Do you believe Meg Whitman?


Screenshot of TMZ's exclusive. To see the documents, click here: http://bit.ly/aIaOBT


Understandably, many people believe that Meg Whitman, the failed CEO of eBay who is running for governor of California, is bending the truth when she claims that she had no idea that her maid of nine years, Nicandra Díaz de Santillán, was an undocumented immigrant.

After hearing Díaz’s story, and reading all the available documents in this kangaroo court called The American Public (I can’t stand that this is a TMZ exclusive because they are cheapening the discussion to a low-brow sport), the evidence seems stacked against Whitman.

Whitman allegedly threw out letters from the Social Security Administration, notifying her that Díaz’s Social Security Number doesn’t match her name and does not exist as such in their database. Note to Whitman: Your maid is the person who throws out your trash. Maybe she assumed Díaz couldn’t read English?

Díaz’s celebrity attorney, Gloria Allred, lays out a list of allegations that make Whitman look like a monster boss. Among the allegations:  Whitman made Díaz spend extra hours doing other housework for the same amount of pay and told her she may lose her job if she takes maternity leave. Could this be true? Whitman has been embroiled in a previous allegation that she got pushy — literally — with one of her subordinates.

While I think Whitman could take a hit from the news bombshell, I am more concerned about the reverberating effects it will have on undocumented immigrants. Hate crimes are already on the rise and I worry that the way the fear-mongerers are going to play it, on Hate Radio and Hate TV, might incite one of their minions to feel justified in beating a person because he suspects the person is an undocumented immigrant.


Why everyone should ♥ Jason Schwartzman

I first fell in love with Jason Schwartzman after seeing “i ♥ huckabees” on DVD three years ago. The film had an amazing cast — Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg and Jude Law — but it was Schwartzman who stole every scene.

I don’t watch much TV, but every Sunday evening I try to catch the HBO series, “Bored to Death” — just for Schwartzman. His sidekick character, played by Ted Danson gets laughs out of me when he does physical comedy, and just because he kind of looks like a skeleton clown, but Danson isn’t so great with his lines. He seems a bit stilted.

Schwartzman’s other sidekick, who is played by the ubiquitous Zach Galifianakis, isn’t so funny, either. Galifianakis — known to everyone as Zach “Gal-ee-fi…oh, you know, the fat guy with the red hair who is in almost every movie” — was hysterical in “The Hangover” because he knew to play that weird character catatonic-straight, but in “Bored to Death” he’s a bit uneven. And I’m tired of the fat-man jokes. Oh, and Jonathan Ames, please give us some complex female characters. Overall, however, it’s a well written show and Schwartzman puts it over the top.

If for some reason you’ve never seen his work, watch this video advertisement Schwartzman did for The New Yoker’s new iPad app. The ad lasts two minutes, and that’s all the time you’ll need to see why I ♥ Schwartzman.


Colbert’s testimony on migrant workers

Only 16 Americans have taken the United Farm Workers up on their challenge to take a migrant farm worker job, part of their “Take Our Jobs” campaign.

It’s proof that if these jobs were left to Americans, crops would rot, produce prices would soar, and we’d be forced to import even more fruits and vegetables from Latin America and elsewhere. It would mean we’d have to forget about the concept of fresh produce.

It’s an unsustainable situation, as Stephen Colbert eloquently explained Sept. 24  in testimony before a Congressional Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security.

If you missed it, take a look…

Cindy Rodriguez · Journalism · Uncategorized

Where have all the issue stories gone?

In prepping for a class in which I will discussing the art of the issue story, I searched local New York City news media looking for good local issue stories. I found several, but in years passed I would’ve found so much more.

I understand why it’s happening, why the news media is more concerned with breaking news stories (more page views, even though they don’t know how to monetize those page views). I understand about getting caught up in the story of the day. I know some newsrooms have lost a quarter or half of the staff they had a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon covering real people.

It irks me that a city as populous and powerful as New York City doesn’t have more reporters covering the issues of its people. I’m not talking about top-down stories that spring out of battles in the courts or City Hall. I’m talking about bottom-up stories that reporters cull from interviewing everyday New Yorkers about the issues affecting their lives.

Local news is key to creating an informed citizenry. You may not be able to get your average reader to sit down and read a 7,000-word New Yorker piece on the insurgency movement in Iran, but you can get them interested in a 700-word story on the elderly women in their neighborhood being harassed by their landlords.

There’s great reporting from a handful of reporters at the Daily News, the New York Times, WNYC, and several other city newsrooms, but it’s not enough. It’ll be enough when they have dedicated reporters covering the issues in all communities — not just those who are preppy or well-heeled.

Even newly sprung websites (I won’t name names) that are supposed to focus on New York City neighborhoods, are falling down on the job. They sticking to police blotter items and press release-driven stories that ignore real issues affecting real people. I can only hope that because they are fledgling news organizations this is temporary; as they grow, they’ll add seasoned reporters to their staffs, pay them a decent salary, and allow them to shine a light on the city’s issues.

That would be grand.


Lincoln what, Lincoln who?

The beta site for my class website is up: LincolnSquareNews.org.

