Robinson Forum 2018 Focuses on “Fake News”

I always look forward to an annual trip to Birmingham, Alabama to visit with my late husband Tim Robinson’s  family and attend the Robinson Forum at Samford University.   The annual lecture  honors the career of my late husband, a pioneering legal journalist and internet entrepreneur.   The Robinson family has endowed an annual journalism scholarship, which includes a partnership with the Washington Post that provides an internship each year for a lucky Journalism student.  Sadly, this was the second year that I was unable to attend the Forum in person, but instead watched on an electronic hook up.

The 2018 speaker was Professor Jennifer Greer, associate provost for administration at the University of Alabama  and previously chair of the Dept. of Journalism.  Greer stated that journalism was in her heart and soul – she started her career as a newspaper journalist and also started  Horseman Magazine with her sisters when she was young.  She still does a talk show for Alabama public radio.

Professor Greer focused her presentation on the subject of fake news –which she noted goes back to the 1800s.  She gave two definitions of fake news:

  1. False or exaggerated to sway actions or change opinions – purposely false
  2. Weapon to discredit media organizations or journalist

Professor Greer noted that two early publications that featured “fake news”, the New York Sun and Penny Press in 1835, were all about money – selling advertising to a large audience and using an illustration of the moon on the cover, much like the National Enquirer today.

During her speech, she pointed out that President Trump is good at creating a consistent narrative  –  and his chief one is that mainstream news Is “fake news” – using quotes when talking about the media.  Greer also observed that NBC News  journalist Kristen Welker told her that she needs a bodyguard because of all the threats against the media.

The full speech is on the facebook page of the Samford Journalism  Mass Communication Dept. at  https://www.facebook.com/SamfordJMC/ – You can find it under videos (click on “see all”).

By the way, Professor Greer was the first female journalist to headline the Samford Forum and I think Tim would have approved!

A Cure for Stress – Deva Premal and Miten

I was introduced recently to the calming chants of Deva Premal and Miten.  This team’s meditative music was the perfect remedy for my high blood pressure spike after a recent surgical procedure.  When I looked up the website, I discovered that Deva and Miten were both students of Osho and started collaborating together after meeting in India at his ashram.

I was already using yoga and other meditation techniques regularly in my life – but this duo’s music became a welcome discovery.  I also have to acknowledge a special lecture from meditation coach Pragito Dove (www.discovermeditation.com) on the power of music as meditation that specifically recommended Deva and Miten’s magical collaboration.

Now I want to share the website for anyone looking for new music to calm stress during these turbulent times. Just visit  http://devapremalmiten.com.

You can also find their music on YouTube.

A tribute on the Passing of the Queen of Soul

As the funeral and final musical tributes to Aretha Franklin  played out in Detroit just before Labor Day,  I felt  saddened, realizing how much I will miss our city’s reigning Queen of Soul.

Aretha was only 14 when her first album hit the airwaves – I grew up with her music and will miss looking forward to powerful new performances.   It was fascinating to learn how her version of “Respect” transformed a song by Otis Redding into a powerful  anthem for women

I also realized as I listened to the coverage that Aretha flourished in an environment that was similar to my late husband Tim Robinson’s upbringing. Aretha’s love of music was nourished at her father’s Baptist church in downtown Detroit – although the family had moved north from Tennessee when she was two years old.  Tim’s father was a Baptist preacher in a small Alabama town and Tim grew up playing piano at the services from a young age.

What made Aretha so great?  She was a perfectionist and tightly controlled her performances.  But in the interviews it was emphasized again and again that she sang from her heart.  She loved her audiences and also shared her father’s devotion to furthering civil rights.  Although her marriages failed, she had four sons and fiercely protected her family’s privacy.

As tributes poured in following her death, recording artists from soul, gospel and rock and roll all over the world affirmed Aretha’s right to the title internationally of Queen of Soul.

 

 

In Newsrooms, a Resolve to Carry On

A few weeks have passed now since a gunman took the lives of four journalists and a sales assistant In a brutal newsroom attack at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.  That weekend editors from the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News wrote moving editorials.

Nolan Finley of the News  revealed that a group of fellow journalists there personally felt the resemblance to the harassment they had also been receiving for five years from a man sending emails spewing some of the most vile vulgar, racist and anti-Semitic poison they had ever read.  Peter Bhatia, Editor of the Free Press declared that “we are fact-driven.  We are motivated by truth-telling.  And the fact that journalists have now joined high school students  and concert-goers as targets of gun violence in our country doesn’t change a thing.”

