Nov
18

Politics 101 - Where's Walter Cronkite When You Need Him?

by Christine

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty - Proverbs 14:23

I grew up in the time of Huntley & Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. Trusted professionals who worked at the craft of Journalism, a profession that had strict rules and a stricter code of behavior. To stray from the professional code of conduct established by men like Edward R. Murrow was career ending suicide. If you believe polls after the news media's shocking 2016 Presidential misstep, less than 10% of American adults trust the media today. So how did we get from the place where Walter Cronkite, a newsman, was the most trusted man in America to all Media is corrupt and not to be believed? 

In loftier days, the news media, especially print journalism was considered essential to the effective operation of the government. In the United States, the Fourth Estate was respected as a watch dog of government and to many, the Press was as equally as important as the three branches of government. The evolution from trusted to mistrusted started with the failure of the local newspapers. Local newspapers were owned by community members who covered local issues as well as national issues that effected their community. Community members could trust that the local paper was looking out for their interest.

Television and eventually the Internet cut into the advertising dollars resulting in costs outweighing revenue. Printing costs and salaries of full time journalist were no longer feasible. Papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times became national and international niche publications with the Post concentrating on politics and the Times covering finance. 

While the newspapers both locally and nationally were fending off foreign corporate raiders, bankruptcy and declining readership, television news was going through a transition of its own. Twenty-four-hour news channels like CNN and FOX News were built upon recycling news hourly. Traditional news outlets like CBS, NBC and ABC were finding by the time the evening broadcast was ready to begin, their stories were already old news. Television began to rely on personalities to attract viewers, personalities that weren't necessarily impartial or accurate. Personalities that weren't news people at all. Opinion began to creep into news stories. And it was only a short walk over to the Daily Show where funny man Jon Stewart became the main news source for people under 30. (Stewart was actually appalled by that fact.) 

The fate of the impartial news story was sealed on the Internet. Traditional newspapers and television & radio outlets were slow to embrace the Internet. Newspaper people wanted the feel and smell of paper and television and radio had millions invested in infrastructure and couldn't imagine their future on small handheld technology. While traditional news outlets were dragging their feet, anyone with a computer and an opinion became an expert. Special interest groups, bloggers and paid advertisement became staples of Americans as style mavens and Podcasters became the information source of every technically savvy content consumer. On the wild west of the Internet everyone's opinion was equally weighted.

Facebook, once a national virtual public square where friends and neighbors shared pictures and recipes, evolved into a place of angry soapbox speeches littered with inaccuracies and hostile opinions. Friends and family members had angry “shouting matches” on social media that will take years to overcome. We witnessed this behavior in horror, averting our eyes and blaming their mothers.

All this brings us back to November 8, the night the weaknesses and failures of the American news outlets were broadcasted live to millions. The night the Press failed Ameria.  The American mainstream media hadn’t done its job. The news people had been too busy interviewing each other instead of government officials, the public or expert in the field of inquiry. The Media delivered opinion dressed up as fact in a breathless voice. Ivy league alumni talked to one another instead of the people living the event. The news was being delivered by performers. Personalities were interviewing personalities. Journalist aren't performers. The Fourth Estate is lousy with performers and celebrities. 

Sadly, before the election the right had come to believe the Press could not be trusted. After the election, the left joined their ranks. For America to survive, the Press must once again adhere to the tenets of good journalism. They must let go of celebrity anchors, focus groups, demographic studies and hair, dress and makeup stylist. They must stop running Internet cat videos and cover the news. The Press must do the hard work of learning their craft and pursue it doggedly. To help Americans cross the divide that separates our people, the Press must once again become an honest broker. 

But that's not all. Americans must hold the Media to a higher standard. We must question the rightness of a story whether delivered by CNN or our friends on Facebook. We need to listen to the opinions of others with an eye to solutions not to play the "I got you" game. We need to work to be an educated electorate not an opinionated people.  If we don't, I fear the Republic is doomed. 

 

NEXT: Hillary didn't lose. Trump won. 

 

Post Script: For the record the irony is not lost on me that I am a blogger lamenting the degrading of the Press by bloggers. 

