Journalism: Where Do We Go From Here?

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​In recent days, as the Democratic field grows exponentially each day, we’ve seen a return to 2016 coverage by the media: Trump takes over every news cycle with new crazy, Bernie is in the lead, Buttigeig speaks eight languages, Elizabeth Warren’s unlikable, Kamala Harris is too hard, Amy Klobucher is too mean, ranch dressing, fried chicken, infer vs implied! Are the women ready? Too emotional? That’s almost sounds like a joke considering who we have in the Oval Office right now.

I saw a headline just this morning that Trump had a new nickname for Pete Buttigeig. How is that a headline for a news organization? Four reporters covered this story for the “news” organization! Have we learned nothing in the last two years?

Not to  mention that news anchors and pundits continue to drown us in whataboutism, false equivalency, and but both sides.

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My Essential Packing vs. Nellie Bly’s

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​Prompt: Author, Matthew Goodman was asked this by Random House in the interview about his book, Ninety Days….

How would you answer the question?

RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?
My answer follows, and as with many of my writings, it veered off the very specific topic of what essentials should be considered to bring along. I may give this a go as part of my summer writing. It would be nice to see if I can stick to a limited topic and a deadline, so lets’s give it a deadline of July 10th. Sound good? It must be; I just felt my anxiety do a little somersault.

I’ve traveled alone only a handful of times, and in those times, only once was I not meeting someone else or staying in somewhat familiar surroundings. That one time was the adventure of a lifetime, and I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Unfortunately, packing was not one of those things that improved over time. I always take more than I need and more than I should.
Since that first whirlwind solo trip across the Atlantic to meet my college roommate, I continue to keep a list during and after each trip of all the things I brought that I did not use as well as all of the things I forgot. The former list is always much longer than the latter.

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Nellie Bly Interviews Susan B. Anthony (1896)

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​In March, I published a piece on Susan B. Anthony, and while researching some parts of her life and deciding what to include in my post, I came across an in-depth interview that she gave to Nellie Bly, culturing best known for her Jules Verne-esque trip around the world in less than eighty days (72 in point of fact). I bookmarked it for a later post and finding out Nellie Bly’s birthday and then planning this week after that to focus on her work.

I think I was kind of taken with the idea that these two great, pioneering  women not only lived in the same era, but crossed paths in such a way to make an impact one hundred twenty years later. This conversation is the exemplification of a study of women’s history.  In a lot of ways, I can envision myself following in their footsteps through suffrage, journalism (writing), traveling, and it’s amazing. I don’t think I take voting for granted, but I absolutely feel it’s everyone’s right, but also obligation to vote in every election, not just the big ones. They’re all big ones. Nellie Bly sending in that first letter to the editor is just the essence of confidence that I aspire to. When asked, I still respond with a question mark after ‘I’m a writer’. I didn’t feel it at the time I was traveling, but in retrospect I do feel the Nellie Bly adventure vibe in my solo trip to Wales. In the moment, it was an adventure, but it was also scary, and in reading about her trip around the world, I don’t get the scared feeling from her. I will actually begin her own writing of her trip, and I hope to share my thoughts with you towards the end of the week.

In the meantime, these links will take you back to the late nineteenth century and you can fill yourself with our ancestors and inspirations.

Original New York World newspaper article, digitized

Easier to read in The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Volume IV: An Awful Hush 1895-1906, edited by Ann B. Gordon (Nellie Bly interviews Susan B. Anthony)

Nellie Bly – Profile

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​Nellie Bly was an investigative journalist just before and during the turn of the century. Her birthday was yesterday, and she would have been one hundred fifty-five years old. She was born during the Civil War, and died in the Roaring 20s, after the First World War but before the Great Depression. Many people, I think, are surprised to learn that she was a real person, thinking that she is a figment of fiction alongside her fictional inspiration, Phileas Fogg, the character in Jules Verne‘s well known book, Around the World in 80 Days. Nellie Bly did her circumnavigation in 72 days, holding the record for only a short time before it was broken (also in 1890).

She was a pioneer in the field of investigative journalism, although much of her early writing focused on the lives of working women. She was a foreign correspondent in Mexico for the Pittsburgh Dispatch and after going to New York, she worked at The New York World, the publication owned and published by Joseph Pulitzer. She went undercover to expose the women’s lunatic asylum’s treatment of its patients located at Blackwell Island. They wouldn’t let her leave until the newspaper was able to get her out.

For her trip around the world, she left onboard the steamer, AugustaVictoria on November 14, 1889 with only two days notice, bringing only “the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials.” [Kroeger, Brooke (1994). Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. Three Rivers Press.] In a bag tied around her neck (similar to today’s hidden security pouches), she carried most of her money. She made her trip primarily by steamer and rail. In Amiens, France, she met Jules Verne, the writer whose book inspired her journey.

She was the first woman to write from a war zone, sending her stories from the Eastern Front during World War I. She was mistaken for a spy and arrested.

She died at age 57 after a bout with pneumonia and is buried in The Bronx.

In recent times, since 1978, the New York Press Club gives out the Nellie Bly Cub Reporter Award, and in 2002 she as part of a postage stamp sheet commemorating Women in Journalism along with  Marguerite Higgins, Ida M. Tarbell, and Ethel L. Payne.

In her 2013 book, Examining Lois Lane: The Scoop on Superman’s Sweetheart, Nadine Farghaly stated that Nellie was one of a few women modeled as the basis for Lois Lane, created by writer, Jerry Siegel and artist, Joe Shuster.

You can read more about Nellie Bly here, and can also read her writings:

Around the World in 72 Days

Six Months in Mexico

Ten Days in a Mad-House

Look for related posts through the rest of the week.

Writing Advice BONUS: 25 Excuses Not to Write

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One of the prompts in this season’s memoir writing workshop was to think about all of the excuses we make to NOT write; to avoid the writing that we love so much. This list is not all inclusive, but this is what came forward for me on this topic. What are some of your excuses not to write? Continue reading

Writing Advice – Podcasts

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The Write Life has compiled a list of 20 Inspiring Writing Podcasts to Subscribe to right now. I’d recommend giving them a try before subscribing, but it’s easy enough to unsubscribe if a particular podcast isn’t for you.

The one podcast I listen to on a regular basis is writer, Ann Kroeker’s Writing Coach. I use PlayerFM and I am very fond of their platform.

Look for a special bonus Writing Advice later on this afternoon to finish out the series!

Writing Advice – Bernard Cornwell

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Bernard Cornwell is one of the foremost writers of historical fiction. His fictional travels have taken me from the Anglo-Saxon period through to the Revolutionary War. He has a brilliant way of describing the battles and creates the vision in your mind so you feel as though you were there.

For a long time, I resisted reading his Winter King trilogy that focused on King Arthur. I have had my own image of Arthur’s world of Camelot and Excalibur since my five page high school paper on Thomas Malory’s L’Morte D’Arthur that went on for over fifteen pages. My teacher was not thrilled. In addition to that being ingrained in my head and heart, I also had the John Boorman Excalibur movie with Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, and Nicol Williamson that I was attached to. When I eventually gave in to my friend’s persistent recommendation, I could not put The Winter King down and it is now my headcanon. The next two books were equally enthralling and I highly recommend them and every other one of Cornwell’s books.

I’ve read his only historical (non-fiction) book, Waterloo is also brilliant.

Here is some of his writing advice for you to enjoy and incorporate.