The Beast vs. Brad Admire

Brad Admire is dead. I never met him.

Brad was 17 years old when he was injured playing high school sports. He had surgery on his shoulder, and the doctors gave him opiate-based pain pills during his recovery.

You probably know where this story is going.

Four years later, I interviewed Brad’s father, Dave Admire. I was doing a project on the heroin epidemic, and finding out more and more that it was inextricably tied to the massive use of opiate-based pain pills. There’s a lot of debate and more than a little shouting on this issue, and this is not the place for that debate. I’m here to tell you about Brad, and his father.

Within weeks of his surgery, Brad was hooked on Vicodin. When the prescriptions went away, he turned to heroin, buying tabs on the street for $10 a pill. Admire told me that the majority of addicts he worked with started that way: pain pills for dental surgery or a broken bone. “Not too many just decided to try heroin,” he said.

Three months later, Brad told his father he had a problem. Dave had him in treatment the very next day.

It didn’t take. By the time I met Dave, his son had been through five or six rounds of treatment, a six-month incarceration and at least three overdoses that he knew of. In one of those cases, Dave told me, Brad’s “friends” had stolen his wallet and dumped him in an emergency room.

In Illinois, an addict is lucky to get 30 days inpatient treatment, which apparently isn’t enough for a beast with as many tentacles as heroin.

I didn’t interview Brad. At the time that I met him, Dave had shipped Brad to Florida where he could get a 60-day program, followed by two months outpatient in a sober living house. “Today he’s good, but you never know what tomorrow will bring,” he said.

The doctors say one of the worst things for an addict is get distracted from their recovery with a lot of pressure about “How’s it going? When do you think you’ll be out?” In other words, everything a reporter might ask. It wasn’t my first round with this issue; in other stories, I’ve been faced with the dilemma of whether to interview someone who might be seriously damaged by it. In the case of a legislator who entered Betty Ford for addiction, I had to argue down an editor who was absolutely sure I could get him on the phone from rehab.

Maybe I could. Maybe not – Betty Ford is pretty tough on their rules. But the ethical precept of “minimize harm” as established in the Code of Ethics means that I don’t hurt people to get a story.

Dave Admire, 2016

So I interviewed Dave instead, who was brutally honest about the pain his family had gone through. Addicts leave a wake of pain in their path, not the least of it around themselves.

Dave told me one day he had to refuse Brad entry to the house. “It was snowing and he was beating on the door, and I had to tell him no,” Dave said. “I had to force him to the rock bottom.” As a parent, I could not possibly imagine doing that, but they say it’s necessary. Addicts need a reason to get clean, and they destroy every relationship around them before they reach that rock bottom, or so the experts say. How many parents and siblings have had to make that choice, to “love them from a distance,” as Dave put it?

Dave made it his mission to help other families navigate the morass of treatment options, with and without insurance. Somehow word spread and people knew he was the guy to call. He told me he had kids on eight-week waiting lists, kids who were slipped a tab at a party, and suddenly there’s a beastly hunger awake and raving through their blood. That’s perhaps hyperbole, and perhaps not, as the endless hearings and workshops and think tanks I’ve observed over the years talk about neurons and receptors and susceptibility to dependence in the human brain, stewing in its mix of chemicals.

It was Dave who came to mind a year later when my son sustained a minor injury on a camping trip. He came home from the ER with a bottle of narcotics. The doctors gave opioids to a sixteen-year-old kid with a minor muscle strain without even trying aspirin first. I couldn’t get those pills away from him fast enough, afraid of the beast. We were lucky.

Dave and Brad were featured in a documentary called “The Heroin Project,” co-produced by my now-colleague Cory Byers and then-grad student Ashley Seering. Dave was working with law enforcement to find ways to help addicts get into treatment instead of prison. He appeared on a panel with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin – which is how he came to my attention – and talked with raw honesty about the impact the epidemic is having on families.

Dave (left) with Sen. Durbin

There were a lot of politicians and officials on that panel, but then there was Dave, speaking with quiet dignity; and a local principal, Kari Karidis, who spoke about the day she got the worst possible call: her son had died of a heroin overdose.

One of the hardest things a journalist must learn, and which I try to teach my students, is the compartmentalization of emotions and opinions. Reporters cannot help but form opinions because we have working brain cells, and if we ever stop feeling our emotions entirely, we have lost our connection to humanity and need to quit the job. But we must take those emotions and opinions and set them apart from the work. There’s a story to be written, and no one will take it seriously if you’ve slipped from reporter to advocate.