Nov
15

Politics 101 - The Great Divide

by Christine

Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.'  - George McGovern

At the onset I declared Footsteps to be a place of exploration and discovery. Together we were going to learn about living an intentional life though personal discovery and group support. I worked to be inclusive and kind. I avoided controversies and subjects that could potentially alienate others. There was enough strife and stress in the world and enough other "good" work to do; I didn't need to add to the discomfort.  

Then November 8 happened. I, like, millions of Americans sat in front of my TV waiting to see the coronation of the first female President of the United State of America. The race had been brutal and I, as so many other Americans, was glad it was over. Only one more thing needed to be done and then the new era could begin. But it didn't happen. Instead of turning blue, the map turned a deep red and everyone from CBS anchor Scott Pelley to Comedian Stephen Colbert struggled to do more than sit in stunned silence before millions of people. 

The next morning those who supported Hillary were silenced by soul searing grief. The Trump supporters quickly came to understand this was not the "business as usual" after election response and they too became silent as they watched their fellow Americans endeavor to make sense of the vote. As Hillary supporter moved into the anger stage of grief, the charges of racism, misogyny and homophobia filled the media. Instead of leaving behind the rhetoric of the Presidential election campaign, fear joined anger in the damaging speech surrounding us. 

Slowly, I started to ask questions. How did we fail to see this train coming down the track?  Was the vote really about prejudice? What next for our deeply divided nation? That is when I realized that I needed to stop talking and listen to the "other side". I made the decision to reach out to folks that I knew were Trump supporters and to listen to any Trump supporter I met in my daily life. So far the action of listening has taken a whole lot of effort to remain silent but it has been revealing and encouraging.

The first person I reached out to was a high school friend. We weren't close in high school and as many people of my generation have done we reconnected on Facebook sharing photos of our grandchildren and household projects. I noticed through our contact on Facebook that she was passionate about fishing and was knowledgeable about the local fishing rules and regulations. I was apprehensive about contacting her because the conflict between Trump and Hillary supporters had played out angrily on my Facebook feed. 

My schoolmate responded warmly and took her time to explain that in Florida they are building deep water ports that are destroying Florida’s ocean reefs and in her area fishermen haven't been able to catch snapper for two years. She questioned why we needed to continue to build bigger and deeper ports in order to import more "junk" from China. She said that not only are the reefs and ocean wildlife being threatened but also Florida's water system. She believes Trump understands the true cost of Globalization and will stop it. 

The next person I spoke to was once a neighbor who had moved away some years ago. She moved from New York to the Mid-West where she completed a degree and became credentialed to work on medical issues with Vets and the elderly. She then relocated to the South where she remarried and is currently working.  Presently she is making ten dollars an hour. Her husband is unable to work and has been fighting to get disability for the last couple of years and won't get a hearing for another eighteen months. When I asked her why she voted for Trump she, too, took the time to answer my question without hostility. They are barely making it and Trump was speaking to her situation. Trump wants to address the lack of jobs and not allow people who shouldn't be in this country particularly criminals to take resources that could be used to help citizens of the United States. 

Both these women have real challenges that have nothing to do with prejudice. I cannot see into their hearts but I do know when I asked and listened I learned of problems I didn't know existed. Prejudice is real but for these women, I don't believe prejudiced caused them to vote for Trump. They are struggling to keep a roof over their head and to protect the people and life they love. They believe that Trump was the only one listening to them and speaking for them.

This is the beginning of my exploration into why the chasm is so great in our Country. I am going to continue to ask and listen. I encourage you to do the same. We must figure out how to solve the problems and challenges that have created the Great Divide.

Next: The Media

Aug
29

Wanderlust & Adventure

by Christine

When you look at photographs like this one, do you wonder what is at the end of the road? I do. As I become consumed with wanderlust, I find joy in exploring what is around the corner or at the end of a canopied country road.


On my travels, moments of whimsy cross my path or I am delighted to find a garden in an inspired location.

It is Monday and I wonder what adventures await me this week? What is around the corner? What awaits you?

