Posts Tagged ‘journalism

07
May
11

New circulating Funny money is actually legal competition to the Mighty Buck

Witney Webre of Zeke's displays a 5 B-note now being accepted throughout Baltimore

After all this jabbering about sustainable economy — buy local, support urban farming, rediscover craft industry — a group is putting money where the big ideas are. They have created a local currency — The B-note to be more specific, legal tender that functions in same way the good ole greenback works, passing bucks from one hand to the next, except for one thing. The B-note stays in B-More Not true with the dollar, which is at the whim of the big spender who could buy a beer for the house at the corner bar or plunk some cash on an overpriced pair of sunglasses guaranteeing that the money zips out to some corporate headquarters.

“The whole purpose of this is to benefit the small independent businesses, to get people thinking about where they spend their money,” said Jeff Dicken, a member of Baltimore Green Currency Association, the group behind the currency project.

The idea was in the making for a year, as the group planned the distribution, designed the 1 and 5 B notes and raised about $8,000 to print 100,000 Bs of tender. The B-note hit the streets three weeks ago and is now being accepted by 64 business citywide all listed on Baltimoregreencurrency.com. The acceptance is far larger than the currency architects imagined.  Dicken said he had hoped that maybe they’d recruit 30 to  50 businesses in a year’s time. Now they’re looking to cap 100 business by the end of the summer.

The local currency movement basically enforces the buy local cred. That is the B-note is worthless (so far) unless spent in the community in Baltimore, forcing the consumer to think or search out where they can plunk down their B-Buck.

Damien Nichols, one of the organizers, found that explaining the mechanism is behind the currency can be difficult, but Baltimore with its tight network of indigenous business understands the power of buying local.

“You’re surround the community with a fence and all the energy and the money stays here,” said Nichols.

The idea is that people can exchange dollars for B-Notes at an exchange rate of 90 cents on a dollar or ten dollars for 11 B-notes. So the purchase incentive is built in. Secondly the Baltimore Green Currency worked to set up a lateral economy where businesses buy goods and services from each other such as  a store owner can get graphic from a designer, who have agreed to accept the notes, rather than just have a group of stores, a shoping center. Whats more no one stands to profit from the currency. There is no cut. Baltimore Green Currency as an organization raised the money as a way of responding to the Recession and the strain placed on local businesses.

“When you go and buy something from Walmart, all that money leaves town,” said Michael Tew, an organizer with Green Currency.

The money collected at exchance centers or what is formally known as Cambios ( Little  Shop of Hardware, Capital Mac in Fells Point and Murray Blum in Hampden ) is put in a bank account backing the currency, according to the organizers. The idea, according to association members, is that the B-notes stay in use much like the dollar and so far few people have been  cashing in Bs back to dollars.

Rooted in the buy local, grassroots, sustainable movement, the B-note made its debut along the independent heavy neighborhood of Hampden and has since spread throughout the city.

The Baltimore Note, artfully done with the Oriole Bird on Side A and Frederick Douglas on the other for the 1 B, and The Raven with the required portrait of Poe on the other for the Fiver follows the  lead of other communities, There’s the Ithaca Hours or BerkShares in Berkshire, Mass or The Plenty in Pittsboro or Brixton Pound in London and of course Seatle, home of the World Bank Riots, came out with Local-Bucks. And now Baltimore Green Currency stands ready about the 100,000 in cash notes, 6,000 on the streets.

You get the idea, progressives playing with money.   But the economics benefits is very tangible and cross-cuts the community.

“It gives you a real way to buy local and Baltimore as a community takes pride in that,” said Nichols.

Still adopting a new currency was a bit much for some businesses owners to handle. One owner laughed at the idea that someone came into her store with the idea of  printing their own money.

“I’m still coming around to it,” she said.

Others like Mickey Fried, owner of Belle Hardware in Bolton  Hill, locked on to the political ramifications of creating local money. When asked to accept the currency he considered what would happen if he was inundated with the B-note. Would he be able to use it and of course there’s overall concern: What if the B-note fails.?

“It’s a risk because if it fall flat on its face, then frankly we’ve basically given the stuff away,” he said.

But Fried also had faith in Baltimore’s tight network of small business and likes striking back at the ever  expanding move to bring in corporate stores where the profits leave the city for corporate headquarters.

