MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
UPDATE 7:35 a.m. ET Aug. 28, 2016 – Over the weekend, Italians designated Saturday as a day of mourning and began having funerals for the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck central Italy Aug. 24. The death toll continues to rise as emergency responders and townspeople continue to dig out of the rubble. It is now up to 291 lives lost. Aftershocks continue, and the search is becoming more of a recovery operation and less of a rescue mission, according to CNN. The workers are trying to clear roads, which had been obstructed, making it difficult for emergency vehicles and equipment to get to the disaster area. And more bodies have been found this morning, according to CNN.
Now is also a time of reflection about what went wrong and how these deaths could have been prevented. The New York Times published a telling story about the cultural and political influences that are preventing Italians from better equipping their homes and businesses to stand up to such natural disasters. Concerns about the country’s economic woes and the rebuilding of these communities – two of which have been practically decimated – are top of mind with everyday citizens and the government’s leaders alike.
UPDATE 8:41 a.m. ET Aug. 26, 2016 – Aftershocks continue to rock the area in Italy where the earthquake first hit two days ago. The shaky ground is hampering rescue and recovery efforts during the crucial 72 hours after the quake, when there is still hope to find people alive. This morning tweeters and Italian news agencies reported, according to CNN, that the bridges in and out of Amatrice, one of the hardest hit towns, were no longer viable. So, emergency responders had to make building some sort of sound infrastructure a priority. There has been lots of celebration over a young girl, who was pulled from the rubble alive 17 hours after being buried. She has undergone surgery and is recovering now, according to Italian news agencies. Her parents were also saved, but her 10-year-old sister, who was lying next to her was sadly killed. At least 267 people perished as a result of the earthquake, according to NBC News. Below you’ll find links to sites that allow you to donate to charities serving the victims of the earthquake. The Italians, who are mostly Catholic, are a faithful people, and they ask that we all keep praying.
UPDATE 8:17 a.m. ET Aug. 25, 2016 – I just read in article posted by WKBN27 in Ohio that AT&T is waiving fees for calls from the United States to Italy through Friday, so that Americans can check in with their loved ones back home. You can learn more on the AT&T Website. The National Italian American Foundation is also accepting donations for quake victims. You can learn more on the NIAF Website. The death toll has been revised to 241 because some of the bodies were counted twice, according to CNN.
UPDATE 8 a.m. ET Aug. 25, 2016 – A day after a major earthquake rocked central Italy, the emergency responders continue to remove rubble to search for survivors. Unfortunately, the death toll keeps rising (now at 252). However, there was a spark of hope when a young girl was found alive and lifted from the debris. News outlets have been sharing the film, but I’ve seen Italian reports that the girl is named Giulia and is 5 years old, whereas CNN is reporting in English that her name is Giorgia and she’s 10. Regardless, she’s alive. That gave people the energy to keep looking for other survivors. You can read more about what’s happening and the experiences in the towns most effected by the quake on CNN’s Web site, which has videos, explanations and an updated, comprehensive report. One of our readers also shared information on our Facebook page about how restaurant owners in Italy are donating to the quake victims based on sales of Pasta all’ Amatriciana, which originated in the town of Amatrice, one of the hardest hit by the quake.
UPDATE 2:05 p.m. ET in New Jersey – Emergency responders continue working to dig people out of the rubble following the earthquake that hit in the early hours of the morning, while most were sleeping, Aug. 24. Prime Minister Renzi continues to point out Italy’s ability to pull together in times of crisis and refused to say how many more victims could be under the rubble. He reminded reporters that during the summer months, the populations of these towns in the mountains can double or triple with the number of tourists who visit and family members who return home. The rescue and recovery efforts are going to take a long time, and the people fear being forgotten. Many are sleeping on the street tonight either because their home has been destroyed or out of fear of aftershocks. World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have offered sympathy and assistance through their state departments. CNN is reporting that you can make donations to the Italian Red Cross.
UPDATE 9 a.m. ET in New Jersey – Italians are facing a blood shortage in the region most affected by the earthquake. All major hospitals in Rome are open and accepting blood donations.
