While I’m glad to see the flip in the House, and the election of the first Muslim women to Congress, the first openly gay governor, and the largest number of women to ever serve our country, I can’t help but think about how much it took for those narrow wins and the painful narrow losses. I know many of you worked hard phone and text banking, canvassing, posting, donating, volunteering, and running. And a huge thank you to those who turned out to vote.
We have elected the most diverse set of candidates this country has ever had! I know you’re tired. I’m tired, too. And I also know that 2020 begins now. Literally today. We have a huge amount of work ahead of us. And this isn’t about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about the bedrock of our democracy. This is about basic human decency and dignity. And I’m ready to do what’s needed today and every tomorrow I have. I love this country, and I believe in its future. I believe in our ability to collectively restore what’s been gutted by this administration.
“Not everyone starts their work in politics by running for Congress. School & community boards have critical impacts on local communities. Run!” ~Vicki Eastus
My friend, Vicki, said this to me this week and it empowered me to consider running for a hyperlocal local office in my New York City community. If you’ve had similar thoughts, or you’re just curious about the whole election process on any level, there are so many resources available:
I’m so excited to spread the word about Day of Dinners on Sunday, June 25th.
“On June 25th, thousands of people all over the U.S. will open their hearts and homes to start a new conversation about the country we want and the future we’re working for. The Women’s March network is unique because you are committed to digging deeper, having daring discussions and listening to each other in new ways. Day of Dinners is a chance for thousands of us – families, neighbors and strangers – to come together, share good food, and get real about building deeper, stronger communities. We want you to take part!
On June 25th, let’s remind ourselves that gathering around a table over food is an act of community.”
I hope you’ll visit the website and sign up to attend one of these dinners as we open hearts and minds to a brighter future.
“We know what we are, but not what we may become.” ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet
As I watched the James Comey hearing yesterday, I kept thinking about this quote from Hamlet. Mr. Comey’s testimony showed that he always does what he thinks is the right thing to do given the information he has. He’s a man who sticks to his principles even when he knows he will pay a personal price for following them. He stands for something and therefore falls for nothing. He cares much more about the truth and the law than he does about politics and power. And in Washington, sadly, that is a difficult thing to do. He’s paid the price personally and professionally, and still stands by his decisions. That’s something to be admired, even though I don’t agree with his choices.
Nearly 7 months to the day, Comey transformed from being the person who single-handedly altered the outcome of the Presidential election to someone who may render the Trump presidency one of the shortest in history. It’s unclear if any of that will come to pass, but it made me think about our sense of identity, purpose, and perception.
What we do and who we are right now doesn’t predict who we’ll become or what we’ll be doing tomorrow. One minute, Mr. Comey was the Director of the FBI and arguably one of the most powerful people in the world. With the stroke of a pen, he was returned to private life and sat before a Senate committee to tell the world he didn’t trust the President’s intent and questioned his sense of judgement. All within 7 months. That’s a remarkable about-face to make in his career and in his life.
What I keep coming back to is his conviction and his refusal to do anything less than protect his country in the best way he could. If that meant being fired, then so be it. If that meant enduring endless scrutiny by the public, politicians, and the press, then bring it on. It takes courage to live today so authentically that it may drastically alter our tomorrow. Mr. Comey showed us it can, and must, be done.
I was in the room yesterday when Sally Yates and Ted Cruz went toe-to-toe. Senator Cruz was late to the meeting, missed Mr. Clapper’s entire opening and most of the opening by Ms. Yates, waited to asked his questions, and then promptly left after Ms. Yates won the argument. Top of his mind: Hillary Clinton’s emails and Ms. Yates’s “misbehavior” in defying Donald Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban, not the ties between Trump and Russia which was the topic of the meeting.
Though Senator Cruz was undone by this heated exchange in which he tried to discredit Ms. Yates and defend Donald Trump’s reliance on executive orders as indisputable law, Ms. Yates was not.And let’s be clear, several Senators were incredibly disrespectful to her several times.One commented, “Ms. Yates, who appointed you to the Supreme Court?” as if the AG has no right to question the legal validity of the President’s actions. She never once lost her composure.
She was prepared and passionate, while maintaining professionalism and grace. She stands with conviction and justice, even in the face of being fired from a job she loved. It was more important for her to do the right thing than to do what it would have taken to keep her job. That is patriotism.
Today marks a significant day in history: a public Senate hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. I am attending and will live tweet it on my Twitter feed at @christanyc.
The Honorable Sally Q. Yates, Former Acting Attorney General of the United States, and The Honorable James R. Clapper, Former Director of National Intelligence of the United States, will testify in front of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
While other committees will likely hold many additional hearing in the near-future, this is the first time the public will hear from Sally Yates. Though the hearing won’t be televised, it will be live streamed on the subcommittee’s website at https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/russian-interference-in-the-2016-united-states-election.
“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/.
Email list signup: If you’d like to be kept up-to-date on my latest writing, please signup for my email list.
I had the most amazing day today at the Newseum’s #TrumpandthePress event. I expected the event to be incredible, and it exceeded my expectations in every way. I feel curious, hopeful, and abundantly motivated by everything I learned. My head is swimming with ideas about media, journalism, and my own personal writing journey. I’m letting all of it turn over in my mind for a bit and promise to post my thoughts on Friday to round out the week.
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 Chapter 3 of the Breaking Bread Podcast, Mina receives an opportunity from an unlikely source. Listen here: