Reporting When the Beat Changes

I saw something on a newspaper’s website this week that made me turn my head. I screenshotted it and made a note to reexamine it later. I came back to it today, a few days after I first saw it, and I’m still slightly perplexed. What caught my eye was a headline which read, “Rose McGowan’s rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein ‘a bold lie,’” lawyer says.” The article was in the paper’s entertainment section.

Obviously, the subjects in the story are celebrities and it’s an article about something that’s happening in the entertainment industry. But placing the article in the entertainment section seemed a bit strange to me—because rape allegations are not entertaining in the slightest.

This instance stood out to me, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve seen something like this. More and more, when I look at the entertainment section of a website I see articles about #MeToo, #TimesUp and the anti-sexual harassment movements that are sweeping Hollywood.

Celebrities wore black on the red carpet in support of the Time’s Up movement. (Image: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock via IndieWire)

What I find interesting is that it is often entertainment journalists (who are accustomed to covering TV, movies, music and celebrities) who are writing these stories. I don’t want to make a sweeping statement about entertainment journalists—most are excellent at writing about serious topics relating to entertainment (even if I take issue with the placement of the article in the entertainment section). But it’s interesting, nonetheless, to note the intersections of entertainment news with, well, non-entertainment news.

In this vein, The New York Times made an effort to cover the red carpet differently during the Golden Globes. In their Jan. 7 “The #MeToo Moment” newsletter, they explained their approach: they sent a photojournalist to cover the red carpet like a news event; and they sought to report on “smart, critical quotes from celebrities” instead of anecdotes about their outfits. The shift towards covering an entertainment event more like a news event is a fascinating one; and one which, in all honesty, is probably long overdue.

Still, not all coverage seeks to make those changes. A recent SNL skit mocked fashion shows in the wake of the #TimesUp movement. As a panel critiques photos of women on the red carpet, one panelist declares, “I am going to say she looks empowered.” Another says, “I don’t even see a dress. I see a CEO.”

The intersections of different areas of news are what I’ve come to think of as a widespread case of “shifting beats” (in case you don’t know, a beat, according to Poynter, “defines what you will cover” as a journalist—a beat could be sports, fashion, politics, or even something more specific. The Associated Press recently announced their plan to introduce a marijuana beat.).

Beats aren’t just shifting in entertainment reporting. I’ve noticed it a lot in sports reporting, too. A few weeks ago in one of my journalism classes, we discussed an Associated Press article about a woman who said she was sexually assaulted in a bathroom during a Pittsburgh Penguins game. The last sentence of the article gives the final score of the game. In my class, we discussed that the writer may have been a sports journalist, so accustomed to including factual information about the game that they thought it had to be included. Regardless, the sentence is strikingly unnecessary, and its inclusion trivializes the issue of sexual assault. The story isn’t about the game, or the score. It’s not even about sports (unless it was tied into a larger issue of sexual assault happening at or during sports games, which it wasn’t). The story is about sexual assault, plain and simple.

Dallas Cowboys players kneel during the anthem. (Image: Christian Petersen/Getty Images via CNN)

The intersection of sports with other forms of news was also especially apparent a few months ago, when NFL players took to kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against black people. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!” Many others commented on the players apparently disrespecting the American military, while ignoring that the true cause of their protests. This issue was hotly debated, and it became a compelling example of the crossroads of politics and sports.

Some argued that sports have no place in politics; others responded that sports have always been political. In my opinion, it’s hard to look at what is happening right now—former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser being sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing over 200 women and girls; Adam Rippon, an Olympic figure skater who is gay, criticizing the decision to have U.S. Vice President Mike Pence lead the American Olympic delegation because of his track record on conversion therapy—and say that sports don’t intersect with political issues.

I think entertainment and sports are two places where we can clearly see beats interchanging, but it’s happening everywhere. As a journalism student, I’m fascinated by the ways that news organizations are responding to this—and as a consumer of the news, I’m also interested to see how organizations and individual journalists rise to the challenge of covering ever-shifting, intersecting topics.

If, when life hands you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade, when the beat changes, you have to adapt in the best way possible. The example of The New York Times’ new approach to entertainment coverage is a good example of this—but including the outcome of a sports game in an article about sexual assault? Not so much.

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The Post, The Press and The President

I didn’t want to write about U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Fake News Awards.” I really didn’t. When I received an email alert from Fox News about the full list—a list, it is interesting to note, which contained no stories or reporters from Fox—I was, honestly,  stunned. I didn’t expect the “awards” to be posted on the GOP website. Although the site crashed almost immediately, the fact that the list was posted there—and not, as I had expected, in a series of tweets from Trump’s account—added an air of seemingly-needed legitimacy to the whole thing.

