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A Year of Yes: Restarted my monthly newsletter to share good news and inspire you

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 9.19.26 AMGood morning and happy Friday! In an attempt to bring some good news into the world, I restarted my monthly newsletter. It talks about what I’m doing, where I’m going, and how I’m staying inspired with links to books, podcasts, and products that I’m currently enjoying / learning from. Check it out here and if you’d like to subscribe, there’s a little “Subscribe” button in the upper left-hand corner. https://mailchi.mp/18a…/more-good-news-from-christa-avampato

This month’s news includes: books, storytelling, dinosaurs, my trip to Iceland, fossils, mental health, the healing power of writing, and tours of secret NYC places.

You can also find the links to all newsletters going forward here: https://christaavampato.com/subscribe-to-my-newsletter/

In the pause: My live on-screen interview on Cheddar

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 5.34.04 PMI’m so excited to share that I’ll be doing a live on-screen interview about my young adult fantasy book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, on Friday at 1:30pm Eastern on Cheddar. You can tune in at Cheddar.com, cheddar.twitter.com, and www.facebook.com/cheddarlive/. I’ll post the link to the interview on Friday afternoon once I have it. Thanks for all your support on this journey with special thanks to publicist extraordinaire, Dan Fortune.

More about Cheddar:
Cheddar focuses on covering the most innovative products, technologies, and services transforming our lives. The programming is available on Sling TV, Amazon, Vimeo, Twitter, Xumo, Pluto TV, and 60 percent of smart TVs in the U.S. They also stream live on Facebook and on Twitter’s homepage during certain hours. Certain Cheddar hours also air on Fusion, the cable news network available in over 60 million homes.

Other past guests include Ford CEO Mark Fields, CBS CEO Les Moonves, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, Thrive Global Founder Arianna Huffington, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, New York Stock Exchange President Tom Farley, Hearst Magazine CMO Joanna Coles, Twitch founder Justin Kan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tory Burch, Tony Robbins, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, DJ Khaled and more.

Here are links to recent interviews with Will.i.am, SNL’s Kenan Thompson and Lea DeLaria. Check out their sizzle reel, too.

In the pause: My faith and gratitude are with the press, and the Newseum

“The viability of news organizations today rests in their ability to make themselves relevant by providing news that improves people’s lives.” ~Bob Schieffer

The Newseum’s event “The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days” attempted to open the dialogue on the present and future of the press in politics. At times contentious and at other times collegial, all of the conversations were open and honest. And this idea was clear: journalists are determined to uncover the truth in every facet of their work and they won’t rest until they do. Their commitment and passion, often at their own personal expense, is inspiring. This isn’t a job; it’s a calling no matter where a journalist sits on the ideological spectrum. This is sacred work and it deserves respect.

The state of news today
And that said, the criticism often leveled at the press must be listened to and acted upon. Feedback, whether or not we agree with it, is a gift because it allows us to figure out what matters to us. 21% of Americans have little or no faith in media. That is a massive number. We think more highly of nearly every other profession.

And it shows in the sales numbers. In the past ten years, we’ve lost 126 newspapers in this country. Today many remaining ones are thinner than our water bill now. “If we don’t fix this,” said Bob, “we will see unprecedented corruption across society. It’s the great crisis of journalism today.”

So how do we fix it? What do we do? What do we stop doing?

And I go back to Bob Schieffer. He’s been a journalist for 60 years. And in his long history in the only profession he’s ever had, he sees the answer as not only relevance but in impact. The news must make people’s lives better.

How do we do that? I think we need to get more trained reporters on the ground in more communities uncovering the facts, listening to people, and telling a greater array of stories. I appreciate data, but I appreciate the narrative the data reveals even more. As a society, we’ve become analytical to the point of sacrificing our humanity. We’ve been so busy assigning labels to ourselves and to others that we’ve actually forgotten to walk in their shoes.

Does more data make us wiser or overwhelmed?
In his closing address, Bob Schieffer went on to share a few quotes that had a powerful impact on me.

“We have started thinking in statistics and analytics,” said Peter Hart, NBC/WSJ Pollster. “That’s doesn’t work. [Polls] don’t tell you what’s in people’s hearts.” That’s quite a claim from a man who makes his living in statistics, but we can’t deny its truth. Our latest presidential campaign revealed that a significant number of voters, though not the majority, had more faith in Donald Trump than the polls ever thought possible.

