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What the heck does it mean to be "woke"?

assembled by Pat McNees

 

I advise everybody to be a little careful when they go down there. Stay woke. Keep your eyes open.” ~ Lead Belly, "Scottsboro Boys," 1938

 

"DeSantis engineered and recently signed into law the “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act, a title that precisely captures what the bill’s architects aimed to do: stop people in Florida from speaking out in ways that challenge racism and other kinds of discrimination." ~ Ishena Robinson, NAACP

 

"I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I'm gon' stay woke. And I'm gon' help him wake up other black folk." ~ Barry Beckham in his 1972 play Garvey Lives!

 


The Origin of Woke : William Melvin Kelley Is the ‘Woke’ Godfather We Never Acknowledged (Elijah C. Watson, Okay Player) In the first of his three-part Origin of Woke series, Elijah Watson highlights William Melvin Kelley, the Harlem author credited with coining the word.
---The Origin of Woke: How the Death of Woke Led to the Birth of Cancel Culture (Elijah Watson)

"Most people who are woke ain't calling themselves woke. Most people who are woke are agonizing inside. They're too busy being depressed to call themselves woke."

      "This is what Georgia Anne Muldrow — the woman who introduced woke to Erykah Badu who then introduced it to the world — told me almost two years ago. Throughout the 2010s, Muldrow's declaration became more declarative as woke became ubiquitous in the world. From "I'd stay woke" to "I stay woke"; "I stay woke" to "Stay woke"; and "Stay woke" to "Woke." As the phrase changed so did what it represented. With "stay woke," there was the implication that it was a continuous action — that one isn't only constantly challenging the injustices and transgressions of the world, but themselves, too. "Woke," on its own, is nothing more than a descriptor — a way to signal one's social awareness....Now used as a pejorative, woke has given way to online phenomenons like "call-out culture" and "cancel culture," both of which have also been met with derision. Despite its root function — to protect and give a voice to marginalized people and communities — woke is now seen as a detriment to societal progress.'

---The Origin of Woke: How Erykah Badu and Georgia Anne Muldrow Sparked The “Stay Woke” Era. Muldrow: "To be woke is to be black.  Woke is definitely a black experience — woke is if someone put a burlap sack on your head, knocked you out, and put you in a new location and then you come to and understand where you are ain't home and the people around you ain't your neighbors. They're not acting in a neighborly fashion, they're the ones who conked you on your head. You got kidnapped here and then you got punked out of your own language, everything. That's woke — understanding what your ancestors went through. Just being in touch with the struggle that our people have gone through here and understanding we've been fighting since the very day we touched down here. There was no year where the fight wasn't going down."

• If You're Woke You Dig It; No mickey mouse can be expected to follow today's Negro idiom without a hip assist. (William Melvin Kelley, NY Times, 5-20-62, viewable in the Times Machine, but "woke" appears only in the title.)

A history of “wokeness” (Aja Romano, Vox, 10-9-20) Stay woke: How a Black activist watchword got co-opted in the culture war. In the six years since the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, “woke” has evolved into a single-word summation of leftist political ideology, centered on social justice politics and critical race theory. This framing of “woke” is bipartisan: It’s used as a shorthand for political progressiveness by the left, and as a denigration of leftist culture by the right. On the left, to be “woke” means to identify as a staunch social justice advocate who’s abreast of contemporary political concerns — or to be perceived that way. On the right, “woke” — like its cousin “canceled” — bespeaks “political correctness” gone awry, and the term itself is usually used sarcastically.

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Woke Is Now A Racial Slur Thanks to White People (Allison Wiltz, Writers and Editors of Color Magazine, 11-10-21) "Keep in mind White people can never be "woke." Thinking they can is part of the problem. Becoming "woke" is a unique experience for Black people because we live in a nation that constantly gaslights us about the racism we see in our communities and experience first hand. Waking up means rejecting the false narratives and overcoming the psychological shackles of White supremacy."
Wikipedia on "Woke" 'Woke is an adjective derived from African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) meaning "alert to racial prejudice and discrimination". Beginning in the 2010s, it came to encompass a broader awareness of social inequalities such as racial injustice, sexism, and denial of LGBT rights.'
Earning the ‘Woke’ Badge (Amanda Hess, Amanda Hess, NY Times Magazine, 4-24-16) "These days, it has become almost fashionable for people to telegraph just how aware they have become. And this uneasy performance has increasingly been advertised with one word: “woke.” Think of “woke” as the inverse of “politically correct.” If “P.C.” is a taunt from the right, a way of calling out hypersensitivity in political discourse, then “woke” is a back-pat from the left, a way of affirming the sensitive. It means wanting to be considered correct, and wanting everyone to know just how correct you are.

The “Woke History” Wars Emma Green with Tyler Foggatt (New Yorker podcast, 3-8-23) discusses a major debate in academia about whether contemporary politics are shaping our understanding of the past too much.
The Roots Of Wokeness (Andrew Sullivan, The Weekly Dish, 7-31-20) It's time we looked more closely at the philosophy behind the movement. 'There’s no conspiracy: we all act unknowingly in perpetuating systems of thought that oppress other groups. To be “woke” is to be “awake” to these invisible, self-reinforcing discourses, and to seek to dismantle them—in ourselves and others.'

 

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Amazon vs Book Publishers (Do Writers Win or Lose?)

Published initially 11/14/2014; updated 1-5-24


Everything and Less’ Review: Fiction in Prime Time (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal, 11-5-21) Amazon has transformed the way we read books—and, according to Mark McGurl, Stanford professor and literary critic and author of Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon, how they’re written. “Most literary studies focus their insights on the writers they consider the best, or the most significant artistically. But Amazon, being primarily a retail platform, doesn’t care about the content of books, only about how they sell and to whom. So under its hegemony the books suddenly elevated in stature belong to the traditionally “down-market sub-basement” commercial genres. In other words, like a private eye or tabloid journalist, Mr. McGurl spends his time digging through trash.”
      “In the Age of Amazon, all fiction is genre fiction. Dividing contemporary literature into a vast array of searchable genre categories, each with its own best-seller list, Amazon is the host of a genre system conceived as an engine of infinitely infoliating permutations of objects of narrative desire.” The most popular of those categories are post-apocalyptic fantasy sagas and romance novels, and Mr.McGurl devotes interpretive space to exemplars from each: Hugh Howey’s “Wool” series and E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. These books are also notable for having been originally self-published, and it is through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform that the company has shown its true service-oriented ethos. Here writers can target increasingly niche customer wishes, and Mr.McGurl has a funny chapter on the explosion of fetish lit, like Adult Baby Diaper Lover erotica, “the quintessential Amazonian genre of literature.”          See also McGurl's The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing

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Authors and Booksellers Urge Justice Dept. to Investigate Amazon (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 8-16-23) The online retailer’s size and sway affects the free exchange of ideas, the groups argue. The Biden administration has stepped up enforcement of antitrust policies. On Wednesday, the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank, along with the Authors Guild and the American Booksellers Association, sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, calling on the government to curb Amazon’s “monopoly in its role as a seller of books to the public.”
       "The groups are pressing the Justice Department to investigate not only Amazon’s size as a bookseller, but also its sway over the book market — especially its ability to promote certain titles on its site and bury others, said Barry Lynn, the executive director of the Open Markets Institute, a research and advocacy group focused on strengthening antimonopoly policies.
       "What we have is a situation in which the power of a single dominant corporation is warping, in the aggregate, the type of books that we’re reading,” Lynn said in an interview. “This kind of power concentrated in a democracy is not acceptable.”