But when I read yesterday that Brad Admire died of an overdose on Sunday, my heart simply broke for the father I interviewed years ago, and the family ripped apart over what seemed like innocuous pills. I never did have enough callouses to keep me from feeling the job, and maybe that made me less than the reporter I could have been.

When I wrote the story of the Admire family, Madison County, Illinois had reached a then-staggering 77 opioid overdoses in a single year. In 2009, the total was seven.

Days before Brad Admire overdosed, Madison County’s coroner Steve Nonn announced that with more than month remaining in 2018, 92 people have died of an opiate overdose. It’s a grim new record. While there have always been overdoses, take a look at the chart at the other end of this link and you’ll see why opioids stand out. More than 72,000 dead last year, and now that fentanyl is being mixed into other drugs, there seems to be no end in sight.

There’s no moral to the story, no uplifting ending. As a journalist, it isn’t my place to suggest policy or issue a call to action. It probably isn’t my place to grieve for the Admire family, to think of the stalwart father who sat across from me in a library one afternoon and shared his family’s most painful, raw tragedies with me and our readers.

But as keepers of the record, it’s beholden upon us to tell the whole story. And the whole story is that this time, the beast won.

Flashback: Happy Birthday, Uncle Walter

Note: This post was originally published on Nov. 6, 2016.

This weekend I had the privilege of speaking at the Walter Cronkite Conference on Media Ethics and Integrity. I was pretty nervous, as I’d never done an academic conference before – SPJ conventions, guest speaker at local universities, and of course, cons. No one at the Cronkite Conference was dressed as Pennywise the Clown, however.

Somehow I missed that the conference was scheduled to coincide with Cronkite’s 100th birthday, which was celebrated at the Walter Cronkite Memorial on Friday along with the unveiling of Phase IV of the memorial.

We were treated to an amazing three-act play developed by the memorial staff titled “And That’s the Way It Is: Cronkite’s Journey.” This show has been taken on the road and performed all the way to D.C. If it is ever in your area, you owe it to yourself to catch it. Actor Jim Korinke does a spot-on Walter Cronkite, and the gentlemen playing Harry Truman and Martin Luther King Jr. are pretty amazing themselves.

Act One focuses on Truman and Cronkite’s lives in parallel from 1945 onward. It is a little gentler on Truman than history has been, but more true than some of the biopics have been. Act Two focuses on King and Cronkite through the civil rights movement, including the ethical and practical issues faced by the CBS news team as they tried to cover the movement with dispassion. I did not know, for example, that simply covering the movement was seen as “championing the blacks” and that southern affiliates threatened to cut their affiliation with CBS – which would have bankrupted the network.

Unfortunately I missed most of Act III. Damn news. I was reporting on a story back home by remote, and got some information during the intermission. I was still updating the story from my laptop when Act III began, and once I was done, the doors were locked and I couldn’t get in until someone came along who had a key. Rats. Jim (who was verklempt throughout the performance) reports that it was a representative of Cronkite’s question-and-answer on Larry King Live on the one-year anniversary of 9/11. I would have liked to have seen that.

I only caught some of the presentations at the conference, but those I caught were fascinating. Check out the Twitter account @edonaldmedia if you want more specifics. I met a journalist named Deandre Williamson of the Bahamas, who won the award for having traveled the farthest (unless it’s farther to Chile? Maybe.). Williamson discussed the evolution of the media in the Bahamas, which does not have freedom of speech, and its recent adoption of the SPJ Code of Ethics a few months ago. It faces an uphill battle there, and I enjoyed discussing those issues with Deandre.

Pic taken by my long-suffering husband, who agreed to come to a journalism ethics conference on our anniversary.

My presentation was on the 2014 revision of the code, and it must have gone off well, since no one fell asleep, walked out, or threw rotten tomatoes. Big thanks go to ethics chairman Andrew Seaman for giving me his terrific PowerPoint, which I then adapted to my speech. The last time I used PowerPoint, I was in college. That was a while ago. Thanks to the Kansas City Press Club, which invited me to speak.

And thanks as well to former chairman Kevin Smith, who shared some of his thoughts and recollections with me as I prepared for the presentation. Kevin herded the cats through our entire process, and survived.

I’ve often said that my participation in the ethics commission and the small part I played in rewriting the code are among my proudest accomplishments, and thus it was no small thing to be asked to talk about it – here at the conference, at local universities, at SPJ conventions, at high schools, on a milk crate at a street corner. Kevin called it “spreading the Gospel”; I’ve sometimes called it “evangelizing ethics.” As I said in the speech, there are far too many people who don’t even realize the code exists, and that’s because we do a lousy job of transparency in our work. We must stop expecting that the average reader knows how a newsroom functions, how news corporations work on the inside, about the difference between news and opinion, and the presence and enforcement of ethics codes.