“We look on polling data as higher truth,” wrote Jill Lepore, Pulitzer Prize winning historian at Harvard and staff writer for The New Yorker. “Too many times we are replacing beat reporting with polling data. Publications don’t send reporters to PTA meetings or local bars anymore, to talk to people. They can no longer afford it and there aren’t enough reporters to do the job.”

The evolving role of social media in news today
Many of the conversations at the Newseum focused on the integral role of social media and the press. Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold credits his Twitter following with helping him win the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Trump’s charitable contribution claims. Facebook is now the number one source where we access and share news. CBS now has a 24/7 streaming news network, and during the election it often had more engagement than hallmark programs such as the CBS Evening News. Dan Rather’s News and Guts is another fantastic example of new channels for news.

“Hillary Clinton challenged norms [of what a woman should be.] And the hatred that has hung around her for that is irrational.” I put that quote from former Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri on Twitter and it drew immediate attention for and against Hillary, much of it very intense, and that level of response sums up the key insight I got while at this event. The news, in every channel, has become more a point of connection for people and less a vehicle to change hearts and minds. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a fact.

The Buddha said, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Nowhere is this more true than in journalism. Martin Luther called the printing press “God’s highest act of grace.” That was in 1436. It took centuries for society to make full use of his invention. It may be many more years before we realize the full extent of the power that we now have in all of our current communication channels and the many more that are to come. Equilibrium, as Bob said, is going to take some time. But we’ll get there.

The gift of the First Amendment
As I walked home from the Newseum, I kept thinking how lucky we are to have our First Amendment. While we may fight vehemently and against one another for our beliefs, the fact that we can do so is a priceless gift. The freedoms of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and complaining to / seeking the assistance of government are the lifeblood of our society. They must be protected by all of us, not just those in elected office. And if anyone, our elected officials included, attempts to take those rights from others, it is our collective responsibility to fight that injustice. The press fights for us every day, and we must fight for the press.

The job of every journalist, and every citizen, is to ask questions, and keep asking until we get an answer. A deep and unabiding ability to question everything and everyone is the foundation of our society. We cannot silence ourselves or others, and we cannot allow anyone else to do so. Nevertheless, we must persist.

More Newseum programming
The Newseum is offering a year-long program about the relationship between the Trump White House and the press. Many of the events will be available on live stream. You can learn more by visiting http://www.newseum.org/.

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In the pause: Today I’m attending “The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days” at the Newseum

I’m honored and thrilled to be invited to a fascinating discussion today at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. entitled The President and the Press: The First Amendment in the First 100 Days. And it’s going to be a doozy. I’m anticipating a rousing, spirited discussion about the media, democracy, and the current administration. The agenda and speaker lineup is among the most diverse I’ve seen on the subject and I have to commend the Newseum staff for bringing so many disparate views to one venue. It’s an incredible feat. I’ll be live tweeting and will share what I learn in tomorrow’s post. You can also watch the live stream at http://www.newseum.org/live/.

From the Newseum event page:

The Newseum will host a half-day forum that will explore the Trump administration’s relationship with the press in the critical first months. The program will be held at the Newseum and will feature one-on-one conversations, panel discussions and individual presentations. Participants, including White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, will explore pertinent challenges to the First Amendment, a free press and protecting the free flow of information in a divided nation.

Guests include:

  • Jim Acosta, CNN
  • Mike Allen, Axios
  • Bret Baier, Fox News Channel
  • Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
  • Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President
  • David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post
  • Ari Fleischer, Fmr. White House Press Secretary
  • Julie Pace, The Associated Press
  • Jennifer Palmieri, Fmr. White House Communications Director
  • Bob Schieffer, CBS News
  • Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary
  • Charlie Spiering, Breitbart News
  • Brian Stelter, CNN
  • Greta Van Susteren, MSNBC
  • Cecilia Vega, ABC News
  • Glenn Thrush, The New York Times
  • Kristen Welker, NBC News
  • Michael Wolff, The Hollywood Reporter

In the pause: We’re all hanging on

One of my elderly neighbors: “How you doing, young lady?”
Me: “I’m doing well. How are you?”
Neighbor (laughing): “Hangin’ on, baby. Hangin’ on. You know what I mean?”
Me: “Yes. Yes, I do.”

