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Champions of Change

imageSixteen “Champions of Change” were recognized today by Attorney General Eric Holder for their successful re-entry into society and for their organizations, which aim to help ex-convicts with job training and employment.

Holder announced that the department of Justice will issue $4 million in support of re-entery and job training programs.

One champion, Marianne Ali, director of Culinary Job Training & First Helping shared her experience about overcoming her addiction with Heroin.

The author of the book, Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman also spoke at the event.

"I can’t tell you what a difference that second chance meant to me," said Kerman.  "The job gave me a sense of normalcy after my incarceration."



NYT chief’s first tweet: How to write a funeral story

Dean Baquet sent out his first tweet as executive editor of The New York Times Monday. 

He plugged a story written for the Times, but he used it as an example of how to write a story about a funeral.

The funeral service was for 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto, or P.J.

A week ago, P.J. and his best friend took the elevator of their East New York building to grab Icees after playing in the sun. Both boys were attacked, stabbed again and again by a man with a history of violence and psychiatric problems who had just been released from prison.

P.J. died. His friend survived, but remains in the hospital recovering from his 16 stab wounds. 

Police arrested Daniel St. Hubert, the man they believe responsible for the crime, on Wednesday. 

Here’s the tweet, followed by a section of the piece and a link to the article in full. It’s worth the read.

"On an implacably sunny morning in eastern Brooklyn, hundreds of people mourned a death much too young and much too abhorrent.

They were people who knew him, but mostly people who did not. That did not matter. They had heard, as most had heard, and so they came in their good clothes because they wanted to and because they felt they had to. On Friday morning, they came to grieve Prince Joshua Avitto, a 6-year-old Brooklyn boy known as P.J. who had barely tasted a life and who died for no plausible reason.”

The story was written by N.R., “Sonny,” Kleinfeld.




Perhaps if we could all be brighter or play ball, we could beat student debt

Whether it is academic or athletic…it’s a select few who achieve a ‘full ride’ for college, President Obama had both in mind today.

In addition to celebrating the University of Connecticut NCAA Women and Men’s basketball championships, President Obama announced changes to student loans with the intention to alleviate the weight of debt so that it won’t keep students from getting ahead.

According to American Student Assistance and the Federal Reserve, there are about 37 million student borrowers with outstanding student loans.  Today, the White House relayed that national student debt has mounted to more than $1 trillion. Some people are carrying six figures of debt, many more incur in tens of thousands of dollars.

The Executive Order signed today proposes a “Pay as You Earn” (PAYE) repayment program that would cap payments on student debt at 10 percent of monthly income and possible forgiveness after 20 years of timely payments. 

According to Pew Research debt-to-income ratios have increased dramatically during the past 30 years.

student debtor debt to income ratios

But the heightened investment hasn’t kept up with the value:

student debt financial satisfaction

The weight of student debt leads to some dropping out before they finish school, buying a house and even some from starting families:

The executive order signed today is the President’s attempt to give students a swing at getting ahead financially and moving their lives forward.  Without the executive order, it would likely be impossible that a bill taking the same actions would ever pass congress at this time.

Go figure. 

Tomorrow, June 10, the President will answer questions about student debt, live on Tumblr, at 4 p.m. Eastern.




News Literacy

Today we were thrilled to welcome Mark Hallett, senior program officer at the McCormick Foundation, to the newsroom. Mark is working on a project about news literacy and interviewed our reporters Homa Bash, John Kuhn and Emily Nelson.

Here’s Homa, discussing what news literacy means to her:



Why reporting is so cool


The coolest thing about reporting is when you’re on a story takes you places you wouldn’t have otherwise imagined going to, when questions lead you to people who you know you won’t forget. 

That happened Thursday.

Elissa Nadworny and I had the chance to travel to California to research a story on antibiotic use in cattle, thanks to Medill D.C.’s travel budget.

We flew into Sacramento Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday and Thursday visiting ranches and ranchers throughout the Sacramento Valley.

Our final stop was the Van Vleck Ranch, a swath of rolling golden pasture in Eastern Sacramento Valley that’s been owned by the family since 1915.