“There are lot of people who  have put a lot of emphasis into what a slip of paper (dollar) is worth, but I don’t think they thought much about the circulation. If you don’t think about w here you spend your money, that money isn’t staying in your community.”

Jokingly called hippie money, the B-note has captured  the attention of the usual suspects, small businesses people already rooted in social consciousness that these days has been translated in that over-used word – “Sustainability.”.

But the real challenge is for the B-note to translate into the regular  sector, where money exchange hands in crumpled bills in quick pace, basically a place like a famous deli on Lombard Street or a popular movie house on Charles Street or how about a baseball stadium off  395. The day the B-note gets in the hands of the apathetic spenders, the greater the change. The organizers know this and are pushing on with goals like having the city accept the B-note. Last week Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake happily posed with a B-note. A sign of the future or bandwagon move by a politician.

This ain't funny money, it's the latest in the Buy Local Movement

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29
Jun
10

Rolling Stone Freelancer upsets the Journalistic status quo

 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the job or posing for a photo-op?

 

The fallout from the Rolling Stone article that cost General Stanley McChrystal his job has since calcified into a debate over what’s inferred when a journalist creates trust with his/her subject. 

And that’s a good thing.

There’s no doubt that Gen. McChrystal is one of the few people whose arrogance actually cost him his job. More times than not  arrogance bullies over objection and consequence. To be such a frat boy, giving the finger etc. trashing the Prez, McChrystal, a four star  general like any CEO should have known better. But then again, whose really surprised by such boorish behavior by a general. His biggest sin was his poor gamesmanship letting the pen be mightier than the sword.  So McChrystal’s behavior isn’t what stirring the pot. Instead we find ourselves deciphering the reporter Michael Hastings’ true motives and thanks to him running his mouth we’re got some clues.

He needs to learn the powerful lesson illustrated from his own Rolling Stone article and mind his words.

He starts up spewing safe journalism 101 patter that, ” I went out to try to tell the best story that I could and write what I saw, I heard and thought. And I had really no control over, you know, the aftereffects,” he told  CNN’s Howard Kurtz (transcript provided).  Um actually he did. He had control in choosing those volatile snippets and vignettes out of days worth notes and reams of paper. He chose to lead the article with a built up story that ends with Gen. McChrystal giving the finger, which basically set the tone for the entire article, an article that pretends to be a discussion on the counter insurgency, which apparently was why Hastings was there in the first place. For example, Hastings could have embedded himself further on the front lines of counter insurgency, capturing antidotes of the obstacles of winning “hearts and minds” as a way of converting the Afghans to US thinking.

Hastings is being disingenuous when he says, he didn’t think it was a matter of McChrystal and company letting their guard down. It’s time like these when people reduce life to a  one deminsional transcript of what was said, what wasnt’; Hastings offfered this:  “I mean, it’s not much of a mystery. If someone tells you something is off the record, I don’t print it.” …. but back to real 3-D life, actions speaks louder than words and if you are with a bunch of people and the conversation turns into  bull session and some volatile stuff starts flying you as a reporter know right then that the quotes are verbal plastic explosives. Right there, I believe is the true test of character. Should you stash it away like a sneak and go back and try to illicit more goods from aids to brace the  juicy quotes you now know will make some hot type? You know right there that your subject’s guard is down.  Is this all kind of chess game, or contest where you take advantages of loop holes? Or do you inject a little bit of honor and remind the General that the record is rolling here.  If the general really didn’t care than he’d just shrug him off.  But  Hastings didn’t say anything …. why … because he wanted to keep the good quotes flowing.

Again much is revealed in Rolling Stones actions or their non actions to include any of the damning material in their 30  fact checking questions sent to the brass, obtained by the Washington Post.  In addition, Hastings reveal his philosophy in his interview with CNN when an article he penned for GQ Magazine displays his  demeanor and perhaps his objectives.  “You pretend to be friendly and non-threatening. And over time you build trust, which everyone knows is an illusion. If the time comes, if your editors calls for it, you’re supposed to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) them over.”