As a journalism student, journalist and strong believer in the indisputable importance of the freedom of the press, I didn’t want to legitimize Trump’s open attack on the media any further by writing about it (if only to my audience). But the more I thought about Trump’s anti-media rhetoric, the more I was reminded of the new movie The Post, which I saw recently and really enjoyed.

The Post tells the story of the tough decision faced by The Washington Post editors and publisher Katharine Graham in the wake of The New York Times publishing, and subsequently being barred from publishing, stories about the Pentagon Papers in 1971. (The papers revealed the scope of U.S. involvement in the war, and notably the fact that four U.S. presidents who served at the time of the war did not think America would win, yet kept sending more troops.) Should The Post publish stories about the papers, even though they would face almost certain legal action?

Legal action wasn’t the only concern in deciding whether to publish the stories. Graham had political friends who would be impacted by the stories, like Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defence. Her husband had been close friends with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Ben Bradlee, the Post’s executive editor, was also friends with Kennedy, among others. The Post’s eventual decision to publish marked, at the time, a shift from journalists being friends with politicians to journalists taking on more of a watchdog role (or perhaps simply choosing to uphold this role despite existing friendships).

I won’t spoil too much (although it is based on history, so it’s technically not spoiling anything) but the end of the movie shows then-president Richard Nixon in his office, angrily discussing his disdain for the Washington Post and saying that no Post reporter would ever be allowed in the White House again. The audience in the theatre tittered—Nixon’s words, of course, are ironic considering The Post’s Watergate coverage. But there was another underlying amusement in his words. The words—and the enraged tone—sounded not too different than the current occupant of the Oval Office.

To me, The Post was a reminder of all of the behind-the-scenes work journalists do when working on a story. Trump’s attitude towards the media suggests he thinks certain journalists and news organizations are out to get him, and will publish any claim to try to bring him down. Nixon may have thought something similar. But in The Post, we see the work of journalists to verify the information they’re receiving—and we see the immensely difficult considerations they must make about what information to publish. Both in the movie and in real life, the decision was made to publish the Pentagon Papers stories because the public has a right to know about what their government is doing.

In seeking to hold truth to power, some journalists make mistakes. As Vox points out, the reporters and outlets listed in Trump’s “Fake News Awards” almost always issued corrections (in one case, reporters and editors resigned followed the publication of a story which turned out to be false). There are certainly lots of examples of unequivocally false stories on the Internet, but the ones Trump listed do not fit this category. In denouncing the press for their mistakes, Trump demonstrates a profound ignorance of the true role of journalists in a free and democratic society. Maybe he should watch The Post.

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Facebook and Snapchat Updates: Taking the “Media” out of Social Media

This week was a tale of two social media networks, as design and algorithm updates from Snapchat and Facebook drew ire from users and news organizations alike.

In the new Snapchat update, messages and stories from friends appear on one side of the screen, while other content (from “publishers, creators and the community”) appears by swiping to the other side. In a statement from November, Snapchat said, “Separating social from media has allowed us to build the best way to communicate with friends … while addressing many of the problems that plague the Internet today.”

As an avid user of Snapchat, I can’t say that I am ever bothered by seeing content from friends and media on the same screen. I think part of growing up with technology (and, for me, attending a high school which focused on 21st-century skills) meant developing the ability to critically judge online content. Young people, many of whom are complaining about this change, have grown up to be digital citizens; I would say that most people have the ability to differentiate between content from various sources. (Perhaps the spread of fake news disproves that statement. But I digress.)

There were widespread negative reactions to the update, with some even threatening to stop using Snapchat because of it. Not everyone, it seems, feels the need to separate content from friends and others.

Facebook’s algorithm update is in a faintly similar vein—they are now prioritizing  “social” content from family and friends, instead of “media” content posted by news organizations (as well as content from businesses and brands). But unlike Snapchat, Facebook hasn’t simply relocated that content to another page on the app. They’ve changed the algorithm so it’s less likely to show up in the first place.

The move is, obviously, a blow to publications who derive traffic from social media. But it’s also unfortunate for consumers. I’m sure some people are glad they won’t be seeing news content on Facebook—but for a lot of people, and especially young people, social media has become a place to consume news. This is the case for me. I have “liked” several news pages on Facebook, but even before this algorithm announcement I noticed that I rarely saw those articles on my feed. Instead, I saw countless memes and videos shared by friends; and when I logged on a few hours later, I would see the exact same content.

It’s interesting to note the timing of Facebook’s decision. It’s been in the works since last year, Mark Zuckerberg said in his post announcing the update. But it also comes at a time when Facebook is under scrutiny for its role in selling ad space to Russians and being a hotbed of fake news and misinformation during the 2016 U.S. election.

