My father’s side of the family is Canadian and when the polar vortex hit both Michigan and Ontario hard in late January, I expected similar reactions in both countries. After all, I spent a lot of cold winters as a child in both countries and never noticed a difference in reactions. When Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan, it seemed a wise strategy for temperatures expected to run as low as -14, with wind chills up to -40 or more for two days. Then as the vortex eased, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press noting that our Canadian neighbors had only one modest weather story in the Windsor, Ontario paper, the Windsor Star – while schools and businesses remained open.
Columnist Nancy Kaffer of the Free Press decided to investigate. An expat friend told her “The school has closed once in the 11 years my kids have been going. “ The friend added that buses are shut down for fog or snow, but the schools don’t close. When Kaffer talked to a Wayne County official about the different responses in Canada, he first said “it’s all what you’re used to.” And when reminded that Windsor was just across the Detroit River, he added that “it really would be a great conversation to have with Windsor officials on why their responses are so different.”
I also remembered that as a child, we never cancelled trips either upstate or to relatives in Canada due to the cold, which was sometimes sub-zero. Friends told me similar stories. Guess I also think it may be time for conversations with our Canadian friends!
This year I discovered the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory – and was saddened recently to realize that the
show’s Inspiration, British scientist Stephen Hawking had died in March at the age of 76. I first learned
about his genius by reading his bestseller “ A Brief History of Time” when it came out in 1988 and later
saw the film “The Theory of Everything” in 2014.
Hawking was one of the world’s best-known scientists, with a talent for bringing
complex theoretical physics to the general public. Hawking also was as recognized for
his wheelchair and synthetic speaking voice as for his work in the sciences. Diagnosed with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease at 21, he achieved greatness
even while his condition eventually all but paralyzed him. He also married twice and had three devoted
Hawking was one of the figures who constantly reminded me that I had no excuses for not realizing my
own dreams. As we celebrate the holidays and make our resolutions for 2019, it’s always good to
remember our challenges only make us stronger. Dream big.
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:
- False or exaggerated to sway actions or change opinions – purposely false
- 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!
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.
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.
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.”