Wow. Editors have power but I didn’t know they called in hits  on people. Actually reporters and editors are usually engaged in what is suppose to be a constructive power-play over stories. The reporter supplies the goods, which basically means ferreting through notes building a case with one quote followed by antedate  making the outcome obvious even to an editor. 

Definitely not all reporters don’t see building up trust as an illusion. I mean you can be friends with a cop, hang out, drink, but you might think about reminiscing about crimes gone by or buying drugs in the bathroom while he’s sitting there. The same with befriending a reporter.  So in my book, the relationship isn’t an illusion, but it is dubious. A cop shouldn’t be making friends in hopes of catching someone and reporters shouldn’t be building trust so they can hang them by their own words. 

This conundrum has certain been the gauntlet that divides the new bread of freelancers from  Afghanistan beat reporters who look like Army Lackeys by failing to include McChrystal’s sored behavior in their dispatches. Witness the outrage spewing from CBS Chief Foreign Corespondent  Lara Logan when challenged by Kurtz who says,” He’s suggesting that he did a job that the regular beat journalists have not done.” Logan responds with, ” I think that’s insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do, because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. ”

In fact Hastings article’s crass depiction contrasts the  puff being so blatant offered in past profiles. When do you included, the negative, the awkward that seems to break from the paint by number profiles that we find even in the supposedly more critically thinking journals.  The answer comes down to the central theme of the article. The Rolling Stone article at times seemed trapped between two places as illustrated by the cover. No not Lady Ga Ga. But the headline on the front: Obama’s General, Why he’s losing The War, which  convays some analysis as the  controversy that is blaring from  the article’s title, “The Runaway General”

Yahoo’s Media writer, Michael Calderone made good hay with New York Times David Brooks’ criticism saying that “by putting [McChrystal’s] kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.” 

The second part is beside the point and shouldn’t be of Hastings’s  concern as he tweets, “David Brooks to young reporters: don’t report what you see or hear, or you might upset the powerful.”

But then Hastings couldn’t resist taking a self-righteous swipe, ” Question 2 to Mr. Brooks: how much time has he spent listening to the troops kvetch in a war zone, just askin.”

So the  merits is defined by time spent on the lines? Then  should Hastings be ranked against  senior war correspondents, the same ones who would treat such Kvetching as off the record. Then how does Hasting’s real war experience, who gets to fly home and enjoy yapping about his time in the media, compare to the soldier?

This same privileged attitude, which let’s face it is one of the few vitriol thrills that journalist can lord over people, was put to Hastings by Logan. “I mean, the question is, really, is what General McChrystal and his aides are doing so egregious, that they deserved to end a career like McChrystal’s? I mean, Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has. ” 

Being too close to the action doesn’t give you the entire story and you got to wonder how good is Hastings all access pass to the front is worth these days. Who knows he might find himself sitting back here with the rest of us grunts.

28
Jun
10

Gen. McChrystal Ambushed by Rolling Stone or Gonzo General undone by Gonzo Magazine

Preamble:

Yup the Baltimore boy is going national with this. For a long time I’ve been chomping on some national issues but believed it was beyond  this  blog’s scope and if this was in a typical print publication then that thinking would stand. But hey I’m in blogland where anyone with a keyboard can make an impact.  The individual can now be a media giant and this medium is all about the little guy weighing in on big issues, so rather than creating another blog with a big reaching title, I opted to  reveal my vantage point from chair in Baltimore and thereby comment that really you don’t have to be an insider or  politico geek to throw down an opinion. Therefore, on occasion I’m gonna comment when I see a void in the public discussion. Here’s my first foray:

When I saw the Smack  Quotes coming out about Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Rolling Stone article that had yet to be published —  questions marks started to fly in my head. First, what was the Four Star General thinking or snorting?  He had to know such low brow  childish chest pumping is gonna force a beatdown that even he can’t win. The insanity behind the news never fails to amaze. But then as a reporter, I started questioning Michael Hastings methods. Based on Web info, Hastings at the meek age of 30 (ck) has already paid some dues reporting from battle lines in Iraq, like the in the trenches story where he follows the Louisanna National Guard. See www.http://www.businessinsider.com/10-great-pieces-michael-hastings-wrote-before-he-brought-down-gen-stanley-mcchrystal-2010-6