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Is Amazon Changing the Novel? (Parul Seghal, New Yorker, 11-1-21) In the new literary landscape, readers are customers, writers are service providers, and books are expected to offer instant gratification. "Amazon—which, as its founder, Jeff Bezos, likes to point out, is named for the river that is not only the world’s largest but larger than the next five largest rivers combined—controlled almost three-quarters of new-adult-book sales online and almost half of all new-book sales in 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unlike Mudie’s, it’s also a publisher, with sixteen book imprints...
      "The social-media site Goodreads, purchased by Amazon in 2013, hosts more than a hundred million registered users and, McGurl ventures, may be “the richest repository of the leavings of literary life ever assembled, exceeded only by the mass of granular data sent back to home base from virtually every Kindle device in the world.”

      But what McGurl considers the “most dramatic intervention into literary history” is yet another Amazon division, Kindle Direct Publishing (K.D.P.); it allows writers to bypass traditional gatekeepers and self-publish their work for free, with Amazon taking a significant chunk of any proceeds....

      "The K.D.P. platform pays the author by the number of pages read, which creates a strong incentive for cliffhangers early on, and for generating as many pages as possible as quickly as possible. The writer is exhorted to produce not just one book or a series but something closer to a feed—what McGurl calls a “series of series.” 

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Amazon to shut its bookstores and other shops as its grocery chain expands (Jeffrey Dastin, Reuters, 3-2-22) Amazon.com Inc plans to "close all 68 of its brick-and-mortar bookstores, pop-ups and shops carrying toys and home goods in the United States and United Kingdom, ending some of its longest-running retail experiments. The news marks a turning point for a company that began as an online bookseller and helped drive established rivals such as Borders to bankruptcy.
     "But the company's innovations were not enough to counter the march toward online shopping that Amazon itself had set off. Its "physical stores" revenue - a mere 3% of Amazon's $137 billion in sales last quarter, largely reflective of consumer spending at its Whole Foods subsidiary - has often failed to keep pace with growth in the retailer's other businesses.
      "Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said internet-savvy Amazon was right to forgo the niche market of brick-and-mortar book shoppers, as bad a match as electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) opening gas stations."

 

Amazon’s Toll Road: How the Tech Giant Funds Its Monopoly Empire by Exploiting Small Businesses (Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, December 2021) "One of the most striking measures of Amazon’s monopoly power is the extraordinary amount of money that it’s able to extract from the independent businesses that rely on its site to reach customers. In this report, we find that, over the last two years, Amazon’s revenue from the fees it levies on third-party sellers has more than doubled. In 2019, Amazon pocketed $60 billion in seller fees.This year, its take will soar to $121 billion, our new research finds....
     "Amazon’s dominance of online retail means that small businesses have little choice but to rely on its site to reach consumers. This report finds that Amazon is exploiting its position as a gatekeeper to impose steep and growing fees on third-party sellers. Even as these exorbitant fees bankrupt sellers, they are generating huge profits for Amazon, a fact that the tech giant conceals in its financial reports. These profits are not only the spoils of Amazon’s monopoly power. They are the essential fuel that feeds its market-domination strategies, enabling it to absorb massive, predatory losses designed to lock-in market control and fund breakneck expansion."

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What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore? (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 12-3-21) A lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland "offers a glimpse into Amazon’s dominance and perhaps its vulnerability. Amazon’s online store has surpassed Walmart, making it the largest retailer outside China. By delivering essentials and luxuries to those stuck at home during the pandemic, it helped many people navigate a bleak moment....It is one of the few companies valued at more than a trillion dollars. For all that success, however, Amazon is under pressure from many directions....
     "There are sellers like Mr. Boland, who say they are suffering from the Wild West atmosphere on the site; regulators, who are taking a closer look at Amazon’s power; unhappy warehouse employees, who would like a better deal; and lawmakers, who want Amazon to disclose more about its third-party sellers. There are also the devious sellers themselves, whom Amazon says it is having a hard time eradicating....
      "The bookstore is the oldest part of Amazon, still central to its identity but no longer to its bottom line. It feels like where every Amazon shopping experience could be heading — immense, full of ads and unvetted reviews, ruled by algorithms and third-party sellers whose identities can be elusive.... “Should we care as a society that a single firm controls half of our most precious cultural commodity and its automation isn’t working right?” asked Christopher Sagers, the author of “Antitrust: Examples & Explanations.”... Offering tens of millions of items to hundreds of millions of customers prevents any human touch — but opens up a lot of space for advertising, and for confusion and duplicity....Mr. Boland said: “Amazon has done a great job of expanding the marketplace for books. It’s too bad they’ve decided not to police their own platform, because it’s leading to all sorts of trouble.”Amazon acknowledges that some third-party sellers bring problems, including fraud, counterfeiting and abuse." ...Amazon gives writers and publishers broad latitude to sell anything, including the mediocre and the misleading. The store’s logic has always been that the good work will rise and the bad will fall. In the meantime, however, some readers get suckered."

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People Now Spend More at Amazon Than at Walmart (Karen Weise and Michael Corkery, Technology, NY Times, 8-17-21) Proof that the online future has arrived: The biggest e-commerce company outside China has unseated the biggest brick-and-mortar seller. Propelled in part by surging demand during the pandemic, people spent more than $610 billion on Amazon over the 12 months ending in June... Indeed, the company’s delivery (many items land on doorsteps in a day or two) and wide selection first drew customers to online shopping, and it has kept them buying more there ever since.... “Walmart has been around for so long, and now Amazon comes around with a different model and replaces them as a No. 1.”

 

Amazon’s Importance to US Book Sales Keeps Increasing—for Better or Worse (Jane Friedman draws from material first published in The Hot Sheet, 9-23-2020) Since Hot Sheet started publishing in 2015, Amazon has changed, grown, and dominated more than any other company in the US book publishing industry. Among points discussed (quoting roughly from headings): Of all the writer-focused programs Amazon has launched in the last decade; only one is still active: Kindle Singles, an ebook subscription service which requires exclusivity, has become essential for some genre fiction authors. Amazon could be making it difficult for other publishers to break out new novelists. Amazon has doubled down on its own traditional publishing program, Amazon Publishing (APub). Amazon creates its own bestseller lists and also dominates its own Kindle bestseller list. Definitely worth reading (and The Hot Sheet is worth subscribing, if you're deeply interesting in publishing).

 

Amazon Publishes Books by Top Authors, and Rivals Fret (Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Wall Street Journal, 1-14-2020) "Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell are among the blue-chip writers whose books the tech giant is not just selling but publishing. It was a surprising move because it means his new books likely won't appear in retail stores, which generally boycott Amazon-published titles. But Mr. Koontz is banking on Amazon’s vast retail machine to get his work to readers, whether in physical or digital formats."

