Goodbye Bill Moyers

This weekend is the final Bill Moyers Journal. I tear up just thinking about that empty studio, those empty chairs. No more "See you next time," no more investigative long form stories and educating interviews.

Mainstream news is such a joke, and Bill Moyers was my shelter. He believes in humanity, from our goodness to our failings, and his journalism was a priceless public service that examined the worst and best of it: greed, corruption, broken systems, dance, poetry, spirituality, forgiveness.

In the last year I've worried about who will take his place, but no rising journalist could do as much as we the people, if we speak up when we see something wrong, stick up for those who can't take care of themselves, and just generally try to do right. It's fitting to have Jim Hightower among Moyers' final guests, since Hightower and Moyers share the same need to battle "the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be."

Check your local listings for the show's schedule.


My Club, My Place, My Point of View

Come join me at FMoPA on Thursday evening from 6:30-7:30 to soak up the efforts of dozens of student photographers.

My Club, My Place, My Point of View is a one night
only exhibit, the product of weeks of hectic instruction
and production by FMoPA's outreach team
(of which I am a member).

In March I wrote briefly about the volunteering I'm doing with FMoPA, teaching digital photography and literacy to kids at a Tampa Boys & Girls Club, thanks to a grant by the Eckerd Foundation.

It's always a little sad when a project wraps up, but there's no doubt this ending will be happy.


Retail Therapy: The Spring of Tampa Bay

Tampa's bustling vintage thrift stores were highlighted a couple of weeks ago in the New York Times. Even this fashion-senseless do-gooder knows that buying used has other reasons beyond fashionista-ing.

Tiffany Cole has worked at the Simply Spring thrift store for the last two years but she didn't want to be "just a cashier" anymore. The store, at 209 North Willow in Tampa, benefits The Spring of Tampa Bay, the largest domestic violence shelter in Hillsborough County.

"We're a big family," Tiffany says of her regular shoppers, who range from abused women to members of the community (and Channel 13's Russell Rhodes, she was quick to point out.) In sales, this "family" generates a half a million bucks a year for The Spring, according to Cole. And still, she says, "It's fashion at modest prices."

Tiffany decided that a fashion show would be a great fundraiser as well as a good way for women in the shelter to spend a Saturday. She told me there's "not much for women in the shelter to do during the day. Jobs are hard to find." Again, she cited Rhodes for encouraging her to plan the show.

The fashion show takes place Saturday, April 24th at the Taproot Community Center at 1405 Tampa Park Plaza from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the door.

Recently I spoke with the Joanne Lighter, Executive Director of the Spring about the importance of the shelter in these rough economic times. She told me that when it comes to domestic issues, "families sometimes suffer loudly. Sometimes there's not a police report at all." The Spring, she said, "is a place of safety." When you discover that home isn't a safe place and you think there's nowhere to turn, in Tampa Bay at least, there is always a safe place to go.

The Big Read Tampa 2010

I'm an avid reader who rarely reads fiction. On those few and far between occasions that I do, I always feel better about the world and the insights into the human condition. But frankly I'd rather go to the dentist's office with my latest non-fiction selection in hand than sit comfortably at home curled up with a novel.

The Big Read, with its mission to "revitalize the role of literature in American popular culture," was made for people like me. The National Endowment for the Arts, which funds the Big Read, gives cities all over the country money to encourage us citizens to read good, important books. I know personally that The Big Read is effective because it's done more to make me change my not-fiction-reading ways than anything else, even college.

A few years ago I was passing through Philadelphia during their big, city-wide read. It was the non-fiction-disguised-as-fiction What is the What. I gobbled it up. In 2008 Tampa's Big Read was Their Eyes Were Watching God. Not only did I devour that book, too, but it lead me to also get acquainted with the life of one of Florida's great writers.

