Koenig’s Emotions Make Serial Great

November 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

Sarah Koenig is too emotional. Sarah Koenig is in love with Adnan Syed. Sarah Koenig clearly can’t be taken seriously as a reporter.

The This American Life spinoff podcast Serial has gained a cult following. It’s hosted by producer Sarah Koenig and follows the 1999 Maryland murder of Hae Min Lee and the trial of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who is currently serving a life sentence for her murder. There was no physical evidence and much of the testimony used to convict him was questionable at best. The podcast has become a sensation, inspiring meta-podcasts and a legion of listeners who are attempting to discover the truth alongside Koenig.

I’m one of those obsessed Serial listeners. Consider this a formal apology to my professors–I spend 50 percent of class time surreptitiously reading the subreddit for the podcast. And as I read, one kind of comment started popping up again and again: “can we trust SK?” “Is SK in love with Adnan?” “Did you hear how she giggled?”

It wasn’t until I started listening to Serial that I realized how few popular podcasts are hosted by women. Listen, I love RadioLab, This American Life and HowStuffWorks as much as the next student, but hearing a woman’s voice on a podcast is so rare, and it’s no wonder when you consider that we live in a world where feminine-sounding voices are devalued.

NPR did a story on this issue recently. They point out that women with higher voices are perceived as incompetent and unreliable. So it’s not just Koenig — all women are judged based on their vocal intonation. When listeners criticize the way Koenig laughs or her tone when she asks questions, they’re not just criticizing her voice, they’re attacking her credibility. And when the medium in question is aural, a podcast, perceptions of voice really matter. Which is why it’s so frustrating to see listeners project these ideas onto Koenig’s incredible reporting.

The criticism that bothers me the most, though, is the implication that Koenig is in love with Adnan Syed. Listeners point to a moment early in the show when Koenig says that he doesn’t look like a murderer. But what many don’t note is that she immediately calls herself out, acknowledging that a murderer could easily have warm brown eyes. She’s not falling in love, she’s helping the listener create a mental image of the show’s main subject. They point out that she’s friendly with Adnan, sometimes laughing at his jokes. She has over 30 hours worth of interviews with him — of course they’re friendly. It’s also her prerogative to be amiable with her main subject. If their relationship becomes cold or accusatory then she loses her main source. The assertion that she is in love with Adnan is insulting and clearly sexist. When was the last time someone accused Ira Glass of being in love with one of his subjects?

When listeners accuse Koenig of being “too emotional,” they’re continuing the tradition of devaluing emotion. Emotional reactions are just as valid as intellectual ones. And most of Koenig’s reactions are intellectual. But it’s a mistake to argue that she’s not a credible journalist because she does occasionally express emotion. It’s an emotional case which involves real people. As I write, Adnan Syed is in prison in Maryland. Many people are working to free him. Lee’s friends and family are still mourning her. So I don’t want to listen to a “Serial” that is bereft of emotion because that would mean detaching from the real trauma that impacted so many in Baltimore and beyond.

What’s so wrong with being emotional anyway? Critics of Koenig’s reporting should remember that emotion and reason are not mutually exclusive. Sarah Koenig does occasionally laugh or sigh with frustration. And these human moments make Serial great.

Why I’m Standing with Walmart Workers This Black Friday

November 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

As a student at University of Minnesota-Duluth, Cantare Davunt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international studies. As a Walmart associate, she’s an activist fighting for decent wages, full-time hours, predictable schedules and dignity at work.

Like many college graduates working in the new “Walmart Economy,” Cantare earns $10.10 per hour — about $322 a week. She lives paycheck to paycheck, and has to make near-impossible choices each month between buying enough food, covering her share of rent, or paying off her student loans. In the summer, she forgoes electricity. Other months, it’s her cellphone bill. This August, her car was repossessed. “Minnesota’s a hard place to get ahead without a car,” she said recently.

Cantare Davunt, 30, a Walmart customer service manager from Apple Valley, Minnesota and member of OUR Walmart.

Cantare told her story at a recent Senate briefing hosted by Senator Warren (D-MA) and Representative Miller (D-CA), where elected officials described the growing crisis of inequality in the U.S. and offered different solutions to turn the tide. As Sen. Warren said: “We need to give workers this chance by raising the minimum wage, providing some basic fairness in scheduling, and fighting for equal pay for equal work.”

Why did the briefing single out Walmart?

Because as one of the richest corporations in the world, with profits of $16 billion annually and 1.4 million employees, it represents a class of corporations that earn record sums while their employees can’t make ends meet. By shear volume and wealth, Walmart sets a standard in our society. The workers who help Walmart make unimaginable profits in turn receive poverty wages, unaffordable health care and irregular schedules, including hours kept at part-time as a way of denying access to paid sick days.

