Puppies Don’t Do Politics

Admit it, the puppy picture made you click! Cute animals attract everyone, and there is not tension or disagreement when you embrace that cuteness.  Cute animals bring us together, and that can be a good thing.

National Puppy Day was celebrated this week, everywhere you turned someone was holding a cute puppy. The day was created in 2006 by Colleen Paige, an author who also calls herself a pet and family lifestyle expert. The idea was to encourage puppy adoption and bring awareness regarding puppy mills. Since Twitter and Facebook this day has become an international movement, just check out #NationalPuppyDay. You will find pictures and tweets from celebs and just people who love their dog. I admit to being one of those! My Facebook feed was filled with puppy pictures from friends and news organizations. Watching the morning news programs, all I saw were puppies!


Today Show National Puppy Day

CBS National Puppy Day

This got me thinking, why are there so many animals in the news lately?  I asked my students, they said it was a break from reality. There is so much negative news that the cute or funny animal video reminds them life is good. It is a stress reliever of sorts. It is a way for them to stop thinking about the seriousness of life, even just for a few moments.

Business Insider: Why We Love Cute Animals

This feeling is actually backed up by science. Researchers at CalTech found people are hardwired to respond to animals. In fact, the research found the part of the brain that is known to be responsible for emotional reaction lights up when the person is shown an animal. ABC News did a story on the study, read for yourself:

ABC News: Why People Love Pets

A more in-depth look at the study can be found here:

Science Daily: Animals Effect Our Brains

So we know the videos get a response, so is that why they are featured in the news so often? When it comes to unlikely animal pairings, there is a special response. Not just because the animals are cute and the pairing is unexpected, but as The New York Times article points out, on some level people can relate and want their species to get along better. It is a metaphor of sorts that crossing cultures can work out.

NY Times: Strange Animal Connections

Then you have the animal webcams, why do we sit at our computers for hours? Some experts argue they make us feel good, and that in turn becomes like a drug.

Seeker.com: The Lure of Animal Webcams

I will admit to loving the National Zoo Panda Cam.

National Zoo Panda Cam

How many hours have you spent waiting for April the Giraffe to give birth, when I last checked into the webcam there were nearly 80,000 people watching?


The videos can bring is a sense of awe and levity. My students made me promise to share this ten-year-old video of a bear and a trampoline. The bear was fine by the way.


Can you blame the media for tapping into the emotional connection people have with animals?  Could it be that even though there are differences between dog and cat people that humans have a special relationship with animals? Is it one area where we can agree, animals are cute and amazing? If someone gives you a hard time about watching animal videos online, well research shows it is actually good for you.

Daily Mail: Pictures of Baby Animals Improve Concentration

NBC News: Watching Cat Videos is Good For You

Washington Post: Why Do We Love Our Pets?

Business Insider: We Love Cute Animal Videos

So my questions this week, why do you watch animal stories?

Do you wait through commercial breaks if the animal story is teased?

Is it really such a bad thing that we have found something everyone can relate to?  We have all had a bad day, but this Jack Russell reminds us to just keep going. The world fell in love with this clumsy dog!

We have all had a bad day, but this Jack Russell reminds us to just keep going. The world fell in love with this clumsy dog!

Animals are cute and fun, and I enjoy the distraction! So just like National Puppy Day has turned into an excuse to look at cute puppy pictures, this blog has turned into an excuse to watch cut animal videos.

Let the Sun Shine In

Sunshine Week is Over

This past week was “Sunshine Week” in hindsight I wish I had written about this sooner so more people would be aware, and possibly attend local events. The week, put together by ASNE and the Reporters Committee highlights the need to free and public access to public information. The organization has put together a lot of articles and resources to help you learn more.

Sunshine Week Website

There were events around the nation to talk about access to information, and articles are written not only specifically for the event, but also by local newspapers about attempting to gain access to information.


You may think Sunshine Week was designed for reporters only, that is a misconception. We all have the right to access information from our government. Public disclosure of information is vital to democracy.  There is a lot of information at your fingertips in government databases, but that is changing.