This algorithm change could certainly be perceived as a surface-level fix for the issue of fake news: instead of directly addressing the problem so that users are shown reputable news, their algorithm will now show less news overall. In terms of their ongoing fake news issues, this change doesn’t really help anyone. It could even make things worse, since accurate news stories aren’t prioritized to set the record straight; not to mention that friends and family (whose content is prioritized) could still share links to erroneous or fake stories.

As a young person who uses social media on a daily, if not hourly, basis, Facebook’s change isn’t in line with what I want to see on the app. Most of my friends don’t even use Facebook to do more than share funny videos. When I log onto Facebook, I’m not expecting to see updates from friends; I’m expecting to see articles and posts from pages I’ve liked.

In discussing Facebook’s new algorithm with one of my best friends, we realized that, if anything, Facebook could take a leaf out of Snapchat’s book. They could create two separate news feeds; one for content from friends and family, and one for content from media and businesses (and, even then, there would be value in creating further separations since not all content shared by companies meets the same objective, accurate standards adhered to by news companies).

Social media may have originated as an online social sphere for keeping up with friends and family, but it has evolved into a series of multifaceted platforms with a variety of purposes. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are no longer just places to see pictures of a friend’s new dog; they’re places to engage with news about the world (and messages from brands) in a variety of forms, from articles to videos and everything in between.

Separating the “social” from the “media” seems like a reversal of where social media was naturally headed, and that goes for both Facebook and Snapchat’s updates. Perhaps instead of assuming what content people want to be prioritized (or separated), social media platforms could start by asking consumers what content is important to them. Because I think for a lot of us, taking the “media” out of “social media”, or even simply separating the two, is not what we want to see.

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I Got My News Exclusively From Email Newsletters for a Week

As a journalism student, I’ve always been fascinated by the different ways that people consume news. I love talking to people about not only what sources they derive their news from, but also how they get that news. Is it from a print newspaper, or from a Facebook feed? Do they make a daily effort to actively seek out the news, or do they just see it at random intervals? With these considerations in mind, I decided to stage an experiment for myself—I wanted to see what would happen if I changed the way I consumed news for a week. So last Sunday, I logged out the place I most often go to see the news—Twitter—and asked my family to hide the morning newspaper and turn off the news when I walked by the room. Then I made a new Gmail account and signed up for 34 email newsletters.

I ended up with a pretty good variety of newsletters. Although I had a lot of general news updates and politically-focused sources, I also subscribed to newsletters focusing on entertainment, opinion, women’s rights and sports. Mysteriously, the sports newsletter never arrived. (I realized today that I may have forgotten to confirm my subscription. Oops.) 

The main purpose of my week of relying on newsletters for news was really to see if email newsletters are a viable substitute for conventional news, or if they’re more of a supplement to other sources of news. I was curious about the benefits and challenges of relying on email newsletters as a sole source of news. What stories did they prioritize? Did I feel like I was missing out on the news? How much international content was I exposed to? Were breaking news email alerts effective?

A sampling of my inbox from Monday morning.

On Monday morning, the official beginning of my experiment, I woke up to a deluge of emails. From 6:20 a.m. until around 9:00, my inbox steadily filled with morning updates. I read each newsletter in its entirety. My first impression of the newsletters altogether was that it was really nice to read slightly more in-depth explanations of the news, as opposed to shorter tweets. I liked the simplicity of scrolling through a newsletter and having all of the main stories presented to me, instead of searching for them on my busy Twitter feed (which, thanks to Twitter’s algorithm, often doesn’t actually present tweets in a timely, or “newsworthy”, order).

However, in reading about the stories in newsletters, I was only reading the facts. Sure, I could click on the linked articles to read the full story, but I still wasn’t being exposed to the variety of voices and perspectives that I would see on Twitter. This was one of the main pitfalls of relying on email newsletters for my news; I was only seeing what the people writing those newsletters wanted me to see. I was missing out on the conversations surrounding the stories.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 4.45.10 PM.png
A screenshot of a Fox News email alert from Monday morning.

This was especially apparent on Monday when I received an email from Fox News telling me that, according to a poll they had conducted, Doug Jones had a 10 point lead over Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate election. It seemed like a strange reversal from the general consensus of what other newsletters had said that morning. But without being able to rely on social media to show me the conversation around this poll, I had to wait until that evening’s newsletters arrived to hear other perspectives. The Vox Sentences newsletter cleared things up for me—it mentioned Fox’s poll, but also mentioned other polls that had Jones up by nine points. I probably would have seen this “counter point” of sorts earlier, had I been seeking out news on social media.  

