A 1957 photo showing, left to right, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pete Seeger, Charis Horton, Rosa Parks, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. It is thought to be the only photograph of King, Seeger, Parks, and Abernathy together.
The school was a training ground for the civil rights movement. Parks herself trained in the library pictured above shortly before her fateful refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus in 1956, the act of civil disobedience that touched off the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Charis (pronounced with a hard “c”) is the daughter of the Highlander School‘s founder, Myles Horton, and of Zilphia Mae Johnson Horton, best known for having launched We Shall Overcome along its tortuous path from gospel hymn to iconic civil rights anthem. The library is said to be the place where King first heard the song.
Charis was my classmate at the Putney School, a Vermont boarding school founded on the teachings of John Dewey and the Progressive Education Movement. A fellow classmate brought a copy of the photo to our reunion last June. I do not know the photographer.
The New York Times this morning published a correction of a story it ran 161 years ago, on January 20, 1853:
The Times does take its responsibility for factual accuracy seriously. This whimsical correction of two, 161-year-old spelling errors was one of nine corrections it published today. Five years ago, at the urging of Contrarian and Provincial Court Judge Anne Derrick, the Times corrected its obituary of Donald Marshall Jr. The original version of the Times obit had incorrectly described the circumstances surrounding the killing of Sandy Seale, the 16-year-old boy whom Marshall was falsely convicted of murdering.
For all they criticize others, journalists have notoriously thin skins. They hate admitting error. Certain local journals all but refuse to do so unless someone credibly threatens litigation. Yet here comes the august New York Times publishing fistsful of mea culpas day after day. Far from diminishing its credibility or exposing the paper as sloppy, this willingness to admit and correct mistakes enhances its stature.
The Times published tens of thousands of words a day about fast-breaking, important, often controversial events. It is not humanly possible to do that without making mistakes. By correcting them forthrightly, the Times show readers a commitment to get things right.
To be sure, many critics say the Times gets a lot of big things wrong, such as its reluctance to apply the term “torture” to brutal tactics employed by the US Military. I agree with some of this criticism, but they are matters of editorial judgment and opinion. I am still grateful for the paper’s determination to ferret out and fix even the smallest factual mistakes.
The gold standard for correction goes to the Public Radio International program This American Life, which discovered it had been grossly misled by a freelancer in an episode that purported to expose abuse of factory workers in China. The program didn’t merely correct, retract, and apologize for the story. It did all of those things, but it also devoted a full hour to a meticulous examination of the fabrication, and its producers’ failure to realize they were being hoodwinked. The correction is a remarkable piece of journalism in its candour, thoroughness, and willingness to shine an unflattering spotlight on its own journalistic failings. Ironically, it gave me an almost unshakable trust in the program. You can listen to the correction here, and download the transcript here. You can subscribe to the podcast with iTunes or any podcast app.
A thin skim of ice formed on the Bras d’Or Lake this weekend, and the forecast week of bitter cold and light winds promises to deepen and strengthen its wintery cover. Forty years ago, this was an all-but-annual occurrence. In the middle decades of the 20th Century, Victoria County’s legendary physician C. Lamont MacMillan routinely crossed the lake in a homemade half-track to reach ill patients in the depths of winter. But as our climate has changed, the frozen lake has become a rarity.
Consider this a placeholder for a compilation, coming soon, of the outraged comments that flooded in from defenders of the “wind chill” notion, in response to Contrarian’s (and Scientific American’s) repudiation of the concept.
(I will just note in passing that it is an absence of significant wind, as much as extreme cold, that allows the Bras d’Or freeze over. Quelle ironie!)
A catchy little ditty about surveillance of citizens, en français.
In partial translation:
If you have nothing to hide, then you could put a camera in your bedroom and your bathroom, and publish images on internet. Or if you have nothing to hide, then you can get your login and your password on facebook or in google, publish and everyone can go dig it.