Several articles during Sunshine Week focused on the Trump Administration’s removal of once publically available information. For example, you cannot longer go to a website and see who has visited the White House. The Obama Administration had a link where you could check the guest book.  President Trump’s staff has said they will make that information public on a regular basis when it is ready for release.


There has been other information removed from public web page’s that include data about animal cruelty and climate change. This has prompted groups of people to come together and take part in what are being called “data rescue events.” The groups select federal data they believe is at risk of being removed from websites and downloads the information to private servers to ensure the information will not get lost.


Every administration makes changed to government websites and alters content. This was no surprise. However, journalists and freedom of information advocates fear how far the Trump administration will go. As journalists we strive for transparency, shouldn’t we hold our elected officials to the same standards?  Right to Know laws and Freedom of Information Act requests are not just for journalists. You can help hold elected officials accountable. I know next year I will become more involved with local events, I hope you will too.

Talk is anything but cheap. Lessons from my parents.

I recently visited my parents in Florida for a few days. It was nice to get a break from the cold New England winter, but even better was the chance to have great conversations. I often wonder how I became a journalist; now I know the answer.

When I was very young, the evening paper was delivered to our home each night. We knew the paperboy; he was a neighbor. My dad and I would sit in the living room pouring through the stories, and this became the basis for discussions about the world.

My parents were not worldly, they had graduated high school, and both worked hard. My dad a mechanic who worked his way up the ladder. My mom a waitress when I was young, and eventually worked in an office. She did, I learned later in life, campaign for John F. Kennedy. They understood the importance of world and national events and often brought those discussions to the dinner table.
I can remember talking about Jimmy Carter running for President. The conversation focused on his policies and plans, and the differences between the Democrat and Republican Gerald Ford. They never told me who I should support, but encouraged me to ask a lot of questions. I would find many answers in the evening paper.

We sat down to dinner most nights, and talk about everything from school work to world affairs. I expressed particular interest in the 1970’s energy crisis. When I suggested to my parents a few ideas, rather than brush me aside, they encouraged me to write to our U.S. Senator. Without fear, I drafted the letter and waited. Much to our surprise that Senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, did send a response. It is a letter I have to this day. He thanked me for the thoughts, and also encouraged me to stay involved.

Ted Talks On Meaningful Conversations
During this recent visit, there was a lot of discussion about President Trump. They expressed concern for the younger generations. We talked about immigration and the impact to Florida and other parts of the nation. I explained to them the college course I taught after election day when I showed the students newspaper headlines from across the nation. The students were surprised to see the different reactions from around the country. There was no arguing about policy or politics, just free and open discussion.

USA Today How to Talk Politics

We talked about the President using Twitter. They do not understand why a President would communicate in that format. I brought up the idea that President Trump may want to speak directly to the American people and not have his message filtered. It was a concept they had not considered. There were no cell phones out, or text messages, actual words were exchanged.

Those conversations are the basis of my curiosity in life. I was taught to ask questions and listen to the answers are keys to a good conversation. It is time to start talking again. Future generations need to learn how to express themselves in more than 140 characters.

6 Tips For a Good Conversation

The exchange of ideas and beliefs is vital to the American culture. You do not have to agree with a person to listen, you may even learn something new.

Huffington Post: How to Talk Politics

Many believe the reliance on social media to communicate has come at a cost. The Wall Street Journal debated the issue. Some experts argue social media allows a person to remain in contact with others, and it will enhance rather than replace a relationship. Others say the reliance on social media limits face-to-face contact and that hurts our emotional health. Statements made on social media consist of only words, and the lack of non-verbal communication can lead to misinterpretation of their meaning.

WSJ: Technology and Social Skills

I think the time has come to renew the call for conversations. I know sitting down together as a family is difficult when everyone is running in a different direction, but try it just one night a week. For some ideas on how to start, or what to say, check out the Family Dinner Project.