Tampa's 2010 Big Read is The Joy Luck Club. Catch author Amy Tan on May 1st & 2nd downtown at the library and the Straz Center, respectively. Then check out the library's online calendar for other events at various branches around Hillsborough County, from discussions of the book The Joy Luck Club and viewings of the film to sampling Chinese food and culture, and Tai Chi demonstrations and a lesson in Feng Shui.

(I also just stumbled across The Big Read's blog. Very fun site for bookaholics.)


All Media is Local

There's an FCC workshop on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 from 3:00-7:30 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center at the University of South Florida. Here's why this concerns you:

If you've heard the old joke about having hundreds of TV channels but nothing's ever on and you've witnessed it for yourself, or complained about how thin the newspaper has become, or are sick of the same ten songs being played over and over again on the radio, then you should care that the media landscape can still get worse.

Media businesses, like all businesses, have to sell their product. That makes sense. But why sell something that sucks? Wouldn't that lead people elsewhere for information and entertainment? The media, like any other business that grows "too big to fail," has gotten too big to produce anything worthwhile. It's the Walmartization of our entire country. Now the media wants to get even bigger.

In 1975, a law was put in effect that prohibited TV stations from buying newspapers in the same city. Tampa is one of just a few cities where a company, Media General, already owned both a TV station (WFLA) and a newspaper (The Tampa Tribune) pre-1975. So Media General was allowed to keep their company as it was, but no other company was allowed to do the same from then on.

Currently the FCC is in the process of deciding if they should deregulate (overturn) this "cross-ownership" law. And since Tampa is one of those few cities in the country that already has cross-ownership in action, the FCC is looking to us for our input. Do we like our Tribune-WFLA combo? Their shared reporters, shared stories? Are they giving us all the information we need or have they gotten a little soft and spread too thin?

Let your voice be heard on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 from 3:00-7:30 p.m. at the FCC workshop at USF's Marshall Student Center. You'll get two minutes to say whether or not you want cross-ownership to happen, and what you think of the media in your town.

The FCC commissioners won't be in attendance, but staffers from their Media Bureau will be present as well as folks from our local media. And the workshop will be streamed live on Questions from the Internet audience can be submitted throughout the course of the workshop via email to and via Twitter using the hash tag #MoWksp.


When Home Isn't Where the Heart Is Anymore

Florida Governor Charlie Crist released a statement last week regarding the new crime statistics in the state. Overall, crime has decreased across the board, except for domestic violence which has seen an increase of 3%.

Joanne Lighter, the Executive Director of the Spring of Tampa Bay, sent me more stats via email to further spotlight the issue:
Domestic Violence (DV) murder is up 15.6%. DV manslaughter is up 71.4%. DV stalking is up 31%. And 40% of all violent crimes were DV-related. 1/5 of all murders were DV related.
"Fewer couples are getting divorced," Lighter said, citing a reason for the spike in violence. She told me this week that 15 domestic abuse-related homicides have occurred in Hillsborough County since last July.

In a similar vein, tomorrow night there's an event in Hyde Park Village called Take Back the Night, sponsored in part by the Spring, the Sexual Violence Task Force of Tampa Bay, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay (211!), and the Family Justice Center.

It's for survivors of sexual violence and abuse, as well as their loved ones, or even if you're seeking more information and want to be a part of the cause. After all, someone you know has most likely been affected. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) 1 in 6 women & 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Sad, sad stats.

Library Stories: Speed Reading

Six random books sit in my lap, ranging in classic Dewey Decimal style from CD 330 (The Great Courses: Contemporary Economic Issues on CD) to 808 Our (The Onion's Our Dumb World).

There's also 404.2083 Pears (Raising a Bilingual Child by Dr. Barbara Pearson. And no, I'm not expecting.), 641.84 ('Wichcraft, a sandwich cookbook), and a book of essays from women about the people who beautify them, entitled Damage Control.

I was attracted to the last book on that list because I've always liked the idea of being a girly girl but I've never liked investing the time. (For example, last week when I was working like mad to finish my video for the film festival, primping, shaving, tweezing et al. were the first to be sacrificed in the name of time management. It wasn't a pretty week.)