On Monday morning, I also received two breaking news alerts (one from CNN and one from Fox News) about the bombing in New York City. The breaking news alerts continued sporadically throughout the day—with less frequency than I expected, in all honesty. I used to subscribe to several breaking news app alerts, and I felt like my phone was always buzzing with these notifications. The email alerts seemed less frequent, but I still felt like I was “in the know,” so to speak.

Monday ended with a false sense of security—I thought I was in a good place heading into Tuesday, AKA the day of the Alabama Senate election. But after Tuesday morning’s newsletters, I waited the entire afternoon for an update on the election. I knew that, had I been on Twitter, I’d be bombarded with poll numbers and statistics and commentary and opinion. Because I’m so interested in politics, I wanted to have lots of information and alerts in the run-up to the results. But at 6:30 on Tuesday night, my dad was telling me he knew the results of the exit polls and I was refreshing my email inbox to no avail.

While I was waiting for an update on the election, I realized that newsletter authors must assume that readers are also getting news from other sources. Newsletters don’t necessary bill themselves as a complete substitute for typical news sources. In my mind, newsletters are designed for people who are too busy to spend a lot of time searching for the news; so maybe for this reason, it makes sense that they would only send alerts when the results were announced, and not in the run-up. They probably didn’t want to send too many alerts, I thought.

But I was desperate to know what was happening. My family was watching the news, seeing live updates, and I was sitting on my bed, a forgotten novel on my lap as I continued to refresh my email inbox. At 10:07 p.m., Fox News sent an alert about the Mueller investigation. Jones must be up in the polls, I joked to myself. At 10:25 p.m., I was scolding myself for not subscribing to more breaking news alerts. Finally, at 10:33 p.m., a TIME breaking news alert (which I didn’t even know I was subscribed to) told me that Doug Jones won. Finally able to stop refreshing my email inbox (although a few more alerts followed the first one), I wrote a note to myself: “I really wish I had Twitter to see everyone’s opinions on this unexpected and big moment. People will still be talking about this next Sunday… right?”

Doug Jones and his wife, Louise, at Jones’s election party. (Photo: John Bazemore/AP via Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Wednesday morning newsletters were filled with coverage of the election. I especially liked Politico’s Playbook newsletter—their analysis of Jones’s win looked more at the bigger picture, which was the kind of content I wanted to see. I wasn’t surprised that almost every newsletter made Jones’s win the lead story that morning, although from a journalistic perspective I was interested in their editorial decisions on this. Some newsletters framed it as a victory for the Democrats, especially moving into the 2018 midterm elections, while others focused on the loss for Republicans, and particularly the impact for Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.

I was also curious to see which newsletters mentioned net neutrality this morning, seeing as the vote was to be on Thursday. In my mind, it was a big story, and I thought the format of most newsletters would allow them to explain the topic in a way that might make it more accessible to readers who may not otherwise understand it. Not many newsletters mentioned it until the vote actually happened, though, which surprised me.

Throughout the rest of the week, I became more accustomed to relying on newsletters. I came to expect a full inbox in the morning and at night, and random updates throughout the day. A lot of the time, I felt like I was missing out on the news because I couldn’t just get an update anytime I wanted it—I had to wait until the next newsletter appeared, and even then there wasn’t a guarantee that the topic I was interested in would be mentioned (as was the case for net neutrality). Still, I felt generally well-informed, and I was able to have conversations with friends and family about the news without feeling like I was missing out on anything major that was happening.

By this point in the week, I was well-accustomed to relying on email newsletters. (Photo: G. Crescoli/Unsplash)

Before the week really started out, I wrote down some predictions, including that “I’m probably going to miss a lot of local, and even national, news.” I was 100 per cent correct about this one. It was partly my fault, having only subscribed to one Canadian-based newsletter; but it made me wonder about the market for hyper-local, community-based newsletters, especially in an age where local print newspapers are fast dying out. I really only saw Canadian stories in The Globe and Mail’s newsletter—and even in that, I would say the majority of the stories were about provinces other than my own. Again, I could have subscribed to newsletter updates from the major city newspapers; but in terms of my local city and surrounding communities, I certainly lost out on coverage of those stories.

As of today, I have officially been relying on email newsletters as my sole source of news for a week. Overall, I feel pretty well-informed. I’d say that newsletters are a great supplement to my typical news consumption—they’re an especially fitting addition to getting news from social media and digital news apps, and they’re a refreshing break from print newspapers. But my week was not without its challenges, like waiting for an update on the Alabama Senate election results.