This advice is not just for families with small children, sit down as adults when you can. Ask questions, learn things from one another.

It was these conversations that sparked my curiosity about life. I am not afraid to ask questions, speak up, or change my mind about an issue. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

Trouble With The Press Led Other Presidents to Skip White House Correspondents’ Dinner

There has been a lot of talk about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner lately, and the announcement by President Donald Trump that he will not attend is turning some heads. Trump will become the first President in 36 years to skip the event. The last President to miss the dinner was Ronald Reagan in 198, while he was recovering from an assassination attempt. Reagan did call into the event and even made a few jokes. Two other Presidents in recent history also declined the invitation.

Fox News: Trump to Skip White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Republican Richard Nixon skipped the event twice. The first time he declined was shortly after his election in 1970. He did attend in 1971 but was unhappy with how the press treated him in the following days.  In a memo to then, Whitehouse Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman President Nixon discussed his appearance at the Whitehouse Correspondents’ Dinner and says the press were more vicious than usual during the next press conference. Nixon suggested treating the media with more contempt would be productive. He skipped the event in 1972, and again in 1974 at the height of the Watergate scandal.

Weekly Standard: Nixon Carter and Trump Vs. The White House Correspondents Dinner

ABC News: Nixon vs. The Press

Democrat Jimmy Carter also declined to attend the dinner for 2 out of his 4 years. Carter did not attend in 1978, nor did he go in 1980. According to George E. Condon Jr. of the National Journal, officially Carter said in 1978 he was tired from overseas travel and wanted to rest at Camp David. However,  Carter wrote the media was completely irresponsible and unnecessarily abusive in a diary entry. He spoke at the event in 1979 but skipped once again in 1980 at the height of the Iran hostage crisis.

National Journal: Why Presidents Skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Two previous Presidents skipped the event over a contentious relationship with the White House press corps, can we really be surprised by the decision by President Donald Trump to skip it as well?

Social media had drawn a lot of attention to the decision.  If the President had been more traditional and sent a letter to the organization expressing regret would we still be talking about it? The President chose to use Twitter to make the announcement, where he could control the message.

Yahoo!: Donald Trump Skips White House Correspondents Dinner

He did not ask for the event to be canceled, just decided not to place himself in a hostile situation. The President did tell Fox News and Friends about the decision, saying he has not been treated well by the press corps and does not like the tone the dinner has taken in recent years.

Fox and Friends White House Correspondents’ Dinner Comments

Donald Trump did attend the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. He was the focus of many of the jokes by President Barrack Obama and others.

He was at the event as a guest of Lally Weymouth, Senior Associate Editor of the Washington Post. There are some that contend this event triggered his decision to run for President. Trump has denied that and is even quoted as saying the night was fantastic. Yet, it is not hard to imagine that the event may have played a role in the decision not attend this year’s event as a sitting President.

Washington Post: Trump Denies 2011 Dinner Pushed Him to Run for President

The social media reaction to the President’s decision to miss the dinner was fodder for social media. Some reacted with humor, chiding the President for fearing the media. Others believed the President was doing the right thing in missing the dinner, which has turned more into a roast in recent years.

The Hill: Social Media Response to Decision

This event was not always done this way.  The White House Correspondents Association began in 1914 when rumors swirled that then President Woodrow Wilson would be holding a series of press conferences, and a congressional committee would decide which reporters were allowed to attend. Eleven journalists cover the White House got together and formed this White House Correspondents’ Association.  The selection committee never came to fruition so the association lay dormant for a number of years. In 1920 the first dinner was held. It was and continues to be, an event to raise money for scholarships and recognize work by journalists.  In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge was the first sitting President to attend. Women were not allowed to participate in the dinner until 1962 when President John F. Kennedy refuse to attend unless Helen Thomas and other female reporters were allowed.

White House Correspondents History

The dinner has been canceled a few times over the years. In 1930 the dinner was canceled because former President William Howard Taft died. The event was canceled in 1942due to America’s entry into World War II. It was also canceled in 1951 at the request of President Harry Truman during the Korean War.

