Category Archives: Journalism

“The Blacker The Berry” and Baltimore

Kendrick Lamar's message in "The Blacker The Berry" continues to speak volumes as Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray's death.

Kendrick Lamar’s message in “The Blacker The Berry” continues to speak volumes as Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray’s death.

The defining pop culture statement about Baltimore’s reaction to Freddie Gray’s April 19 death in police custody – in a year that will be defined by such repeated and senseless acts of institutional racism – came almost two months before this heinous tour made “Charm City” its latest stop.

Kendrick Lamar’s single “The Blacker The Berry” presented a narrator awake to how little those in power cared about his life as a black man, and the frustration and anger inherent in such a realization. The narrator of “The Blacker The Berry” and Baltimore are marching hand in hand this week, it occurred to me as I watched and read reports of peaceful protests and riots occurring in the wake of the 25-year-old Gray’s death.

Baltimore, a once great American industrial city decimated by corporate outsourcing and the phony War On Drugs, now stands at attention, eyes open to the long festering injustice at its doorstep.

Below is an examination of Baltimore’s upheaval and unrest viewed through the prism of “The Blacker The Berry”. It’s worth noting that while Lamar’s narrator refers to himself as a hypocrite throughout the song I view this as a storytelling device the artist employs to provoke thought about the senselessness of black-on-black crime in the face of such an oppressive, corrupt and hateful society. This descriptor by no means disqualifies the narrator’s point of view.

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My R-Rated Takeaways From Nobel Economist Stiglitz’s TPP Speech

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will fuck us. It will fuck our 11 nation partners. It will fuck their residents and small businesses, their environments and their healthcare systems. It will leave us all fucked. And for what reason? The bottom line of multinational corporations. Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

That was my abbreviated, R-rated takeaway from Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s speech Wednesday night at P.S. 69 elementary school in Jackson Heights, Queens on the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 73-year-old Columbia professor and Clinton administration veteran, of course, did not resort to vulgarities while questioning the Obama administration for supporting the “trade agreement” which could have devastating impacts for all countries involved. The plan being drafted in secret by the Asian-Pacific partner nations and 600-plus corporate lobbyists is its own obscenity, a potential stain on the global market that will not be easily removed, the economist warned.

“When you have issues of secrecy … ” Stiglitz said to the hundreds gathered inside the auditorium, “the natural question is why. What are they trying to hide?”

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Things I Would Rather Do Than Go Outside

A heat wave is coming!

A heat wave is coming!

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 51 titled “Things I Would Rather Do Than Go Outside” is fairly self-explanatory. :)

New York City is in the midst of a heat wave. AccuWeather predicts temps in the city will hit 12 degrees when the clock strikes noon. That may sound dreadful, and believe me it is, but it marks a 10-degree upswing since overnight. So yeah, NYC heat wave 2015!

Here’s a list off the top of my head of things I would rather do than go outside:

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Bobby Jindal, Still Not Presidential Material

I swear I will not embarrass the great state of Louisiana on a national stage.

I swear I will not embarrass the great state of Louisiana on a national stage.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ruffled feathers abroad and at home last month with his anti-Muslim rhetoric and proposed higher education cuts. Turns out all those ruffled feathers did little to nothing to rouse voters. It appears the 43-year-old Republican might be closing tent on his 2016 presidential aspirations before the big circus begins. Color me shocked.

Jindal is a man who, first and foremost, believes his own bullshit. On No-Go Zones, the need for more cuts and less taxes, you name it. Bobby Jindal believes Bobby Jindal is the man the Bible God has ordained to lead our troubled nation. The problem: his two “part-time” tours of gubernatorial duty have equated to one large dumpster fire.

Why should Jindal stay on the sidelines of the 2016 presidential race? Glad you asked. Here is my Storify document counting the ways.

A $1 For The New York Times Online: Evaluating My Role As a Media Consumer

Today's promotion

The past month or so I considered buying a online subscription to the New York Times, and the wealth of information it provides. But I postponed doing so, if I were being honest, because I balked at paying for information, much of which, I could have received elsewhere at no cost.

Today I pulled the trigger. The reason? I saw a promotion across the top of the front page that said, 4 Weeks for 99 cents. Yes, 99 cents for a month’s worth of content from this country’s preeminent news source – unless you consider sites like TMZ or Perez Hilton news sources. The price rises to $3.75 per week, or $15 per month, once the first month ends. Overall, a bargain in my book.

Purchasing a New York Times subscription or a subscription to the New Yorker or any number of magazines I read online for free has been something I’ve been thinking about as part of a larger question. That question is, what responsibility do I have as a consumer to support news organizations or entertainers whose information/art plays a large role in forming my worldview?