For Rolling Stone, He was basically allowed to shadow McChrystal, on his day to day. I don’t know. I may just be a bloke from Baltimore but I would bet that many a discolored quotes would be popping around a General in the field of battle. I’ve seen my share of War movies. I know. Actually, I’ve done my share of stories with cops, with politicians, drug addicts, hustlers with regular folk to know you’re gonna hear some rancid shit under certain conditions. I mean I’m doing a story about Baltimore Barbershop culture and a few times when the discussion turns to women or race …. let’s just say I have to put the tape recorder on pause. Seriously, a reporter, I believe, needs to set the tone  with his/her subject. On any given story even ones that seem about as dull and boring as it can get, say about a talent show at a mall, there will times when off the wall comments is dispensed and as a reporter you could easily just glam on to that and in fact come up with some must read copy for once for the local weekly throw away. But you don’t whether you’re in the locker room with the Ravens or doing a story on an ex-drug slinger trying to go mainstream. Not at first. Not if you aren’t a snitch or an ambitious asshole cut throat. You let the first miss-step  roll by, but if it gets to be a pattern, if it starts dominating the moment then, of course you as a reporter have to judge whether the attitudes being expressed define the story unfolding before your eyes. For example, when the General’s getting ready to chow with the French Dignataries and he’s blowing off steam and says something, “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people  than go out to this dinner.” as a reporter, knowing right there how this would play, you might wanna show that he’s on the record. Sometimes I show the subject that yes I’m taking notes or even say, Hey General are we still on the record here?” And what do you think his answer would be? “You print that and I’ll shove that notebook up your ass.”

At some point the reporter has to set the tone. Early on during those interviews when the loose talk starts flying, the reporter needs to ask are we on the record? This way the subject knows what he’s dealing with, what kind of environment he’s has to tread. It’s only fair. The subject will then see oh we’re dealing with a starchy by the numbers reporter than all candor and down to earth talk will cease and everything would turn in a professional dull exchange. Not what we want. We want some semblance of reality. And based on Hastings previous impressive work with Newsweek where he seemed to thrive on being in the action, see his article, “The Battle for Haifa Street” www.newsweek.com/2007/01/11/the-battle-for-haifa-street.html
  — the General made the fateful mistake that Hastings had earned his stripes, he was one of them and he could talk freely. Did Hastings infer this when he was establishing his relationship? Did he encourage this, by laughing  and playing the part of one of the guys, signaling that he’s in on the joke? 

From Hastings Newsweek Article

 

Reporters are always complaining about being smothered by handlers, PR flacks practically forcing the story to come out as a sorry piece of boredom. Real reporters fight for reality, get off The Campaign Bus, hang with the grunts — why  — to get some semblance of truth. McChrystal story now stands as total validation for the overpriced Public Relations Industry. Now any firm can hold up the Rolling Stone cover  featuring Lady Ga Ga wielding guns, bare assed BTW –and say Don’t let this happen to you.

Of course, Rolling Stone and Hastings could counter by saying this is about the bigger good. Sometime the journalist has to sacrifice himself and his hard earned status with sources for the greater good. This is a true and tough situation, where you as a reporter might find you become basically a scumbag  and sell out your source for the well-being of US  readers. And it seems, based on the Rolling Stone’s headline, The Runaway General,” they seemed to be making this insinuation, that we have an out-of- control cowboy  in Afghanistan. And if this is Rolling Stone’s case, there’s still a major problem with the magazine article perhaps even graver mis-step  than the suspected violation of trust between reporter and subject for glory of juicy quotes —  and that is the fact checking:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal at Airbase

 

According to the Washington Post, Rolling Stone fact checkers offered 30 questions, but never went over  the controversial quotes.www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/25/AR2010062504194_3.html?sub=AR&sid=ST2010062504101.Why?

Even here in the “deviled details”  of reporting there are questions with the fact checking  process. For example, according to the Washington Post article, McChrystal’s Military Flack had issues with Rolling Stone’s depiction of McChrystal expanding the morning briefings to include thousands of officers. The Military PR suggested over 400. And the military had a problem with the magazine’s depiction of McChrystal  “Situation Awareness Room”  being modeled on New York’s Mayor Bloomberg’s offices. McChrystal’s people said the room wasn’t modeled but was similar. Rolling Stone took none of the responses to heart.  