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A lot has changed in book publishing in the last ten years (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files, 7-23-19) "At the beginning of this decade, Amazon Publishing had ideas about signing up big authors. But they were stymied then by the pretty stubborn refusal of the rest of the supply chain to stock books published by their biggest retail competitor.
"But that was when Amazon sales were about 20-25 percent of the market. Now they’re probably over half, and well above that for many books. Whether they will successfully sell Koontz beyond Amazon remains to be seen, but their no-middleperson structure enables them to pay far more of each retail dollar in royalties, so half the sales or more can generate more income to the author than a publisher without its own retailing capability can deliver selling a larger number of units. If this is a sign of things to come, and it is hard to see why it wouldn’t be, some profound changes might be just around the corner."

 

The Week’s Big Story: Amazon Publishing on Wooing Dean Koontz (Porter Anderson, Publishing Perspectives, 7-26-19)
Amazon To Open Hundreds Of Brick-And-Mortar Bookstores (Pavithra Mohan, Fast Company, 2-2-16) Amazon, the online retailer that killed off so many independent bookshops, is getting ready to launch its own brick-and-mortar book chain. According to the Wall Street Journal, the CEO of a major mall operator, General Growth Properties, revealed on Tuesday that Amazon intends to launch hundreds of bookstores.
Why Amazon's Rumored "Bookstores" Probably Won't Be What You Think (Rich Bellis, Fast Company, 2-3-16) If Amazon does expand its physical retail footprint, don’t expect it to focus exclusively or even primarily on books. It may see physical locations as (among other things) more akin to Apple Stores, where it can showcase the hardware it sells online.

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Meet the Guy Behind Amazon’s Secret Retail Store Plans (Jason Del Rey, re/code, 2-3-16) The man behind the Kindle is leading Amazon’s project to create the retail stores of the future. And bookstores are just the beginning. These are two of the new details Re/code has uncovered about Amazon’s plans for expansion into physical retail.
Amazon Plans Hundreds of Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores, Mall CEO Says (Greg Bensinger, WSJ, 2-2-16) mazon Plans Hundreds of Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores, Mall CEO Says

In the following pieces about a dispute among them, Amazon and book publishers take turns being the bad guy. Authors, read these often excellent arguments for and against book publishers, Amazon, and others engaged in this battle for market power and tell us what you think!

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About that police raid on a weekly Kansas newspaper, The Marion Record

The Aug. 11 searches of the Marion County Record's office and the homes of its publisher and a City Council member have been sharply criticized, putting Marion at the center of a debate over the press protections offered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

 

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: As you may recall, in August 2023 law enforcement officers in a rural Kansas county raided the offices and homes of the editors of a local newspaper, seizing electronic newsgathering equipment and reporting materials and resulting in a nationwide uproar over the threats to our First Amendment principles of a free press.


---A conversation with the newspaper owner raided by cops (Marisa Kabas, The Handbasket, 8-12-23) Eric Meyer says his paper had been investigating the police chief, Gideon Cody, prior to the raids on his office and home. They did so because of a complaint by a local restaurant owner named Kari Newell. [This is the piece that took the story viral.]


---How a small-town feud in Kansas sent a shock through American journalism (Jonathan O'Connell, Paul Farhi and Sofia Andrade, Washington Post, 8-26-23. Illustrated.) A police raid without precedent on a weekly newspaper alarmed First Amendment advocates. The real story of how it happened, though, is rooted in the roiling tensions and complex history of a few key community members.

     "The emotional response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor's 98-year-old mother, who had railed furiously at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later. The Record blamed her death on her agitation over the raid.

     "Get out of my house!" Joan Meyer had shouted at Cody from behind her walker before calling him an expletive, home surveillance video revealed.       

     "Don't you touch any of that stuff!"
     Yet parsing the events that led to the search — and understanding its larger implications for a free press in the United States — comes down to untangling the complex interrelationships and tortured history of a small group of people coexisting in a single small town.
     At the center of everything were a business owner, a police chief and a newspaper.


---The Marion raid and the Privacy Protection Act (Gabe Rottman, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 8-21-23)

    How does the “subpoena-first” rule in the Privacy Protection Act actually work?
   "During the raid, the police carted off computers, cell phones, and documents. The computers, and possibly the phones, will contain not only raw reporting material — information and documents gathered, maybe photographs, etc. — but also things like unpublished stories and other actual “news” that reflects the editorial work of the reporters at the Record (all that stuff on all the computers seized). There is no "subpoena-first" rule for the latter, but it receives higher protections than the raw “documentary material” that is obtainable with a subpoena.

   RCFP addresses the question How does the "subpoena-first" rule in the Privacy Protection Act — the federal law limiting law enforcement's ability to conduct newsroom searches — actually work?  In so doing the authors unpack and clarify several terms — "work product" and "documentary materials" and "unlawful acts" — as well as several exceptions: the "suspect" exception and threats to life or limb, and “reason to believe” and the “subpoena-first” exception. And they conclude:

     "In short, it is true that the "subpoena-first" exception reflects the law's intention that police always use the least intrusive means possible when inquiring into the business of the newsroom, and, in practice, gives affected journalists and news organizations the ability to negotiate or challenge a legal demand. But it's important to remember that there is no such rule for a reporter's actual work, in recognition of the heightened sensitivity there. And that's potentially relevant in the Marion case in that the police department may have seized work product related to the newspaper's investigation into the police chief himself."


---After a police raid on a Kansas newspaper, questions mount (Sofia Andrade and Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 8-13-23) Law enforcement seized computers and other records from the Marion County Record on Friday, raising concerns about press freedom. Restaurant owner Kari Newell "claimed that the newspaper, the Marion County Record, had illegally obtained damaging information about a 2008 conviction for drunken driving and was preparing to publish it, leading a local judge to issue a warrant authorizing police to seize the newspaper’s files.
     'The Record, a family-owned weekly serving the small town of about 1,900, didn’t publish the information about Newell’s conviction for drunken driving and has denied that it came by it illegally.
      'Police raids on news organizations are almost unknown in the United States and are illegal under most circumstances under state and federal law.       

      “This shouldn’t happen in America,” said Emily Bradbury, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association, in an interview Sunday. She added: “Freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy. … We’re not going to let this stand on our watch.”
     'Bradbury said the newspaper’s records could have been obtained via a subpoena, a court-ordered command for specific material that is subject to legal objections, not “an unannounced search.”


---A Police Raid on a Kansas Newspaper Could Force the DOJ’s Hand (Matt Ford, Politics, NPR, 8-15-23) The publisher of the Marion County Record says local law enforcement unleashed “Gestapo tactics” on his organization over the weekend.


---Warrant for Kansas newspaper raid withdrawn by prosecutor for ‘insufficient evidence’ (Luke Nozicka, Jonathan Shorman, and Katie Moore, Kansas City Star, 8-30-23)

On Wednesday, August 16, the county prosecutor withdrew the search warrant and directed law enforcement to return the seized material.


---Kansas commission seeks magistrate’s perspective on Marion search warrant complaint (Tim Carpenter,Kansas Reflector, 9-6-23)

     Judge Laura Viar asked to respond to ethics claim leveled by Topekan. First Amendment attorneys said they were convinced the judge ought to have been able to grasp the warrants were constitutionally flawed. The search warrant was secured based on an assertion a Record reporter somehow violated state law by looking up information on a public website of the Kansas Department of Revenue about a restaurant owner's driving license status.


