April 6 in Chicago: People-Centered Immigration Storytelling

I led a workshop at the Journalism and Women Symposium in Virginia in October that I think was supposed to be about technology.

But the only tools anyone really needed was some scratch paper and a pen.

Daria Nepriakhina/CC BY 2.0

What I’ve found in developing a social strategy for Public Radio International and for our immigration coverage, Global Nation, is that while many newsrooms and institutions want to develop relationships with the communities they cover, they often end up seeking “likes” and retweets instead. Facebook and Twitter provide particular types of data about their performance and — instead of focusing on their actual goals — they focus on upping the numbers these for-profit platforms give them most easily.

Which brings me back to the scratch paper. The most difficult part of creating a strategy, a process by which you can engage with a wider public, isn’t finding numbers to measure your success. It’s actually knowing what success means for your organization — without depending on what’s on the screen in front of us.

I’m going to give another, more in-depth version of the session I gave last fall at City Bureau in Chicago on April 6. I’ll talk about how we defined success in Global Nation, and how we measure it. And I’ll do my best to help participants scratch out their own goals. If you’re in the area and like this kind of stuff, please join us!

Public Newsroom #13: People-Centered Immigration Storytelling

Hosted by City Bureau, South Side Weekly and Illinois Humanities

Thursday, April 6 at 6 to 8 p.m.
Build Coffee
6100 S Blackstone Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60637

Find out more and let the organizers (and me) know you’re coming.

24 companies sign on to major safety agreement for Bangladesh clothing factories

Twnety-four major clothing retailers have now committed to a safety accord for garment factories in Bangladesh.

More than 1,100 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed outside of Dhaka last month and hundreds of factories were closed Monday across Bangladesh amid workers’ unrest over safety concerns.

H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark, and Tesco agreed to the accord on Monday. Seven other companies, including Benetton and Mango, joined on Tuesday, while more followed suit by Wednesday. The agreement includes measures such as independent safety inspections and public reports, an increased role for workers and unions, and funding for repairs and renovations, according to the IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions that initiated the accord.

US company PVH (which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo agreed to sign the accord last year. Other US retailers such as Walmart and Gap, have not signed the agreement. Walmart is making a “solo effort” while Gap has maintained that it cannot be part of a legally-binding accord.

The deadline for companies to join the accord is the end of the day on May 15.

News of the agreement broke during a day-long chat about the garment industry hosted by The World on Facebook yesterday. The developments prompted questions during the chat about what moves large, international clothing companies to take action and how consumers can affect change in the industry.

Read more about the chat and the post I wrote yesterday.

My $10 T-Shirt: A Conversation about Ethical Fashion

The death toll of the April 24 collapse of a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, has passed 1,000 people, making it the worst industrial accident since the 1984 gas leak at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. The Rana Plaza complex collapsed just one day after an engineer declared it unsafe.

Britain’s Primark and Canadian company Loblaw, have admitted that their clothing was manufactured at Rana Plaza and offered to compensate victims of the disaster.

One question on my mind this week has been: Is it possible that the T-shirt I bought yesterday was made by one of the workers killed in that factory?

It is a disconcerting thought for a shopper’s conscience. But figuring out what we as consumers can do to help workers in the garment industry is not an easy task.

Join us Monday on Facebook for a day-long chat about how we might be able to shop more responsibly for our clothes. Click here to RSVP and post your comments and questions to the wall.

Read mor at PRI’s The World.

iPhone: Cracked but still good

i cracked my iphone

Last week I impulsively tweeted (twittered? I think that’s more clear) about the unfortunate accident my iPhone met with my bathroom floor. I guess it’s lucky that the damage is superficial, but I was floored by the outpouring of support I received from friends and strangers. So here’s the update: Everything still works and a smooth plastic cover is preventing me from cutting my finger when I play FS5 Hockey.

In truth, I don’t play games on my iPhone all that often, unless you consider Facebook and Twitter games. I have a friend who scrolls through the applications I’ve downloaded every time we meet, looking for new tools and tricks to help her make the most of this very expensive little device. I thought I’d post some of my favorites here. These are the applications that I think make my life much more efficient — they’re helpful for me, a Los Angeles-based writer who travels often, particularly in Asia.

my online life

Next week, I’m attending a talk in Culver City. It’s one of my favorite parts of the greater Los Angeles sprawl, a no-fuss but energetic neighborhood with approachable people and good food. It represents comfort in a big city. But the talk, hosted by Zocalo Public Square, is about what is perhaps the antithesis of neighborly comforts. It asks the provocative question “Is the Internet Making Us Mean?”

Since returning from my last trip to Asia, my relationship with my laptop, my netbook and my iPhone has intesified. It’s amazing thing that a writer in Southern California can maintain close friendships with her friends in Singapore and Bangkok and Hong Kong. I’ll never regret that I can do very rich reporting on places far away because of Google Talk and Skype. As isolating as a subrurb can be, I can only imagine how much less interaction with the world I would have without social media and blogs and instant messaging.

But I also have serious reservations about my online life. Online, I am a private person and not a very patient person. Even though I spend a considerable amount of time chatting and blogging and twittering (on both the writing and reading sides), there are a lot of things that cannot happen for me in a virtual world. The Guardian reported last week that Facebook and social networking sites might alter the way the brain works. Neuroscientist Lady Greenfield (Baroness Greenfield according to the Telegraph) is calling for more investigation into the long-term consequences of living online. Indeed, there is a double effect that I’m sure many of us Facebook and Twitter and blog addicts are familiar with. We have constant interaction, “constant reassurance – that you are listened to, recognised, and important,” as the Guardian quotes Greenfield. But on the other hand, we lose depth or narrative in our relationships. Both literally and metaphorically, we diminish our two-dimensional lives. And our brains, as elastic and adaptable as they are, might be losing their capability to think deeper in terms of our relationships. If social networking and blogging might be causing these kinds of visceral changes, I can only imagine what Twitter is doing to my brain.

My editor at The China Beat sent me an article by Andew Sullivan that ran in The Atlantic last year. It’s a great explanation of its title, Why I Blog and presents some really interesting ideas about what a blog can do differently than other mediums. Sullivan writes (on page three of the online text) that a blog “renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends.”

I don’t have thousands of readers, and by extension I don’t have thousands of friends, but this was a really interesting thought to me. I read EastSouthWestNorth and Traveller’s Tales. Heck, I even read DipNote — not sure that makes me friends with the Secretary of State. But even Madame Secretary takes on a new tone in the blog, with entries like “Question of the Week: What Is the Best Path Forward for Gaza?” and “A Visit to the New Forbidden City.” It’s certainly a way to create more personal, if carefully managed, relationships between citizens their government leaders.

All of this, I think, will make next week’s talk very interesting. If this is what friendship has become — communing on a blog with the Secretary of State, keeping abreast of status updates on Facebook, physical changes in our brains that make long-term attention much more difficult than before — than certainly, the Internet has made us mean. It’s a good thing I’m getting off the Internet at least once to discuss it.

my desk

(My desk in California — it’s a pretty mobile existence, which means I take my desk everywhere.)