I’m convinced Nancy Pelosi is secretly an alien

November 15, 2012

Elections are over. Life is back to normal.

Except not really.

Now that all the stupid posturing and empty rhetoric is over, the real grunt work is just beginning. And by that, I mean the negotiations on the FISCAL CLIFF.

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In addition to continued partisan bickering, both congressional chambers are going through their leadership elections this week. After trolling Politico after a long day at work (because I’m a glutton for punishment and a total nerd), I stumbled across this interesting story and it got my ears steaming.

Brace yourselves. It’s a two-part rant.

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Part I:

If you’re too lazy to go up there and click the link to read the story for yourself, Nancy Pelosi held a press conference Thursday announcing that she was…

…get ready…

…going to stay on as House Minority Leader.

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La-dee-freakin-dah.

Aside from the fact that this surprises absolutely no one, why the hell did she feel the need to announce it so fucking dramatically? Pelosi kept mum about her leadership plans for the 113th Congress in the days leading up to this announcement she termed “D-Day,” which drove everyone crazy with speculation. Her uncharacteristic silence and the dramatic build-up to the press conference Thursday morning led everyone to believe she was going to retire or step down from congressional leadership or announce that her planet had finally contacted her and she was going back home where she belongs.

Look, if she was getting ready to step down from congressional leadership, then I’d be surprised. Then I’d totally understand the need for a huge-ass press conference. Then I’d forgive her (kind of) for building up to the big announcement.

But since she decided to stay, her “D-Day” press conference was completely unwarranted. Why do you have to announce it? Whoop-de-doo, you get to run your party into the ground for another two years. It’s like throwing confetti when you walk into work Monday morning and shouting, “Surprise! I decided to show up after all!” and everyone’s just staring at you like, “Well no duh, asshole, we expected it.”

In short: Nancy Pelosi is a total drama queen.

Part II:

At this the unwarranted press conference, Luke Russert of NBC asked whether her decision to remain the House Minority Leader would prevent younger Democratic representatives from taking the reins this year and perhaps later on down the line.

Pelosi and her flunkies took this as a slight on her age and booed him for having the audacity to point out that the Minority Leader is about as old and weathered as the Sphinx.

First of all, this is a perfectly legitimate question. The problem with politics and politicians in general is this incestuous culture and emphasis on seniority within the system. This system usually results in 72-year-old hags staying in Congress for decades, clutching onto power with their gnarled, dragon-lady fingernails until they croak. While there’s definitely something to be said about age and its relationship to wisdom, there’s an equally important and often ignored argument about younger elected officials and fresher perspectives. Change is imperative, and if the Democratic party wants to keep up, they’re eventually going to have to start training some of these young’uns to take over.

But it seems that Pelosi is either going to: A) live forever or B) stick it out until her home planet calls her back home.

And here’s another thing: Pelosi and her flunkies actually booed Russert for asking his legitimate question.

Look, I get it. Government officials don’t like the media. To you we’re that dog that hangs out underneath the dinner table, begging for the crappy scraps you’re willing to toss us. We’re a necessary evil to get your bullshit messages of “bipartisanship” and “patriotism” out to the poor, unsuspecting public. You think we’re nothing but glorified rumor-mongers with mass distribution capabilities and Internet access.

But believe it or not, our job description does not include being your megaphone. We don’t ask you the questions you want to be asked because that would be doing a disservice to our audience. We ask you the questions that make you cringe and boo because they make you uncomfortable. When our audience of taxpayers are the ones signing your fat checks and funding your private jets, you are obligated to answer to them, and we are obligated to ask the questions they want answers to. You don’t get to scoff at us, belittle our questions and swat us away like we’re annoying gnats.

It’s politicians like you, Nancy Pelosi, that continue to erode the faith of the American people and scare good, decent reporters from asking questions that need answers. If you continue to criticize the smart, tenacious reporters with good questions, it will eventually scare away any semblance of critical thinking in our media. And that is just unacceptable.

