Category Archives: Journalism

No, you can’t be neutral in a debate about your own humanity

When Lewis Wallace first showed up in the newsroom where I was the digital manager a few years ago, I had no idea how much I would learn from someone with very little journalism experience.

For many years, my horizons had been expanding beyond the fairly white-bread missionary world I was raised in. Oh, I knew many people from different cultural backgrounds, and, for a while, I considered myself to be well cultured. The problem was they all shared the same ideology.  Continue reading No, you can’t be neutral in a debate about your own humanity

Art + Journalism + Science

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After Water Series

I always hated the inverted pyramid, that news technique of speed and convenience meant to give the audience a jumping off point once they reached peak information in a story.

It felt cheap and like giving up on the power of telling story.

My career in journalism happened at an unfortunate time in history. A time when the once captive audience of print discovered the Internet and the entirety of human knowledge available at their fingertips for the price of a little portable, wireless technology.

I realized this early on when I wrote a controversial story about scarification for my hometown newspaper in Salem, Oregon.

Whereas my editors saw some gritty news about unregulated tattoo and scarification artists essentially performing surgery on people, I saw an interesting cultural discussion about body modification and self expression in young people.

Continue reading Art + Journalism + Science

Is it age or technology that destroys traditions?

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Long have we gathered around the television to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

For 12 years, this has been an indisputable part of our Christmas tradition. Nearly eight hours spent dwelling amongst the hobbits, dwarves, elves and men of Middle Earth each and every December 25.

We curl up in blankets, intertwined on the couches or sprawled out on the floor with pillows and beanbags.

We’ve watched these movies in Oregon, Montana, Alaska and Illinois, lost, as it were, in the magic of magnificent storytelling.

In the years before all of the films were released, we read the stories.

There has long been a stiff debate about what is the greatest medium. Is it literature or cinema, the novel or the film?

The digital side of me prefers the visual medium for the shear power of playing to our eyes, for filling in the gaps with spectacular moving splendor.

The literary side of me prefers the words that fire our imagination, leaving gaps to be filled in by our inner eye, each display as personal, as unique and individual as we as are.

As the pixels increase and digital manipulation goes molecular, so do my expectations grow. The so-called special effects in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, released more than a decade after the first mind-blowing Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, fill in the gaps like plasma, moving past the ability of our minds to catch the inconsistencies and the fallacies as they happen.

But they dampen the frames on the earlier works, showing those inconsistencies and fallacies more brightly as our minds work faster, our neurons and receptors firings so rapidly trying to process everything in real time.

For the first time in 12 years, I found myself pointing out errors in the trilogy, because it has slowed down to the point of being able to pick it apart.

And I was remorseful, because I love the wonder these films instilled in me the first time I watched them. I love the power they have to hold my attention for so many hours. I don’t want to doubt them.

But I do, now.

I remember when Super Man made me want to wear blue and red underwear all day and to lay on the arm of my couch, arms outstretched, pretending to fly.

It does not instill wonder any more, and I don’t want Lord of the Rings to suffer the same fate.

It’s a Wonderful Life still has wonder for me, but the painfully slow way of the old black and white medium means it cannot easily pass from me to my children.

I wonder if I shouldn’t put LOTR away for a few years, to diminish the wear and tear, so to speak.

I wonder if I should try to diet, to fast from the newer technology, the mediums that are faster than the neurons racing around my brain.

I don’t wish to be among the poor and piteous humans, as I am when I read Game of Thrones or in the violence-drenched contests of the Hunger Games.

I want to escape it all and rise into the fog of the Misty Mountains or shoot across the universe in the Millennium Falcon. I want the power of story, the simplicity of truth and the exhilaration of my imagination to power it all.

Don’t let age deny me. Don’t let it make me bitter and envious of former times. I want to be completely filled with awe at each new discovery, like Sir Francis Drake or James Cook in a world before Google Earth.

– Tim




One Month in Anch!