History Channel: 7 Things You May Not Know About the White House Correspondents Dinner

The dinner has had celebrity performances over the years, but it was in 1987 that the transformation began into the event it is today. The Boston Globe reports that a reporter for the Baltimore Sun invited Fawn Hall, the secretary to Oliver North, the former Marine Lt. Colonel at the center of the Iran-Contra Affair. Fawn was considered glamorous and more organizations began to invite celebrities. The lavish after parties began in the early ’90s.

Boston Globe: Brief History of White House Correspondents Dinner

The event is no longer just an opportunity for journalists to be recognized for hard work, and to encourage students, it is now a who’s who event that is surrounded by big names in journalism and Hollywood stars. The parties before and after the dinner only add to the hype each year.

Newsweek: What Went Wrong with White House Correspondents Dinner

There have been increasing calls for the event to be canceled permanently after this year, saying it goes against the mission of holding public officials accountable and sends the wrong message about journalists.

Washington Post: Cancel Dinner

The question I pose today, would you go to this event as a journalist or as a poli







The First Amendment Under Attack

I was honored to attend the New England First Amendment Coalition Awards Luncheon on Friday, February 24th in Boston. I was at the event courtesy of Emerson College and attended with several journalism students.  We had no idea an event to celebrate those who had fought to protect the First Amendment would happen as the White House was taking another step to block the free press from doing their job.

The event was taking place as the White House chose to exclude several members of the press corps from a daily briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. When I first heard about the incident, I thought there had to be more to the story. There have been times when a Governor or other elected official has chosen to meet with select members of the media to get their message across. Even President Obama would hold these “off the record” meetings. This was not an off the record meeting. This was the announced daily briefing which is normally opened to the press. It was held off camera, in an office and media outlets that had been critical were not allowed to attend.

I thought it was important to read articles by those who were allowed in, and those who were not. Breitbart News using the decision by President Obama to meet with reporters “off the record” and in private as a defense. However, did comment later in the article that banning reporters from the press briefing was unusual and clarification of the decision was pending.

Breitbart Response

CNN which was blocked from the briefing released a strong statement calling the move unacceptable and vowing to continue coverage of the Trump Administration

CNN Response

The New York Times also responding calling the move disturbing and unprecedented.

New York Times Response

The Washington Post, who was at the “gaggle” went more in-depth. In fact, the report mentioned President Trump served as an anonymous source himself in several stories in the early 1990s

Washington Post Response

So what does this have to do with a luncheon in Boston? Quite a bit, since coverage of the White House and President Trump seemed to be on the mind of Margaret Sullivan, Media Columnist for the Washington Post. She received the Stephen Hamblett 2017 First Amendment Award for her work as a journalist to hold public bodies accountable. Her speech held the room as she talked about the rights of the press in the age of President Trump.

She added President Trump’s decision to blacklist media outlets during the campaign and calling the press “the enemy” shows he has no understanding of the role a free press plays in America. She referred to Senator John McCain’s comments about the issue on NBC’s Meet the Press where he said suppressing the media is how dictators get started.

John McCain Comments on NBC’s Meet the Press

She expressed concern over President Trump taking aim at “leakers” saying should he chose to prosecute those who provide information there are no national shield laws to protect them. Reminding those of us in the audience that the Obama administration “went down that road several times and backed off.” She questioned if the Trump Administration would do the same.

Sullivan did say she remains hopeful about the role of journalists in America, and new polls prove the reporting is more important than ever.

USA Today: Quinnipiac Poll

Sullivan sent a message to all of us in the room, ranging from accomplished journalists to college students, that seeking the truth is more important than ever. Stating “I’m more convinced every day that most Americans know very well that just as the First Amendment protects us, we must return the framers great favor and protect it. We do that by insisting on the truth, seeking it relentlessly and standing up for those who provide it.”