So fuck you, Pelosi. And next time answer the damn question.

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Aspirations of a military reporter

August 21, 2012

This post is dedicated to a reader who’s in for a long day. He says my blog posts make him laugh and think at the same time, so I hope this cheers him up and comforts him at the same time.

So with that said…

I never used to care much about the military.

I was a supremely unathletic girl growing up in the suburbs of north Texas. I liked stay ing inside and reading during recess. I liked glitter and unicorns. I liked writing more than I liked playing sports. So the idea of people torturing themselves on purpose and learning how to shoot guns disinterested me.

I probably should have cared more. My maternal grandfather was an officer in the Philippine Air Force. He signed up to fight in WWII when he was just 14 years old. My paternal grandfather was an officer of the Philippine Army, and he survived the Bataan Death March. My family has a storied military past, and I was raised to respect it. But I never gave the military much thought.

Then I came here. I was lured by the promise of a government reporting position, only to learn after moving that I would also have to be a military affairs reporter. All of a sudden, I could no longer afford not to care about the Army. It was my responsibility to give a shit about our uniformed personnel.

What I didn’t expect was that it would be so easy to care.

In my short tenure as the military affairs reporter, I’ve shed my armor of apathy and developed a deep, abiding appreciation and respect for the Army. I’ve met families and friends of people who risked it all. I’ve heard tales of valor, bravery and courage that I never believed was possible. I’ve been in the presence of some of the Army’s most brilliant leaders. I’ve listened to speeches that made me laugh and cry at the same time.

This past week was a celebration of the local Army division’s anniversary, and one of the command sergeant majors decided to hang up his fatigues after a 37-year-long career. CIA Director and retired general David Petraeus came for the ceremony to speak about his dear friend and how proud he was to have served with him.

I cried during the ceremony. And so did nearly everyone in the audience.

I no longer don’t care. I care a lot.

Which is why I want to embed.

For those of you who don’t know, units of the U.S. Army takes journalists with them when they deploy. It’s a way for the media to see how the United States is fighting the war while also protecting the civilian journalists. They call it embedding. Three units of the division here have begun deploying to Afghanistan, and I hope to go with them by the beginning of next year.

I haven’t even gotten approval from our publisher yet, and I don’t know if I will. Even if I do, I know it will be a long and difficult process because everyone knows bureaucracies are pains in the ass. But I’m excited for the stories I’ll be able to tell, the things I’ll get to see and the people I’ll get to meet.

However, the problem with embedding is it’s almost treated like a curse word among journalists. Some of the sharpest, most brilliant minds in my industry look upon the practice with disdain. They say it’s nothing but a way for the Army to perpetuate its propaganda machine. They say the Army is using the media to portray only the stories they want told. They say not much real war reporting can be done using a U.S. soldier as your shield.

That all may be true. I wouldn’t know. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to be a war correspondent. I want to be a military reporter. I am a military reporter.

The truth of the matter is I work for a community newspaper. We write and report stories that are meaningful to the community. Our community just happens to have a disproportionate amount of soldiers. And if a large percentage of the population in our community spends nine months out of the year getting shot at overseas, then it’s worth a look.

I don’t want to write about Middle East politics, because quite frankly I don’t know a thing about them. And I’m sure there are a lot of Afghanis who have amazing stories just waiting to be told by some intrepid, fearless reporter who works for a national paper of record, not a community paper.

Afghanistan is not my community and the Afghan population is not a part my coverage area.

The Army is my community, and the soldiers living in Afghanistan is a part of my coverage area. And there are stories to be told overseas, stories that a great deal of children, wives, mothers and fathers care a lot about and have a stake in.

I hope that makes sense.


To err is journalism

July 31, 2012

Except TECHNICALLY AP Style is “No. 1”

As much as journalists hate to admit it, we are not perfect. Granted — no one is. But journalists are particularly fallible in part because we refuse to acknowledge our fallibility.