Our lists of things to do
Our soft sms
Our writings of anger
And our address books
Our favorite pubs
Our schedules pool
Our sworn enemies
And the name of the neighboring
Nothing, nothing, nothing to be ashamed of
nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing to hide
H/T: Bethany Horne
Progressive Conservatives are voting in Halifax at this hour on whether to review Jamie Baillie’s leadership. Some of the delegates have cameras.
Contrarian isn’t saying who. Pete Seeger taught us not to name names.
A childhood friend found this disturbing 1956 photograph by the late Life Magazine photographer Gordon Parks on the Facebook page of the African-American history group BlackPast.org. She reposted it on her own Facebook page, and I reposted to to mine, adding, “It’s worth remembering that this was less than 60 years ago.”
It didn’t take long for Gus Reed to post this photo of the posh Hydrostone restaurant Epicurious Morsels, adding:
60 years ago there was a separate entrance for African Americans at the Birmingham bus station. 60 seconds ago, this was the wheelchair entrance at a restaurant in Halifax. One of hundreds of retail establishments like this, by the way. Can you explain the difference?
It’s not the difference that should bother us, but the similarity. White southerners didn’t bat an eye at segregationist signs in the 1950s. Mobile Canadians don’t bat an eye at respectable establishments that exclude users of wheelchairs in the 20-teens.
Can I explain the difference? Yes. Canada lacks the public and political will to extend to people in wheel chairs the same civil rights we would be appalled to deny African Americans or Jews. After repeated protestations from Gus and others, HRM’s all-powerful building code enforcers have begun insisting new businesses include wheelchair accessibility, but heaven forfend a ramp should intrude on a square inch of the city’s notoriously wheelchair unfriendly sidewalks.
By the way, Epicurious Morsels and a lot of other Halifax establishments could solve this problem for less than $100 with a portable threshold ramp.
Scientific American calls bullshit on wind chill:
[I]f the air temperature is, say, 15 degrees F, and a 20–mile per hour wind makes the wind chill –2 degrees F, would the temperature of your exposed skin drop to that temperature?
No. Your skin temperature cannot drop below the actual air temperature. The coldest your uncovered face could get would be 15 degrees F whether the wind is calm or howling at 40 mph….
Try an experiment: Put two thermometers outside, one in the wind and one shielded from it. When you return they will read the same. Or just ask yourself a simple question: If you are driving your car at 20 mph and you read the dashboard thermometer, then speed up to 60 mph, does the temperature drop? No. Because the air temperature has not changed. There is no wind chill for your car—even if you have given your vehicle a human name.
Wind chill is an artificial construct that makes temperatures sound worse than they are. A parallel set of fake numbers makes summer temperatures sound worse than they are. Both serve the interests of broadcasters who seek to exploit public fears about their personal safety by fanning them with constant hype and faked data like “wind chill.”
On the eve of Stephen Harper’s eighth anniversary in office, writer and statistics buff Alex Roberts has a must-read piece in the Ottawa Citizen, cleverly tagged, “Harper’s Economic Index.*” It casts a jaundiced numerical eye at how well he has managed the economy, the thing pundits constantly tell us he’s so good at.
A few samples:
- Estimated amount spent on taxpayer-funded advertisements since 2009 touting the “Economic Action Plan” and the government’s economic record : $113,000,000
- National unemployment rate in January, 2006: 6.6
- National unemployment rate in December, 2013: 7.2
- Number of consecutive annual federal budget deficits: 6
- Number of consecutive annual federal budget surpluses under the previous Liberal (Chrétien/Martin) governments: 9
- Number of budget deficit targets hit by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty: 0
- Amount added to the federal national debt since Conservatives took power in 2006: $123,500,000,000
On the bright side, the dollar’s up, and the TSX rose 16.1% (compared to 55.1% for the Dow).
Seriously, the whole piece is worth a read.
* Not to be confused with the Harpers Index.