We spent time with Jerry Spencer, who manages the cattle that roam the Van Vleck’s 5,000 acres. After an hour or so, Spencer introduced us to Bud Turner and his wife, Lynn Van Vleck-Turner, stepparents of Stan Van Vleck, a Sacramento lawyer, who is president of the ranch now.


(Photo: Elissa Nadworny)

Lynn was married to Stan’s father before he passed away in a helicopter crash on the ranch property, and Bud was married to Stan’s mother before she died of cancer. They now live together in a quaint brick home in the middle of the pasture.

Lynn and Bud both had to deal with tragic deaths, but they have an air of wonder that, mixed with their welcoming laughter, make you shrug your shoulders at the way life sometimes works out. 

We chatted for about a half hour before Elissa asked if she could take their portrait. They agreed. And afterward we spent another hour talking. Then we exchanged contact information and left.

When we were about a mile down the road, however, Elissa got a phone call. It was Lynn, wondering if we’d like to go for a tour of the area in Bud’s airplane.

Of course we would!

From the long gravel path to their home we caught a glimpse of Bud - who’s 81 - swinging open the door to a barn next to their house. He pushed the prop plane out with ease, grinning. 

I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and hopped into the back seat, right behind Bud, who fired up the propeller. We were off. Elissa took the next ride.

Below are some pictures and a short video that prove the point — life is cool, and so is journalism. 





John Kuhn, Medill News Service



Wednesday, May 21: Just another hump day? Think not!

Amelia Earhart:  Photo courtesy of the Museum of Flight

Just when you thought today was just another hump day, your bridge to the second half of the week, you would be surprised at some of the things that occurred on this day in history. According to

On this date:

In 1881, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.

In 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis near Paris, completing the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 33 1/2 hours.

In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean as she landed in Northern Ireland, about 15 hours after leaving Newfoundland.

In 1956, the United States exploded the first airborne hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific…

Outside of the founding of the Red Cross, there is a common theme of flying.  So take flight… because anything can happen and you’ve got the rest of today to make it count!   

Don’t get strep throat, and Happy birthday to the following:

The Associated Press cites celebrity birthdays for May 21: Rhythm-and-blues singer Ron Isley (The Isley Brothers) is 73. Rock musician Hilton Valentine (The Animals) is 71. Actor Richard Hatch is 69. Musician Bill Champlin is 67. Singer Leo Sayer is 66. Actress Carol Potter is 66. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is 63. Actor Mr. T is 62. Music producer Stan Lynch i 59. Actor Judge Reinhold is 57.



Just a few examples of what MedillDC students like to do OUTSIDE the newsroom… around town in Washington!  

Photos from top to bottom: 1) taking in a concert at 9:30 Club on V Street “one of the coolest venues in the country” (Laurel White) 2) the monuments at night “inexpensive selfie date” (Christin Roby)

 What’s your favorite DC attraction??



Abramson departure from Times spurs equal pay controversy

Jill Abramson’s abrupt departure Wednesday as executive editor of The New York Times has spurred speculation she may have been fired for voicing concerns she was being paid less in the job than her male predecessor. 

In a memo reportedly sent to the paper’s staff, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. categorically dismissed such claims, saying Abramson was paid comparably to former editor Bill Keller but that direct pension comparisons shouldn’t be made because Keller had been with the paper longer than had Abramson. 

Here’s how the controversy is playing out in the Twitter-verse. 




Democratic Sen. Harry Reid used the controversy to push for his party’s equal pay bill Thursday, according to a National Journal story. 



By Ashley Hickey

Senators stress importance of press freedom

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a resolution Thursday highlighting the importance of press freedom two days after the body of 26-year-old French photojournalist Camille Lepage was found in the Central African Republic. 

“This bipartisan resolution is just one way to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to protecting freedom of the press,” Casey said in statement released Thursday. “Impunity for these attacks is unacceptable and, in some cases, can create a culture of fear and self-censorship. We must insist that governments throughout the world do all they can to deliver justice for these journalists and their families.”

Since 1992, 617 journalists have been murdered without the perpetrators of those crimes facing punishment, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

The committee labeled, Egypt, Iraq and Syria as the most dangerous for reporters on assignment in 2013. 