Now that my experiment is over, I actually want to subscribe to more newsletters to try to cross those gaps of more Canadian or local stories. I’m not going to continue to read every single email that pops up in my inbox, though. I’ll continue to subscribe to all of the newsletters, but I’ll be a bit more selective in what I read—some newsletters that stood out to me this week were Vox Sentences and Politico Playbook, so I will definitely keep reading those.

If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s that there’s not one “best” way to consume news. You can get morning updates, evening updates, national updates, sports updates, political updates—you name it, there’s a newsletter for it. I’m glad I took this chance to change up my news consumption; but now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go log back onto Twitter.

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How I Remember

I walk down the street on my way to class, a flood of people wearing red poppies on their lapels. There’s a chill in the air today—a November whisper, a warning of the winter to come. Trying times don’t always come with such warnings; sometimes people are thrust into situations where, unbeknownst to them, circumstances have conspired to become a reckoning challenge.

This was the case, I think, for the brave soldiers who fought for our freedom in the two World Wars. Certainly, some knew what they were getting into, but in the muddy trenches, in the cold night, when November whispered that December was right around the corner… I have to think that that many soldiers didn’t expect that the conditions would be what they were. Still, they fought, and today my country is better for it. When  look at the sea of poppies around me, I find myself reflecting on the sacrifices that were made by men and women long before I was born.

As I walk to class, the safety I feel, the freedom I enjoy, the country I am proud to live in—I remind myself that these things were hard won. It is tantalizingly easy to take these things for granted, to forget that blood was shed and lives were lost. I see the sea of poppies, and I remind myself to be thankful for the things that are all too easy to forget were fought for and earned.

I think about the deployments, the young lives lost in the brutality of war. The families back home. The friends on the battlefield. I think about what those soldiers were fighting for, the fierce belief in freedom that they must have had. I think about those things, and I am infinitely grateful for the bravery and sacrifices of the people who fought for my freedom. I think about these things and I remember because, really, how could you forget?

Two years ago, I sat down in my high school library on a rainy day and wrote a letter of sorts to the soldiers who served (and continue to serve) for my country. Intermixing lyrics from Adele’s Hello, I wrote about the fact that, “While I can’t remember the atrocities of war because I wasn’t there, I do know how it feels to live in a place where the sacrifices and courage of soldiers over a hundred years ago has led to my freedom.”

How do I remember? I write.

How do I remember? I give thanks.

How do I remember? I love—my family, my friends, my freedom, my country.

I remember because it seems irresponsible and impossible not to remember. A better question, perhaps, is why I remember. And here is why: because, after everything that the brave soldiers went through, how could we do anything but remember, appreciate and be thankful?

I think about this as I walk through the sea of poppies in the cool November air. I am able to live my life today because my freedom was hard earned. Lives were lost in order for me to live mine the way I am lucky to today. For this, I vow to never forget—today, on Remembrance Day, and every other day, too.

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Reasons to Hope One Year After the Election

In my memories, the sky was grey and cloudy on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016. I can picture, clear as day, walking through my campus; listening to people around me talk about the results of the election and looking up at the impending storm. That is, of course, only my recollectionin reality, the morning of Nov. 9 may have been cloudless and sunny (through some research it seems like the day was overcast, though perhaps not the “moment before the storm” darkness that I imagined).

Why do I remember that morning in that way? Pathetic fallacy, I suppose. Nov. 9, 2016, was a dark day, emotions-wise, for a lot of people, so in my mind I’ve equated the emotions and the weather.

I’ve written before about the moment I found out that Donald Trump won the electionI heard loud, bewildered shouting in the middle of the night, and assumed the outcome that was a growing possibility had turned into reality. In hindsight, I wish I had stayed up to watch the full coverage of the election, even though it crept into the darkest hours of the night and then the early hours of morning (and even though I had a journalism assignment due the next day).

At the time, I think very few people had an inkling of what was about to happen. When the world woke up on Nov. 9, on the morning I remember to be grey, a lot of us asked the same thing: What now?


As I wrote in my post after the election, I had been ready to write an article about the first female president of the United States. Accepting not just that I wouldn’t be writing that article, but that I would not be seeing that realityfor at least four years, and likely longerwas disheartening, to say the least. But it was not only Hillary Clinton’s loss that made Nov. 9 difficult; it was who she had lost to, and the policies and rhetoric that were about to take centre stage in the Oval Office.

Watching Clinton’s concession speech made me cry but I was determined to move forward with an attitude of hope. “I looked at my reflection in the mirror and promised myself that I was going to keep fighting for what I believe in, and supporting others who are doing the same,” I wrote.

That bleary morning turned into another night, and then another day. Time passed. In January, Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I won’t list everything that has happened since then because, unless you disconnected your cable and Internet after the election, you likely know what has happened next. There were, in short, a lot of reasons to be concerned, fearful and angry.