'I'm more worried about the old lady,' Former Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody says on raid body camera footage (KSHB News 41, 11-6-23)

      On Aug. 11, police raided the newsroom and two homes looking for information regarding local restaurant owner Kari Newell's driving record.
      "The footage shows Gideon Cody, who stepped down as Marion police chief Monday, mostly sitting in a chair while his officers and the Marion County Sheriff's Department searches the offices of the newspaper.
      "Law enforcement appears frustrated with how long it's taking to download data from the Record's computers."


Marion police chief suspended after raid of Marion County Record newspaper in Kansas (Raja Razek and Nouran Salahieh, CNN, 10-1-23) 

        "Such acts were done by Chief Cody in retaliation for Ms. Gruver exercising her protected rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as a reporter for the Record, which protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press," the lawsuit states.

         "In addition to having her computer seized, Gruver says Cody physically seized her personal cell phone from her, which the suit argues did not fall under the scope of the warrant.  By seizing the personal cell phone, the suit states, Cody violated Gruver's Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search or seizure.  

       "The now-suspended police chief is also at the center of a federal lawsuit filed by Marion County Record reporter Debbie Gruver, who accuses Cody of violating her constitutional rights by obtaining an “unreasonable and unlawful” search warrant and seizing her personal property, according to the complaint.
      "The suit alleges Cody targeted Gruver because he knew she had been investigating allegations of misconduct against the chief during his time working for the Kansas City Police Department, although the newspaper has not published those allegations.

      "It's not just the police chief who has faced backlash over the raids. Judge Laura Viar, who signed off on a search warrant authorizing the searches, is facing a complaint about her decision and has been asked by a judicial body to respond, records shared with CNN by the complainant show.

 
Kansas officials downplayed involvement in Marion raid. Here’s what they knew. (Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector, 11-6-23)

     Documents show unquestioning support before raid, followed by attempts to sidestep outrage. The plot thickens.


•  Marion Police Chief Resignation Not Enough, Raided Newspaper Owner and Lawyer Say (Liam Scott, Voice of America, 10-5-23)
     “We should not be celebrating this whatsoever. We should be glad that his gun and badge have been taken away from him. But the city did nothing to convince me that they’re taking appropriate action,” Rhodes said. “The city took no action.
      “I don’t understand why it took two months for someone to take Chief Cody’s gun and badge. He is clearly unfit for duty. And this should have happened a long time ago,” he said.
The raid on the weekly newspaper has come to symbolize the yearslong plight of local news in the United States. Despite the many all-nighters spent working on the paper since the raid, Meyer said he has somehow managed to maintain an optimistic outlook.
      “You can look at Marion, Kansas, as the place where there’s a bunch of corruption going on,” he said. “Or you can look at Marion, Kansas, as the place where there was a bunch of corruption going on, and we caught it, whereas they might not have caught it in other places.”


Colorado authorities wrapping up investigation into Marion police who raided Kansas newspaper (Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector, 4-2-24) The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is nearly finished with its inquiry into potential criminal activity surrounding the raid on the Marion County Record last year and will turn over findings to special prosecutors later this month, state authorities said Tuesday.


Kansas newspaper that was raided by Marion police sues officials for attack on free press (Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector, 4-1-24) Marion County Record lawsuit says mayor, police chief and sheriff sought revenge for critical news coverage

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Is there a right way to do PowerPoint? Or an alternative?

In the war on clarity, some feel the U.S. military is spending too much time on a program some believe "stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making," creating the illusion of understanding and control, writes Elisabeth Bumiller in We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint(NY Times, 4-26-10).

 

Is PowerPoint inevitable?

Read the following pieces and at least make the most of it.

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Medical misinformation via celebrities and social media (and where to find reliable medical information)

(See links below to Where to find reliable medical information)

 

Suzanne Somers’ Legacy Tainted by Celebrity Medical Misinformation

(Liz Szabo, KFF Health News, 10-18-23. Reprinted by permission)

     Before there was Gwyneth Paltrow or Jenny McCarthy or Dr. Oz, there was Suzanne Somers. Somers, who died from complications of breast cancer Oct. 15 at age 76, pioneered the role of celebrity wellness guru, using her sitcom television fame as a springboard to a second career as a self-professed health and beauty expert.
     Although younger generations might have never heard of Somers, they still feel her influence, said Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?. Somers drew criticism for urging women to defy the medical establishment (she skipped chemotherapy against the advice of her doctor and also championed potentially risky “bioidentical hormones,” which she touted as a more natural alternative to pharmaceutical treatments for menopause).
     “She became an influencer on menopause before being an influencer was even a thing,” obstetrician-gynecologist Jen Gunter wrote on her blog on Oct. 17. “Somers almost single-handedly vaulted a fringe, untested medical hypothesis into the mainstream.” Somers’ advice was dangerous then and remains so today, said Gunter, who noted that internet searches for bioidentical hormones would spike after the release of the actress’s books and television appearances. (They surged again after Somers’ death was announced, according to Google Trends.)
     Oncologist Otis Brawley, a professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said he worries that Somers discouraged other breast cancer patients from receiving chemotherapy, which increases the odds of survival despite difficult side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.
      In her books and media interviews, Somers also championed alternative medical providers, including ones who sell unproven or discredited therapies. One of those providers, Stanislaw Burzynski, a Houston oncologist, was disciplined by the Texas Medical Board for misleading terminal cancer patients and failing to disclose potential risks associated with his treatment. And while the natural products industry markets its products with photographs of beaches and spring meadows, “underneath that is a lot of fear-mongering and anger and rage,” said Caulfield.
     Like Somers, actress and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy reinvented herself in 2007 as a health advocate, trumpeting the baseless notion that vaccines cause autism and casting doubt on the motives of pediatricians who recommend them. McCarthy famously told Oprah Winfrey that she went to “the University of Google” for her information about vaccine safety, a phrase echoed by modern-day anti-vaccine activists who eschew expert opinion in favor of doing their own research.
      The alternative therapies Somers promoted and the conspiracy theories swirling around the internet today go hand in hand, said Gunter, author of “The Menopause Manifesto.” Some celebrities “truly believe they have this special ability to suss out the truth about medicine,” Gunter said. “You can only believe that if you have a narcissistic belief in yourself.”                        Actress Gwyneth Paltrow also has built a beauty and wellness empire, selling a wide range of dubious products on her website Goop. Paltrow has endorsed placing jade, or yoni, eggs in the vagina to boost orgasms, for example, and steaming the vagina with mugwort to “balance” female hormones and to cleanse the uterus.
       Social media contains a cacophony of medical misinformation, some of it dangerous. Some of the scarier videos describe DIY mole removal, ingrown toenail removal, or using nail files to sharpen teeth.
     Today’s health influencers speak directly to the camera, “breaking the fourth wall,” a technique Somers used that can create a stronger bond between speaker and viewer, said Jessica Gall Myrick, a professor of media studies at Pennsylvania State University.
     “That’s probably why Somers was so influential,” Myrick said. “She talked directly to people through mass media. She was using mass media then the way people use social media today.”