7 a.m. ET in New Jersey – Some of our people are literally feeling the weight of their world on their shoulders at this very moment. What appears to be an older woman lies under piles of concrete and rubble with just enough space to breath, see daylight, and speak with a neighbor and a cameraman who promise help is on the way while blood dries on the woman’s visible limbs. A husband, awoken by the shaking ground, is just in time to push his wife off the bed as the wall violently falls onto it. The roof of a church collapses and crashes to the ground as the walls collapse around it. The whole thing is caught on tape. Two babies have been saved. A young girl carried out of the rubble elsewhere was not so lucky. She has lost her life. We have lost her.
A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Rieti, north of Rome, where the shaking was felt by many, in the wee hours of the morning while most were sleeping in their beds. Some towns, including Pescara del Tronto and Amatrice have been practically leveled. The quake is being compared to the deadly Aquila earthquake of 2009. Those medical professionals who were away on vacation – it’s August, which means the country is in ferie (on holiday) – are being asked to return to help. “Italy cries,” says Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who also thanks all those who are volunteering to help and save as many lives as possible. “In moments of difficulty, Italy knows what to do,” he added before calling everyone back to work to pull people out of the rubble and provide some hope for the survivors. (CNN is providing live updates in English and I’ll be updating this post as more information becomes available for those who are interested.)
It’s too early to tell how many people have perished, how many are missing, or what kind of recovery the country is facing. What we can say is that the toll on the people and the places is grave. As I write this, I watch the Italian news (TG3 and other TV news direct from Italy), and I see townspeople and emergency workers trying to move bricks, builders, and rubble with their bare hands to get people out from under their homes. At press time there was no access to roads for heavy equipment that could help move the boulders more easily. The emergency responders want to work much faster than the work allows. They are yelling at those under the rubble to hang in there, to stay awake, to cling to life. Those who made it out of their homes, are visibly shaken or in shock and sitting in the street with hospital blankets.
The scene is familiar to my people in Ischia, who remember the 1980 earthquake that hit southern Italy, including nearby Naples. My relatives felt the shaking and ran out of their homes. Aftershocks came, and many people spent up to a week sleeping in the street for fear of the homes falling on them. Every time an earthquake hits, it stirs these ugly memories. Southern Italy is the poorest part of the country, and recovery from this kind of devastation is always a big challenge.
Much like the flooding that recently hit Louisiana in the United States, these natural disasters often touch the lives of the most vulnerable, the most in need, the least prepared financially. Right now, Italy is facing an economic crisis, and that’s been the focus of Renzi and others in the European Union in the wake of Brexit, Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Now, he’ll have to juggle economic recovery, a post-Brexit EU plan, and the clean up of this devastating earthquake. The emotional scars will last a lifetime for some of the survivors.
But the strength of the Italians is their commitment to family. Everything revolves around family, and family includes your neighbors and friends in the community. People stick by each other and they are generous with their time, affection, and food and drink. It is what draws people around the world to Italy. And it is what will get them through this latest tragedy.
VIAGGI – FAMILY TRAVEL
Liberty Science Center (LSC) just might be the definition of cool. As soon as you walk into the place, you will see the Hoberman Sphere, which is made up of what has been described as scissor-like connectors that expand and contract dozens of times per day and hangs overhead heralding in visitors. It mesmerizes the kids, especially the little ones. It sets the stage for the awesomeness you will be experiencing all day long.
Once you get inside, you might not know where to start. There’s just so much to explore. This interactive museum/laboratory in Jersey City, N.J. (near the boats that take you to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island) aims to educate guests about science and technology. My mother, sister-in-law, and I were visiting with my nearly 5-year-old son, 4-year-old nephew, and 6-year-old niece. Our main purpose was to see the traveling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit that will be leaving LSC Sept. 5, 2016. Beyond that, we weren’t sure what to expect. Our kids are young, and some of the concepts hyped in the literature seemed over their head. But we had nothing to worry about. There was more than enough age-appropriate activities for them to enjoy. Here are the highlights:
- Dino Dig – This exhibit was a close second to TMNT as the kids’ favorite part of the day. With the view of NYC in the background (see photo above), the kids get down in the sand and search for dinosaur bones. While they are finding these fossils, the nerdy chic staffers came around and explained exactly what they were seeing and told them about the dinos that once roamed the Earth. (Anyone who read about Field Station Dinosaurs on this site knows our affinity for dinosaurs.) As I understand it, this is open until Labor Day. I don’t think you’d want to be out there in the cold winter. Still, it was the perfect summer activity, and our kids are still talking about it. And they saved the little book that told them about the dino bones they were finding as a keepsake (but they also refer to it often).