Consumers should not have to subsidize Walmart and the “Walmart Economy” either. But we do — to the tune of nearly $8 billion a year in taxpayer-funded assistance for food, health care, and housing for Walmart employees. The Walton’s — the richest family in the country who own and run Walmart — add $8.6 million to their $150 billion wealth every day. And yet hundreds of millions of Americans subsidize their luxuries while the family robs workers of a decent living.

But there’s good news.

OUR Walmart leaders are standing up for all American families who are struggling to do more with less, and are winning changes at the company. In response to calls for more hours, Walmart created a new scheduling system. After Walmart moms called for the rights of pregnant women to be respected, Walmart improved its pregnancy policy. And after OUR Walmart members called for better pay, Walmart CEO publicly committed to raising pay for the company’s lowest paid workers.

And there’s more good news.

Elected officials at the state and federal level are increasingly introducing legislation that would help Walmart employees, and millions more low-wage workers.

Take the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 and index it to the cost of living. It would also guarantee a tipped minimum wage — which has been frozen at $2.13 for 20 years — equal to 70 percent of the full minimum wage, helping to fix a glaring disparity between tipped workers and everyone else. As an African American who harbors a persistent saltiness to the idea of free labor, I know we can do better than $2.13.

Or the Schedules That Work Act, which would help give all of us a greater voice on the job. Walmart associates — like many others — are victims to last minute, unpredictable schedules; are punished or terminated when they request more hours; and find it nearly impossible to secure childcare, attend classes to better themselves and find time to organize their lives — all while frequently juggling multiple jobs. This legislation would establish a process for discussing work schedules between employees and employers, and protect workers from retaliation when they request a different schedule.

Lastly, there’s the Paycheck Fairness Act. Like most women, it pains me to talk about continuing pay discrimination across gender and racial lines, something that should have been resolved decades ago. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help close the gaps that exist from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and if passed, bring an end to pay secrecy and protect workers who discuss their wages on the job.

So here we are. An economy still tepid in recovery, mired in precarious work situations and stagnant wages. Corporations and CEOs who enjoy record-breaking profits. Economists who continue to cite inequality as a hindrance to economic growth. And low-wage workers, emboldened and inspired by recent victories for working families, whose movement for $15 an hour and fair workplaces continues to grow at unprecedented pace.

Next week, Walmart workers will protest at more than 1,600 stores, marking the third consecutive year of Black Friday protests. We know these protests matter. They’ve captured the attention of lawmakers; they’ve gained the support of the American public; and they’ve forced Walmart to raise wages and improve policies, no matter how hard the company refuses to change.

That’s why I’ll be joining Walmart workers this Black Friday. I’ll gather up my turkey-filled friends and relatives and visit my nearest Walmart. I’ll stand outside in solidarity with workers, do some chanting and maybe take some selfies, deliver a memo to the store manager, and contribute to building a fair economy — for us all.

For workers like Cantare, I encourage you to join as well.

Greg Schwem: Pardon Me, the Father of the Year Award Goes to…

November 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Humor

Arkansas? The state that gave us Walmart and the World Championship Duck Calling Contest? Correct on all fronts. But it’s also home to Beebe, the outgoing governor who recently blew the lid off fatherly love through a promise he plans to deliver before leaving office in January.

Read more: Comedy News, Humor News, Satire, Chris Christie, Parenting, Fatherhood, Arkansas, Mike Beebe, Crime, Comedy News

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James Napoli: We’re All in This Together. Except for the Jerks Who Don’t Like the Same Movies As You.

November 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Humor

I mean, it’s great that we all possess a hidden wellspring of compassion that allows us to extend a hand to a stranger in trouble, but I don’t know what I’d do if I found out the person to whom I was about to extend a kindness actually admitted to liking Jack Reacher.

Read more: Movies, Entertainment, Satire, Love, Friendship, Humanity, Comedy News

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Russell Brand: Fox News ‘Is A Contemporary Myth’

November 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

There’s no love lost between Russell Brand and Fox News, whose contentious relationship eventually escalated to the point of Brand traveling to Fox’s offices in midtown Manhattan to confront executives and subsequently being kicked off the property.

Brand’s feelings haven’t changed much since, which was clear during a HuffPost Live interview Wednesday.

“Of course, Fox News is where you always go first to receive direct truth from the almighty infinite lord,” Brand said sarcastically. “Roger Ailes, that’s his earthly avatar. I prefer the prophet that is Sean Hannity, who is constantly anxious. For a man that’s got such a good head of hair, he’s always worried about something.”

The original confrontation started when Brand took exception to a Fox graphic depicting Palestinians as ISIS-style terrorists. Brand expounded to host Josh Zepps on the particulars of his rage.