Prevalence of Health Misinformation on Social Media: Systematic Review (Journal of Medical Internet Research, 1-20-21) This study revealed that "the prevalence of health misinformation was the highest on Twitter and on issues related to smoking products and drugs." But "misinformation on major public health issues, such as vaccines and diseases, was also high. "Throughout our review, we found different types of misinformation claims depending on the topic.

      "Concerning vaccines, misinformation was often framed with a scientific appearance against scientific evidence. Drug-related misinformation promoted the consumption and abuse of these substances. However, these statements lacked scientific evidence to support them. As with vaccines, false accounts that influenced the online conversation did so with a scientific appearance in favor of e-cigarettes. In this sense, most accounts tended to promote the use and abuse of these items. With beauty as the final goal, misinformation about eating disorders promoted changes in the eating habits of social media users. Furthermore, we found that social media facilitated the development of pro–eating disorder online communities. In general, the results indicated that this type of content promoted unhealthy practices while normalizing eating disorders.

       In contrast, epidemic/pandemic-related misinformation was not directly malicious. Misinformation on this topic involved rumors, misunderstandings, and doubts arising from a lack of scientific knowledge. The statements were within the framework of the health emergency arising from the pandemic. In line with these findings, we noted findings related to noncommunicable diseases. Messages that focused on this topic promoted cures for chronic diseases or for conditions with no cure through fallacies or urban legends.
      "Overall, health misinformation was most prevalent in studies related to smoking products, such as hookah and water pipes, e-cigarettes, and drugs, such as opioids and marijuana. Health misinformation about vaccines was also very common. However, studies reported different levels of health misinformation depending on the type of vaccine studied, with the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine being the most affected. Health misinformation related to diets or pro–eating disorder arguments were moderate in comparison to the aforementioned topics. Studies focused on diseases (ie, noncommunicable diseases and pandemics) also reported moderate misinformation rates, especially in the case of cancer. Finally, the lowest levels of health misinformation were observed in studies evaluating the presence of health misinformation regarding medical treatments. Although first-aid information on burns or information on dental implants was limited in quantity and quality, the prevalence of misinformation for these topics was low. Surgical treatment misinformation was the least prevalent. This was due to the fact that the content related to surgical treatments mainly came from official accounts, which made the online information complete and reliable.


TikTok Health Trends That Are Riskier Than You Realized (Christine Byrne, Health Digest, 1-27-23)

       TikTok has also fast become home to some very dangerous health trends. First, there are "challenges" that encourage users to do unequivocally harmful things, like overdosing on antihistamines. Then, there are the pseudo-wellness tips and challenges that cover everything from DIY mole removal to restrictive diet plans that are anything but healthy. The worst part? Thirteen- to 24-year-olds make up 69 percent of TikTok's user base, with 13-17-year-olds accounting for nearly a third of total users (via HootSuite). 
      Millions of "young and impressionable minds are seeing these dangerous health trends every day, and may not understand just how unhealthy they are. Plus, studies show that once misinformation has been spread, it's extremely difficult to debunk. And while TikTok does have community guidelines that forbid the spread of harmful misinformation, harmful misinformation of all sorts still persists. Sadly, many videos promoting unhealthy behavior continue to run rampant on TikTok."

 

Where to find reliable medical information

Where journalists get their medical news and information
(Pat McNees, Writers and Editors website) 
How To Find Reliable Health Information Online
(National Institute on Aging)
MedLine Plus
(National Library of Medicine, Part of NIH)
See Evaluating Health Information, a tutorial from NLM.
Health.gov
(Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)

Finding Practical Medical Information Online for People with Rare Conditions

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About that police raid on The Marion Record (a weekly Kansas newspaper)

Updated 5-7-24.

As you may recall, law enforcement officers in a rural Kansas county raided the offices and homes of the editors of a local newspaper, seizing electronic newsgathering equipment and reporting materials -- resulting in a nationwide uproar over the threats to our First Amendment principles of a free press. Following are some articles about the incident.


---A conversation with the newspaper owner raided by cops (Marisa Kabas, The Handbasket, 8-12-23) Eric Meyer says his paper had been investigating the police chief, Gideon Cody, prior to the raids on his office and home. They did so because of a complaint by a local restaurant owner named Kari Newell. [This is the piece that took the story viral.]


---How a small-town feud in Kansas sent a shock through American journalism (Jonathan O'Connell, Paul Farhi and Sofia Andrade, Washington Post, 8-26-23. Illustrated.) A police raid without precedent on a weekly newspaper alarmed First Amendment advocates. The real story of how it happened, though, is rooted in the roiling tensions and complex history of a few key community members.

     "The emotional response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor's 98-year-old mother, who had railed furiously at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later. The Record blamed her death on her agitation over the raid.

     "Get out of my house!" Joan Meyer had shouted at Cody from behind her walker before calling him an expletive, home surveillance video revealed.       

     "Don't you touch any of that stuff!"
     Yet parsing the events that led to the search — and understanding its larger implications for a free press in the United States — comes down to untangling the complex interrelationships and tortured history of a small group of people coexisting in a single small town.
     At the center of everything were a business owner, a police chief and a newspaper."


---The Marion raid and the Privacy Protection Act (Gabe Rottman, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 8-21-23)

    How does the “subpoena-first” rule in the Privacy Protection Act actually work?
   "During the raid, the police carted off computers, cell phones, and documents. The computers, and possibly the phones, will contain not only raw reporting material — information and documents gathered, maybe photographs, etc. — but also things like unpublished stories and other actual “news” that reflects the editorial work of the reporters at the Record (all that stuff on all the computers seized). There is no "subpoena-first" rule for the latter, but it receives higher protections than the raw “documentary material” that is obtainable with a subpoena.

   RCFP addresses the question How does the "subpoena-first" rule in the Privacy Protection Act — the federal law limiting law enforcement's ability to conduct newsroom searches — actually work?  In so doing the authors unpack and clarify several terms — "work product" and "documentary materials" and "unlawful acts" — as well as several exceptions: the "suspect" exception and threats to life or limb, and “reason to believe” and the “subpoena-first” exception. And they conclude:

     "In short, it is true that the "subpoena-first" exception reflects the law's intention that police always use the least intrusive means possible when inquiring into the business of the newsroom, and, in practice, gives affected journalists and news organizations the ability to negotiate or challenge a legal demand. But it's important to remember that there is no such rule for a reporter's actual work, in recognition of the heightened sensitivity there. And that's potentially relevant in the Marion case in that the police department may have seized work product related to the newspaper's investigation into the police chief himself."


---After a police raid on a Kansas newspaper, questions mount (Sofia Andrade and Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 8-13-23) Law enforcement seized computers and other records from the Marion County Record on Friday, raising concerns about press freedom. Restaurant owner Kari Newell "claimed that the newspaper, the Marion County Record, had illegally obtained damaging information about a 2008 conviction for drunken driving and was preparing to publish it, leading a local judge to issue a warrant authorizing police to seize the newspaper’s files.
     'The Record, a family-owned weekly serving the small town of about 1,900, didn’t publish the information about Newell’s conviction for drunken driving and has denied that it came by it illegally.
      'Police raids on news organizations are almost unknown in the United States and are illegal under most circumstances under state and federal law.       