- I Explore – An area designed for preschoolers to stretch their minds. Here, my son put together a little wooden car and drove it down rails to see if it worked. Then, he changed the wheels or body to make it faster or slower. Here, all three kids put together a 3-D dinosaur puzzle and created different scenes with magnetic shapes and pegs in a board that lit up. They had the most fun putting colorful plastic balls in a tube and cranking them out into other tubes and ultimately back into the bin for those who were next in line. The littlest of children were busy playing sensory games, including running their fingers through rice and shoveling it into buckets as if it was sand.
- Honey Bees – I was amazed at this exhibit, which really is unobtrusive and easily overlooked. But the working hive builds a honeycomb right in front of you. There is a tube outside the building that allows the bees to come in and out and ushers them into the hive, which is behind thick glass (so the bees can’t reach or sting you). You really get the meaning of worker bees. You see them on the job. We missed it, but there are opportunities to watch beekeepers working with the bees, by the way.
- Our Hudson Home – Granted, much of the history was lost on the preschoolers in our gang. But this exhibit gave us a chance to show them the wonders of the river that we see everyday. The fish, like that big guy in the photo above, and plant life on display was a treat. The chance to pull sand out of the “river” was the cherry on top. Just when we thought the exhibit couldn’t get any better, one of the senior staffers had the three kids conduct an experiment with water bottles to show how strong water pressure can be. Any chance to play scientist is welcome in our house.
- Eat and Be Eaten – In this area, you will spy all different little creatures, including small monkeys, giant cockroaches, land turtles, and a lizard or two. We happened to spot Pokemon there, too. The kids can’t get enough of looking at animals, so this was a winner.
- Physical Activities – There was a wall for the kids to climb, a giant soccer net to kick a ball into, and a bar for hanging as long as you could (my niece was awesome at this one). And there was all sorts of other stuff that we didn’t get a chance to do. Perhaps, the most impressive (not to mention scariest for us) was the Infinity Climber. It was like a series of randomly placed steps, connected to one another, and covered in a heavy-duty net. The whole thing hung in the air almost as if it was magic. While we observed a staffer creating a giant bubble wall, we got a chance to see the kids climbing. My mother, who has a severe fear of heights, could not even look, so we didn’t bother letting our kids do it. But it looked like a lot of fun if you had the courage.
These exhibits are a fraction of what you’ll find, and there are all sorts of special events and activities, so check the Website before your visit. You might also like the IMAX and RealD 3-D theaters or the laser shows. Admission costs $21.75 for adults, $17.75 for children ages 2 to 12, and $18.75 for seniors (age 62 and over). The shows and special exhibits cost extra. You can see prices on the Website. The extras weren’t necessary for us considering the ages of the kids. None of them were going to sit through an IMAX show. I guarantee it.
DIARIO DI MAMMA
In the last week, Ryan Lochte, a U.S. Olympian and gold medal winner in swimming, embarrassed his teammates, the country, and himself. He lied to the world about being robbed at gunpoint while in Rio at the Olympic games. The story changed multiple times, but what we have gathered is that he and a few of his teammates were on their way back from partying in the wee hours of the morning, went to a gas station, urinated outside, and vandalized a bathroom. They were drunk. The security guard allegedly pulled a gun on them and asked for money to repair the bathroom. This is very different from the original story which had their cab getting stopped by people dressed like police and putting a gun to Lochte’s head and taking all his money. Lochte, the oldest of the bunch at 32 years old, perpetuated the lie and spread it around the Olympic village, social media, and ultimately the world.
While I’m sure it was traumatizing to be in a foreign country and have a security guard (or anyone) pulling a gun on you, and in the United States the gas station workers would have called the police to deal with the situation, there is no excuse for telling lies of this nature. It is despicable, and he will pay most of all for his dishonesty as opposed to his frat boy behavior, which is appalling as well. He acted out the ugly American stereotype and made us all look bad. Lochte was disrespectful to his hosts, arrogant enough to think he could get away with such a lie, and acted like a privileged, bratty, immature, entitled American, the likes of which I hoped only existed in movies and caricatures. Instead, he represents our country on the world stage and makes good money telling us what to buy (maybe not for much longer, though).
