Category Archives: Journalism

David Vitter

Really Times-Picayune? David Vitter for Governor?

These days, my hometown rag The Times-Picayune is skinnier than an Olsen twin, and about as knowledgeable on New Orleans as Mary-Kate and Ashley combined. The paper’s sagging finances and decreasing news hole – similar maladies afflict old media enterprises across the nation – is no excuse for its editorial board’s recent brain fart, uh decision, to back Sen. David Vitter for governor.

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Bobby Jindal is Stannis Baratheon of GOP Field

Where is Melisandre when I need her? Wait, she rode off too?!

Where is Melisandre when I need her? Wait, she rode off too?!

NOTE: Game of Thrones spoilers ahead.

Surprising absolutely no one, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced today on social media his intent to run for the Republican presidential nomination. Did anyone actually think Jindal, after years furthering his own White House ambitions with hundreds of campaign trips designed to grow his national brand, refusing anything that resembled a tax even if it plunged his state into a billion-dollar deficit and making controversial speeches about gays and Muslims, would inform the media and the electorate he had decided NOT to run?

Bobby Jindal is Stannis Baratheon, or at least finds himself in a similar predicament as the would-be king found himself on Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Jindal faces extremely long odds of achieving his White House goal but at this point is in too deep to retreat. He’s spent years telling anyone who would listen he possesses the gravitas to run the nation. He must ride forward even if it means his campaign will be routed and serve as a future cautionary tale. C’est la vie.

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Survival Tips For 2014 Journalism Graduates

A beautiful day at the office with the Louisiana State Police.

A beautiful day at the office with the Louisiana State Police.

Congratulations! You are a 2014 journalism graduate!

You ignored the tea leaves and followed your heart straight to a degree as worthless as pigeon shit. Let that sink in. Or don’t. It’s kind of sad in a way that Lindsay Lohan’s career trajectory is sad, and your career hasn’t even started. The best you can hope for is to keep your nose clean from booga suga and maybe, if you’re lucky, have a seamless transition into the world of public relations.

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Prompts: “Covering Gustav, The Storm Of The Century”

Me photographing a sheriff's deputy fixing a roof leak during the height of Hurricane Gustav.

Me photographing a sheriff’s deputy fixing a roof leak during the height of Hurricane Gustav.

Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays. This week’s topic: Describe a time you overcame fear.

We slithered south toward the Gulf of Mexico on a deserted two-lane highway – the sheriff’s spokesman, the Washington Post reporter, and I in the spokesman’s cruiser – dodging fallen tree branches crisscrossing the road. Power lines sagged into ditches. Water rested atop yards like sheets of paper. Darkness choked the land. Our headlights might as well have been the last lights in the world. In the backseat the reporter from our nation’s capital peppered the spokesman with questions about our area as he drove. I already knew most of the answers before the spokesman supplied responses, at turns playful and dismissive. We were deep in the heart of bayou country, among the first to lay eyes on the aftermath of the so-called “storm of the century.”

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Guest Blog: What I Learned Volunteering In Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath

Today my journalist friend Brett Schweinberg shares his experience volunteering in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath on Staten Island. It’s been a month since Sandy hit. Many people in the area Brett visited remain in need. Learn how you can help here.

I journeyed to Staten Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy feeling uneasy about my reasons for the trip. The plan called for two neighbors and I to drive from Chicago on Friday night after work, volunteer on Saturday and Sunday, and drive through the night Sunday to get home in time for work on Monday.

On the 13-hour car ride in, my travel companions and I wondered aloud whether the money we were spending on gas and lodging would be better spent through any of the dozens of organizations collecting for the relief effort. I feared a shameful sort of voyeurism drove my desire to volunteer as much as a true desire to help.
Between the thrill of participating in a relief mission, the fun associated with driving halfway across the country and the incessant praise I received from friends and family, I worried I might be gaining too much from what was supposedly a selfless act.

What I found once I arrived in Staten Island erased my doubts.

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News Goes On In New Orleans, Just To A Different Beat

As a native New Orleanian, I would be remiss if I didn’t write about the Times-Picayune passing from the ranks of daily newspapers today, thus leaving New Orleans as the largest city in the country without a daily newspaper. My feelings about Newhouse’s decision to reduce the newspaper to three days per week have not changed much. I am hopeful though that, while the method many people get their news will change, the strength of reporting from other outlets will not. Competition can be a good thing.