Who moves to Alaska in the winter? November isn’t exactly the heart of winter, but it’s close enough. The lack of a sunrise before 9:30 a.m., the strange, heavy snow followed by a fast melt, the way the air takes your breath away when you first step out a door, this far north is exactly what you’d expect it to be this time of year. 

In the month since we ran to catch our plane at PDX, we’ve done a lot and a lot of nothing. Downtime after a huge move is good, and we’ve taken the cold snowy nights to watch movies, eat around the coffee table, learn how to tiptoe around the apartment, enjoy chilly walks down the Park Blocks after dinner and walk downtown to have coffee or watch the lighting of the Christmas Tree.
Call us cautious, we’ve made new friends, but good relationships often grow slowly, developing deep roots, so we’re not in a hurry. We’ve learned to like each other in cramped quarters. We eat dinner in shifts, because our dining room table is a green fold up for two. 
We share a bathroom, which is decidedly tough with a nearly teenage boy who likes to shower every day, a younger brother who’d rather not shower at all, and a little sister who seems to have to go pee every 10 minutes or at least every time I am in the bathroom. 
Because many people rent these fully furnished apartments by the week, we’ve had a lot of neighbors we never get to know. The good news is that after a month, Cheryl finally found out that there is a laundry room in the building, and she got the lock code. No more long nights hanging out in the green fluorescent light of the laundromat up on Fireweed. 
We’ve seen many moose since we saw the big mama moose eating leftover pumpkins on our first weekend in town. Cheryl saw a huge bull moose in front of the library in midtown last week, and we saw another big cow and her baby on the way to visit Portage Glacier with a visitor. 
We’ve been ice skating with the kids on the oval at Cuddy Park as the sunset just after 4 p.m., casting an orange-creamsicle light over the midtown oil buildings. And we’ve spent an afternoon sledding and cross-country skiing at Kincaid Park, with a stop for hot chocolate on our way home. 
Saw the Nutcracker ballet and enjoyed evenings out and about at clubs and pubs.
Life is not perfect, but it is good. The adventure of Alaska is in the daily experience of living here. You don’t have to launch an expedition to go and find it. In a place so beautiful, danger is an overabundant commodity in Alaska.
On a long-enough timeline, Alaska will kill you. I can attest to this just in the news reported every day on our station and in the local newspaper. Living here is surviving here. Even in the crowded metropolis of Anchorage, death isn’t very far away, be it bullet, cold, car or plane crash. 
The dark won’t kill you, but I can see why so many give up and go back south where the dark hours play more fairly with the light. There is a certain anxiety until the solstice comes around and the simple knowledge that the days are growing longer brings those first hopeful thoughts of spring around again. 
My claustrophobia gets the best of me occasionally. I wake up feeling a bit stifled, but I know that is a product of the fact I haven’t driven much farther than the 45 miles it takes to get to Girdwood. I haven’t been to the valley yet. I haven’t been to Homer. Until I get a sense for the bigness of the place and the few roads that take you anywhere in this state, I’ll wake up feeling a bit stifled, or I’ll look out my window at work at the Chugach Mountains and wonder what is behind them and behind that. 
One month and so much to look back on already. The adventure has good start. 

Posers and red diamonds

Confidence is rare like painite or red diamonds. It seems to me we start with an amount and lose it at times. A little goes a long way, and maybe it gets stronger if you feed it. I don’t know.

All I know is that getting laid off can take away a lot of confidence. Getting laid off when you’re a professional in a hot field like digital can cut away confidence like tearing strips of skin off you. I don’t need to say it’s painful.

I’ve struggled with many questions about why I got laid off. I spent a lot of time succumbing to lack of confidence and beating myself up over the mysteries. I kept asking who, what, when, where, why, as if I could craft an inverted pyramid that would reveal, quickly, what happened.

Turns out I had a bit of a narcissistic view of my situation, which, ironically, is the plague currently infecting media and that which likely led to my layoff.

You see, yesterday I found out all about posers and professionals and the abundance of the former and lack of the latter in the ranks of our esteemed Fourth Estate.