These are nit-picking crumbs, perhaps, but they also speak to the larger issues about the decision NOT to float the incendiary quotes by the General or the flack , according to what is offered in the Washington Post. And what is the rationale? Perhaps the RS editors just felt that McChrystal would obviously deny them. That he would realized he’d violate the old military adage, “Loose Lips sink ships” and claim his rants were taken out of context. But there were those second source quotes, the most controversial in the articles that you’d think the editors would want to check. Second hand info can be dubious and if it’s gonna be damaging to the subject than just out of self-preservation, you might wanna float those. For Example the quote about Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal.” And Rolling Stone isn’t going to check that? Think about how the reporter got that quote, he talks to a bunch of Ballsy Soldiers and sooner or later someone’s gonna say something non too wise. 

Again why not run these quotes by someone? I know as a reporter when I get something that’s obviously going to detonate a commotion, I prefer running the quote myself even before the fact checker so I can say to the editor I did so. This is out of self-preservation rather than courtesy. Because editors are removed from the story, they may be quick to delete such inflamatory diatrab, some don’t have the stomach for taking on such flack. Plus the fact checker is normally unknown to the writer, many are interns and have power to change something. Publications are notorious for break downs in communications and a major contributor to  good chunk of misakes that find their way in print. But most editors I would figure would want a sampling of fire-storm that’s sure to follow and test one of these hot comments out there to see if  the story. Hastings isn’t even a Rolling Stone staffer.

Rolling Stone's Cover

 

Based on the layout, you got to figure that maybe Rolling Stone see the noise it would get from this article, which turns out probably the magazine’s biggest in decade(s). 

Hence; The cover is Lady Gaga, then headline, Dennis Hopper final days and then down below in small print “Obama’s General why he’s losing the war.” This cover seemed to be in place before the media went nuts with the story. Colbert showed it before it hit the newsstands. 

Still from my prospect as a consumer who picked up his copy at the Port Authority, you got to wonder if Michael Hastings, a freelancer was throwing down his card, going snitch for the cause. Was it to protect America from a renegade General? Please. Who wouldn’t figure a General who emerged out off the ranks Special Forces wouldn’t think that he alone knows all — that he’s surrounded by Asses. This just in: Four Star General anoints himself King. Instead of an important article debating the merits the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, which by the well  is pretty well done in the article, we have “gotcha ya” scandalism dictating public policy.

Disclaimer:

I’m no basher of the media as some left wing junta pulling strings. Hell, I cut my teeth on Rolling Stone and watched it go glossy, shrink in power and size not just on its politic impact but even on the music front which they (and everyone else it seems) can’t get a handle on anymore. That’s why I was surprised when I first heard of  The General Rukas was brought to you by  Rolling Stone and was bemused  when the New York Times, didn’t mention them by name higher up in their articles. What a comeback for the Gonzo mag. but at what cost? Check out Eyesoreproductions.com

02
Aug
08

Journalism Redux — A visit to the Arabber’s Stable

I have been a journalist for 23 years. I’ve worked for newspapers, dailies, weeklies and then as a freelancer.I have written for the New York Times. I have written for a small town paper.  I  still am a freelancer. But I always have been frustrated with how the news works. “All the News that is Fit to Print.” The funny thing is much of life isn’t fit to print and we’re not talking about decency. We’re talking about stories that don’t necessary follow the journalistic pyramid theme. I’m interested in the feel and the vibe of a story and have struggled many times unsuccessful to inject them in  the story. This is probably due to my limitations as a writer. Oh well. 

This blog is an attempt create a newswire service as well as window into the story making process. I want to share in the experience of piecing the story together rather than just offering a final product. I believe  there is a hunger for this kind perspective and is why blogs and documentaries have gotten so popular. (I also do documentaries, but I’ll get to that later). The world of Journalism is changing or falling apart. The daily newspaper is collapsing around  us and that’s going to have a profound impact on our  country. At the same time blogs and the web offers an even playing field, so I’m going to take a crack  at it.  I’m going to let you into my struggle as I stumble onto stories, most of them strange and a lot in the trenches of some social strife. Baltimore definitely will provide a lot of material.