It is now up to us, journalists, to ensure the First Amendment does not get squashed. We need to ask the tough questions and demand answers, on every level of government. Learn about the Freedom of Information Act and how it applies in your state, fight to improve transparency. There are those who do not believe the media is doing its job and creating “fake news.” The only way to combat that attack is the truth. The students in attendance seemed to leave with a strong resolve to fight for he truth.

Feet to the Fire

trump-trudeauFor journalists across the nation watching coverage of President Donald Trump makes you squirm, to say the least. The recent press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was frustrating to listen to on so many levels.

I was driving to work and listening intently, knowing there were several areas where the two leaders disagreed, and hoping the media in the room would push the issue and ask the tough questions, pushing for answers.

This was the question posted by Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star’s Ottawa bureau.

“President Trump, you seem to suggest that Syrian refugees are a Trojan horse for potential terrorism, while the Prime Minister hugs refugees and welcomes them with open arms. So I’d like to know, are you confident the northern border is secure?”

President Trump’s answer follows:

“You can never be totally confident. But through the incredible efforts — already I see it happening — of formerly General Kelly, now Secretary Kelly, we have really done a great job. We’re actually taking people that are criminals — very, very hardened criminals in some cases, with a tremendous track record of abuse and problems — and we’re getting them out. And that’s what I said I would do. I’m just doing what I said I would do when we won by a very, very large Electoral College vote. And I knew that was going to happen. I knew this is what people were wanting. And that wasn’t the only reason, that wasn’t my only thing that we did so well on. But that was something was very important. And I said we will get the criminals out, the drug lords, the gang members. We’re getting them out. General Kelly, who is sitting right here, is doing a fantastic job. And I said at the beginning we are going to get the bad ones — the really bad ones, we’re getting them out. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. I think that in the end, everyone is going to be extremely happy. And I will tell you right now, a lot of people are very, very happy right now.”

There was no mention of the northern border, just reference to the immigration crackdown taking place currently. There was never a follow-up by another reporter, in part because so few reporters were called on, and they appeared to be specifically selected.

Not once was there a question about National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

Business Insider Story

There continues to be concerning to many journalists about who is allowed to ask questions during a press availability and who is not, while Trump is known for bucking the establishment that also presents a concern for transparency.

Newsbusters: Who were the reporters?

You can watch the press conference here:

Watch Press Conference Here

So how do you cover the Trump administration? Several media outlets are asking that same question Reuters is giving its staff some guidance.


As journalists, we need to keep pushing and looking. You may not get the direct answers from the White House so it may be best to cover other beats more intently.

Do not be intimidated. That is exactly what several journalistic organizations say they will do.

Media Matters, Do Not be Intimidated

We know the rules are different in the Trump Administration, but the American people deserves to learn what is happening in the White House.

As a journalist, I am frustrated, as an educator I need to remind the future journalists that they cannot cave and continue to ask the tough questions. When you do not get the answers, ask again, and maybe even take a new approach by asking someone else in the administration.

I Am Afraid of My Blog

Why I am afraid of my blog, and what can I do about it?

I am assigned weekly blog for a class I am currently taking, this is the most frightening thing I think I have done in a long time. There are a few reasons for my fear.

All through journalism school we are taught to keep opinions to ourselves. We are taught to be neutral in reporting, and I am afraid that I may say something on my blog that will break that rule.

What if people do not like my blog? Even scarier, what is someone actually reads it? I have spent years telling my children, and now my journalism students, to keep a low profile on social media, and be careful what you post. For me, this has meant a lot of pictures of my dog, a few happy thoughts, and keeping my opinion to myself.

Writing a blog is risky business for a person like me, but it is something that has to be done.

So I did a little research about how to blog as a journalist, and a teacher, and why I should. Here are a few articles I have come across.

In the end, it will make me a better journalist and a better educator:

Journalists Need to Blog

It will give me a place to put the work I am passionate about, and gives me ownership of the stories I write.

Sharing is Caring

In the end, blogs need journalists, and journalists need blogs. It is the new wave of participatory journalism.