A poser, by this definition, is someone skilled at posturing, which is like putting yourself into a position where you are able to claim adoration and accolades for the work of others. Anyone know of people like this in the media? Reporters? Editors? Publishers? How about ad directors? Middle managers? Art directors?

What about online people?

You betchya.

Posers know how to worry about themselves. They know where the bottom line is. Priority number one is not often the business they are there to enhance, it is the business of self interest. Posers will infect the workplace with enough venom to nearly immobilize the work environment.

Sound familiar? According to a behaviorist I spent some time with recently, the media, among other industries, is rife with posing and posturing.

In the online world, a world that is about as whole and mapped as the world in “The Never Ending Story,” as it breaks up into particles in space, there are those who proceed into the abyss and those who stand at the edge and theorize. The latter often takes credit for small advancements made into the abyss. Little stepping stones and bridges to nowhere become victories claimed for initials higher up the food chain.

This is not new.

Posers have been claiming the successes of others since the others started succeeding.

But there is irony in the mix too. I once had an editor tell others that I was vainglorious for posting my stories to Facebook. This was a year before a mandate came down from corporate for more push strategy. Was I an innovator? By no means. I’d seen other reporters doing it with great success, and that made a lot of sense to me.

Working in the abyss, one can see the shiny metal parts that constitute posing. Through the old diver’s helmet of online work, the drop offs loom like dark despair, while the lifeline to the boat above and laying claim to the little gems found by others below must surely be a better place. Right?

What bothers me most is that posers don’t inherently care about the future of journalism. They’re so caught up in their own reflection they wouldn’t care if our Fourth Estate looks like whatever is beyond thunder dome.

I don’t think you get confidence back. I think the remaining painite in your system is bolstered by knowledge, revelation, the 5,000-foot-view, shaking off the detritus, one victory after a thousand failures.

The truly beautiful thing is that journalism won’t be destroyed by posers. If even a few professionals remain, and I have worked with more than a few professionals, our future is safe. Posers won’t save journalism either. Oh, they’ll try to claim it, but at the point where journalism plunges into the abyss and comes out the other side, there are going to be an awful lot of people in old divers’ helmets walking it out on their backs.

Pose and posture all you want. You’ll be high and dry.

It’s too hot in Alaska

I have now spent a total of nine days in Alaska, if you count the interview trip a month or so ago, and I have yet to see any wildlife. If you don’t count the election of course.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’m sure a few months from now seeing a moose on the coastal trail will be old hat.

Observing the kids has been interesting. My 12 going on 45-year-old son Cole is already adept at Alaska things. Like navigating us around town using his mom’s new iPhone. He’s also schooling her in the art of setting up E-mail, downloading apps and otherwise giving her dozens of other reasons to pay less attention to me. Of course, if you ask her, I deserve it for having my eyes glued to a computer 18 out of the 24 hours in any given day.

The darkness is interesting thus far. For example, it’s 8:33 a.m., and I’m sitting in my office waiting for some IT help. It’s pitch black outside, and yet I can hear the crunching sound of car tires on ice. It will remain this way for another hour or so. But in the evening, the darkness falls around 5:30 p.m., which is not all that different from Oregon at the solstice.

Carson asks about our container of household goods every day. “Dad, is our stuff here yet?” “No, Carson, why do you ask?” “Because I want some toys to play with.”

I thought it might be a brilliant idea to buy the boys each an iPod Touch to ease the pain of transition and as a way for them to communicate with their friends back in Montana. For Cole it has been such. For Carson, not so much.

Carson is, after all, a boy in all senses of the word. He lives in his imagination like 90 percent of the time, dreaming up all kinds of scenarios mixing “Star Wars” and “Lord of The Rings” at his will. But he is also in need of props to live out his dreams. The best being a set of Legos whereby he can invent worlds, break them up and reinvent new worlds on a whim.

Gabrielle, somewhat surprisingly, has cried for home more than the others. When I ask her about why she is sad, she says she misses family in Oregon. Her grandma and grandpa and nanny and papa. She was so small when we moved to Montana, I would have thought her affinity for Oregon would be less than the boys.