 

I started my career in journalism and publishing at a newspaper in Michigan and worked my way into an Investigative beat.  A fellow reporter on another local paper was Investigating an illegal abortion mill that involved the local mafia.  He let colleagues know that he was getting death threats.  Calls went around and several of us joined him that evening to play poker all night.  We didn’t have guns or even knives.  But we knew we couldn’t let him face the threat alone.Nothing ever happened, but I was proud that we looked out for each other.

Today I worry that such threats not only continue.  but a disturbed and angry man in Annapolis finally carried out his threats with a firearm.  While I am proud that journalists are not deterred, I hope that as a nation, we can find a path back to respect for the important role of the media in a free society.  Bhatia concluded his editorial by quoting Josh McKerrow, the Annapolis photojournalist. “The shrill chaos seems to be winning. But it’s not winning – and it’s not going to win.”

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/nolan-finley/2018/07/01/newsrooms-lunatic-magnets/745999002/

https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/2018/07/05/journalism-after-annapolis/758686002/

 

2018 WSU Honors College Pillar Awards – And a Dean Passes the Torch

Last week I attended a very special event at the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University — the 2018 Pillar Awards.   I was eager to congratulate the presenter — outgoing Honors Dean, Jerry Herron (who was now listed as Founding Dean) — and to meet his successor, Dean John Corvino.  The Pillar Awards was created “to celebrate the four pillars of Honors and recognize the distinguished contributions of four exemplary individuals.”  https://events.wayne.edu/2018/06/19/honors-college-pillar-awards-76864/

While the Honors College will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, it also includes graduates of the experimental  Monteith College, that started in 1959 and was discontinued in 1978.  As a Monteith graduate, I was delighted to meet other alums at the campus event, as well as some instructors from my era.  Retired Professor Paule Verdet was seated at my table and enjoyed recalling being one of the original instructors hired to create the curriculum of the new Monteith.

I had worked on a special project with Dean Herron a few years ago that involved creating an online platform to showcase student projects —  and I enjoyed seeing how Honors in its own way created the same hyper-creative environment for talented students from across the country that I found in Monteith.

This year’s Pillar honorees included four WSU graduates, including two from Monteth:  Sheila Cockrel was the winner of the Service Award and a Monteith alumna; and Hon. Sharon Finch, winner of the Career Award was the other Monteith graduate.   Cockrel is a former Detroit councilwoman while Finch is a retired judge – both remain active in the community.  David E. Smith was the winner of the Community Award, and  James Linwood Smith was named posthumously as the winner of the Research award.

There were also recent Honors graduates at the event, who were inspired by the Pillar Awards honorees.  As the Detroit area continues to reinvent itself, it is exciting to see this new generation helping to ensure a bright future.

For more information:   https://honors.wayne.edu/experience

 

An Ode to Springtime Biking

It’s well into May, the dogwood  trees in my neighborhood are blooming and I am able to bike again after a frigid early spring. Enjoying the white blossoms, the green lawns and the chirping of birds as I wheel around the neighborhood  brings me amazing joy.  It also reminds me of my life-long love of bikes.

 

It started  during my childhood in Detroit,  when  I was a tomboy and loved to hang out with my older brother Bill and his buddies.  It meant that I was always speeding recklessly on my green girl’s bike to impress them and unfortunately that sometimes had disastrous consequences —  including the time I fell off my bike in the alley as I tried to execute a fast turn, fell over and badly scraped my elbow as I hit the pavement.  I am still amazed that I got through those competitive years without any scars, just exhilarating memories. It also fueled my feeling that I could compete with“the boys” – really helpful when I competed in a male-dominated field of journalism and later publishing.

 

When I eventually lived in Brooklyn  in my late 20s, I took up biking again, racing a road bike around the borough, but especially focusing  on riding in  beautiful  Prospect Park —  where  traffic was diverted on summer weekends and bikers flooded  the roads instead.  There was always so much going on that it felt like an amazing adventure.    I even took my bike occasionally on the subway to Manhattan so I could have similar fun in Central Park or explore other areas like the Village and Soho.

 

I didn’t stop biking until after my marriage to a non-biker more than 10 years later. My husband Tim preferred a health club membership and playing racket ball to biking outdoors.  I finally gave in, although I still took my bike to California with us a few years later, where  it ended up stored away and finally sold.

 

After my beloved Tim’s death, one of the ways I coped with the sorrow was moving back to Brooklyn and buying a road  bike from a neighbor  in my condo building– a white Boardwalk Bianchi, 8 speed.  This time I have never quit and consider my bike part of my wellness package, along with yoga and meditation.   And  every spring, I joyfully hit the roads again.