 The Wave of the Future

While for journalists publishing work the rules still apply. Be ethical, check your sources, and be transparent. How more transparent can you be while working on a long project than blogging about it along the way? Start teasing about that major investigation you are working on through the blog. Talk about what steps you are taking to get the information into the public eye, make the reader part of the process, and they will be invested in the end product. To me that is the purpose of journalism bloggers, I just hope I can live up to the hype.

How can you help?

Some ideas on what to blog about?

Tell me it’s OK, you are scared too!

Fake Out For News

The Buzz word right now seems to be Fake News. You hear it everywhere, see classes scheduled to talk about, and maybe even plan to attend a workshop. The question remains what exactly is Fake News?

Fake News is just that, stories that are made up by people or organizations to drum up support, or tear down another person or organization.  It is often used to generate clicks by advertisers, take a quick look at your Facebook feed. There are sure to be dozens of Fake News stories, they are really advertisements.  How many of you have clicked through to read about that miracle weight loss plant?

There was a lot of discussion about Fake News during the Presidential Election campaign. Remember that story of a pizzeria shooting in North Carolina that was tied to Hillary Clinton’s child sex ring? Yeah I know that is clearly fake news, but the story took hold and at least one poll reportedly showed more than 10% of Trump supporters believed the story.

Source Material – Pizzagate

Facebook, Google and other social media sites are working on ways to filter and identify Fake News for the consumer. However, their efforts will not be perfect and as a journalist you need to be diligent.

Source Material – Efforts to Fight Fake News

Question everything, do not believe the photos you see on Facebook or Twitter that seem to be unreal, they could be. Find the source of information and verify before sharing it yourself.

Technology is great, but it has gotten so easy to mimic actual news sites that people who want to create Fake News and put it out there can do so with a few keystrokes. The problem Fake News tends to spread quickly, because it is often outrageous.

Fake News is often a misconception by a quick fingered Twitter comment. Look at the case study from the New York Times where a person in Austin, Texas connected a large group of buses to a group of protestors and connected the two. The intent was to inform, not deceive. The story was not true but was shared thousands of times, and many still believe it is accurate even after a correction.

Source Material – Austin Texas

As a journalist you have to be careful of 2 things. Do not get sucked into believing Fake News, and begin sharing it, and do not generate it by Tweeting observations as fact. It is better to be right that first.


The Inauguration is over, did we get it right?

Did you watch the inauguration on television, follow it on social media, or ignore it completely? It seems the answer to this question varied not only by your political leanings, but your generation as well. The times have changed, and so has news coverage of major events.

I can remember when Jimmy Carter was sworn into office, and the nation paused to listen to his speech. They aired it on the intercom at school. That night my family watched the evening news, and read the evening paper to get an understanding of the day’s events. Now there is no waiting, and the consumer can decide how to follow the inauguration.

I turned on the major networks while I was home in the morning, just to see what each was doing. The coverage was solid and exactly what I expected. I even tuned into the cable news channels to see their take on the day. Again the usual live shots, special guests, and talking heads.

There were a few things that struck me while watching and listening to coverage. Several times anchors or commentators would mention when seeing Barack Obama that this was not the inauguration day he had expected and must be disappointed. I guess the question is should they have put that emotion out there.
The second striking statement came from NPR after the speech. The analysts were talking about statements made by President Trump and expressing concern. Finally one of the analysts said that the interpretation of the speech is skewed by political perspective. It was the most honest comment I heard all day from a so-called “talking head” when it came to the inauguration. That comment not part of the transcript, but it was said.



It was on Facebook and Twitter where I got a stronger feel of what was happening, and how people were reacting. It was fascinating to pick and choose what people were saying and thinking in real time, and how much of the news media seemed to focus on that interaction and integrate it into coverage.

The day after was the time to look back at the most tweeted moments during the day, and let’s say for some the comments were not nice. Between the faces and the outfits, social media was going crazy.


What were your thoughts on the inauguration coverage?