But it’s her affinity for our families that causes her to be sad when she spends too much time thinking about it.

I’m happy to report that Morris the gecko has not only survived a harrowing trip across four states in a U-Haul truck and then an embarrassing inspection by airport security and a bumpy flight to a climate that is nothing like that of his desert home, but he he thriving on mealworms and crickets once again.

We all noticed he got a bit skinny during this whole adventure, but his fat tail is slowly getting fatter once again, and he’s happy sitting on calcium sand warmed by his heat pad and his heat lamp in a comfortable 88-degree glass aquarium.

My only complaint so far has been the fact that at night when I return from work, I must dress down to shorts and a t-shirt to survive the balmy temperatures in our apartment. We keep our heat at 55 degrees, because we are warmed, I assume, by the ridiculously high temperatures coming from the apartments below and to the sides of us. It averages about 75 degrees in the apartment, and last night I had to open the windows to allow some of that frigid air inside to scour things out a bit.

Things are about as far from the familiar as it can get right now, but the newness of everything makes it all interesting and fun.


The things you learn when you get laid off

I remember being called into the publisher’s office on that last day of August. That sinking feeling of knowing that somebody knows something you don’t. The looks on their faces. Sad, but not really sad, more sorry for themselves for having to ruin their day or maybe just the hour, probably.

But then a little ray of hope.

“We’re going to let you keep your blog.”

“Yeah, it represents all your hard work, your blood sweat and tears.”

It’s not much of a consolation prize when you’re getting laid off, but it’s a helluva lot better than a cold, escorted walk to the door.

I remember thinking about it after the clouds of dissolution parted. It wasn’t a huge gift, and in reality, no one would be able to pick up after I left it. It’s too much of a labor of love. It’s something you have to give birth to. You can’t adopt a blog very easily.

But after weeks of sending E-mails asking about when I could transfer the blog to my own account, I started to feel like the child who is told there is a surprise in the next room just to remove him from the current room.

I started hearing about the newspaper editor spreading the news that I had somehow relinquished interest in the blog as she recruited new writers for it.

If I have learned anything from my wife in all the long years I’ve known her, it’s that she will fight for justice far more than I will. She has a sense for it that I do not. Perhaps I’m jaded, but I don’t believe man’s justice is wise, nor do I believe it prevails even when somewhat close to a universal sense of justice.

But with her encouragement, I sent notes out to the far corners of the corporation that formerly employed me seeking justice in the form of an appeal based on something that wasn’t in writing, merely the word of two respected co workers.

My appeal was returned today with these words:

“Tim, I have looked into the matter of this blog and your separation from Lee Enterprises.
The Missoulian intends to keep the blog and maintain the content.
As far as receiving an understanding to give you this blog; besides any authority Stacey and Jim may or may not have had to allegedly agree to this; you surrendered any claim when you signed the release of rights and claims and received your severance payment.”

I’m not the dunce whose appearance I must often give off. I understood at the outset that giving away corporate property is a big no, no. In fact, I have seen numerous battles over intellectual property like this. I know lawyers who deal specifically in this realm.

I did, however, believe the publisher when she said she would draw up papers regarding the blog if I agreed to sign the release of rights. I generally take people at their word. In this case it might have helped to understand all the legalities, something I’m going to assume neither of us knew very well.

But no matter, this battle is over, and it’s time to move on beyond it. To the writers who’ve inherited my progeny, I wish you the best of luck. When I say it’s a labor of love, I mean that completely. You will not love this. You may, in fact, come to hate it.

Justice is better served cold. I do not feel a warmth for it as my wife does. Instead, I’d rather look beyond perceived personal injustices and out toward those places where injustice, if it’s a quantifiable thing, occurs to the point of matching those universal laws, those unalienable rights we like to chatter on about.

The rights of indigenous people. The rights of women and children in lawless places. The rights of the press. The rights of the people.