Being a world traveler myself, I was seething when word hit that this story was made up, and Lochte had actually destroyed property on foreign soil. Worst of all, perhaps, was that he left his younger teammates who were with him that night to flounder in Brazil while he ran back home. I quickly began to wonder what his mother has been thinking. I’d be disappointed in myself if my son did such a thing as an adult, especially when he’s been blessed with talent, endorsements, and opportunities of which others can only dream.
Then it happened. My own son lied to me for the first time. To be fair, he is only 4 and he has only been talking for about a year. I noticed that an old camera of mine (the kind with film) was lying amiss on my office desk, along with a few other small items. I said, “What happened here? Who touched the camera?” He said, “Alex (his cousin).” He wasn’t looking me in the eye. I knew something was up, and the three kids had all been in my office earlier in the day. I said, “Are you sure?” Finally, he turned to me and said, “I was just showing them how it fit on this thing (the tripod).” I said, “Okay, but you lied and let me think your cousin did this. You aren’t supposed to lie to mommy or blame other people when you do something wrong. Not ever.” He began to cry uncontrollably. He grabbed me and asked that I not call the police. He knows we call the police for bad guys, so when he messes up he usually begs like this. I hugged him and explained that toying with the tripod was no big deal, but lying about it was. I asked that he not do it again.
Later in the evening, with the news on, I pointed out Lochte and said that he lied and it caused big trouble for his team and country. I told him he was embarrassed and might lose his job. And I told him that’s why honesty is the best policy. I also mentioned that Lochte had to say, “Sorry for the lie and ruining someone’s property.” The message could be louder and clearer for older kids, and parents could use this as an opportunity to discuss excessive drinking with teens and young adults. It’s a great way to start a much more personal and important conversation.
Much of the time nowadays our leaders and heroes turn out to be quite flawed. Once upon a time, everyone could be sugarcoated, but the Internet has put us all on display warts and all. So, instead of looking for role models on which to rely (you’re not going to find them), parents should simply turn these scandals into lessons. Yes, some will argue we need to make our own mistakes. But isn’t it better when we can avoid the error in judgment all together by learning from others’ mistakes?
Around August, Italians with a garden (which is just about all the ones I know) start getting creative about how to use their zucchini. They mostly let Americans dabble in cakes and breads and muffins. They prefer something more savory. We have made lots of interesting dishes, including zucchini stuffed with rice or sausage and topped with mozzarella, matchstick zucchini fries (totally addictive), zucchini and corn in pancakes, zucchini parmigiana, zucchini with pasta and mussels, boiled zucchini (for those trying to be healthy), zucchini in place of spaghetti and topped with a sauce of fresh tomatoes, and the list goes on.
The other night, we had two giant zucchini sitting on the counter. My mom had stuffed one with ground beef and ricotta, and I was left holding the other one in my hand. The kids were already refusing the stuffed version. My nephew was demanding pizza. So, I decided I would give him pizza. This is what I did:
Zucchini (peeled and cut into 1-inch thick slices)
Pre-heat your grill. Line a hefty metal baking sheet with heavy aluminum foil. Coat the foil with olive oil. Place the zucchini slices on the foil-lined tray. Put a Tbsp of tomato sauce on top of each slice. (For our sauce, I simply saute two peeled garlic cloves in olive oil in a sauce pan, add a can of tomato sauce, add oregano and basil from the garden, a pinch of salt and a smaller pinch of sugar to remove acidity of canned tomatoes. Then, I let it boil and simmer for no more than five minutes.) Finally, I top each zucchini slice with a piece of fresh mozzarella. I put it on the grill and cooked it for about 5 to 10 minutes on medium-high. I have a gas grill, but you could definitely do this with a charcoal grill or even an oven. If you use the oven, however, I would wait to top the zucchini and sauce with the cheese until it’s almost done. Otherwise, the cheese might get brown or burn.
Now, the grown-ups really enjoyed these pizzas. I had them for lunch the next day, too. My nephew only ate the cheese. My son did take an actual bite and give it a decent try. But he decided he did not like it and would not eat anymore of it after that. Still, that bite is a big win for me.
LE FESTE – CELEBRATIONS
Kids love dinosaurs. They make for a great party theme. The Internet is crawling with great ideas on how to honor the dinos and teach your kids something to boot. I declared last week to be Dinosaur Week at our house, which we lovingly refer to as Camp Di Meglio during the summer months. The week ended with a trip to Field Station Dinosaurs in Leonia, N.J.