      “This shouldn’t happen in America,” said Emily Bradbury, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association, in an interview Sunday. She added: “Freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy. … We’re not going to let this stand on our watch.”
     'Bradbury said the newspaper’s records could have been obtained via a subpoena, a court-ordered command for specific material that is subject to legal objections, not “an unannounced search.”


---Warrant for Kansas newspaper raid withdrawn by prosecutor for ‘insufficient evidence’ (Luke Nozicka, Jonathan Shorman, and Katie Moore, Kansas City Star, 8-30-23) On Wednesday, August 16, the county prosecutor withdrew the search warrant and directed law enforcement to return the seized material.


---Kansas commission seeks magistrate’s perspective on Marion search warrant complaint (Tim Carpenter,Kansas Reflector, 9-6-23) Judge Laura Viar asked to respond to ethics claim leveled by Topekan. First Amendment attorneys said they were convinced the judge ought to have been able to grasp the warrants were constitutionally flawed. The search warrant was secured based on an assertion a Record reporter somehow violated state law by looking up information on a public website of the Kansas Department of Revenue about a restaurant owner's driving license status.


Kansas newspaper that was raided by Marion police sues officials for attack on free press (Sherman Smiht, Kasnsas Reflector, 4-1-24)

According to a 127-page complaint filed Monday, former Mayor David Mayfield ordered the takedown of the newspaper and a political rival after identifying journalists as “the real villains in America.” The Marion County Record lawsuit says mayor, police chief and sheriff sought revenge for critical news coverage. Joan Meyer, who co-owned the newspaper with her son, repeatedly told officers the stress of ransacking her home was going to kill her, and “that’s going to be murder.” She was so traumatized by the raid she wouldn’t eat, drink or sleep. She died the next day from cardiac arrest.


A reporter is suing a Kansas town and various officials over a police raid on her newspaper (John Hanna, AP, 2-13-24) Reporter Phyllis Zorn filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the weekly newspaper's hometown and local officials, saying the raid caused her physical and mental health problems. Former Record reporter Deb Gruver sued Cody less than three weeks after the raid.         

   "The lawsuit said before the raid, Zorn had seizures that were controlled by medication so that she had gone as long as five years without having one. Within days of the raid, the seizures returned." The reporters were scheduled for mediation in April 2024.


---Office of the State Fire Marshal Supplemental Report. A detailed account of the event and its aftermath in Joan Meyer's home (before she died).

      Includes "WHEN THE POLICE KNOCK AT YOUR DOOR: NEWSROOM SEARCH WARRANTS" by Jonathan E. Buchan and Corby Anderson, Media Law, MaguireWoods, January 2001

"The federal Privacy Protection Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000aa-2000aa-12, protects journalists from most searches of newsrooms by federal and state law enforcement officials. The Act supplements the protections that the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides to all citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures of their person, home, papers, and possessions. The Fourth Amendment requires that searches be "reasonable" and that search warrants be issued only when there is "probable cause" to believe that the evidence sought is in the place to be searched."


Kansas officials downplayed involvement in Marion newspaper raid. Here’s what they knew (Sherman Smith, Missouri Independent, 11-6-23) A rather long account that answers a lot of questions many of us had. Documents show unquestioning support before raid, followed by attempts to sidestep outrage. "Scrutiny of the raid had intensified as the police chief and KBI director issued statements about journalists not being above the law — a distraction from the reality that if anyone had broken the law, it was the police. The newspaper’s 200-point bold type headline that morning read: “SEIZED … but not silenced.”

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Memoirs, Personal Histories, and Life Story Writing: A few blog posts

BLOG POSTS ON MEMOIRS, PERSONAL HISTORIES, AND LIFE STORY WRITING

(selected blog posts by Pat McNees)


Arlene Friedman Shepherd: The Life She Loved (In memoriam, 2012)
Ben Patton on interviewing military veterans (video, interviewed by RJ McHatton)
Collaborating on memoirs (J.R. Moehringer and Andre Agassi)
Coming-of-age memoirs make great gifts
Helen Jean Medakovich Sarchielli (in memoriam)
How reliable are our memories? How close to the truth?
How-To Resources: Memoir, biography, and personal histories
Is it still a great time to become a personal historian?
Mark Twain on writing autobiography
Memoirs of coping with chronic, rare, or invisible diseases, including mental health problems
Memoirs of war and conflict: A reading list
A memoir writer's dream come true
Personal historians love their work
Personal history videos (video by Peter Savigny of his mother, Remembering Renee)
Photos and memoir writing
A short history of the Association for Personal Historians
Whose Truth? The ethics of memoir writing
Why I love teaching Guided Autobiography (by Lisa Smith-Youngs)
Writing workshops as group therapy
Soundtrack of your life (engaging students with music, to write about a pivotal moment in their life)

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"Writing about [events in my life] has been a way of processing them. Not only tragedies like the deaths of my sons, but other things like learning of my adoption as an adult and my search for my birthmother. These are life-altering experiences and writing about something is a good way to figure out what to make of it.

     "Patients, of course, are an endless source of inspiration and stories. Psychiatry is a performance art. We talk with people; they tell us their secrets and their pain. They benefit from the conversations or not. But it’s all words in the air; our case notes are sealed and unless we write something down, the experiences are lost except to our memories. But we’re changed by these stories just as our patients are and the truths they lead us to are worth preserving. Writing down what we have learned also constitutes a kind of “ethical will,” something to convey to succeeding generations in the same way that we distribute our property. I think that we have some obligation before we die to enunciate whatever we think we’ve learned about life. So that was also a motivation to write these books, because I thought that whether anybody buys them or not, my children and their children will have this gift from me."
                              ~ Gordon Livingston, MD, author of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now and And Never Stop  Dancing, interviewed by Bruce Hershfield for Maryland Psychiatrist

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Free press? Why a raid on a rural Kansas weekly caused such a ruckus

In mid-August 2023, law enforcement officers in a rural Kansas county raided the offices and homes of the editors of a local newspaper, seizing electronic newsgathering equipment and reporting materials and resulting in a nationwide uproar over the threats to our First Amendment principles of a free press. ~ Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

 

To catch you up on the story, here are links to (and highlights from) various press reports:


---How a small-town feud in Kansas sent a shock through American journalism (Jonathan O'Connell, Paul Farhi and Sofia Andrade, Washington Post, 8-26-23. Illustrated.) 'A police raid without precedent on a weekly newspaper alarmed First Amendment advocates. The real story of how it happened, though, is rooted in the roiling tensions and complex history of a few key community members.

     'The emotional response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor's 98-year-old mother, who had railed furiously at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later. The Record blamed her death on her agitation over the raid.

     "Get out of my house!" Joan Meyer had shouted at Cody from behind her walker before calling him an expletive, home surveillance video revealed.       "Don't you touch any of that stuff!"
     'Yet parsing the events that led to the search — and understanding its larger implications for a free press in the United States — comes down to untangling the complex interrelationships and tortured history of a small group of people coexisting in a single small town.
     'At the center of everything were a business owner, a police chief and a newspaper.