It’s under construction. Under my list of things to do: create a nicer header with perhaps a logo. Or maybe a header that is a mashup of photos taken by my students?

I still want to move around some content and add better widgets. I’m on the lookout for a news ticker that would give me local feeds, with a dash of national and international headlines. But I must get back to my master’s thesis and once I’m done (end of August!), I’ll be able to spend more time playing with the CSS.

We’ll be running a hyperlocal site that focuses on the historic neighborhood of Lincoln Square. Heck, it’s so historic, I didn’t even know it was an official neighborhood. It’s always been lumped into the Upper West Side. The boundaries have changed a bit since it was first declared a neighborhood, back in 1906. Back then, it was a short square, confined by Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues between 63rd and 66th street.

Today, the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District has a map that defines it as starting at Columbus Circle, moving north along Broadway to 70th street, then back down south, along Amsterdam, but the city defines it slightly differently, and so do realtors and Almighty New York Times, which has kept better historical records of the city than City Hall.

Besides, a square isn’t a square unless it’s a square. So, for the purposes of this class we’ll be defining it as the same way the Times does, from 59th Street on the South, to 72nd Street to to north, along Central Park West on the East, and the Hudson River on the West.

New York Times graphic

And now to answer the question… Lincoln what, Lincoln who? Guess who Lincoln Square was named for?

It’s a mystery, according to this cool piece that ran in the NYT last year.  You’ll find it right after the jump. Continue reading “Lincoln what, Lincoln who?”


I want to follow Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert last night pledged on his TV show that he’d be taking United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodríguez up on his offer to “take back an American job” from “an illegal immigrant.” I’m not sure when Colbert is going, but I’m thinking of finding out so I can follow Colbert and report on it.

Colbert with Rodríguez on his show last night.

To watch Colbert making his pledge, click HERE.

(I’m a huge fan, and think his best work is in the field, where life unfolds. It’s his spontaneous quips that make me laugh out loud. That and intelligent sentiment behind the joke that lingers.)

But I’m also interested in seeing, up close, how Colbert’s experience will help shape public opinion. Humor and logic, combined, are a powerful force. Colbert will, no doubt, reveal the abusive, exploitative drudgery that is farm work. Colbert’s presence will also create even more publicity for the campaign and will shift the American dialogue from the nonsensical “what part of illegal do you not understand?” to conversations about creating an affordable food supply that does not rely on indentured servitude.

Rodríguez is the mastermind behind the UFW’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign, which challenges anyone who wants a farmworker job, to step right up. So far, he said only three people have taken the UFW up on it.

I’d like to see the unions of the poultry and meat packing industries do the same. Working in a slaughterhouse is grueling and dangerous. You come home smelling of blood and your fingers never thaw out. Oh, what’s that? Most of that industry is not unionized? Never mind.

… I’m also looking forward to seeing Colbert under the blazing sun, sweat dripping down his bare chest. (I know there’s a sexy man underneath the stuffy clothes, conservative eyeglasses, and all that Vitalis.)


The best humor is that which speaks a truth…

I had to share this Tweet®* from FakeAPStylebook. I like their definition for pay walls.

But perhaps that is the best way to monetize news websites that specialize? Those who think it’s the way to go don’t care so much if the number of page views plummet, as long as the willing handful pay up. In some ways, pay walls are elitist. Aren’t we supposed to be informing the citizenry so this can be a stronger democracy?

* I don’t want to get a cease a desist letter from Twitter, claiming I infringed on their trademark, hence the capital T on Tweet. But why do they even get to register it, anyway?


Who is Eben Moglen?

Until I met Eben Moglen a few months ago when he came to speak at a national affairs reporting class, I’d never heard his name. Then, a few months later, in a story about a group of computer science majors from NYU who are creating an open-source social networking site called Diaspora, I saw his name again. He’s the man who inspired them to begin working on it. Actually, at a speech at NYU he explained the framework for how it could be done.

Moglen is the legal brainchild behind the Software Freedom Law Center, the only nonprofit legal organization that advocates for open-source projects and free software and provides pro bono legal help to those who are trying to keep software code open. He’s a brilliant guy who has a lot to say. We need to listen.

It’s one reason why I’m working on a story about him.

Listen to his inspiring talk at NYU:


Why fallen Catholics like me must insist on church reform

I am a product of the Roman Catholic Church. It was my birthright: my parents were Catholic, and so where my grandparents. The Church had a monopoly in the countries my mom and dad came from — Puerto Rico and Cuba, respectively.

So, even though I grew up in Manhattan — a vastly different island with countless other faiths to choose from — my parents, understandably, raised me Catholic. They baptized me, paid for Catechism classes, and sent me to Catholic schools, where the curriculum was infused with Church teachings. There, I also had to attend church with my class every Friday and still attend Mass on Sundays.

I like to say that I put in my time, spending years of my life understanding Church doctrine. But the perpetual hypocrisy of the Church gnawed at me until I decided I could not longer be a part of an institution that has not atoned for waging war in the name of Jesus, enslaving others, and its brutal treatment of Jews and other “non-believers.”

Read the rest of this blog entry on HuffPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cindy-rodr/why-fallen-catholics-like_b_531673.html