Cindy Rodriguez · Journalism · MoJo · Uncategorized

Tips on preparing for a foreign reporting assignment

The International Center For Journalism’s Claritza Jiménez interviewed me for a Q&A on how I prepared to report overseas for my ICFJ International Reporting Fellowship. It was published on, the International Journalists’ Network.

Here’s a screen grab of the first few grafs:


Continue reading “Tips on preparing for a foreign reporting assignment”


Why I love Foursquare

I’m an avid Foursquare user. I like to check into places and occasionally add a comment or photo, especially if I like the place. If I don’t, I just don’t go there any more, rather than write a snarky comment about the place.

Non-Foursquare users usually ask me two questions: 1. Aren’t you worried about stalkers? (My answer: No. I’m not important enough to have a stalker.) 2. What’s the point? Here’s my answer to that second question:

Being the mayor of a place has certain advantages. For example, at Boloco Commons I get a free meal for myself and two buddies every Monday as long as I’m still mayor when I check in. I’m still waiting for a student to take over my mayorship, but I’m hoping he/she will take me to lunch on Mayor Mondays. It’s also a great way to keep up with where my friends are headed and to find out if anyone I know is in a particular place. (I use Sonar to help me figure out if a friend of a friend there.)

Early in the fall semester, my graduate student Barry Thompson asked me to hold the mayorship of Emerson College’s Walker Building because he writes a regular “Meet the Mayor” feature for the Boston Phoenix and wanted to wait until the end of the semester so there would be no conflict of interest. I had been rivaling someone known to me only as Michelle Z. for the honor and came to find out she’s an Emerson staffer! Michelle, I wish Foursquare would let me be your deputy mayor.

Barry’s write-up can be found here. I’m now prepared to teach students how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Thanks for the head’s up, Barry.


Riots in West Bank postpone my visit

Photo by Oren Rosenfeld

I was looking forward to heading into the West Bank Sunday, to interview a rabbi who runs a yeshiva in the Israeli settlement town of Shilo. My fixer, Oren Rosenfeld, a veteran journalist who has worked for many international news organizations, including the BBC, was going to drive me there and help with translations.

It wouldn’t be my first time entering Palestinian territory, but it would be my first in a controversial settlement town. But Oren called midday Saturday, telling me it would not be safe for us.

He’d spent Friday in the town of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, covering riots that had broken out. A 17-year-old Palestinian boy was shot to death by guards of Jewish settlers living in Beit Yonatan, an apartment building.

Oren told me rioters had thrown tear gas into the building and set it aflame. Guards were trapped inside, so they shot their way out and one of the bullets hit Milad Ayache in the abdomen. He died at a hospital a few hours later. News reports including this one from ynetnews and this one from Al-Jazerra English do not have these details.

Milad Ayache

The funeral was held today and there were clashes with police, resulting in multiple injuries.

Oren said Ayache’s death would stoke anger among Palestinians Sunday, which was also Nakba Day, the annual day that Palestinians protest the establishment of Israel, which forced 700,000 Palestinians to flee the country and led to the creation of the occupied territories.

Oren has been covering riots and battles for 15 years. “Usually, I’m the first to say, ‘Let’s go,’ ” he told me. “But it’s dangerous and not worth it.”

Agreed. He’s going to call the rabbi tonight, after sunset, the end of Shabbat, to rearrange our meeting. Hopefully in a few days the rioting will subside and I’ll be able to visit Shilo and see the yeshiva where the rabbi teaches.


I love these shtreimel hats

From wikipedia:

shtreimel (Yiddish: שטרײַמל, pl. שטרײַמלעך shtreimlech) is a fur hat worn by many married ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, particularly (although not exclusively) members of Hasidic groups, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions.[1]

In Jerusalem, the shtreimel is also worn by ‘Yerushalmi’ Jews (non-Hasidim who belong to the original Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem, also known asPerushim). The shtreimel is generally worn only after marriage, except in many Yerushalmi communities, where boys wear it from theirbar mitzvah. In the dynasties of Chabad-Lubavitch and Karlin-Stolin, the shtreimel was reserved for the Rebbe only.


In Orthodox world, men do not shake hands with women

Last fall, Rav Yuval Cherlow, a highly respected Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem, sparked a furious debate after he
suggested that a man should shake the hand of a woman if she extends it.

I’ve long known not to offer my hand to an Orthodox Jewish man because it puts them in an awkward situation. I slipped once, when I jumped to my feet to thank an Orthodox Jewish man for coming to my journalism class and extended my hand. He shook it and immediately afterward I remembered that I shouldn’t have done it. It was too late, and he seemed fine with it.

Recently, I was at B&H Photo in Manhattan purchasing some equipment and had a wonderful talk with one of the Orthodox Jewish salesmen, at the end of our conversation I smiled and thanked him and said, “I would shake your hand if I could.” He seemed pleased with my statement.