But I loved reading the stories of those women who have made the time, like Minnie Driver's Understanding My Hair, where she desperately tries to tame her curls as a youth, and Maysan Haydar's ancient Arab recipe for homemade body wax in Permanent: The Persistence of Arab Beauty Rituals.

The sweetest thing in this book is in the introduction by editor Emma Forrest, quoting a make up artist from an episode of Nip/Tuck (actually make that the second sweetest thing after the notice that all author proceeds from first-run sales would go to Women for Women International):
"The only peace in a women's day is the twenty minutes when she's getting her toes done, or her fingernails done. The only time she has when someone else is completely focusing on her. One of those rare opportunities when someone's looking her in the eyes, and seeing what she needs."
Damage Control was mislabeled as fiction (irony noted) where I stumbled across it as I re-shelved popular novels. I've got a dining room table full of even more library books that I for some reason or another just had to take home with me during my first week on the job. I can't possibly read every book that piques my interest, but here's to trying.


Media Matters

I love the Poynter. We're lucky to have such a place in our backyard.

Poynter is where journalists and the community can go to learn just about anything having to do with news: how it's told, how to tell it better, and how to tell the stories everyone else overlooked. With the downsizing of American newsrooms, lots of important stories are not getting the proper spotlight.

PBS's Gwen Ifill lead a conversation covering the Changing Media Landscape this morning with panelists from Tampa Bay's top news organizations (but nary a panelist from said changed landscape). Much of the conversation was optimistic, along the lines of, "Yeah, we've hit some hard times but look how we've used the economic downturn to improve..." It was a little like squeezing lemonade from rocks.

Panelist Paul Tash, editor of the St. Petersburg Times, hit the issue on the nose
when he said that journalism is "not quite as reliable at finding what goes on around the edges."

WMNF's/WEDU's Rob Lorei addressed the issue of how to make local government entertaining enough to watch on a Friday night, and the Poynter's Ellyn Angelotti discussed how Facebook and other social networking sites can help unearth some of those sought-after untold stories. Both were on the panel along with Tash, TBBJ's Alexis Muellner and Media General's John Schueler.

Ifill seemed to have said what everyone was thinking when she stated: "A journalist's greatest fear is that we've missed something." She then asked how journalists could prevent another story like Enron from slipping through the cracks of empty newsrooms and damaging our democracy.

Yesterday I watched a similar conversation on C-SPAN, about the New Media landscape in Iran. There's a country that has no choice but to listen to what their citizen journalists have to say because their media outlets were closed by the state, forcing journalists into the blogosphere.

The political atmosphere in this country may indicate some brewing storms but we're far from sharing Iran's dire straits. Still, why wait for the country to really come apart before adopting innovation?


I ♥ the Library

Happy National Library Week!

At 10-years old I loved going to the library for its infinite possibilities. At 20, my college librarians were my closest friends but I was overwhelmed by the choices and amount of books I'd never get to read so I barely picked up any books at all. Now post-30, I'm closer to the curious kid I used to be.
I'm no longer afraid of what I won't get to, and I revel and cherish the things I do.

On Friday I'll launch a weekly segment called Library Stories, a wrap up of the things I've come across while at work or randomly pulled from the insides of books.

But for now - get out to your local library! In Hillsborough County almost every branch is throwing some kind of party to celebrate books, reading, and community.

To name a few:
Monday in Riverview: screening a film on book burning
Tuesday in Sulphur Springs: the brand new branch is offering a tour and refreshments
Wednesday at Upper Tampa Bay there's an ice cream social
Thursday the West Tampa branch is showcasing its history

Go here to find your Hillsborough County branch.

Imagine What Could Be

I think the basis of being a do-gooder is living a life that you love, whether you're doing work that helps or inspires others, or simply working to inspire and help yourself. In the past year, like many of my fellow Americans, I've been underemployed. Yet I couldn't let myself become idle or bored because that road for me leads right to depression.

