Journalism: This is my fight song

I can’t believe that THIS is what our country has come too. I became a journalist because I’m an idealist. Most did.

This is my fight song.

Brace yourself for a long-winded response to uninformed media critics, including our presidential liar-in-chief. And pick up your hankies and smelling salts if you think you might faint at a profanity or three; this isn’t the essay for you.

I posted a simple meme on Facebook that just said, “They defend our freedom without a gun. Thank a journalist for their service.” (The editor in me wants to change that meme to “his or her service,” but I digress.)

And one relative responds with denigrating snark, while another essentially says, “Sure, you’re ethical, but most people in your field are not.” Now hold onto my head so it doesn’t actually explode. I am SO SICK of lazy-ass bigots using me and my colleagues as a scapegoat for their own discomfort at hearing that the president they elected is a dangerous and amoral loon.

SOOOOOOOO … here’s what I posted in response to those two cousins who I love but kind of want to choke this morning. Read and reflect.


Don’t be disingenuous. You’re trying to justify using an unfounded generality in a major smear campaign against my profession. And I won’t let you off that hook.

There are idiots and lying scumbags in EVERY field — say, in sheriff’s offices in Texas, as you may find if you peruse your former co-workers — and journalism is no different. But just like most people in life are decent, honest and ethical folks on the whole, so are journalists. They don’t have a disproportionate share of asshats, as evidenced by our asshat of a president and people in every other field, because they can easily point to dozens of unethical and stupid asshats.

It’s frankly lazy as shit of you and Bruce to just squeal, “Fake news!” because you heard your idiot-in-chief repeat it enough times until it turns into brainwashing-level indoctrination. You have NO BASIS for trying stupidly to indict an entire profession just because it’s inconvenient for you to critically examine a known liar, moral-free jackass who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

How about — instead of doubling down on the bullshit– you for a moment walk a mile in my shoes? Take a look:

ONE: I work for low wages in a high-stress, high-pressure, highly public field that is open to public scrutiny — IN PRINT — every single week. In past years, I’ve done it every single day when I worked for dailies. I’ve been in this field for most of my professional life, which started back in 1985; I have a few turns around the track on my resume. And most journalists have lifelong careers in the field or in related fields, because it’s not something you just wander into without really investing yourself in it.

TWO: An entitled and stupid president who just doesn’t like being called on his documented lies and bullshit decides to start a public, highly vocal, widespread and completely uninformed and petulant smear campaign against your profession. A difficult profession where you invest your whole heart for low wages and high stress because you just freaking love it and you think you make a difference in a messy and damaged world for the betterment of everyone. One major reason you love it is that you help to lift the veil of ignorance for your fellow citizens; you go to the many-hours-long board meetings and pore over city budgets and police reports. You interview people who want to squeal on an illegal business just down the street from them, and you talk to business owners about their successes, and you cover the sad story when an innocent family’s gorgeous home accidentally burns to the ground. You put your heart and brain and everything you’ve got into the work. And when you think of your readers, you think about the fact that in some ways you’re their spokesman who knows how to speak truth to power and how to research and how to write stories that inform, entertain and provoke thought.

So then there’s this very prominent babbling shit-gibbon of a president spewing a river of bullshit — with bobbing chunks of malice swirling in the currents — about you and your kind.

[This note was in my original post to my cousin on Facebook, FYI. – cb] Jan: At least one of your past jobs was as a skip tracer for a sheriff’s office in Texas, right? So I’ll use that as an example below. Buckle up. (IMPORTANT CAVEAT: If you know me at all, you know that NONE of what I’m writing in the point below is what I really think about your field; I have respect for you and your work. I’m going to smack it around for a few sentences, though, to give you the feels on this.)