Hugs, 
C

Aug
26

Peggy Parish Is Amelia Bedelia

by Christine

 

"I guess I love mischief as much as Amelia Bedelia. I simply enjoy laughing at life." - Margaret Cecile "Peggy" Parish

I love words. Two of my favorites are arugula and Bok Choy because of the way they roll around in my mouth. When I first read Peggy Parish's book about Amelia Bedelia, I was delighted to follow Amelia as she took a standard phrase and turned it on its ear. When asked to dust the living room, instead of cleaning every surface, Amelia covered the furniture with a fine powder. Ms. Parish wrote of interpreting language literally through the antics of her most beloved character Amelia Bedelia. Because of my love of words and Ms. Parish's whimsical approach to language I believed I would understand who she was with little effort. I was wrong. 

Margaret Cecile "Peggy" Parish was born in Manning, S.C. on July 14, 1927. Ms. Parish was a peer of my mother but unlike my mother and the women of her generation she never married. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, she moved first to Oklahoma, then Kentucky and finally to New York City to teach. Through a conversation with Susan Hirschman, a parent of one of her students in New York City and founder of Greenwillow Books, Ms. Parish creates literalist Amelia and becomes a respected author of children's books. As Joe Friday of Dragnet would say, "The facts ma'am, just the facts." But as I venture out on the Pride of Place Tour, I am looking for more. I am looking for how the author's hometown left its imprint on the writer 

I've been able to piece together that Peggy's family was poor with her mother dying when she was young. Ms. Parish said she was a sickly child and that her love of reading and writing developed during that period. As the author stated herself, Manning was a place "where everybody knew everybody" and life centered around church and school. She did not say whether these aspects of Manning's personality were comforting or something else. Both the Parish children received a college education with Stanley, her brother, becoming a physician but there is no mention of who paid for their education. Milestones in Ms. Parish's life are treated, as one would imagine Amelia herself would, literally with no embellishment. 


Amelia "drawing the drapes"

 

I acknowledge that Ms. Parish was an unusual woman for her time. She embarked on a career in another part of the United States, leaving behind her Southern home to teach and write when other women of her generation aspired to be wives and mothers. She built a lucrative writing career in the publishing capital of the world and left a legacy that still exists today. But the question still begs to be asked. How did Manning, S.C. shape Peggy Parish? Ms. Parish returned to live in Manning before her death at 61. She was not old by our standards and she died from an unexpected ruptured abdominal aneurysm. Her health seemed to be fine so she wasn't returning to Manning so her family could care for her. Had she returned home as a conquering hero or seeking the comforts of family and home? 

While I am not clear on how Manning touched Ms. Parish, I am clear that Ms. Parish touched Manning. The town celebrates her life and work though a statue of Amelia Bedelia in front of the library, hosts a Peggy Parish Literary Festival and continues to compile stories and memories of Peggy. Everyone I talked to in Manning knew her work and her most famous character. Manning is proud to call her theirs.

Today Amelia Bedelia lives on through the efforts of her nephew, Herman Parish. After Ms. Parish passed away, he continued the series. Amelia Bedelia is part of HarperCollins I Can Read Series. If you have a budding reader in your family then Amelia Bedelia may just be the girl for you!

Hugs,
C

 

 

 

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Aug
22

Manning, South Carolina

by Christine

 

Recently, my granddaughter asked me to read to her a charming book titled, Amelia Bedelia. Amelia, the heroine of the story, works as a housekeeper and is a true literalist. When asked to dust the furniture by her employer, she lightly covers all the home's furnishings with a fine powder. The story is a funny glimpse into the use and meaning of words. To celebrate the last hooray of summer before work and school started in earnest, I headed to Charleston, South Carolina to experience some of America's best restaurants and get in some serious beach reading time. Also, it was the perfect time to begin the second "season" of my Pride of Place series.  In my research of the area, I learned that the author of Amelia Bedelia, Margaret Cecile "Peggy' Parish, lived a short distance away from Charleston in Manning, South Carolina. 

I headed out in the cool of the morning - or as cool as it gets down south in August - to explore Manning and see what insights I could glimpse of Peggy Parish through her birth town. I prefer to avoid the Interstate and take the back roads as I search for the hometowns of the authors on the Pride of Place Tour. The terrain between the beaches of Charleston and the low country of Manning is rich and lush. Bright green marshland is woven around and through Charleston and becomes pine and oak forest the further from the beach you drive. I take the back roads in hopes of finding small towns and crossroads with assorted craftsman selling birdhouses or other handmade crafts. On the way to Manning, I found acres and acres of pine tree farms, wind blown oak trees and fields of soy beans, dried sun flowers and corn stalks. The congestion of Northeast became an illusive memory as I became accustomed to roads canopied by oaks trees covered in Spanish moss. 