 
---A conversation with the newspaper owner raided by cops (Marisa Kabas, The Handbasket, 8-12-23) Eric Meyer says his paper had been investigating the police chief prior to the raids on his office and home. [This is the piece that took the story viral.]


---The Marion raid and the Privacy Protection Act (Gabe Rottman, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 8-21-23) How does the “subpoena-first” rule in the Privacy Protection Act actually work?

     "The raid unfolded in Marion, a town about 60 miles north of Wichita, and appears to have stemmed from a dispute between a local restaurant owner and her estranged husband in a divorce proceeding."
   "During the raid, the police carted off computers, cell phones, and documents. The computers, and possibly the phones, will contain not only raw reporting material — information and documents gathered, maybe photographs, etc. — but also things like unpublished stories and other actual “news” that reflects the editorial work of the reporters at the Record (all that stuff on all the computers seized). There is no "subpoena-first" rule for the latter, but it receives higher protections than the raw “documentary material” that is obtainable with a subpoena.

   RCFP addresses the question How does the "subpoena-first" rule in the Privacy Protection Act — the federal law limiting law enforcement's ability to conduct newsroom searches — actually work?  In so doing the authors unpack and clarify several terms — "work product" and "documentary materials" and "unlawful acts" — as well as several exceptions: the "suspect" exception and threats to life or limb, and “reason to believe” and the “subpoena-first” exception. And they conclude:

     "In short, it is true that the "subpoena-first" exception reflects the law's intention that police always use the least intrusive means possible when inquiring into the business of the newsroom, and, in practice, gives affected journalists and news organizations the ability to negotiate or challenge a legal demand. But it's important to remember that there is no such rule for a reporter's actual work, in recognition of the heightened sensitivity there. And that's potentially relevant in the Marion case in that the police department may have seized work product related to the newspaper's investigation into the police chief himself."


---After a police raid on a Kansas newspaper, questions mount (Sofia Andrade and Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 8-13-23) Law enforcement seized computers and other records from the Marion County Record on Friday, raising concerns about press freedom. 

     'Police raids on news organizations are almost unknown in the United States and are illegal under most circumstances under state and federal law. "This shouldn't happen in America," said Emily Bradbury, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association...

     Restaurant owner Kari Newell "claimed that the newspaper, the Marion County Record, had illegally obtained damaging information about a 2008 conviction for drunken driving and was preparing to publish it, leading a local judge to issue a warrant authorizing police to seize the newspaper’s files.
     'The Record, a family-owned weekly serving the small town of about 1,900, didn’t publish the information about Newell’s conviction for drunken driving and has denied that it came by it illegally.
      'Police raids on news organizations are almost unknown in the United States and are illegal under most circumstances under state and federal law.        “This shouldn’t happen in America,” said Emily Bradbury, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association, in an interview Sunday. She added: “Freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy. … We’re not going to let this stand on our watch.”
     'Bradbury said the newspaper’s records could have been obtained via a subpoena, a court-ordered command for specific material that is subject to legal objections, not “an unannounced search.”


---Warrant for Kansas newspaper raid withdrawn by prosecutor for ‘insufficient evidence’ (Luke Nozicka, Jonathan Shorman, and Katie Moore, Kansas City Star, 8-30-23) On Wednesday, August 16, the county prosecutor withdrew the search warrant and directed law enforcement to return the seized material. 

 

This ruckus is and should be a big deal in a country that values a free press. 

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Covering Suicide

If you are having thoughts of suicide, in the United States

call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or

go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources or 

contact 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

 

For resources outside the United States, go here: International Suicide Prevention Helplines


Apply a public health frame to report responsibly and effectively on firearm suicide (Kaitlin Washburn, Covering Health, AHCJ, 7-13-23) Firearm suicides represent more than half of overall gun deaths every year in the U.S. And that ratio can be worse in certain areas — states with higher rates of firearm ownership in the home have higher rates of suicide overall compared to states with lower firearm ownership rates, according to the nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. An effective suicide prevention method is the safe storage of firearms, which means storing guns unloaded, locked up and separate from ammunition. Best practices and guide for reporters. See especially:
---The Suicide Reporting Toolkit For Journalists and Journalism Educators
---Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
---CDC page on suicide prevention
---Best Practices For Covering Suicide (988Lifeline.org)
---Media as Partners in Suicide Prevention (The American Association of Suicidology)
---
How Should the Media Cover Suicides? Some Answers (Jamie Ducharme, Time, 7-30-18) In June 2018, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died by suicide just days apart. The same week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report about rising suicide rates across the country. More recently were stories about a study linking climate change and rising temperatures to a potential increase in deaths by suicide.
      "Researchers report that stories about celebrity suicides, headlines that included information about how a suicide was completed and statements that made suicide seem inevitable were all correlated with suicide contagion. (Other research backs this up: In the four months after Robin Williams’ highly publicized 2014 death by suicide, one study found a 10% increase in suicides across the U.S.) Meanwhile, negative descriptions of suicide and messages of hope were associated with a protective effect, though neither reached statistical significance, perhaps because they appeared in articles so infrequently."
      The framing of a story is important, too, says Dr. Mark Sinyor, a new study’s lead investigator and a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, in an email to TIME. “Ideally, journalists would not treat suicide as an entertainment story but as what it truly is: a health story,” Sinyor says.

      “Suicide invariably arises from treatable mental disorders. Most people who experience suicidal crises find paths to resilience, and there is no reason anyone has to die by suicide.”


How The New York Times handled life-or-death ethical issues while reporting on a popular suicide website (Barbara Allen, Poynter, 12-16-21) The ethical issues running throughout The New York Times’ recent piece, “Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die,” were numerous and complicated. That’s why the team behind it never stopped talking about them.
     Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance said they have both had experience and interest in reporting on online harm, especially where children and young people were concerned. “It wasn’t just that this was a site that was providing explicit instructions and methods on how to die by suicide,” Twohey said in a recent interview with Poynter. “It was an interactive forum.”
      Dance and Twohey both said the more they explored, the more they felt a journalistic and moral obligation to report on the site, which they said gets six million visitors a month from around the world — four times as many views as the leading national suicide prevention website, Twohey said. So when they found out about a popular suicide support website, they dove in.The team relied on advice and conversations with experts, veterans, editors and each other.
     Twohey said she was struck by the fact that despite the site’s popularity, many families, law enforcement, mental health professionals and even coroners had never heard of the site or the preservative....In the end, it was most important to Dance and Twohey that their reporting shone a light on a dark corner of the internet.
      Twohey said that as they got closer to publication, she and Dance met almost daily with suicide experts, who advised them to make sure they weren’t glamorizing anything, that stories included true messages of hope instead of only despair, and that people usually pull out of suicidal thoughts. “There were these broader questions that we were grappling with, honestly, every single day in the reporting of this."