To keep myself busy, I volunteered to do research at USF, be an audio describer at the Straz, and shelve books at my local library. All lead to paying positions within weeks, which is pretty lucky if you don't take into account that I've been volunteering since I was a Brownie, working since I was 16, and this year being the first my volunteering karma got me hired.

As someone who is prone to taking crappy jobs (because sometimes a bad job is better than no job), for once I'm lucky enough to have the luxury of getting paid to do work I would have - and have - done for free.


Ybor Festival of the Moving Image

HCC's Ybor Festival of the Moving Image kicked off last night with a dance number and nine short films in the Performing Arts building on Palm Avenue & 14th in Tampa. In addition to a weekend of live and animated movies, documentaries and shorts, there's an ongoing multi-media exhibit in the art gallery, and several lectures.

For the last few months I've been working on a documentary on the music career of Ronny Elliott. It's far from complete, but I have edited together a 10-minute preview that's screening at the festival at the Silver Meteor Gallery on Sunday at 3 p.m-ish. I'll also be part of the "Making Your Media Matter" panel Saturday from 1-3 p.m.

You can hear an interview this afternoon on Art in Your Ear with a couple of the festival's featured filmmakers, Matt and Cornelia Barr. They're the founders of an amazing media non-profit called The Unheard Voices Project which tells the stories of working-class folks that are otherwise ignored by the mainstream press.

Festival poster by Kelly Young


Net Neutrality

The internet is currently like an open frontier, providing easy access to the alternative, independent, and international media (or anywhere else you'd like to go). But the corporate media is out to claim its stake and put up their virtual barbed wire. Please support net neutrality to keep the internet untouched by corporate interests. defines net neutrality:

Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies.

Remember when we used to have neighborhood hardware stores and five-and-dime shops? Well, probably not if you were born in the late 80's or 90's...big box stores have replaced all those locally owned mom & pop businesses. The goal of net neutrality is to keep big corporations from allowing that big box takeover of the internet.


Talking Animals

A show like Talking Animals is part of what makes a community radio station like 88.5 WMNF so unique. Hosted by Duncan Strauss, Talking Animals airs the first and second Wednesday of each month from 11:30 a.m. to noon EST. (Or stream it online, or in the archives).

On the upcoming April 7th show Duncan will interview Joan Jett, and this weekend animal lovers in Tampa can see Duncan & friends live from the Lowry Park Band Shell at the very first Talking Animals Festival.

The festival is from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 11th right outside Lowry Park Zoo, and features live music, pet adoption, vendors and community groups tabling, animal art, food, drink and more.

Musical acts include Ronny Elliott, The Equines, Sunset Bridge, Pete Gallagher, and more.

In an email, Strauss said he launched “Talking Animals” in Southern California in 2003, and that the show has been part of the WMNF schedule since late 2005.
“Talking Animals” blends animal songs, animal comedy, animal news and announcement, a quick quiz feature (“Name That Animal Tune”), and—the heart of the show--interviews with the likes of Jane Goodall, Ric O’ Barry, Chrissie Hynde, Wayne Pacelle, Janeane Garofalo, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Temple Grandin and Moby.


Here in the Sunshine State

This weekend was the first hot one after an unusually cold winter, a weekend of "tank tops and flip flops" as one of those commercially successful country guys sings. My tastes are, of course, more in tune with those commercially unsuccessful country folk, like Grant Peeples. He played a house concert Saturday way up past the sprawl of Tampa where thickets of natural Florida landscape still (somewhat) linger. I rolled out the yoga mats we stow in the trunk of our car and sprawled out under the trees and clear, blue sky to take in the music.

I also just started reading Sunshine States by Tampa resident Patrick Carr. It's chock full of the non-Disney side of Florida. You know, the dirt-underneath-the-fingernails kind of stuff that makes this place real.