THREE: Let’s say that the governor of Texas is a major media hog, embroiled in scandals and lawsuits, with demonstrated unethical practices in both his personal and professional life. And let’s say he has some weight to throw around. And because he has a personal bug up his ass about law enforcement, let’s say he works into every speech something like this: “Well, as you know, I’m a stable genius — believe me, I’m bigly awesome — but I can’t seem to get it through the abnormally thick skulls and inbred brains of the lying idiots in XYZ County’s sheriff’s office. I mean, there’s no wonder they are underpaid — they’re not worth more! I have caught them in so many lies; it’s unbelievable. You won’t believe the number of bribes they take, and the laws they break themselves, all the time. The so-called ‘sovereign citizens’ have it right — ‘Fuck the police,’ and ‘Fuck the sheriff’s deputies.’ They are all incompetent, manipulative and disgusting people who would rather lie than breathe. I’m just telling the truth!”

And let’s say his crowd of head-nodding bobbleheads starts chanting — at every public appearance he makes — “Fake police! Police brutality! Fuck the thin blue line! Have you challenged an officer tonight? LET’S DO IT!”

Every. Single. Time. He. Speaks. For a year. And he’s broadcast to a world of people who are fed up with challenges in their own lives and who are feeling very put-upon by life in general, so they are eager to find some scapegoat for their collective discontent.

And then let’s say you go on Facebook with people you love who decide it would be fun to tell ya, “Well, YOU seem okay, but most of the people who you work with and respect are really just scumbags. You can’t get mad at me for telling the truth!”

Yeah. I can.

I know who the liars and unethical people are. And they are not me and my colleagues.

FOUR, to my cousins and the world: Do you maybe, kinda, sorta, just a little bit, a teensy-weensy bit, GET IT now?

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Dia’s magic for the fat gal’s closet

I’ve been pretty happy with the clothes my stylist picked for me the past couple of months. We’re still getting to know each other, so I’ve had a few returns, but she’s also found some things within my budget that delight me — no easy feat when you’re plus-sized.

Biggest hits so far:

  • A denim jacket I just couldn’t say no to, and I cannot wait until it’s cool enough to wear it.
  • A soft “vegan leather” clutch purse in a neutral shade of wine/brown that goes with everything.
  • My white jeans that fit like a dream, even on my fat butt and poochy stomach. ;o)
  • A navy blouse with a super flattering neckline.

Biggest regrets so far:

  • A gorgeous white linen blouse that was perfect in every way except for how the front buttons gapped across the bust. That would drive me crazy to have to use double-sided tape to keep that shut. Also, I know I’m too damned lazy to iron linen regularly. So I sent it back. With a lump in my throat!
  • I haven’t found a summery maxi dress from them yet. Both they have sent me are that cheap-feeling double-knit polyester, and y’all, I have already lived through the ’70s once and don’t intend to do so again. (It’s kind of odd, because every other single thing they have sent me has been really high quality material and well-made.) Mostly, I didn’t like the loosely gathered waists. I’m just too big for that. I need an empire waist or no waist.

Verdict on RECOMMENDED to any of my plus-sized gal friends. You pay $20 a month for the stylist fee; if you keep any of the five things they send you, the $20 gets deducted from that. If you buy all 5 things, they add an additional discount. You can ship back any returns or exchanges for free. (Shipping to you is free too.)

I haven’t taken any photos of me in my Dia clothes yet, but you can see some other Dia customers in their new duds over here:

SPECIAL REQUEST & FULL DISCLOSURE: If you decide to check it out, please consider using this link — I get a little kickback if you give them a try: Thanks!

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Living between ‘Jesus, take the wheel’ and ‘Bitch, I wish you would.’

[Editor’s note: The title of this column isn’t original to me. Props to one of my favorite YouTubers, Jaime Primak Sullivan of “coffeetawk,” for her creative wording, which I remembered when trying to express my attitude on this. The gist is, “Don’t be mean, but keep your boundaries firm.”]

Have you ever listened to a motivational/inspirational/self-help speaker and felt an instant connection with the topic and the person? That was me on the way to work this morning, listening to life coach Lisa A. Romano’s talk on social bullies (embedded video below).

