Georgette Gagnon, the head of the human rights unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), previously referred on 31 May to attacks on civilians and murders of civilians as war crimes.
Gulbadin Hekmatyar, the founder and leader of Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an Islamist group allied until recently with the Taliban, has meanwhile urged his fighters to support Islamic State in its clashes with the Taliban. Hekmatyar and HIA have been implicated in the murders of several reporters including Zakia Zaki, the head of Radio Sada-e-Sulh (Voice of Peace Radio)-, one of Afghanistan's most distinguished journalists, in June 2007.
Reporters Without Borders asked presidential spokesman Sayed Zafar Hashemi, who is a former journalist, about protecting journalists and the need to combat impunity for crimes of violence against them.
“President Ashraf Ghani and the Afghan government are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and freedom of information in Afghanistan,” Hashemi said. “Our country is at war, a war that was imposed on us. The enemies are trying to attack what we have achieved in the past 13 years, including freedom of information. The state is doing everything to protect journalists in several regions and the security forces are at the service of journalists, to ensure their safety.”
On the negotiations with the Taliban, he said: “We must find a political solution to end the war but the negotiations are necessarily based on the principles defined in the Afghan constitution. To reach a peace accord, all parties must accept this constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression. Peace serves the rule of law, in which everyone who has committed crimes, includes crimes against journalists and news media, must be punished by the law and the justice system.”
In this just-released video, investigative reporter Mark Schapiro goes in-depth on how to use investigative techniques in probing often complex environmental issues. Schapiro, a veteran of the original Center for Investigative Reporting in the San Francisco Bay Area, gave this talk at NR15, the July 2015 annual conference of Netzwerk Recherche, Germany's investigative journalism association. His host is Katharina Finke.
"How do we make the global economy work for us as journalists?" Schapiro asks. "If you can begin to think in a global context, you realize that there's all sorts of information you can get on American companies in Europe, because they have to register here according to a whole different set of criteria than they do in the United States. You can find out about the toxicity of the chemicals they sell in the United States."
"And the reverse is also true," he explains. "There are European companies that operate in the United States... You can get information on them from American governmental and NGO sources that you can't get from Europe."
Schapiro has produced award-winning environmental stories for three decades. His work spans virtually all forms of media: in publications such as Harpers, The Atlantic, Mother Jones and Yale 360; on television, including PBS FRONTLINE/World and KQED; on public radio including Marketplace; and on the web. His latest book is Carbon Shock: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of the Disrupted Global Economy. His previous book, EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products, looks at the health and economic implications of tightening environmental standards by the European Union. Among his earlier works was Circle of Poison in 1981 (co-authored with David Weir), which helped spark a global campaign to stop the dumping of banned and restricted pesticides on developing countries. He is an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Looking for more? Check out the environmental reporting resources put together by Schapiro and Nils Mulvad for the eighth Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Rio, and GIJN's resource page on extractive industries.
At one point or another, most people have Googled themselves to see what kind of illustrious and not so illustrious people share the same name. Per a fun roundup for the Syracuse Post-Standard of novels set in central New York, that idea is the plot spark for Linda Sands’ mystery tome 3 Women Walk Into a Bar.
From Nicki Giorny’s piece:
“I played with that idea,” said Sands, who grew up in Baldwinsville and currently lives in Georgia. “The story began to roll from that.”
The “bad guy” in Sands’ mystery novel decides to assume the life of a man who shares his name after doing one of these Internet searches. That’s how he winds up tending bar in an Irish pub in Syracuse, where three women are found murdered in the book’s first pages. With a clearly guilty bartender, the mystery behind the murders is not so much who as why. Private investigator Bill “Free Willy” Tedesco sets out to find an answer.
Sands will be back in Syracuse August 1 for a book release party at Coleman’s Irish pub. As a side note, Giorny first started writing for the paper in the fall of 2014, while enrolled in journalism at Syracuse University. Read the rest of her summer reads rundown here.
[Jacket cover courtesy: Kindle Press]
Gawker alum A.J. Daulerio is ready to give Ratter—a site he launched just last year—another go. According to Capital New York, Daulerio is preparing a new version of Ratter, after the old version crapped out. The problem is that the new Ratter sounds just as stupid as the old Ratter.
Daulerio launched Ratter to much fanfare. Investors (Mark Cuban! Gawker Media!) were excited about the “Network of local city tabloids.”
“My hope is that the editors in Ratter cities will be tenacious distractions to their respective power-elites and consistently entertaining to everyone else,” said Daulerio. Yet Ratter’s biggest post was about texts from Justin Bieber that ended up not actually being from Bieber. Tenacious!
Ratter never really gained traction and so, last May, Daulerio cut every editorial staffer. Daulerio labeled the gutting a “pivot,” which was hilarious to everyone aside from the people he just fired.
Now, though, now things will be different. The new Ratter, according to Daulerio, will be “a new Gawker.” How? By posting “Cool stuff,” including personal essays and commentary. There will also be a database of 2,500 celebrities’ addresses, because that’s something people desperately want. There will be no news, because “News f*cking sucks.”
Setting the over/under on number of months the new Ratter lasts at 11. Yes, even with so much “cool stuff.”
To work your way to a place where editors will entrust you with that type of blockbuster piece, prove yourself with a shorter piece, which for this magazine means 750 to 1,500 words. Try your hand at a very nontraditional review.
“Our reviews are very strange creatures,” said [editor in chief and publisher Jason] Pontin. “They’re more akin to an essay [related to] the release of new software, a book, a journal publication, a film or an event like the Venice [Art] Biennale.” In other words, the reviews aren’t product reviews. Rather, said Pontin, the pieces are comparable to what you might find in The New York Review of Books. In the May/June 2015 issue, for example, a review looked at “The Problem with Fake Meat.” In it, the writer explores if it’s possible to create a burger that helps the environment, improves your health and also tastes good.
For more, read: How To Pitch: MIT Technology Review
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