Back of the bus?

I’m heading to Jerusalem in May on a journalistic mission to better understand the struggles of gay Orthodox Jewish men in the Holy Land. In preparation, I happened to come across a story written in February 2009 about Haredi men (the men who wear black suits and black Fedoras) stoning buses that do not segregate women and force them to sit in the back.

It made me do a double take. Back of the bus?

When I hear that phrase, images of Civil Rights Movement flash in my mind. I think about the cruel and unjust way that black people were treated throughout this country, especially in the South. Separate drinking fountains. Separate bathrooms. White-only schools. “No-blacks-need-apply” signs. Laws that forbid black people from buying property, aka housing covenants.

People of privilege are used to holding power, even if the privileged happen to be so-called rednecks. (Or Haredi men who have been inculcated with the belief that they are superior to women.)

Taking them on is not easy. In the case of the racist Jim Crow South, change required that the nation’s consciousness be rattled and awoken. The spark was Rosa Parks, a black woman who was jailed for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.

In 1992, Parks told NPR’s Lynn Neary: “I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

…which makes me wonder, will there be an Orthodox Jewish Rosa Parks?

‘Sinful’ city buses stoned by ultra-Orthodox Jews

Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Jews want women to enter buses by the rear door and sit at the back.

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem/ The Associated Press

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

It is an all too familiar scene: the Israeli bus, travelling near predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem, is pelted with stones that smash windows and startle passengers. Except this time the stone-throwers are not Arabs but Jews.

The violence is part of an unholy war in which strident elements of the ultra-Orthodox community in Mea Shearim are trying to force Israel’s leading bus company – and, by extension, Israeli society – to defer to their strict religious teachings and sensibilities.

Although Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, what that means in practice is subject to dispute, with religious and secular Jews constantly tugging for greater clout in shaping the character of the country.

The latest battle is over demands that buses segregate men and women in accordance with strict Jewish law on a line connecting the ultra-Orthodox stronghold of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem with the Western Wall.

In the view of some ultra-Orthodox Jews, segregated seating, with women entering separately through the rear door and sitting at the back, is vital to uphold their stringent traditions stipulating modesty and prohibiting physical contact with members of the opposite sex.

Secularists say the push for sanctity on the buses is part of a larger effort to transform Jerusalem into a kind of Tehran. The violence is a major test for Jerusalem’s new Mayor, Nir Barkat, who rode to power last year on the votes of secular residents worried over growing ultra-Orthodox influence.

Associated Press photo
Journalism · Uncategorized

Blogging will never die

I’m so tired about bloggers blogging about the pending death of blogging.

There are so many bloggers now that bloggers can blog about the best blogs on the web, and there will be readers for THAT.

But, seriously, isn’t it ironic that bloggers are writing about this, considering that 26 million more blogs were created in the U.S. in 2010.

There are now a total of 152 MILLION blogs in a country of 308 million people.

The problem isn’t that blogging is dying, it’s that EVERYONE thinks they can write an interesting blog. They’re cluttering the blogosphere with really lame or stolen copy they regurgitate.

Those blogs will die.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that fewer teens are blogging, precisely because few people were reading their posts. Just because you create a blog, doesn’t mean people are going to read it.

The blogs that will have a thriving audience are the ones that are:

1. well written,

2. have original content,

3. serve a need,

4. allows readers to engage and interact* (this is vital!)

Through word-of-mouth and OUR social networks, we are learning about the better blogs. We might hear about them through Twitter or Facebook and then we’ll read. If it has a VALUE to the reader, they WILL read your WHOLE BLOG POST. And if you have a book on the topic and they are interested they will buy your book.

Blogging is here to stay. It will not be replaced by a Tweet or a FourSquare check-in. It won’t be replaced by Facebook, either. For journalists and writers, these are social networking tools that can be used to establish your brand and draw readers to your blogs.

We don’t know which direction journalism is going, but it’s clear that we are becoming more socially connected through the internet. Facebook is the most visited website in America. People want to connect and interact with information they get.

This precisely what the Web 3.0 is supposed to be about. It’s just that, in some ways, Mark Zuckerberg beat them to it. (I’m often surprised at how many journalists know zip about the semantic web, aka, Web 3.0 being built.)

People on Facebook do not have to be talking about trivial dribble. They can be engaging people in a manner that educates people. But let’s leave that discussion for another time.

The point I want to leave people with is that a microblog is a starting point. It’s an appetizer. The blog is the enchilada, and if it’s a good one, people will savor it and want more. Just make sure that you create a blog that allows people to comment, interact, and respond.

I look forward to meeting all the wonderful budding journalists who will be at the Spring College Media Convention in New York City. My session on how to create a blog will be Monday at 2 p.m. Be there or be FourSquare.

Use the hashtag #cmanyc11