Lately I’ve felt like we’re all hanging on through the insanity that is this world today. And while that might sound dire, I think it’s actually beautiful in its own way. Over the past few months, I’ve had so many honest and passionate conversations with friends and strangers alike. For better or for worse, the state of our country has opened us up to speak our minds and to hear from others, too. We’re figuring out what really matters. We’re informed. We’re involved. And we’re staying that way. Hang on, friends, to each other and to what matters to you. This will all be worth it.

 

 

In the pause: Leading economic indicators we all need to watch

Buried deep in the Business & Finance sections of media channels, there are some leading economic indicators that we all need to watch. I have to admit that I’m getting very nervous. I’m beginning to feel like it’s 2007 so I’m making plans with my money. You’ll find a mini-action plan at the bottom of this post. I hope it helps. Please feel free to share this post with anyone whom you think would be interested. I don’t have a crystal ball. This is just what I’m seeing, reading, hearing, thinking, and doing. I put links below for you to reference:

  1. Executives at Wall Street’s largest banks are dumping stock, and I mean dropping shares like they’re hot potatoes. They have sold nearly $100 million worth of stock since the election. And it’s not just some of them. It’s all of them! Bankers dump stock because they think now is the best deal they’re going to get for a good long while. They’re smart as hell when it comes to these kinds of predictions so pay attention to them. Yes, the Dow hitting 20,000 is a big, flashy story. But honestly, that’s all it is. Don’t think that means good times are ahead. The Dow is going to seesaw like it’s on an elementary school playground for years to come. In July 2007 the Dow hit a record 14,000 and then it plummeted to 6,547 in March 2009. Those were dark times filled with panic. There is a high degree of volatility in our economy right now, and by all accounts that volatility is going to continue to a frightening degree.
  2.  Emerging markets are selling debt at record numbers. Argentina’s finance minister explains why in an interview with the WSJ: “Nobody knows what’s going to happen to U.S. interest rates with Mr. Trump as President. We have to reduce the level of uncertainty that there is now. The right decision is to minimize financing risks.” Again, finance ministers in foreign countries are seasoned professionals who spend their waking hours watching economies and policies. This is all they do, so when they make statements like this, it’s very significant. We need to listen to them.
  3. Contrary to all of the hoopla from the West Wing this week, American corporations are not investing in their businesses. They are stockpiling cash to the tune of $1.9 trillion, the most cash they have ever held. Ever. This isn’t rainy day savings. This is flat-out hoarding. Why would they do that? The same reason you would stockpile cash—because they are worried about what’s ahead. By having cash on-hand, they will be able to make adjustments and survive. In a difficult economy, cash is life (literally!) Accountants and finance professionals help companies manage and hedge their risk. Again, they know what they’re doing.

Look, I have no desire to relive those frightening years of 2008 – 2012. They were awful. But please understand that in the case of global economics, there is very little that ordinary individuals like you and I can do to impact this outcome. This is an issue that is truly in the hands of fiscal policy makers and elected officials. Trump’s volatility and foreign policy decisions will move markets. I wish that weren’t the case, but it is. So here’s what I’m doing to protect myself:

  • Increasing my cash savings. I’m still savings for retirement in my 401K and IRA, but I’m not making any significant purchases that will put me behind the 8-ball financially. I have a lot of friends who bought houses, cars, and the like in 2007 just after we graduated from business school. Some paid dearly for those decisions for years. I have an emergency fund if my job evaporates or I have a medical emergency. Liquidity will be the name of the survival game if our economy goes belly up again like it did in 2008.
  • I’m continuing my side hustles as a freelance writer and I don’t spend any of that money. I save it. The extra income really helps.
  • I have a plan if lose my job tomorrow. I know it is scary to think of things that way. I know it isn’t optimistic. I know it sounds like Doomsday is on our doorstep. No one wants to think about this. But we must. Please. Just have the plan ready to go, and then get back to work.
  • Now is the time to up your skills and make yourself more marketable. I’m now thinking of ways to do that through volunteer work and free or low-cost trainings. Now’s the time to break out our jack-of-all-trades game faces.
  • If you are in a job that looks shaky now, I would strongly encourage you to look for a new job and get out ahead of the storm. If your company is unstable now, it will only get more unstable with a rocky economy. Don’t cross your fingers and hope everything will work out alright. Now is not the time to preciously cling to feeling badly about leaving your company, or your boss, or your coworkers. The only one who’s going to make things alright for you is you, and remember a company will protect its own survival before it protects your job. When their backs are up against the wall, people become line items. I know that’s painful to hear; it’s also truthful. I watched 10s of 1000s get laid off from my company from 2008-2012. It was harrowing. I still feel sick about that time. Companies are survivalists so we must be, too. Take care of you.