And then I did what I often do: Imagine myself in that conversation with just such a social bully. Endlessly. Over and over in my head until I’ve clarified my view, backed up when an approach wasn’t working or was vulnerable, and argued different ways until I pinpointed what I thought and how to communicate it most effectively. (It’s not like this is my actual strategy: I’m just explaining what I do naturally when I feel an “Oh, HELL no” trembling on my lips.)

This topic made me think of an unpleasant and socially awkward woman who was talking to me years ago, back when my children were little, early one evening before our knitting club meeting began. We were mentioning an annual local event that she helps to organize and that I often enjoy. I made the casual comment that my husband often buys the ticket for me as a birthday gift but I was forgoing it this year for something else. I said that someday I might even like to volunteer, although definitely not immediately with my time so limited. She leapt on that and told me when the next meeting was. I said whoa-whoa-whoa and clarified that I was talking about the distant future, when I had fewer obligations. The convention would still be around in years to come when my life was less demanding.

But she launched into a comment about another woman who helps organize the event, who leads a Brownie troop, works full time, is involved in her church, and has several children, and “SHE can handle it.” And then she looked at me smugly — leaning in almost hungrily — as if she had just done an end run around my argument and she “had” me.

I shuffled through several possible responses in my head while I looked at her with a pitying glance. You can tell how irritated I was by the hostile, dismissive and passive-aggressive responses that flashed through my mind. For example:

  • “You may expect me to stammer and make excuses, but that would presume that I owed you an excuse or even an explanation. You’re  imposing on my good nature by trying to shame me into participating.”
  • (A bark of lightly scornful laughter) “Oh, really. Does that usually work for you,” (making a little circle in the air toward her), “your hamhanded attempt at shame and manipulation? Try again with someone else, sister. Good luck with your little ‘event.'”
  • “You’re correct that I could do it. And I’m correct in explaining to you that I’m choosing not to at this time in my life. Is any part of that unclear to you now?”
  • “Where do you work, by the way?” (After listening to her response, then … ) “Oh, I just wondered. People who don’t understand social conventions and who aggressively pursue their agendas with other people way past the point of politeness are often highly frustrated people who are in low-lying positions.” (MEOW!)
  • “Expressing casual interest isn’t quite the same thing as sticking your foot in a bear trap, dear. You don’t have me in a death grip of commitment.”
  • “Yes, I’m very tempted. I imagine you’re a … joy … to work with. But I think not.”
  • “Well that may be, but that’s her choice and not mine. We all make decisions for our own lives, don’t we.” (Followed by a polite, distant smile that doesn’t quite reach my eyes.)

What I settled on was to chuckle (nicely, as if I felt a good humor I didn’t actually feel) and say something like this. “Well, bully for her, then. But she’s not me. And I decide how I spend my time. Maybe with your convention someday, but not soon. Good luck with it this year.” And I smiled and wandered away.

She just gaped at me long after that, standing rooted in one spot. And she kept looking at me oddly throughout the meeting that followed. (Seriously? Has no one ever told her no firmly and directly before?)  The gaping felt just as manipulative as her words. I wonder what kind of snit she would have thrown if I’d expressed the actual depth of my irritation toward her. But I chose not to give her the satisfaction of goading me.

I also had some thoughtful moments back at home later that night, ruminating about the hostility I felt and why this woman was so annoying to me. My emotions were honest; she really was attacking my walls. And I’m glad I was able to fake a good nature while presenting my genuine boundaries. But I realized I needed to work toward letting go of the bristly feelings when intrusive people do their thing.

Boy, I had to put THAT encounter out of mind about a million times. I’ve mentally reduced her to dust more than once, never quite feeling like I got actual resolution. Just a stalemate.

I’ve mentally polished that particular stone for a long time since then.

So what do you do when someone speaks to you disrespectfully, attempts to manipulate you, or tries to bully you in a social situation? How do you handle it? And do you ruminate afterward? How do you make mental peace with yourself and others afterwards? Tell me in the comments!





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