My mother and I made felt dinosaur tails (see photos below). I saw images on Pinterest and just went with it. (We’ll explain how to make them in an upcoming post.) And I used my Cricut machine, card stock, and adhesive tape to make the paper crowns.
1. Dinosaur Tails and Crowns
Earlier in the week, we studied dinosaurs and learned vocabulary words, such as carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, and paleontologist. We also did some other fun projects that really impressed the kids, who are ages 4, 6, and nearly 5. Here they are and they are simple enough for anyone to do:
2. Frozen Dinosaur Eggs
This one was by far the favorite of my 4-year-old nephew, and it was the easiest of all the dinosaur projects. Many a mommy blogger has done this activity, and there are all sorts of variations. All we did was plop a plastic dinosaur (bought bags of them at the dollar store) into a balloon. Then, we filled the balloon with water and blew it up just a bit. Finally, we stuck those babies in the freezer and left them there overnight. The next day, we carefully cut them out of the balloons and put them in the bathtub. We had been planning to put them in the pool, but it was raining. In fact, they actually salvaged a dreary, rainy summer day for us.
3. Dinosaur Eggs for Hatching
These eggs required a bit more effort on my part, but it was totally worth it. I used a recipe for Dinosaur Fossil Rocks, salt dough with coffee grinds, by blogger Stephanie Lynn. She suggests either letting the eggs air dry for a few days or placing them in the oven for four hours at 200 degrees F. I opted for the latter, and it worked out fine. But I will say that the eggs were hard, really hard. My son and nephew resorted to throwing them on the floor a couple of times, and I was afraid it might crack tile. Using the screwdriver and twisting into the areas where there were more coffee grinds made it easier to break ’em open and release the baby dinosaur. The kids felt like real paleontologists while doing this, which made it my favorite project of the week.
4. Dinosaur for Breakfast
Part of the purpose of these themed summer weeks is to get my son to try new foods. While he would not eat the strawberries, he did gobble up the banana, waffle (made with my handy waffle iron and simple All Recipes buttermilk waffle recipe), and the mini chocolate chip eyes. Yum!
5. Dinosaur Art
No themed week for preschoolers would be complete without some sort of art work. To make these masterpieces, I did a little pre-project work. First, I made the signs – again with my Cricut – that had my son’s name with o-saurus attached. Then, I traced a dinosaur shape with a pencil. The next day, he painted the dinosaur and added the horns to its back using his handprints. For the second piece of art, I cut out dinosaur footprint shapes from sponges and let the kids go to town. My son used a paintbrush to add talons. All the art work is still hanging in my basement. My son wants to show it to everyone. The week reminded me that dinosaurs are awesome enough to get kids to eat fruit and take a bath. Lesson learned.
VIAGGI – FAMILY TRAVEL
There is something magical about the dinosaur. These beasts, whose bones we still can dig up and whose existence is well documented, are so ferocious and awesome that it’s hard to believe they ever really roamed the Earth despite all the evidence lying before us. That is why kids can’t get enough of them. My son roars like a dino, draws dinosaurs, and is fascinated with any book or cartoon that features them. So, when the dinosaurs recently became our neighbors at Field Station Dinosaurs in Overpeck Park in nearby Leonia, N.J., I just knew we had to go.
To be honest, however, I did have some reservations. The dinosaurs are enormous, move, and even roar at you. You can see how real they look in the photos. Earlier in the year, during a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., my son was terrified on Dinosaur, the ride at Animal Kingdom. He ducked down and hid his head in my lap for the duration. He was convinced the dinosaurs were going to eat us. Who could blame him? He’s 4, and extinct giants ripping you to shreds with their monster hands and sharp teeth seems totally plausible. Of course, Disney makes it all seem real. But he kept seeing the signs for Field Station, and he begged to go. So, we went.
Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. He loved every minute of it. Our visit was rushed for a number of reasons beginning with the fact that we picked up my sister from the airport on her way to a rehearsal dinner for a wedding for which she was the maid of honor and had to be at the bride’s house on time. The other big reason for not having much time is that we were facing a dangerous heat wave, and it actually felt like we were walking through boiling split pea soup. Add in the disturbing smell coming from the trailer bathroom – let’s just say they were going for authenticity and had the place smelling like dinosaur poop had been laying out in the hot sun all day – and you can understand want to get through the park quickly.