But there were also reasons to be hopeful. One of the best examples of this was the Women’s March the day after Trump’s Inauguration (pictured above). The sheer number of women and men marching in solidarity both in the U.S. and around the world was nothing short of incredible. The message of the marches was loud and clear: Trump can try to limit womens’ rights, but women will not be intimidated by this—they will fight for what is right.

The ACLU was also a strong force in standing up for equality, freedom and human rights. “President Trump has been in office for 42 weeks. We’ve sued him and his administration 56 times,” the organization tweeted yesterday.

Another source of hope came two nights ago. It was Election Night in America all over again. I had an eerie sense of déjà vu as I curled up on my couch and watched the news. The music, the graphics, the anticipation building up to the results. I allowed myself a smile when the journalists said certain races were too close to call, thinking of the failure of many to accurately call the election last year.

But the feelings of déjà vu ended when the results starting coming in. It wasn’t just that Democrats secured two major victories in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jerseyit was there were historic wins for representation and equality.

Danica Roem, an openly transgender woman was elected to the Virginia state legislature. Not only this, but the incumbent Republican she beat, Robert Marshall, actually called himself the state’s “chief homophobe” and previously introduced a controversial “bathroom bill.” Roem had an incredibly classy response to a question about her predecessor. “I don’t talk about my constituents. Bob is my constituent now,” she said. (Mic. Drop.)

Virginia also elected its first two Latina delegates. Another notable victory included Ravi Bhalla, who is Sikh, being elected mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey (interestingly, Bhalla has called himself “Everything Trump hates”). He is the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey. Vi Lyles was elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, the first black woman to hold that post. The list goes onyou can read more about the historic wins in this Vox article.

Today marks one year since the morning many of us woke up worried about the future. There are, of course, still reasons to be worried. But there are also a lot of reasons to be hopeful. In the year since Trump won the election, people looking to make their voices heard have mobilized into movements. On Tuesday, voters showed a rejection of Trump’s rhetoric in favour of acceptance of the very people who Trump speaks out against. The newly elected political representatives now have the power to create real, positive change in America.

This is progress. This is a reason to be hopeful. And it is a reason to keep speaking out and speaking up as we continue to live in the world that was made a reality on this day last year.

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We Cannot Stop The Push for Gun Control

If you think there’s a kind of cruel cycle playing out in America right now, you’re not alone. It starts with a horrific, mass shooting. People call for better gun control. Nothing happens. Another mass shooting happens. And the cycle repeats itself, causing the loss of more innocent lives at the hands of someone who was too easily able to access a deadly weapon.

This week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, which saw 59 people dead and over 500 injured, was the worst in American history. In June 2016, 49 people were killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. In December 2012, 28 children and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. 

After mass shootings, satire site The Onion publishes the same article with the same headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Happens Regularly.” Although they change the details and location of the story, it’s the same every time—because after every mass shooting, a conversation ensues about the need for better gun control laws but little, if anything, ends up happening. 

Barack Obama spoke passionately about the need for gun control, especially in the wake of Sandy Hook. But he had to use executive action to make progress because of the Republican congress. Barely a week after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, his new administration was already revoking certain gun control policies set out by Obama.

It’s unthinkable, really, that after young children were shot and killed, legislation making it harder to purchase guns still couldn’t pass. Even in addition to the terrible mass shootings, there are examples of gun violence every day in America. Mass shootings (defined as an incident in which four or more people are killed, which can include the shooter) average out to more than one every day in America. 

In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, Vox published an article containing 17 infographics that paint an eye-opening picture of America’s problem with guns. Two infographics tell an important story: that the states that have more guns have more deaths caused by guns; and that the states that have tighter laws around gun-control have less deaths caused by guns.

Want more proof that gun control works? Check out the example set by Australia—the government banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms after a shooting where 35 people were killed in 1996. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since (again, a mass shooting is defined as an incident where four or more die). To summarize: if laws make it harder for people to get guns, then there are less guns out there and less people die from guns. It’s not that complicated, except some people make it out to be.

Some say that the debate around gun control is a debate around the second amendment; the right to bear arms. But at its core, the debate around gun control is a debate about people’s lives—the tragic events in Las Vegas, along with all of the other examples in American history, are proof of this. When people attending a concert, enjoying a night out with friends or going to school are targeted, injured and killed, gun control is a question of life or death.

I’m 19 and there have been far too many mass shootings in my time on this Earth. I’m not American, but I don’t want young people in the U.S. to grow up in a place where they have to be fearful for their safety. I’ve had discussions with friends where we talk about the fact that, because of shootings in public places, we’re always conscious of checking emergency exits in crowded areas. It’s good to be vigilant, of course,  but I don’t think anyone should have to be concerned about something like gun violence when there are legitimate options on the table to reduce its prevalence.