Built circa 1906

My first stop in Manning was the public library. A statue of Amelia Bedelia stands in front of the library to honor and acknowledge Manning's native daughter, Peggy Parish. As has become my modus operandi, I dropped into the library to chat up the local librarian on town lore. The young volunteer working the desk was kind and suggested I walk next door to meet with the town historian. Archivist Nancy Cave and Glyn Oliver Bethune are the go-to people if you want to learn about Manning past and present. I was ushered into the old Manning library during lunchtime as we swapped stories about living down south. We had a dynamic and rich conversation about Peggy Parish, the Swamp Fox and the demographic changes in Manning. 

One of the most interesting facts I learned talking to Ms. Cave was prior to the building of the Interstate Highway System, U.S. Route 301 was the main road used by New Yorkers to get to Florida. Manning and many other cities thrived as tourist made their way south to vacation in South Florida. Large homes on either side of the highway became Tourist Homes and lodged travelers for the night and then sent them on their way the next morning after breakfast.  As Ms. Cave said, "We would call them Bed and Breakfasts today."  

Manning as the county seat of Clarendon County pays homage to another South Carolina favorite, Francis Marion - aka The Swamp Fox - through a series of murals painted on the building throughout the town.  Francis Marion earned his nickname due to his stealth and cunning during the Revolutionary War and the murals tell that story. It is a lovely walking tour that allows you to be outside and learn about South Carolina's part in the revolutionary war.

I continue to be amazed at the individual creative spark that exists in our towns and cities and Manning is no exception. Friday, I will blog on Peggy Parish and her work as an author. Chat later!

Hugs,
C

P.S. A heartfelt thank-you to Nancy L. Cave and Glyn Oliver Bethune of the Clarendon County Archives & History Center. I learned something new and met two really nice people -for me that is a perfect day.

 

Aug
15

Summer Fun And New Ideas

by Christine

Summer is in full swing as my squash and zucchini plants are heavy with fruit and I am in full gardening gear as I work to out wit our resident groundhog in battle for the most tender parts of the lettuce. He is winning. My grandkids are visiting one at a time this summer instead of descending upon us in a pack. There is such joy in these intimate and joyful visits but I will be the first to concede that at times very tiring. On about the third day of their visit I am reminded why parenthood is for the young.

I am calling these visits, the Weekend of Yes. Each grandchild is told yes to anything thing that is safe and within the budget. They ask to go to Time Square so they can visit the M&M store and purchase a pound of M&Ms. Yes, let’s do it! You want cookie dough pancakes with whipped cream? Yes, coming right up!. The grandkids control the remote control and I gladly watch reruns of the University of Florida playing football against a Southern rival while my grandson excitedly narrates each play it is about to happen. They choose the play, the movie, the museum and the kinds of food we eat for this one special summer vacation as well as what time we go to bed. It is their Weekend of Yes. The WOF is a once in a lifetime treat; a very special treat because it happens only once during their childhood. 

I am saying yes to a few things that I want to share with you. Footsteps is starting a new series on Wednesday called Letters From Dixie. We are printing letters from a displaced Southerner to her sister as she attempts to navigate the ideas and people of her new Northern home. I hope you are amused by Dixie's observations as I am. Also, I have discovered a new podcast that has captured my attention. Malcolm Gladwell is on episode 09 of this podcast Revisionist History. Gladwell takes a second look at events that shaped actions and thoughts in the United States and questions there impact. While I don't agree with all his conclusions, I find it refreshing to give brain power to ideas instead of the minutiae of the current media banter. 

And finally how about the Olympics! Inspiring and dramatic are two words that come to mind as I watch this year's event in Rio. If you get a chance to check out Under Armour's new video piece on Michael Phelps, do it, it is worth your time. Their new tag line is Rule Yourself. I Will. I believe that slogan rivals the Nike, Just Do It!  

And finally, finally. The Pride of Place tour is gearing up again so be on the look out for the next installment.

Hugs,
C

 

 

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