“Fox is a contemporary myth, peddling an contemporary story that’s their version of reality. It’s incredibly reductive and simplistic and predicates on the worst aspects of our nature. It’s easy to make us frightened, it’s easy to stimulate desire in us. That’s why I think I connect so strongly with that material. I’m a person that, I get frightened. I’m full of desire. Please, don’t make it worse, Fox News … please give me the nuance.”

See Brand’s thoughts on Fox in the video above, and catch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!

Samuel Faktorow: A 21st Century Modest Proposal

November 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Humor

I propose that we ban all heterosexual marriages, defined as being the union of only one man and only one woman, and legalize homosexual marriage, defined as being the union of either only two men or only two women.

Read more: Lgbt, LGBT Rights, LGBT Issues, Same-Sex Marriage, Satire, Political Satire, Humor, A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift, USA, Marriage, Gay Voices News

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Tiger Woods Is Very Angry About Golf Digest’s Very Fake Satirical ‘Interview’ With Him

November 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

Tiger Woods likes to think he has a good sense of humor. Woods likes to think he is willing to laugh at himself. With an angry rebuke of Golf Digest for a piece of satire in its latest issue, he may have ensured that no one else will think either of those things.

Incensed by a piece entitled “My (Fake) Interview With Tiger,” by award-winning sportswriter and author Dan Jenkins, that appears in the magazine’s December issue, Woods vented on The Players’ Tribune, a website founded by former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to give athletes a forum for communicating directly with fans.

Most things in the media you let slide, but sometimes you can’t and shouldn’t. Read my @PlayersTribune piece http://t.co/u0511anhGJ

— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) November 18, 2014

Woods slammed the satirical imagined conversation as a “grudge-fueled piece of character assassination” and questioned the integrity of Jenkins, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012, and the magazine. Jenkins, 84, has been a longtime critic of Woods, according to ESPN.

“Journalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?” Woods asked in his lengthy takedown of the piece titled “Not True, Not Funny.”

In an apparent attempt to have some fun at the expense of the 14-time major winner, Jenkins’ fictitious chat touched on Woods’ off-course controversies and his history of working with — and firing — various coaches. Woods made it very clear that he did not approve of the faux interview format and took offense to the content of the story.

“I like to think I have a good sense of humor, and that I’m more than willing to laugh at myself. In this game, you have to. I’ve been playing golf for a long time, 20 years on the PGA Tour. I’ve given lots of interviews to journalists in all that time, more than I could count, and some have been good and some not so much. All athletes know that we will be under scrutiny from the media,” Woods wrote. “But this concocted article was below the belt. Good-natured satire is one thing, but no fair-minded writer would put someone in the position of having to publicly deny that he mistreats his friends, takes pleasure in firing people, and stiffs on tips — and a lot of other slurs, too.”

Golf Digest defended the piece and its presentation in a statement issued to For The Win:

The Q&A is clearly labeled as “fake,” both on our cover and in the headline. The article stands on its own.

Jenkins seemed to take the controversy in stride. He may have even gotten an idea for his next column out of it:

My next column for Tiger: defining parody and satire. I thought I let him off easy: http://t.co/E7e9imSKwO

— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) November 18, 2014

Woods’ attack on the piece likely brought it far more attention than it would have otherwise received. This did not go unnoticed by ESPN’s Rick Reilly:

Hey @TigerWoods, please hate my book next!

— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) November 18, 2014


Jay Lickus: Is Our Country Run By Idiots?

November 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Humor

Baby Boomers,

It has obviously been one of those months that leaves you scratching your head.

Maybe it’s the change of seasons, but, the news headli…

Read more: Humor, Political Humor, Baby Boomers, Boomers, Boomer Humor, Fifty News

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Jamie Horowitz Fired From NBC Only 10 Weeks Into His Role Overseeing The ‘Today’ Show

November 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

Well, that was quick.

Only 10 weeks into his role at NBC supervising the “Today” show, television executive Jamie Horowitz has been fired by the network.

NBC News president Deborah Turness broke the news to employees on Monday night.

She had announced Horowitz’s hiring earlier this year. He joined NBC News as “SVP and General Manager of the TODAY brand” according to Turness’ original memo.

Horowitz, a former ESPN executive, was brought on board to help “Today” reclaim the top morning spot from ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Hollywood Reporter claims that he and Turness butted heads during his brief tenure. Sources told The New York Daily News that Horowitz “ran afoul of internal politics and clashed with established executives and talent at the show — who did not like his ideas.”

