Puppies Don’t Do Politics

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

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

 

Today Show National Puppy Day

CBS National Puppy Day

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

Business Insider: Why We Love Cute Animals

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

ABC News: Why People Love Pets

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

Science Daily: Animals Effect Our Brains

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

NY Times: Strange Animal Connections

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

Seeker.com: The Lure of Animal Webcams

I will admit to loving the National Zoo Panda Cam.

National Zoo Panda Cam

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

 

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

 

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

Daily Mail: Pictures of Baby Animals Improve Concentration

NBC News: Watching Cat Videos is Good For You

Washington Post: Why Do We Love Our Pets?

Business Insider: We Love Cute Animal Videos

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

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

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

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

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

Let the Sun Shine In

Sunshine Week is Over

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

Sunshine Week Website

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

http://www.concordmonitor.com/sunshine-week-animal-cruelty-records-8651597

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

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

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/disclosures/visitor-records

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

http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/trumps-actions-raise-fears-about-access-to-government-data/

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

Talk is anything but cheap. Lessons from my parents.

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

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

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

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

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

USA Today How to Talk Politics

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

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

6 Tips For a Good Conversation

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

Huffington Post: How to Talk Politics

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

WSJ: Technology and Social Skills

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

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

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

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

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

Fox News: Trump to Skip White House Correspondents’ Dinner

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

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

ABC News: Nixon vs. The Press

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

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

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

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

Yahoo!: Donald Trump Skips White House Correspondents Dinner

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

Fox and Friends White House Correspondents’ Dinner Comments

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

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

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

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

The Hill: Social Media Response to Decision

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

White House Correspondents History

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

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

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

Boston Globe: Brief History of White House Correspondents Dinner

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

Newsweek: What Went Wrong with White House Correspondents Dinner

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

Washington Post: Cancel Dinner

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