Why I’m not reading Go Set A Watchman

Should the circumstances under which Go Set A Watchman came to be published influence whether or not we read it?

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This week marks the release of Go Set A Watchman, the second book to be published from author Harper Lee, 55 years after the first, To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee attended the University of Alabama and wrote for the same campus newspaper that many of my students have staffed. So, the release of Watchman has perhaps been on my radar a bit longer than others. And since the announcement, I’ve had a sick feeling in my stomach about it.

watchmanLee neither seeks nor enjoys public attention. She does not grant interviews with media (the last was in 1964). She still lives in Monroeville, Ala., the small country town of her birth. And those close to her have long told the press that Lee had no desire to publish again.

In 2007, Lee, hard of hearing and sight recovering from a stroke in an assisted living home, signed away her copyright to Mockingbird, leading to an ugly legal battle to recover it. This Vanity Fair feature from 2013 is absolutely worth your time.

So, when Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, announced that she had stumbled upon a long-lost manuscript, and publisher HarperCollins added that Lee was “happy as hell” to publish it, one had to wonder if someone else close to Lee was taking advantage of the author who now permanently resides in a nursing home. Continue reading “Why I’m not reading Go Set A Watchman”

Reviling racism and protecting free speech: PR, education, and the First Amendment in Oklahoma’s SAE controversy

There will never be a n*gger at SAE
There will never be a n*gger at SAE
You can hang him from a tree
But he’ll never sign with me
There will never be a n*gger at SAE

Some ignorant frat guys from the University of Oklahoma sang this on a bus. It was filmed and shared online. Within 24 hours, the university severed ties with the fraternity and shut down their campus house. Within 36 hours, two students appearing to lead the song had been expelled.

They deserve it. The existence of this line of thinking, much less the existence of a welcoming audience for such a message, makes me angry.

They deserve it. But they cannot be expelled, because it runs counter to the purpose of institutions of higher education and foundational American beliefs about expression.

Continue reading “Reviling racism and protecting free speech: PR, education, and the First Amendment in Oklahoma’s SAE controversy”

What was Clickworthy in 2013

Back when I had time to blog, I’d occasionally write quick comments about popular topics circulating around the Internet, usually highlighting one article, essay, or video in particular that had an especially interesting or useful take on said issue. I labeled the posts “Clickworthy,” and if you search for that tag, you’ll find them.

If you follow me on Twitter (which you should!), you know that the Clickworthy principle captures most of what I do there. But alas, 140 characters doesn’t leave much space for introspection (or even a summary).

So, in the spirit of the overused year-end list, I have combed through a year of Tweets to present to you a lists of links that promise to be entertaining, informative, sometimes both, and occasionally neither. Without further ado, What was Clickworthy in 2013.

Clickworthy 2013 Features:
Boston Marathon Bombing  |  Surveillance, Snowden, and the Press

Continue reading “What was Clickworthy in 2013”

Arctic cold sets unusual winter landscape in the Deep South [Photos]

Southerners don’t know how to act when the weather gets cold. I’m living in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the supermarket shelves ran out of milk and bread days ago, and schools are shut down not because of snow or ice, but because the temperature dropped below 20 degrees. I shouldn’t act too high and mighty – not actually owning cold weather clothing, I’m wearing multiple pairs of socks and pants, along with two or three sweaters and light jackets… and that’s just to sit inside and type this.

I also behaved like a tourist, because when I drive down a road in the South and see something like I did today, I don’t act like I’ve been there before; I pull over and whip out my camera.

All photos were taken along Jack Warner Parkway, in between the Black Warrior River and University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. Non-commercial usage is welcomed with proper attribution. Contact Dylan for commercial rights.

 

A brief update as we turn the calendar

Friends, colleagues, and happenstance Googlers,

I warned you this may happen.

Indeed, life as a doctoral student quickly overtook side projects like this blog. There’s a reason the home page describes me as “an on-again off-again blogger.”

My first semester at Alabama went well. Papers were written, books were read… statistics were even largely understood. I enjoyed my first experience in a large-lecture setting, teaching a 220-or-so student Intro to Mass Com course. I hope to one day write about the social media and technological implementations into the curriculum. The student experience seemed to be quite positive. The most common complaint on my evaluations was that the class met at 8 a.m. Allow me to second.

The 2012 presidential election provided a wealth of research opportunities. As conferences and (cross your fingers) publications arise, you can check here for summaries that aren’t near as tedious as the full papers.

Otherwise, the blog is likely to remain quiet during this time. As always, you can follow me on Twitter, where I do still find time to comment on all manner of thing, 140 characters at a time. I do enjoy writing for those of you who enjoy reading. Hopefully, we will reconvene soon.

A new season begins

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1

The past few months have been good for the blog. Summer provided a good bit of free time and some fun topics to write about. It also provided some much needed time with those closest to me. I was talking to a fellow friend displaced by higher education a few nights ago. We agreed – you never truly appreciate family and friends until you have left them. So I am thankful I received a season at home.

Now, it’s time to turn the page.

At the beginning of the month, I moved to Tuscaloosa, Ala. Next week, I begin my work as a Doctoral Assistant in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama. Daunting as it may be, I am looking forward to immersion in the Ph.D. process. I like the future it promises; the possibilities now only imagined. With prayer I take this step, mindful that “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

But that has very little to do with the blog.

I am writing you to let you know I will not be writing you. At least as frequently. Or, at least not in as much depth. I hope to still share the occasional thought on more prominent events. That or bore you with stories about my research.

Best wishes for your next season. May we meet again soon.

Mass layoffs or ‘job notifications’? Advance’s attempt to spin its Deep South newspaper guttings

Six hundred employees at four Deep South newspapers lost their jobs Tuesday, as Advance Publications continues its transition to primarily digital news. The cuts hit newsrooms surprisingly hard, especially in the wake of Advance’s earlier commitment to “significantly increase online news-gathering efforts” and offer “richer” “deeper” “robust” “enhanced printed newspapers on a scheduled of three days a week.”

In May, Advance announced limited print schedules and a revamped online approach for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Birmingham News, the Mobile Press-Register, and the Huntsville Times.

[RELATED: Times-Picayune, part of New Orleans culture, scaling back; Alabama papers hit, too]

The Times-Picayune lost 49% of its news staff on Tuesday. The Birmingham News purged 60% of their journalists. In moves that cut roughly one-third of each newspaper’s overall staffing, it would seem that the actual news gatherers were hit disproportionately hard.

Advance promises that a portion of these positions will be refilled, no doubt by less experienced, more affordable reporters. Still, fulfilling the watchdog role of the press is awful tough work when there aren’t capable bodies there to do the groundwork.

And if yesterday’s events were any indication, the NOLA and AL media groups are going to have a lot of trouble covering their respective cities. Just look at how poorly they covered themselves…

Continue reading “Mass layoffs or ‘job notifications’? Advance’s attempt to spin its Deep South newspaper guttings”