“Human freedom cannot prosper without press freedom,” Rubio said in the statement. “As we’ve seen in my parents’ home country of Cuba, when a government suppresses the right of its people to gather and disseminate information, leaders are able to carry out human rights violations and repressive policies without fear of oversight. Today’s bipartisan resolution is an affirmation of the importance of free press in spreading liberty and human rights, and it is a sound condemnation of the violence toward reporters that has occurred in the Middle East, Latin America, Ukraine and so many other regions throughout the world.”

You can read the senators’ full statement here

By Ashley Hickey



What is the US doing to #bringbackourgirls


It’s a hashtag that has swept social media following the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in the northeast region of Nigeria last month.

But as search efforts intensify, and the Nigerian government signals it is ready to negotiate with Boko Haram – the Islamist militants who are said to be holding the girls’— some are questioning whether the United States is doing enough to aid international efforts.

Others question whether the support is too little too late.

During a segment on NPR earlier this week, titled “Is White House Doing Enough To ‘Bring Back Our Girls’?” critics claimed the Obama administration waits for crises, instead of proactively aiding those faced with terrorism.

“Unfortunately what we see here again is the administration again acting after the fact as opposed to having a coherent political strategy and foreign policy in place beforehand,” said Republican strategist Ron Christie.

 “My main critique with the administration is that Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refused to put this terrorist group –Boko Haram – on the terrorist watch list,” Christie said. “So if you have an administration that looks at a particular group… that has killed thousands of people…you have to wonder does the administration have a coherent strategy to winning the war on terrorism.”

In a Mother’s Day video address, first lady Michelle Obama decried the kidnapping in Nigeria. This came after she posted on Instagram a photo holding a sign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.


“When it comes to the kidnapping of children in Nigeria, it goes beyond criticism of public policy,” said NPR’s ‘Political Junkie’ host Ken Rudin. “The only question that some people seem to have is whether walking around with placards saying ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ is either too simplistic or almost an amateur hour in the sense that we’ve got to do more than just walk around with signs with a hashtag about this tragedy.”

Last week the United States put a group of 30 in Nigeria that, according to the White House, including five State Department officials, two strategic communications experts, a civilian security expert and a regional medical support officer.

This week, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated: “With respect to Nigeria, our people are on the ground. I’m not going to discuss what mechanism or methodology may or may not be used in order to [help find the girls] except today we are committed to this effort.”

Officials fear that the girls could be forced into sex slavery, or will be trafficked to other countries. Consequently, the United States recently launched a drone mission with airborne surveillance over the Sambisa forest, where the girls are believed to be held.

Sources say it is likely that the U.S. is offering the Nigerians sophisticated surveillance and eavesdropping technology as well as satellite imagery.

“Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a daily press briefing Monday.

A new video aired by Al Jazeera released by the Boko Haram group allegedly showing about 130 of the girls is being studied by US experts in the hope it might yield vital clues as to where they are being held.

In the words of Christie: “To paraphrase our parents, it’s a crazy world out there.”

-Christin Roby, @robyreports



The White House is firing back at GOP strategist Karl Rove after he suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may struggle from brain damage stemming from a 2012 blood clot that left her hospitalized for three days.

In today’s press breifing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney suggested that it might actually be Rove that is dealing with “cognitive challenges.”

What do you think? Should voters be concerned about Clinton’s past health issues? Or is this just more political mudslinging against someone who hasn’t even announced plans to run for president?



The conduct of a newspaper

Earlier today, Medill News Service reporters went on a tour of the Washington Post newsroom and learned more about their burgeoning PostTV enterprise. As we were waiting in the lobby, this sign caught our eye:

Those are the seven journalistic principles of Eugene Meyer, who purchased the Post in 1933 for $825,000. Meyer wasn’t an experienced newspaperman, but he certainly had strong opinions about the industry.

You can read more about the Washington Post's history here, if you’d like. 

Thanks for having us for a visit, WaPo! It was a treat to talk about the future of our industry - and get some insight into its storied past.

-Laurel White, Medill News Service