In the days since the Vegas shooting, there have been conversations about gun control. Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea for action; social media has been awash with people fed up with the lack of anti-gun legislation. We need to leverage the sadness, anger and frustration we feel after the senseless violence in Las Vegas, and we need to demand action and accountability from America’s elected leaders. Thoughts and prayers are wonderful, but they are not enough when people are dying and it is in the power of the American government to prevent their deaths.

Here are five ways you can get involved in reducing gun violence | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’ | Header image source


Today I Woke Up

Like most of the world, today I woke up to the news of an incomprehensible tragedy in Las Vegas. A man with at least 10 rifles fired, repeatedly, from the 32nd floor of a hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Over 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Today I woke up and was quietly stunned and wholeheartedly sad as I read about what had happened. As I went about my morning with a heavy heart, I searched for the words to say. Because what do you say, after so many innocent lives have been lost?

I realized in the midst of thinking about how to grasp all of this that I had already written what I was trying to say. Two years ago on a day where two mass shootings occurred, I wrote the piece I shared below. I thought it was worth sharing again today because seven billion people woke up to the news of a horrific shooting this morning and, as I wrote in my older post: “Tonight, 7 billion people will go to sleep. Some will have had lost the people they cared about most, some will sob at the empty bed of the victim of a senseless act, and some will have woken from a nightmare to find themselves in a hospital bed. What kind of world will they wake up to?”

It is my hope that soon, we will all wake up to a world where American leaders and legislators are working hard to create stronger gun control laws to prevent something like this from ever happening again.


Today I woke up snuggled in my warm duvet. I jumped out of bed when I realized that I had woken up almost half an hour later than I had intended. I quickly checked my phone, packed my backpack, threw on some clothes, ate breakfast, and hopped in the car to go to school. I had a business test and when the final bell rung I walked home with my sister and started on my homework.

Today someone woke up in Savannah, Georgia in the early morning because their telephone was ringing. Still half asleep, they answered it. The voice on the other end was crisp and male. It was a doctor from the hospital — where one of their loved ones had been admitted after being shot in the street.

Today someone else woke up and got ready for work at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California…

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Changing the Way We Look at Ambitious Females

If you want proof that I’m an ambitious person, you should take a look at my day planner. I like to try to stretch the potential of the hours in my days; I have a ton of goals, and every day I pencil in mini-steps that I can take each day to achieve those goals. Both my overall plans and daily actions are, in their own ways, indicative of my ambitious nature. I don’t say this to brag; my ambitiousness is something of which I am proud. Ambitiousness as a whole, however, is not always appreciated by society, especially when the person is an ambitious woman.

Reese Witherspoon recently wrote about this in an essay for Glamour titled “We have to change the idea that a woman with ambition is out only for herself.” She was asked to write the essay after she spoke at Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year gala. There, she asked a bold question: “What if all women were encouraged to be a bit more ambitious?”

Reese Witherspoon herself is a perfect example of an ambitious woman; as she writes in the essay, five years ago she created a production company “to create more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes.” She also started a multimedia company after the U.S. election to listen to and gather stories from women across America. These projects have a meaningful goal: to amplify the often-unheard voices and stories of women. They are, by their very nature, ambitious projects. But Reese is an ambitious person, and in her essay she drives home the point that ambition should be a trait which is celebrated, not admonished.

Around the world, there are systemic obstacles which prevent ambitious women from being able to accomplish their goals and dreams. Not being able to go to school, being forced into child marriages, not being given equal opportunities to be CEOS and executives are all examples of such obstacles. It is ambitious to seek to change these issues, but there are determined people around the world doing just that. If it were not for ambitious women, for example, the women’s suffrage movement would likely not have existed. Despite obstacles, ambitious women have changed the world in the past and continue to change it today.

I think parents have a large role to play in fostering ambition in their daughters; mine certainly did for me. I have no doubt that I inherited my ambitiousness from my parents, and whatever wasn’t passed down genetically I have learned from their constant support of my endeavours and goals. Thanks to my parent’s encouragement, I was raised with big dreams, and the belief that I could one day achieve them. Reese wrote in her Glamour essay, “As moms, we have a unique opportunity to keep changing this attitude that ambition is an ugly quality in women… We have to do our part to change the idea that a woman with passion and ambition is out only for herself. So talk to your kids about ambition as a positive trait in men and women.”

Even those of us who are not parents are still role models to other girls. We can all support and inspire females; by not laughing at, or discouraging, their career goals; by encouraging them to have big dreams for their lives; by teaching them that they can have a real and powerfully positive impact on the world.