 

Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die (Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance, NY Times interactive, 12-9-21) Most suicide websites are about prevention. One started in March 2018 — by two shadowy figures calling themselves Marquis and Serge — provides explicit directions on how to die. It has the trappings of popular social media, a young audience and explicit content on suicide that other sites don’t allow. It is linked to a long line of lives cut short. Participants routinely nudge one another along as they share suicide plans, posting reassuring messages, thumbs-up and heart emojis, and praise for those who follow through: “brave,” “a legend,” “a hero.” More than 500 members — a rate of more than two a week — wrote “goodbye threads” announcing how and when they planned to end their lives, and then never posted again.
       "The suicide rate has risen over the past 20 years in the United States. About 45,000 people take their own lives each year — more than die from traffic accidents. (That figure does not count the hundreds of physician-assisted deaths in the nine states where they are legal and restricted to the terminally ill.)"
For many people, suicidal thoughts will eventually pass, experts say. Treatment and detailed plans to keep safe can help. But clinicians and researchers warn that people are much more likely to attempt suicide if they learn about methods and become convinced that it’s the right thing to do. The suicide site facilitates both. In the site’s written rules, assisting and encouraging suicide were prohibited, while providing “factual information” and “emotional support” was not. In practice, some members urged others on, whether with gentle reassurance or with more force.


Surviving Suicide (Anthony D. Smith, Psychology Today, 11-10-20) Suicide is often a surprise, leaving survivors wondering, "What did I miss?" and having to manage the insult of guilt while managing the injury of grieving. "The title of the book But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide (by Barbara Rubel) gets at another poignant difference. It's an unadvertised, abrupt ending, and you can feel like you were snubbed, creating more intense anger than usual grief. Lastly, some families, especially in cultures concerned with honor, may view a relative's suicide as shameful and stigmatizing and not discuss it, period. In return, they don't even get to experience simple catharsis and release some mental pressure, let alone process it to move on. The grief lingers and festers, evolving into a chronic issue that takes over their lives." The Centers for Disease Control (2020) reported that in 2018 there were in excess of 48,000 suicides in the United States. "That's a lot of people left hurting." 


Covering Suicide — Attempted, Completed and Otherwise (Al Tompkins, Poynter, 9-27-06) "Almost 4 times as many Americans died by suicide during the Vietnam War era as died in the course of military action.... Whites kill themselves at a much higher rate than blacks.... Hispanic youth are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and account for one fourth of all Hispanic suicide deaths.Hispanic males were almost six times as likely to die by suicide as Hispanic females, representing 85 percent of the 8,744 Hispanic suicides between 1997 and 2001.... Suicide is usually a complicated response to overwhelming problems as opposed to a simple, unplanned reaction to one life challenge. In others words, it is not as simple as saying “he was unhappy with last week’s game” or some such explanation."


Responsible Media Coverage Saves Lives (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE) 'Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy; however, the way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking. Suicide Contagion or “Copycat Suicide” occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide.'
Suicide reporting guidelines 1. Exclude suicide as cause of death
2. Use appropriate language
3. Avoid blame
4. Include Education and Help
Why Suicide Reporting Guidelines Matter (NAMI) "The fact is: how we talk about, write about and report on suicide matters. For someone already considering suicide, it’s possible to change their thoughts into action by exposing them to detailed suicide-related content, including graphic depictions or explanations of the death or revealing the method used."


Reporting About Suicide The Trevor Project (CDC, National Prevention Information Network) Recommendations for reporting on suicide, 2017) Instead of X, do Y (an excellent chart). For example, instead of Big or sensationalistic headlines, or prominent placement--(e.g., “Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide”), inform the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize prominence (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Dead at 27”)


Medical bills related to suicide aren’t covered by some insurers, despite rules (Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour, 2-18-14) Dealing with the aftermath of a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. But some health plans make a harrowing experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide—even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren’t permitted under federal law. Yet patients or their loved ones often don’t realize that.
      "Under the 2006 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, employment-based health plans can’t discriminate against an individual member by denying eligibility for benefits or charging more because they have a particular medical condition such as diabetes or depression. Insurers, however, are allowed to deny coverage for all members for injuries caused by a specific activity or for those that arise from a particular cause spelled out in the policy. These are called “source-of-injury” exclusions."
Suicide Contagion and the Reporting of Suicide: Recommendations from a National Workshop (CDC) Detailed recommendations for the press.

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Tributes to Robert Gottlieb, legendary editor

What made him such a great editor?  Obits and other tributes provide some insights.

Robert Gottlieb, editor of literary heavyweights, dies at 92 (Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, 6-14-23) He had an unassuming approach to his work but was considered a virtuoso in the field. Toni Morrison, Joseph Heller and Robert Caro were among Mr. Gottlieb’s many writers in a career spanning nearly 70 years. He edited with a pencil and unparalleled devotion.
---Robert Gottlieb, Eminent Editor From le Carré to Clinton, Dies at 92 (Robert D. McFadden, NY Times, 6-14-23) Avid reader, reluctant writer. At Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, he polished the work of a who’s who of mid-to-late 20th century writers. “I have never encountered a publisher or editor with a greater understanding of what a writer was trying to do — and how to help him do it,” Mr. Caro said in a statement on Mr. Gottlieb’s death.“The editor’s relationship to a book should be an invisible one,” Mr. Gottlieb told The Paris Review in 1994. “The last thing anyone reading ‘Jane Eyre’ would want to know, for example, is that I had convinced Charlotte Brontë that the first Mrs. Rochester should go up in flames.”
---Robert Gottlieb, celebrated editor of Toni Morrison and Robert Caro, has died at 92 (Associated Press, NPR, 6-14-23) Tall and assured, with wavy dark hair and dark-rimmed glasses, Gottlieb had one of the greatest runs of any editor after World War II and helped shape the modern publishing canon. Gottlieb's reputation was made during his time as editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster and later Alfred A. Knopf, where in recent years he worked as an editor-at-large. But he also edited The New Yorker for five years before departing over "conceptual differences" with publisher S.I. Newhouse and was himself an accomplished prose stylist.
---Remembering Robert Gottlieb, Editor Extraordinaire (David Remnick, New Yorker, 6-26-23) At Knopf and The New Yorker, Gottlieb was an editor of unexampled accomplishment—someone who seemed to have read everything worth reading and to have published a fair amount of it, too.
---Robert Gottlieb, legendary editor who championed Joseph Heller, Robert Caro and Chaim Potok, dies at 92 (Andrew Silow-Carroll, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6-15-23) Robert Gottlieb, the legendary literary editor who shepherded into print and best-sellerdom such 20th-century classics as Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” and Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen,” died Wednesday at age 92. Photo caption: The editor Robert Gottlieb (right) and author Robert Caro appear in the 2022 documentary, "Turn Every Page."

---Remembering Robert Gottlieb: Biographer and Friend (Sydney Stern, BIO International,
---Robert Gottlieb, The Art of Editing No. 1 (Interviewed by Larissa MacFarquhar, Paris Review, Fall 1994)
---Remembering Robert Gottlieb: The Virtuoso Editor and Publisher (Will Swift, BIO International) 'Using a pencil to markup manuscripts for nearly 70 years, he served as the editor-in-chief at Simon and Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker. Arguably the best-read man of the 20th and 21st century, he read up to 16 hours a day and edited, by his own estimation, approximately 700 books. What was his secret formula? “I don’t have lunches, dinners, go to plays or movies,” he explained to The Washington Post, “I don’t mediate, escalate, deviate or have affairs.” '

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