Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The man who's running for president of Sudan

It started exactly 40 days ago, and now it's done. On my final city desk shift at the Missourian, one of the ACEs came in and asked asked who wanted check out a story about a rumor about an MU professor who was planning to resign so he could run for president of Sudan.

Everyone laughed and rolled their eyes. I asked for it. We twittered about it to see if anyone knew anything, but nothing turned up.

So I called him. "Hi, Dr. Ibrahim. This might be completely off the wall, but I heard a rumor that you're planning to run for president of Sudan. Is there anything to that?"

What he said shocked me into realizing that this was for real. "Well, I cannot really talk about it at this time," he chuckled. "Give me about three days."

He had to work out some contractual issues before he felt comfortable talking about it, but three days stretched into a "couple more days," which kept stretching until it was more than a week later and I still didn't have anything.

This was one of the first times I've felt real pressure to get the scoop, so I didn't really want for him to get released from his contract and then make an announcement about his plans before I could write the story.

So we made a deal. He agreed to do an interview with me as long as I waited until he got his red tape all ironed out. Well, the days stretched into weeks again, so I finally got him to let me run it anyway with the disclaimer that he has not yet been officially let go from his duties.

The story is on the front page today, and it's hefty. And gratifying. And I had a lot of help, especially from the long-suffering Katherine Reed. Also, for more about the political climate in Sudan, check out a separate interview I did with Douglas Johnson, the author of The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars.

(Both of these photos were posed and used for my environmental portrait project in Fundamentals of Photojournalism, but I decided to wait until the story broke to publish them.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sports action and feature

Here are the sports photos that I turned in for my photo-j class today. Figured I'd post the latest anyway, even when they ain't so hot.


And the feature:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Simpler times, or "Why you should be glad"

"When you ran out of money, you'd just go, 'Well, I can't do any more things now.' "

Monday, April 13, 2009

New life

"When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue— you sell him a whole new life."
— Christopher Morley
(Found out about this via Kristie.)

And I'd argue that it holds true not just with books, but with any written word – especially newspapers and magazines – which is why people should gladly continue to finance the craft of the wordsmith. Literacy is a beautiful thing, and it is more beautiful still when commanded skillfully.

Words bring gifts that are priceless, and the pittance that is required for their production is so small that it's almost like getting the whole world for a penny.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Little Miss Dutchess

Found this photo from 2007's spring break, and I don't think I've ever posted it on here. It's a nice reminder of a different time.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Here's the description for the "Pictorial" assignment in my Fundamentals of Photojournalism class: "Make a photograph in which the nature of the subject or the mood of the scene is enhanced by color. Exploit warm or cool colors, complementary colors, advancing colors or kaleidoscope colors to reinforce the ideas expressed in the photograph."

After much ambivalence, here's what I decided to use for the assignment. Still not really sure what a good pictorial photograph would look like.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Food, Inc.

After seeing Food, Inc. at the True/False Film Festival, I got interested in being more intentional about the source and preparation of the food I eat. In the future, I plan to further explore how to practically apply conscientious eating.

The following is a reprint of a film review I wrote as part of a recurring food section that runs in a community newsletter my partner and I produce on the Neighborhoods Beat at the Missourian.

It wasn't hard to find a thought-provoking documentary at Columbia's True/False Film Festival at the beginning of March.

One of the most compelling of these was a film called "Food, Inc." Directed by Robert Kenner, it weaves the intricate account of the mass-production of our foodstuffs from field to fork and makes some weighty claims about the ethical and nutritional legitimacy of the United States' food industry.

It reveals the way food is produced today. It displays vegetables that were harvested half a world away and were chemically ripened to give the illusion of freshness. It shows sprawling Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, crowded patches of dirt that house livestock that have been genetically engineered and strategically fed to grow bigger and faster than normal. Many of its scenes – though graphic – provide important information about the way animals are harvested and processed today.

Sure, there are benefits. There are no seasons anymore, and produce is specially created not to spoil. Everything is available all the time, and preparation of many items has become nearly instant. But there are hidden consequences to these so-called advantages, the documentary suggests. With an over-saturation of preservatives, pesticides and genetic modification, there are higher rates of food-related diabetes, child obesity and increased outbreaks of E. coli bacteria that the CDC says affect around 73,000 people per year.

The film states that behind it all are several mega-corporations that maintain tight control of food production and dispersal, and these companies place a higher importance on profit and speed than on health, ethics or the environment.

According to Kenner and his battalion of sources, all of these factors contribute to a food industry that is out of sync with the way that healthy consumption is supposed to function.

So, what to do? The first step is education. A puny film review like this only scratches the surface of such an essential subject, so voracious viewing and reading about the issue are key. In the coming weeks, we'll highlight some practical steps that can be taken to use the supermarket scanner as a voting booth and achieve healthy and ethical eating.

For more about "Food, Inc." or to find out how to get involved, check out the film's site at TakePart.com.

Suggested reading:

"Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal" - Eric Schlosser
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" - Michael Pollan
"Farmer in Chief" - Michael Pollan's open letter to then president-elect Obama
"The Pleasures of Eating" – an essay on responsible eating by the farmer-poet Wendell Berry

Suggested viewing:

"What's wrong with what we eat" - an excellent TED talk by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shoulda flown Southwest

I recently spent some time in the air as part of a harrowing four-part journey to and from Philadelphia (pictures from that city coming soon). Unfortunately, I flew Delta/Northwest/United and didn't have the pleasure of such a performance. In fact, Northwest ran late and got us bumped from our connection flight, which resulted in a lot of nail-biting and hoping that we didn't have to stay in Minneapolis for the night.

Also, I think it would be fun to be a flight attendant for a week. Thanks go to John Wiehe for posting this first.

Newspaper dumping

I found out via the Romenesko blog that two MIT police officers were suspended for dumping several hundred newspapers that contained this story.

"Newspaper theft is the closest one can get to censorship without actually barring publication, so we take it pretty seriously," Michael McGraw-Herdeg, executive editor of MIT's The Tech, told the Boston Globe.

This may only be of interest to my JBU readers that have some experience with the Threefold Advocate, but I kind of perked up when I read about it, because this is something that the Advocate staff dealt with in previous years.

When I was an editor there, I was extremely impressed with the amount of freedom we students had when it came to the newspaper. President Pollard and Dr. Ostrander both exhibited especially high commitments to freedom of speech even when critical or unflattering articles were published.

However, I know that there had been some earlier incidents with staff members hiding or ditching certain issues that dealt with tough topics (like sex, drugs and alcohol) that coincided with Parents' Weekend. Thought this latest story was an interesting reminder of past grievances.