These are worth pursuing when it comes to justice. A silly little blog is hardly worth fighting for. Maybe it’s just the principle of the thing. Maybe it’s my arch nemesis, a characteristic conservatism that finds personification an an old editor I once worked for. Or in the uphill battles against the old mindset that I fight against on a daily basis. Principles are worked out in the individual. You live by yours, I’ll live by mine.

And so my appeal ends, and it’s time to move on to the next new thing.


Thirty seven days in the unemployment line

It looks as though I’m going to have to change the name of this blog. I was originally inspired by the government extension of unemployment aid allowing laid off Americans to collect for up to 99 weeks.

My position at the Missoulian newspaper was cut on Monday, September 30. I applied for unemployment immediately, and to date I’ve received nothing but slips of paper saying my unemployment aid status is pending.

Last night I accepted a job at the new director of digital content at KTUU, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska. Somehow Ninetynineweeks just doesn’t seem that appropriate any more. However, I don’t want to leave any interested readers hanging, so I’ll continue to chronicle the adventure as it progresses.

My wife and I spent a lot of time in Hawaii in the early part of our marriage. Having to move away after we had our first child, we vowed to find a way back some day. Since then, we returned to Oregon, spent time traveling and working in Eastern Europe and ended up in Missoula, Montana, which is not exactly a population center. And now Alaska, with an even lower population than Montana, is our our next destination. Things don’t always make sense, but I find that big picture stuff is often a little fuzzy and distal. Probably for a good reason.

I have always loved the ocean, but I have come to love the mountains. Anchorage seems to have both in abundance, which is something very satisfying to me.

Several months ago I was chatting with a friend in Alaska about our various moves since we met several years ago when I was researching a story for a University of Oregon publication. We would eventually end up working together at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, and we founded the craft beer blog – “Will blog for beer.”

On this evening, I was asking about life in Alaska, a place she moved after her husband graduated from law school in Oregon. To my surprise, one of the best print writers I’d ever worked with was now working at a broadcast station.

She took a few minutes to explain that the company was expanding beyond the traditional 5 and 6 p.m. broadcast news to a more web-centric model to provide news digitally in the way Alaskans are increasingly digesting their news.

She told me they were going to begin a search for a digital content director and asked if I was interested in having her forward my resume on to the station president.

I floated the idea past my wife the next day, and I got the reaction I thought I would get. She sort of frowned and cocked her head sideways with that look that says, “You’re crazy, and I hope I didn’t hear you right.”

I let it go and didn’t think much more about it until that fateful Monday.

After sort of processing the idea of being laid off and immediately formatting several plans, including grad school, self employment, international job possibilities and cobbling a bunch of local job offers together, I came back to the Alaska job and decided to E-mail my friend to find out if that search was on.

It was, and while figuring out how to navigate the unemployment aid system, I was corresponding with my future boss in Anchorage.

Finally we were invited to travel to Anchorage to meet with the team there and to check things out around town. I’ve usually done this part of the job interview process myself, but this time Cheryl came with me, as I knew she’d be the hardest sell.

Sunset from downtown Anchorage

Turns out we both loved Anchorage. The sun was just setting as we flew into the city over the tortured ice-bound world of southwest Alaska. I could see a monolithic shadow to the north, something so immense I had to scrunch down in my seat to see the entire mass. This was Denali. The snowless Chugach range framed in the twinkling lights of Anchorage as we landed.

Ocean and mountains. It’s like a complete world for me, though neither of us have any illusions about how difficult winters can be up there. We’re pretty big fans of the light.

A move to Anchorage is not taken lightly. Not by the prospective employer and not by those seeking a job in that state. So the drawn-out process has been a bit torturous as our funds have shrunk to uncomfortable levels.

To accept the offer last night was rewarding for many reasons, not just the physical need to know that our future is set. It’s rewarding to know I’ll be able to continue in the job that my journalism career has morphed into. Going from a traditional print reporter to mobile journalist and videographer to online reporter and finally a digital manager is something I didn’t expect when I walked across the graduation platform at the University of Oregon, but it’s twice the career I planned for and therefore twice as rewarding.