This blog item comes to you today because I … I made an error in a story last week.

It was a fairly minor story, but that’s not an excuse. The only thing I will say to defend myself is this: I was really busy last week. I had a lot on my plate and a county government meeting with a really small agenda was at the very bottom of my totem pole of priorities.

OK. Enough stalling. Here’s the story.

Like I said, it was a story about a county government meeting, and the agenda released beforehand was an unremarkable one. There were only three items listed under “new business,” and all of them were routine measures, things the county has to pass every year. No ceremony. No discussion. Just housekeeping.

The first of the new items was signing a contract with a company for dead livestock removal. The company removed carcasses of livestock from people’s farms and processed them for a fee. The county enters into this kind of contract so that the decaying carcasses won’t pollute the water supply.

Well reading through the contract and listening to the discussion during the meeting, I made the mistaken assumption that it was not dead livestock removal, but road kill. So I printed road kill.

The next day, the head of the county government called me about it and requested that a correction be printed. And he was very nice and understanding — he said that if he had known that I thought it was road kill, he would have immediately corrected me. He blamed it on himself for not clarifying it.

But here’s the thing: It was my fault. My fault entirely. It’s rule No. 1 in journalism school: Never, ever, ever assume. EVER. As the saying goes: “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

Well I made a gigantic ass of myself and I felt terrible.

My editor didn’t make a big deal about it, I think in part because he could already tell I was beating myself up about it. He just wrote the correction, made me file a correction form. Then the opinion editor gave me a cake pop and said it would make me feel better.

Errors in journalism happen all the time. And it’s not like we’re doctors or cops or anything like that; Lives aren’t on the line we we screw up. Our errors aren’t the difference between life and death.

BUT our errors are the difference between credibility and public distrust.

David Carr, New York Times columnist and media reporter, published a column this morning about high-profile journalistic misdeeds and their contribution to a deteriorating public trust of American news media. He mentioned specifically News Corporation’s phone-hacking scandal and more recent gaffes, such as CNN and Fox News’ misreporting of the Supreme Court Obamacare ruling.

In the column, he says that the Internet fosters a hyper-competitive nature among news outlets, which provides the perfect storm for mistakes, gaffes and breaches of journalistic ethics. And all of these things make the public distrust us even more. Carr says:

“According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, in 1985, 34 percent of the respondents thought stories contained inaccuracies. As of 2011, that figure had almost doubled to 66 percent.”

I don’t know about you, but that pisses me off.

And what’s even worse, Carr goes on to say that a great deal of this is our fault. Our fault for hacking phones, jumping to conclusions and making shit up — but also our fault for ignoring it. News Corp. received significantly less media coverage than it deserved. CNN and Fox News just completely glossed over its misreporting of the Obamacare ruling.

It’s almost like we collectively believe that if we ignore all of the things we’ve done wrong, the public will trust us more.

I understand the urge. I wanted to ignore the fact that I made this huge error in a story last week. I wanted to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened. But IT DID. It happened and I felt terrible about it.

And I think that’s another reason the media collectively ignores its errors. Because if we turned around and faced the crossed arms and skeptical looks of the public we have been misguiding for years, we’d finally have to answer questions we don’t want to answer and feel guilt we fight like hell to keep at bay.

Well, I’m not going to be a part of it.

I made a mistake. I made a huge mistake and it was entirely my fault. No one else’s but my own. I failed at my job. I failed to properly inform the public. I failed to ask the follow-up questions, and I failed to understand the subject at hand. I made assumptions that did damage to my credibility and the trust my audience had in me.

I can’t promise that I won’t make another mistake, because I will. I’m human, and that’s what I do. But I do promise to do better. I do promise to better understand the issues I report on and ask better follow-up questions. And I promise to allow my readers to kick my ass if I ever make a mistake like this again.

That made me feel much better than the cake pop.