I purchased the tickets online ahead of our trip, which allowed me to use a discount (with a code I found on the site). As a result, we were able to buy the Explorer’s Pass (admission to the park + admission to the 3D movie) for the price of a Day Pass (admission to the park only). It was a significant difference in price because it normally costs $20 each, and we paid $15. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the movie because of our time constraints, but we could have and it cost the same as standard admission. There are other pay-extra activities, so visit the Website or ask at the ticket booth upon arrival to determine what works best for you.
Come prepared. What I mean is that it was really hot on the day we went, and we needed sunblock, bug spray, and plenty of water. You can find drinks for sale and a small souvenir shop, but it’s all pretty expensive, and the options are limited. This is especially important if you choose to spend more time there.
The curators of the Field Station see all guests as scientists coming to study dinosaurs. Each child is issued a lab booklet and the group receives a map with an explanation of the animatronic dinosaurs you will encounter. Besides checking out the dinosaurs on display, there are tents and outdoor theaters with various exhibits and activities. When you complete certain activities, you receive a stamp in your booklet. Those who get six stamps are considered the best of the paleontologists. My kid and his cousins loved getting stamped. It may have been their favorite part.
Massive animatronic dinosaurs are impressive and fun for little ones. But that’s not even the best part of the Field Station. The nerdy experts on hand, who know everything about dinosaurs, offer up educational experiences that are so much kids don’t even realize they’re learning. We played in the T-Rex Games, which had our kids being placed on a team with other guests. Teams competed against each other in various events. For instance, the kids had to throw bean bags on a map and hit where the meteor that killed the dinosaurs struck; the game got more interesting when the leaders placed a dinosaur on that part of the map and insisted kids get close to the dinosaur without knocking it over. They also had to get balls in their team’s color into a basket guarded by the dinosaurs and answer increasingly tough questions about dinosaurs. As the youngest of the teams, our guys found the game truly challenging, but they had a great time shouting out answers and winning a little plastic dinosaur to take home.
In another tent, we broke up into two teams to play a paleontologist-inspired matching game. Our leader there used the opportunity to teach kids about the different tools and skills those who study dinosaurs need. As more people entered the tent and joined the two teams, the more we laughed at our inability to make a match. This was a great one because the grandparents who were there really got to participate and everyone could beat the heat in the shade for a few minutes, while still having fun and learning something.
Of course, the kids’ favorite part was the giant sandbox with dinosaur fossils. They sought and found dinosaur bones for at least 30 minutes. The only way we could convince them to leave was by promising them an ice pop when we got home. The ultimate question for anyone in the area who is reading this is whether it’s worth it. Well, as always, it depends. If you’re kid is a dinosaur lover, this is a great trip worth making. If not, you might be disappointed. And really little kids might be frightened by the giant dinosaurs and the roars they make. I also couldn’t help but notice that this trip cost just a few dollars less than our recent day at Liberty Science Center, which was jam packed with all sorts of science-related fun. There’s no question that LSC offered way more for the money. Still, I could see us doing this again on a cooler day when we have more time. After all, the staff told us about a dinosaur dance party, and who can resist doing the Dinosaur?
DIARIO DI MAMMA
We have problems. You have let me down in so many ways that I’m not sure we can go on. Yet, I can’t let you go. I need you for my very survival. I studied you in high school, at the George Washington University, and on the streets of Manhattan. I put all my faith in you in the hopes that we could give voice to the people’s grievances, call out the wrong doers, shine a light on the do gooders, and level the playing field for everyone. At first, anything seemed possible as long as I was holding your hand. We were part of the fourth estate of government, a necessity to checks and balances. In high school, we railed against censorship together. In college, we had the town talking about the party culture and rape on campus long before anyone else was. Our friends there stuck it to the campus leaders when they were being shady or downright lying. After college, our words contributed to discussions about college admissions, its return on investment, and cheaters in MBA programs.
We seemed poised to keep everything in order, help people who needed it, forge stronger communities, and even protect democracy. We’d have to do it all while making money because this is capitalist America, and you’re a powerless nobody without some green. No matter how strong your message, how honest you are, or how beloved, you need cold hard cash, baby. It’s a fact, even if a disturbing one some young people would rather ignore.