I wish this were a sunnier post. I wish like hell that I had great news for you when it comes to the economy. But listen, knowledge is power and protection. I would be delighted to be completely wrong about all of this though I’m of the belief that it’s better to have a plan you never need rather than needing a plan you never have.

And if you need help, please let me know. I am not a finance expert by any means so please don’t take this advice as such. I do read a copious amount of information on a daily basis in dozens of channels. I try to stay as informed as possible on a wide variety of subjects. As I learn and understand more, I will of course share it. Together, watching out for one another, we are stronger and more resilient. If last week is any indication, we’re in for quite a ride for at least the next 18 months until the midterm elections. At least we’re all in the same boat. Now let’s row in the same direction.

In the pause: Redirecting the Breaking Bread Podcast into a satirical comedy set in Trumpville

When I started the Breaking Bread Podcast, I had the idea to invite people over to my home, cook their favorite meal, and talk about the issues that are important to them. While that mission seems simple, it’s operationally more difficult than I anticipated. Booking guests is a time intensive job and it costs a good chunk of money. Also, audio editing is a bear and I don’t enjoy it. I like writing and live storytelling, and I want to do a podcast that’s an extension of those two things that also lets me be creative in new and different ways.

I spent a fair amount of time over my holiday break thinking about what to do with the Breaking Bread Podcast. I also spent a fair amount of time reading and talking to people about the election and Trump and what a complete sh*t-show we’re facing come January 20th. And a few things started to come together for me: truth reaches more people when it’s dressed as satire and comedy, world-building is a fun, creative activity (some of my favorite stories are The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, and Welcome to Night Vale), and Trump is insane so I’m going to use his own words as material.

Here’s my premise: Mina Montgomery accidentally falls through a hidden portal at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 1st Street NE on the afternoon of November 8, 2016 and finds herself in a strange parallel universe known as Trumpville. Built by Trump himself, it is an idealized version of the world as he would design it and it’s populated by people faithful to his point-of-view. Or so it appears. Every day, there is a press conference delivered by Trump to the citizens of Trumpville that tells them how it’s all going “above ground”. To her horror, Mina learns that Trump won the presidential election on the day she fell through the portal. She thinks she’s alone in this mad, a*s-backwards world, but she’s not. What she needs to do is find her people, and together they will find a way out. Trapped in Trumpville for the forseeable future, she opens a bakery in Trumpville called Breaking Bread in an attempt to bring people together. In the episodes of the Breaking Bread Podcast, Mina processes her thoughts as a living diary of sorts in order to maintain some semblance of sanity while she figures out how to get everyone out of Trumpville and back to civilization.

Similar to a Trump presidency, I have no idea how this new podcast idea will play out. Who knows what he’ll do next? He’s leaving us in suspense, remember? My game plan is to speak out again, and again, and again because I care about this country and the people who live here, and to find and support people who need a friend during this wild ride. I remember the Bush years and they were brutal. My greatest hope for this podcast idea is that it will be a port in the storm where together we can ride out the mayhem while we try to right the ship.

Wonder: Do what you can where you are

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A short distance ahead

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” ~Alan Turing

We can now see further than at any other time in history. Social media, virtual reality, and a news industry that reports in real time through rich media can take us to any corner of the world with a few clicks.

In terms of time, we can only see and know this moment. We can only forecast and hypothesize about later today, tomorrow, next month, and next year. We’ll know how it all shakes out once we get there. For now, let’s just make the most of what we have and know and can do right now, from wherever we are, using whatever we have. If we can all do that, we’ll be able to build a better world together. It all adds up.

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