I look at the Baton Rouge Advocate seeking to make a greater footprint in New Orleans as a good thing. The same goes for New Orleans TV stations hiring veteran T-P staff. And there are blogs popping up that do a great job of covering local issues, such as my friend Robert Morris’s Uptown Messenger. Somehow, some way, the news will be delivered to New Orleanians. It will be different though.

My confidence in other outlets does not translate to the Times-Picayune itself. The newspaper’s recent reporter layoffs cost the organization a depth of institutional knowledge that will not soon be replaced. There is also the issue of the Times-Picayune’s web site being user unfriendly. Aside from Newhouse changing its organizational web site layout I do not see readers having a satisfying experience on

The news goes on in New Orleans. Just to a different beat.

On Hiding Gingersapiens, Portland Boho Chic, And Cajun Tomato Correspondents

My hiding face

I am hiding again. My “landlord” is at my house fixing the toilet. She has an idea someone besides my roommate is living in her house but does not know it’s me, a 6-foot-2 gingersapien. I aim to keep it that way for everyone’s better sake.

Anyway, I am sitting at a nearby coffeeshop getting overcaffeinated, observing Portland boho chic fashion, and, um, watching a guy squat on his haunches while reading the Oregonian newspaper’s lead story line by line in its box. BUY THE PAPER, BUDDY!!!!

He walked off. Oh well. Such is the newspaper business. Steal the product, ya bastards!

If you’ve made it this far, high-five. I have an announcement: I am looking for writers. Yes, if you have an interesting idea or topic you would like to write about in this space, let me know via email – Please, please, please, no Jonah Lehrer or Fareed Zakaria bullshit (i.e., fabricated or plagiarized work).


A Checkpoint For The Fringe NOLA Crowd

Laura McKnight's stomping grounds

NOTE: I incorrectly labeled Laura McKnight’s post on the Hubig’s Pies fire as her Cajun Tomato writing debut. It was not. I glanced through my archives and neglected this post that originally ran March 20, 2011. When I switched host servers earlier this year the link to this Checkpoint Charlie’s ode was broken, and the post disappeared from the site. Here it is again in all its glory.

By Laura McKnight
Cajun Tomato Correspondent

NEW ORLEANS – As I scribble the notes for this, my heart is working overtime trying to pump greasy beef through my veins. The Cajun Burger from my Laundromat is delicious, but loaded with grease. It’s the kind of grease that trickles out of the meat patty with each bite and dribbles onto jean shorts, staining them.

At this Laundromat, which also happens to be a bar, I could probably just take my shorts off, throw them in the nearest washing machine and chill in my panties with few stares, much less objections. One of my college professors told me he spent part of a rainy Mardi Gras here, buck naked, waiting for clothes to dry.

Stains aside, that burger did nothing good for my physical constitution. Likewise, spending regular laundry sessions at this place, known as Checkpoint Charlie’s, is likely not advisable for healthy living. But it’s fun and my clothes need washing, so I come here anyway. That’s how we roll here in South Louisiana.

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“Cajun Justice” Sheriff Should Resign Following DWI Intervention

King Vernon Bourgeois

Three weeks from now, millions of Americans will be introduced to “Cajun Justice” on A&E. I encourage you to read my post on why this TV show is/was/will forever be a terrible idea.

The Cajun culture has already been raped enough by outsiders looking to make a quick buck. A&E’s show promises to be no different, with its laughable references to treacherous swamplands and “Rougarous” and bloated comparisons of Terrebonne Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois to a king.

The cable channel’s likening of Bourgeois to a king seemed oddly fitting today after my old newspaper broke a story that he intervened during a DWI arrest involving an alleged drunk man driving a golf cart. It turned out the suspect’s family donated to Bourgeois’ election campaign four years ago.

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Grantland’s “Oden On Oden” Piece Raises Journalistic Questions

Greg Oden (via Getty Images)

Greg Oden is a sore subject among Portland Trail Blazers fans, to put it mildly. Fans considered him the final piece of a Big Three, along with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, that would win the Blazers their first NBA title in three decades. Except Oden’s 7-foot body broke down – so did Roy’s – and slowly the fans were forced to abandon their lofty dreams.

On Wednesday, web magazine Grantland ran a profile on Oden written by Mark Titus, his longtime friend and college teammate. The piece captivated me, largely because it pulled the curtain back on a press-shy player who has dealt with and continues to deal with an incredible amount of adversity for a 26-year-old.

While I enjoyed reading his piece, Titus’ work left me with several questions – particularly from a journalistic standpoint – that I felt would be worthwhile to address here. I’ll skip the argument about whether Oden came across as a sympathetic figure or whether he came across as making excuses.

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