It’s nice to know I won’t have to wait around for unemployment checks that never come. And searching for jobs is a torturous activity in this day in age. I will not miss it.

Now begins the daunting task of getting ourselves to Alaska. You can drive, but it takes up to five or six days. Shipping items is expensive, as is flying. This blog will likely continue to explore the whimsical nature of family antics, the challenges of moving to America’s last frontier and the interesting details of settling in a place that might as well be a million miles away from family for the ease of getting their and back.


Forcing the Dream Part III

Getting from Missoula, Montana to Jaipur, India is not the easiest of tasks. Start with a $300 ticket to fly out of Missoula, and you’ll find yourself searching anything out of Spokane instead.

Itinerary: Spokane to Seattle on Horizon. Seattle to Frankfurt on Scandinavian Airlines, Frankfurt to New Delhi on Scandinavian airlines. Total flight time: 19 hours. New Delhi to Jaipur by automobile. Total trip time: 28 hours.

I was disoriented landing in a strangely foggy and somewhat chilly New Delhi. I found my bags and wandered around the terminal for about 10 minutes to collect my thoughts. I bought a Coke and a candy bar and phoned my friends in Jaipur.

The taxi sent to collect me was delayed in a horrific six-hour traffic jam coming into the city. For anyone unaware of what the Indian freeway system looks like, think about a post-apocalyptic Mardi Gras celebration with tank-like floats painted garrulous schemes of red, yellow, green and orange with green tarps. At most, they travel at a benign 15-20 kilometers per hour.

I was starting to fall asleep in my chair when my driver shook me awake. For a moment I forgot where I was, and the red and white color scheme on the Coke bottle in front of me and crumpled Milky Way wrapper gave me something solid to focus on.

We hopped in a tiny car and drove into what seemed like California coastal fog, a shroud that New Delhi wears something like 70 percent of the time.

Barely 15 kilometers from the airport, we ran into the traffic jam, something that reminded me of the lines at the passenger ferry terminals in Europe where you wait for hours to be loaded onto the big ships that cruise the Baltic Sea.

The taxi driver, who didn’t speak any English, tried to communicate that we’d have to wait out the jam and pulled over, turned off the engine and promptly folded his seat back and went sleep.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

Sleep sounded good, and although the excitement of being in a completely foreign place was starting to infest my mind, I put my seat back and went to sleep too.  Three hours later I awoke to the sound of a thousand trucks starting. It is not a pleasant sound, in fact it reminds one of the increasing drone of a hoard of angry bees flying in your direction.

I reached over and shook the taxi driver awake, and we inched our way into the slow-crawling line of trucks that make up India’s commerce system. On a good day it’s a six-hour drive from Delhi to Jaipur. On this day it was more than 10 hours with the delay outside of Delhi.

Once on the road, the darkness did what darkness does best. It lent a very mysterious blanket to a place the imagination couldn’t quite conjure up. I found myself trying to stare out in to the field and envision the place, but I couldn’t.

We stopped for tea as the sun came up. Thick, illustrious light raked the fields on either side of the road, illuminating farms and villages that might as well have come from a Dr. Suess book for all the familiarity they had to me. Large disks of collected manure sat drying in stacks in front of huts as burning fuel, and colorful saris decorated clotheslines like whimsical pirate ships.

The sweet tea tasted so good in the cool of the morning. We sat in the truck stop and sipped the tea and snacked on something akin to potato chips. The colors and smells began to resonate with me, causing the synapses to fire and begin the recording process.

 The desert region of northwest India offers the most vistas. Big sandy deserts, palm-treed, roadside oasis’ and azure reflecting ponds that increase the beauty of long-empty palaces are a few of the eye-candy treasures. And Suessical images of elephants and two-humped dromedaries plodding along freeways are so magical you can’t help but smile widely at the sight.