Perhaps, that was our problem. Perhaps, I rested too much on our shoulders. No one can do all that and make a buck. Now, we’ve both collapsed. To be fair, I gave up on you years ago. We haven’t been together for some time now. Instead, I’ve watched you from afar, from my couch and desk chair. I’ve read your words in papers, such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time magazine, and I’ve seen your programming on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News (yes, that qualifies as news nowadays). Much like a stalker girlfriend, I’m more into you now than when we were together. I consume you daily, as much as possible, and keep trying to figure out where we went wrong.
For starters, bloggers, some of whom have no professional training, have taken over. They do indeed make money. They’re not all bad. I’m trying to navigate this new world now. It’s hard and unjust. Your writing and communication skills matter far less than the number of followers you have on social media. Frankly, it never was a journalist’s job to make friends. That was kind of the point. Now, your friends – virtual or actual – is how people judge you to be good and important. Those who can say the most shocking and provocative things – regardless of whether they are true – in 140 characters or less are rewarded with riches. I’m not sure Walter Cronkite would have made it. What’s most difficult is not letting your grief and disappointment drown you, so that you stop trying to be heard about whatever topic is on your mind.
Let’s look on the bright side. As promoter of the underdog and believer in the general public, Journalism, you have to feel good about so many more people having access to our leaders and an ability to share their opinions. That’s a win, as is the ability to research people, places, and events at lightning speed. Checking the spelling of a source’s name once could take a couple days and include phone tag. Now, a Google search usually will suffice. The purveyors of you, Journalism, can work from almost anywhere and spread news of the minute (not just the day or week) in mere seconds.
But maybe you let the power get to your head, or you just didn’t know what to do with these newfound conveniences. You blew it. Now was the time you should have become stronger and better. Instead, you let other people figure out ways to do your job and make money at it. Still, they pale in comparison to you.
The guys with your name now are on cable, for example, and are fighting for ratings, social media followers, ad dollars, and attention. There is no question that all this stuff gets in the way of informing people about what they need to know. Your true love print has been dead even longer. No one is even bothering to visit the gravestone.
And your partners can’t be at all intellectual. That’s akin to being snotty and losing followers. At one of my most recent reporting jobs – where I was reporting on love and sex mind you – I received downloads that spit out the grade level of my writing. Most of the time it was at the high school or college level, even when writing things, such as “How to Talk Dirty During Sex” and “Should You Ever Lie to Your Spouse?” I was told to dumb it down for a general audience because that would improve traffic. Stories, apparently, should never go above the middle school level. It never happened. That’s really when I knew it was over. The writing, literally, was on the wall (of my home office). If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to pay bills, and I invested so much of my time, energy, and heart in you, we’d be completely through.
A tear is rolling down my cheek now. I woke up this morning to so-called reporters, in the name of objectivity, treating with kid gloves the Republican nominee for president after he essentially suggested the assassination of his opponent, heaped praise on our enemy Vladimir Putin, and labeled the first black President of the United States Barack Obama the founder of the terrorist organization ISIL. I get wanting to be fair to both sides. I do. It’s part of the training you gave us, Journalism. But you also taught us that we must check power. We must help people sniff out the naive, dangerous, or dictatorial.
Yes, go through Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, tell the world about her Pinocchio noses, condemn her and her husband for playing the insider’s game, and certainly alert us if they are breaking the law. That’s your job. But don’t act as though this rhetoric of Donald Trump’s is like any other political ploy simply because you don’t want to look like you’re taking sides. It could have grave consequences in a country rife with guns and boiling over with anger. We’ve already experienced the collective broken hearts when our great leaders have been assassinated. It wasn’t all that long ago, in fact. If it happens again, blood will be on your hands, Journalism. You are already late to this one. You should have warned the world of this danger sooner. It should have happened on day one of Trump’s campaign with the insinuation that Mexicans were rapists. This is about more than my disappointment in you. I am a mother, and I want leaders with a moral compass and dignity and diplomacy to lead my son’s future. That’s not this. Not even close, and you know it.
I want to believe, Journalism, you are going to do the right thing here. The lives of my son and everyone’s children hang in the balance. You must understand what’s happening. After all, no one knows better than you how much words really matter. Don’t let us down.