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NOLA Times-Picayune’s Prison Piece Stirs Anger, Shame

Bobby Jindal: The Prison President?

As a person with familial ties to North Carolina, I am embarrassed for the state that it passed Amendment One last week. I am disgusted 6 out of every 10 voters there would cling to their bigotry, as if their actions were somehow noble or Biblical in basis. The state is more than tobacco-chewing rednecks slobbering over NASCAR drivers making left turns but outsiders wouldn’t know this based on their anti-gay marriage stance.

I come from a pretty backwoods, er backswamp, place myself. Lest I forget this, an article in Sunday’s New Orleans Times-Picayune reminded me in bold letters.

“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital,” the article’s headline and first sentence read. What came afterward made me curse under my breath and out loud, shake my head vigorously, and decry my home state’s fucked up way of treating its people — both criminals and non-criminals. (NOTE: The state’s court system is no better, as I detailed last April.)

If anyone wondered whether Louisiana were a third world country masquerading as a state in the first world they only need to read Cindy Chang’s piece to put aside their doubts. She did an excellent job reporting and writing the piece and the graphics that accompany it are fantastic too.

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Strange Bedfellows: Social Media and Journalism

I, like many people in their mid-20’s, am addicted to Facebook and Twitter, using the sites daily for entertainment, to access information, and stay in touch with friends.

I view Facebook and Twitter in different lights. Facebook is the site I visit to see pictures of a friend’s party or learn about their day. Twitter is the site I visit to learn about the world around me from strangers (i.e., newsmakers and news gatherers.)

My longstanding perceptions and biases surrounding the two sites are starting to change slightly as more news organizations and personalities shift focus to posting updates on Facebook. Before many focused most of their energy on distributing links and brief analysis on Twitter, which allows users to post 140 characters at a time.

The concept of how social media can benefit journalism is one I am keenly interested in because a) I am a journalist by trade, b) I view traditional journalism as a sinking ship, and c) As I mentioned earlier, I am addicted to social media.

Social media is relatively new and evolving every minute. Print journalism is centuries old and reluctant to change, even in the face of extinction. Strange bedfellows, right?

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This Is Not For The Cajun Tomato: Blog Ethics Thoughts

Follow me on Twitter @RayLegend or like me on Facebook at The CajunTomato.

From time to time, I blog about people I know and conversations I have had with them. I don’t consider this blog a journal, but occasionally it touches upon aspects of my daily life.

With that in mind, I was talking with a friend the other day when he told me something in confidence. This is not for The Cajun Tomato, he started the story. That made us both laugh. I had not considered anything in our conversation blog fodder, much less the most intimate details.

What he told me was certainly not something I would consider writing about. But his blog-referencing comment brought up a few interesting questions in my head.

Where does one draw the line in terms of what they blog or put on the Internet? Does that line change when it involves friends or is it across the board? Also, should you ask friends if you are going to blog about something that could be potentially embarrassing to them? (What you might not find embarrassing they might find so yada yada yada.)

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Job Interview Brings Back Memories of Killer Mom

I am preparing to interview this afternoon for a reporter vacancy at a mid-sized daily newspaper in the Portland suburbs.

As I look at my portfolio and my clips from four years working full-time for the Daily Comet and Houma Courier newspapers, I am reminded of a mother and her two children whose tragic tale has had a major impact on my life.

It was a morning not unlike this one on Aug. 20, 2007, when I got a tip that there was a swarm of police on St. Anthony Street in Mathews, La. I asked Lafourche Sheriff’s spokesman Larry Weidel what was going on. His response: “Just get here. It’s bad.”

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RIP Demitasse/Reflections On Facebook As A News Source

Tonight, as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, I learned the disheartening news that the coffee/sandwich shop Demitasse was burning down in my old town of Thibodaux, La.

After spotting this on a friend’s status, I reached for my phone and called my old coworkers at the town’s newspaper to alert them. A reporter was already on the scene, of course. I returned to refreshing my Facebook page.

The news from the home front — in this case, my Facebook news feed and my coworkers — was grim. The Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques, which are housed in the same building, were fully engulfed in flames.

Eventually photos and iPhone video emerged on Facebook. They confirmed the worst. The local newspaper’s web site also posted breaking news about the fire.

This event is significant for two reasons: The Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques are treasures of Thibodaux — a town beseeched by corporate fast food chains and sorely lacking in local charm — and this is the first time I can recall watching a local news event unfold on my Facebook news feed.

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