Jaipur is not an oasis. It’s a city of three million people on the edge of the desert. An outpost of sorts, the last stronghold of the Rajputs, Jaipur, the Pink City, is a monument to what I imagine life must have been like during the height of Middle Eastern power. A gilded life of finery and luxury unequaled.

We were stopped several times by police men trying to confiscate the taxi for political purposes. If a politician needs a vehicle to get from point a to point b, he has only to have a traffic policeman find a good car and confiscate it for his purposes.

At one such stop we sped off through a tight alley, a feat that reminded me of some such scene in any one of several James Bond films. We slammed into a wedding party, not literally, but suddenly, and soon we were surrounded by drum playing men and women singing dressed in all white.

I looked over my shoulder half expecting a cop to be running after us, but such things are evidently practiced in India all the time.

We arrived at my friends house nearly 36 hours after I left Missoula. I was exhausted and absolutely enthralled with this place.

I had come to Jaipur to teach mobile journalism to a group of media students in the city. My purpose was to teach them storytelling through digital tools like video, blogs and slide shows. In one journey from one place to another, I would have many weeks of teaching materials to relate to the students, not to mention evenings and days spent around the city investigating the rich tapestry of Indian life.

My love for journalism was completely reborn on those dusty, desert streets. Storytelling as art, as life, as science, as the act of creation itself was more real to me in those two weeks in India than it had been up until that point. Sometimes the familiarity of our lives gets in the way of seeing the color and smelling the smells of storyscapes. To be outside of yourself for even a brief period of time, completely immersed in something totally new is an exercise in scraping the scales from our eyes.

Forcing the dream is expensive sometimes. I’m still paying off that trip, but it was the most worthwhile thing I have done for my career. No training, no seminar, no webinar could possibly open my eyes to the quirks of storytelling like my trip to India in the late fall of 2008.

Aside from all the exciting adventures I had in Jaipur, my sister and I were scheduled to stay in the hotel in Mumbai that was attacked by terrorists. Our reservations were for one day after the attacks. Instead of Mumbai, I traveled to Kolkata to visit with my father who was teaching in another Indian city for a week before traveling on to Bangladesh.

While there I filmed segments of video in the Red Light districts to help bring awareness to the plight of Nepalese girls who are trafficked into India. Some are as young as 10, and they are highly sought after for the light color of their skin and their friendly demeanor.

Here it was, the culmination of how far I had dreamed at the time. To travel to a foreign place where injustices occur with alarming regularity and shine a bright light on them was the goal that had driven me thus far in my pursuit of journalism.

After India I would dream new dreams and plan new goals. But forcing the dream along lines that I had never planned has been the evolving nature of a life well lived for me. I will no longer just dream unsustainable dreams. I will dream dreams so big and wide and vast that forcing them will take up the rest of my life.


Alaskan-flavored news

The front page of yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News boasted a picture of pack of walruses basking in sunshine. The story touched on these notoriously panicky animals and their propensity to crush each other to death in a stampede when spooked. The problem is melting sea ice, their preferred summer resting place. The lack of it has caused the huge sea creatures to haul out on the north coast of Alaska in huge numbers, and the terrain means that a low-flying plane, a nearby boat or a lumbering polar bear could cause a massive panic resulting in the deaths of thousands of young and small walruses.

Meanwhile Alaska’s largest television station covered the continuing race to fill the state’s open senate seat. The race pits a Tea Party newcomer against Alaska’s senior senator who narrowly lost in the primary and who is now running a write-in campaign. At issue: state rights and federal spending for Alaska, a state in need of an identity beyond the riches of Prudhoe Bay’s once-rich oil reserves.

News is a a rich older uncle in this state. People love their 20+year veteran anchors, and everywhere I go I hear, the web site of the local newspaper. News is big, and issues are bigger. Politics are the strangest kind of interesting, while nobody can resist a good dog story or a well-framed picture of a moose in fall color.

In some ways it’s all very familiar, and in some ways, it’s a whole different country, which is how Alaskans like to refer to their state.

I think I like Anchorage, and I’m sure, given the time, I will like Alaska too.