Deadline reports that Horowitz hadn’t “technically” even hit his start date yet:

NBC had announced in May that Horowitz would start December 1, overseeing all four hours of the weekday show and the 30 Rock concert series, as NBC News struggles to regain Today’s ratings foothold. According to one insider, that official start date was still on the books so, technically, Horowitz was let go before he started, which has to be some sort of record. In reality, he’d been at the offices about 10 weeks.

The full text of Turness’ Monday memo to employees can be read below:

Dear All:

I want to let you know that, effective today, Jamie Horowitz will be leaving NBC News.

Jamie joined us in September as General Manager of the TODAY brand. He’s a talented producer and executive, but, together, he and I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right fit.

Because of the hard work of so many of you, and an anchor team that is hitting on all cylinders, the show has great momentum and is closing the ratings gap. The exclusives keep coming and there is a great energy both on- and off-air, and in digital and social. My focus – as always – is to support this special brand and its amazing and dedicated staff, and to position it for continued success.

The role of General Manager remains an important one, and will be filled in due course. In the interim, I will work closely with both Don Nash and Jen Brown to oversee TODAY.

Please join me in thanking Jamie and wishing him the best.



WATCH: Amazing Story of a Church’s 2,000-Mile Journey

November 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

A really odd thing once happened to my journalism. And then, equally oddly or more so, it happened again.

I never really had anything like a real specialty as a reporter or as a TV producer – “Generalist!” was my proud boast. But suddenly back in the early 1980s I was unaccountably put in charge of network programs (for Britain’s commercial television service, ITV) that concentrated entirely on religion and ethics.

I say unaccountably because I had no serious background in religion – and, I thought, very little interest in it either.

Ethics were a different matter – they were viscerally fascinating to me (as evidenced nowadays, maybe, by how journalistic ethics have featured in THE MEDIA BEAT throughout its ten-year existence). Matters of faith and denomination, though, left me at that time pretty unmoved. But nevertheless … religion, even organized religion – which I had airily dismissed as irrelevant, in the often typical fashion of my 1960′s generation – unexpectedly grabbed my attention with great power and drama.

It turned out to be a hot time, journalistically. My teams and I got to cover a new Pope who was charismatic, Polish, and shot in the stomach – by a Turkish would-be assassin … a fundamentalist Ayatollah who took over Iran, with all that this came to mean for the rest of the world, especially for the country he called “The Great Satan” … and even in quiet old Britain, we covered the nation’s established church undergoing fresh paroxysms about the role of women and about homosexuality. And there was more, much more … from crazy exorcists to towering human embodiments of compassion and moral leadership.

Thus I came to enjoy one of the most rewarding periods of my working life – surrounded by some of the best journalists I have ever been with.

Life moved on of course, with other realms of interest opening up – not least my work in the developing world, Africa especially. And later (after I moved to the US) came a decade or more spent within the curious universe of the United Nations, both in its New York HQ and its many missions around the globe.

And then, that odd repetition.

I now find myself as a correspondent and producer with American television’s major forum for … guess what? … religion and ethics. Aired by the PBS network every week, it goes by the matter-of-fact (indeed you might say plodding, but definitely accurate) title of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

It’s likely that most of my efforts on this show concentrate on ethics more than formal religion … but even so, the world of churches, mosques and temples does often force its way onto my sometimes world-weary journalistic agenda. And sometimes – as occurs this week – it can even be an occasion for sheer delight.

Watch the video – at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2014/11/14/november-14-2014-church-relocation/24594/

In this report, broadcast over the weekend (times vary in different areas), we tell a remarkable tale about a historic, in fact 200-year old, wooden Anglican church in Nova Scotia that recently outlived its usefulness and was sold off … to, of all people, a Southern Baptist congregation in Louisiana that needed a new church building.

Even more remarkably, the entire church was dismantled – by an ace team of heritage woodworkers – and then piled onto an enormous Mack tractor-trailer, and driven the 2,000-plus miles to reach the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. There it is now being reassembled by volunteer Baptist labor, under that same timber-expert guidance from Nova Scotia.

The story says much about two very different societal developments – declining religiosity in Canada intersecting with the entirely US phenomenon of surging church membership among southern evangelicals.

But it’s also, quite simply, that journalistic gem – a striking instance of unexpected human endeavor, in this case yoked together with touching respect for history. And it has the extra virtue (for a TV guy) of deeply engaging and contrasting locations. That’s not to mention a telling comparison between styles of music – the somber Anglican hymnal versus rousing jazz-influenced rhythms from the Baptists.

Oh, and in addition – but this is not going to count as any kind of journalistic specialization – my personal appetite for carpentry was greatly fed by learning a huge amount that I would never have known about early nineteenth century mortise-and-tenon joints.


Read more of David Tereshchuk’s media industry insights at his regular online column, The Media Beat at its new site. The Media Beat podcasts are always available on demand from Connecticut’s NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.

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