Reese’s essay struck a chord with me because it reminded me that, while I am fortunate to have been raised to be ambitious, not all girls and women are taught that having ambition is okay. And really, being ambitious is more than okayit is amazing. It is life-changing. It is world-changing. So go forth; be ambitious, and inspire ambition in others. The world will be a better place because of it.

What do you think about Reese Witherspoon’s essay? | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’ | Header image credit Mingle Media TV Network/Wikimedia Commons 

Look What You Made Me Do

“I don’t like your little games,” Taylor Swift sings in the opening of her brand new single Look What You Made Me Do. She continues, “Don’t like your tilted stage. The role you made me play. Of the fool, no, I don’t like you.” I had speculated that this single, the first off her new album Reputation, dropping November 10th, would be like this; different, dark and directed at the people who she perceives to have wronged her in the past few years.

What I didn’t expect, though, was how vengeful the song would be (maybe I didn’t read closely enough into the snake images posted on her Instagram). The “you” in the song seems ambiguous; it could be Kanye West, who toured on a “tilted stage,” or Kim Kardashian, who leaked a phone call between Taylor and Kanye over a dispute about a lyric in one of Kanye’s songs. It could also refer to Katy Perry, who also publicly feuded with Taylor over dancers leaving her tour. But “you” could also mean a more conglomerate group; the media in general, perhaps, or even the general public. Look what all of these people say about me, look at the hate that I endure, she could be singing; I had no choice but to fire back in this song. Look what you made me do.

I have to wonder: does it matter who the song is about? To many people, the answer is yes. I suppose I’m undecided. I don’t want to enjoy the song because it’s adding fuel to the fire of Taylor’s celebrity fights. I want to enjoy it because it sends the message that if, for whatever reason, you feel knocked down by something, you can use that as motivation to come back and be stronger than ever. This is embodied in the lyrics, “But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time. Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.” To me, the entire premise of the song is that her past struggles have “made” her come back and release what already looks to be a successful single.

I worry that for young Taylor Swift fans, though, that message could be misconstrued. Because, following those emboldening lines about rising from the dead are these lyrics: “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red underlined.” Those words seem to suggest that if you don’t like someone, you should publicly announce it and act in retaliation; get revenge instead of trying to come to a mutual agreement and heal your wounds. I hope that listeners, especially young ones, can look past the drama and bad blood (see what I did there?) and see that the song has an empowering message.

But maybe that is the point—that many members of the media and many people in society simply can’t look past the drama. We say we don’t care, but we can’t look away from the headlines, the gossip and the snarky social media posts. Taylor’s drama with Kanye, Kim and Katy would almost certainly not have reached the levels it did had it not played out in the news for everyone to watch. And that damage, real or perceived, to Taylor’s “good girl” image, may very well be the driving force behind this single and this new era of music for Taylor.

Even in the songs from 1989, her last album, she seemed willing to challenge that label of the innocent, golden girl. I wonder now if she’s throwing it out the window entirely. I’m inclined to believe her when she sings, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh ‘cause she’s dead!” In each of her albums so far, Taylor has experimented with new sounds and new themes. She successfully crossed the line from country to pop, shedding her skin like the snake on her Instagram. Taylor Swift is no stranger at reinventing herself, doing so in the public eye, therefore altering her—wait for it—reputation.

Still, despite the fact that she consistently sheds her skin, so to speak, the theme of rising above negativity or hatred is nothing new for Taylor Swift. Take, for example, the first single from her last album. In Shake It Off, she sings about “what people say”that she stays out too late, has nothing in her brain and “goes on too many dates” but “can’t make them stay.” She counters these claims by singing that the haters are, well, gonna hate; and that she’s just gonna shake it off.

An even earlier version of this comes from Taylor’s song Mean from her album Speak Now. In that song, she hits back at a music critic who said that she couldn’t sing. The chorus goes, “Someday, I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean. Someday, I’ll be big enough that you can’t hit me and all you’re ever gonna be is mean. Why you gotta be so mean?”

Those songs, though, seem to fight back against people who are just plain mean, not people with whom you’ve been engaged in a two-way argument. So does the song send the message that if you are fighting with someone, you should publicly declare your dislike for them and make it clear that you’re seeking revenge? Or does it send the message that you can rise above actions that hurt you and be successful despite what you’ve endured?

It’s open to interpretation, really; but one thing is for certain. If you don’t like this song, Taylor Swift isn’t interested. After all, “you” made her do this—and I have a feeling that this single is just the first nail in the coffin. Welcome to the Reputation era. Enjoying your stay so far?

What are your thoughts on the single? | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’ | Header image credits Getty/Gary Miller/Film Magic