To make sport of bad English translations by non-English speakers is to flirt with, nay dive headfirst into, unbecoming condescension. But sometimes, it’s irresistible.
“Please use it referring to as equipped,” has been an all-purpose mantra in my house ever since those words arrived on the wrapper of a Honda Civic air filter sometime in the 1980s.
Last weekend, my son Silas received a set of Chinese-made Edifier speakers he had ordered on line. Among the packaging, he found this poetic brand testimonial:
I believe this can only be fully appreciated as blank verse:
Big surprise, astonishment, and enjoyment.
Ever from the sparkles of ideas sprouts
out of designer’s sketch.
Every piece of edifier’s works
breathes with a vivid life,
palpitating with the spirit of music.
For music is a spiritual thing,
and youth hood is creed.
In the domain of music,
we promenade hand in hand.
Edifier is not only a product,
but also a harmonious attitude to life.
Silas gave the speakers three stars out of five. Please use it referring to as equipped.
Two years ago, I pointed to an admiring account of Nova Scotia’s unorthodox online business and politics journal, AllNovaScotia.com, on the website of Harvard’s prestigious Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Halifax freelancer Tim Currie described how a “tightly paywalled, social-media-ignoring, anti-copy-paste, gossipy news site became a dominant force in Nova Scotia.”
Last month, Kelly Toughill, director of the King’s Journalism School in Halifax, fleshed out the story in an 18-page “case study” submitted to the equally prestigious Columbia University School of Journalism. From the abstract:
This case tells the story of a small, online publication in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which has confounded the punditry of the digital era. AllNovaScotia.com (ANS) sits firmly behind a paywall, does not allow its stories to be shared online, and even refuses subscriptions to employees of rival publications. Nonetheless, it has been financially successful. But in 2013, founder David Bentley faced a crossroads. At 69, he was ready to step back. But what should the next step be: sell out? Duplicate the ANS model elsewhere? Go more digital?
Although she canvasses various options for Bentley’s next step, Toughill ends her study as a cliff-hanger, without any prediction as to which course, if any, he might pursue.
She does, however, capture what I believe is the key to AllNS’s competitive journalistic edge:
The traditional organizational structure of a newsroom had been compared to a military organization, with power flowing through well-defined channels from the editor-in-chief or executive producer through sun-editors to reporters. AllNovaScotia was different. All reporters worked in the same room. Even Bentley didn’t have an office. There were no assignment editors telling reporters what to do; each reporter was responsible for finding and covering the news on his or her own beat. Most news organizations relied on a series of daily news meetings to make editorial decisions and to plan future coverage. Bentley did not believe in meetings. In 2010, eight years after founding the site, he proudly boasted that there had never been an official meeting within the organization.
Bentley worked closely with new reporters to help them adopt the sparse hard-??news style of AllNovaScotia stories. As the organization grew, new reporters also worked with a managing editor and several part-??time copy editors. Bentley’s standards were high, and those who couldn’t adjust quickly were let go. Those who stayed were expected to be ahead of the competition on their beat. Journalists who moved from local broadcast outlets or the local broadsheet reported that the AllNovaScotia newsroom had a more positive and dynamic ambiance than the organizations they had left.
“Reporters at AllNovaScotia had total independence,” says Kevin Cox, whom Bentley hired as an editor after Cox left the well-regarded national newspaper, the Globe and Mail.
All stories were self-generated. There wasn’t that top-down direction. At the Globe, you came in each morning and someone told you what to do. At the Globe, you were always double-checking with people up the line about what you were doing. There was no hierarchy at AllNovaScotia and that made for a completely different mood.
The generally meaty quality of its reporting is AllNovaScotia’s great strength (although its journalism sometimes suffers from a habit of nursing hobby horses and unreasonable pet peeves). Its continued success while so many other models are failing is a marvel to behold.
It may be that Toughill knows more about Bentley’s plans than she’s letting on. A note on Columbia’s website says the case has “an Epilogue” and a” Teaching Note,” visible only faculty members.