Sometimes I’ve felt like the lone voice crying in the wilderness. This weekend I was among My People, and it felt wonderful. It was good to know I am not the only one who is disheartened and depressed by the vitriol we face as we try to do our jobs.

I learned a lot from my fellow journalists this weekend, and about Uncle Walt, whom I thought I already knew well. Cronkite retired before I was old enough to really comprehend the news, but when I was young and would hear my newsman father refer to “Uncle Walter,” I thought at first we really had an uncle named Walter.

Dad was a big fan of Cronkite, and after you visit the memorial, you will be as well. From World War II to the Kennedy Assassination to the civil rights movement to the moon landing to facing down Spiro Agnew, the story of Cronkite is really the history of us for the last sixty years, and it’s worth your time.

If you do, you get to wear The Glasses.

And that’s the way it is.

On the road again…

On Wednesday, I leave for a five-day stint in Baltimore for the Excellence in Journalism conference. I’ll be acting as president and delegate for the St. Louis Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as communing with my fellow Ethics Committee members.

I also will be returning to some old stomping grounds. I lived in Baltimore for a few years as a teenager, and have a great fondness for Charm City.

I’ll be tweeting about my experience on a personal level at @edonald, and about journalism and the conference at @edonaldmedia. Feel free to follow along there, and look for travelogues and musings here and at the Patreon.

Of course, when I return, I’ll have just enough time to do laundry and repack before heading out to Louisville, Ky. for Imaginarium. Whee! The Fall Deathmarch begins…

The Madness of the King

Cross-posted to Patreon.

His name is Father David Boase, and he’s about to lose everything because of a simple mistake.

Father Boase is from England, but 14 years ago he received a call to serve as priest to an Episcopal church in Alton, Illinois. He moved here and found that he loved the United States. Whether we deserve that love remains to be seen.

He served his church faithfully and well for ten years, bought a home and paid his taxes. He retired, but continued to serve the church as an interim priest for other parishes, including mine. He is an amateur actor as well, and delighted audiences and congregations alike with his wry wit.

Do you know how hard it is to get a roomful of Episcopalians to laugh during services?

Father Boase made one mistake. Thirteen years ago, he was renewing his license at the DMV and the clerk asked him if he wanted to register to vote. This is after he had presented his British passport to the clerk, by the way.

Of course he should have said no. After all, only citizens can vote, right?

Wrong.

In Missouri, non-citizens in the process of becoming citizens are allowed to vote under certain circumstances. That’s also the case in Alabama, and ten cities in Maryland, and many other places. Bills to allow non-citizens to vote in certain circumstances have been introduced in many other states, including Massachusetts, Maine, Texas and more.

In New York, bills were submitted over and over, and non-citizens who had children in public schools were permitted to vote on school board elections until 2002, when school boards were no longer elected. San Francisco currently allows non-citizens to vote in certain elections. Not for nothing, but in multiple European Union countries, non-citizens can vote in local elections as well.

After all, resident immigrants may own property here, send their kids to public schools, own and operate businesses subject to taxation. “No taxation without representation” was a slogan once upon a time, wasn’t it?

Non-citizen voting is widespread throughout the world, but of course, we in the U.S. are so conditioned to think of immigrants as “other” that the very concept caused the Kansas City Star’s comment section to explode with the most horrific bigotry and vile insinuations – the worst of the internet in one spot. I’m not providing a link.

And as this piece from the L.A. Times points out, non-citizens voted from the beginning of our republic until the anti-immigrant fervor in the early 1900s caused its elimination from most states’ laws. Of course, Mr. Arellano is arguing from the standpoint of bigotry.

No one can make a case on Father Boase’s part for bigotry: he is an educated white male. And he made a mistake. So did the DMV clerk, and he refuses to point fingers and name names, because it was a long time ago and he doesn’t want to get anyone in trouble.

Because he did vote. Once. Then a parishioner told him he probably wasn’t allowed to do that, and he never voted again.

Instead, he made his second mistake: He applied for citizenship. He loves this country, loves his community and has a home with friends here. He’s part of a community and has entirely made it better.

So we’re kicking him out.

The immigration officials processing his citizenship application found out about the vote and referred him for deportation. He will not be fighting it, he says – on the advice of his attorney, who I presume knows what he or she is talking about. If Father Boase leaves voluntarily, he can reapply to return within a few years. If he fights it on the basis of sanity and common sense, he could be deported and unable to return for 10 years.

So much for due process. Even asking for common sense carries a 10-year penalty.

It will cause him devastating loss, not only personally but financially. Priests aren’t wealthy, and he is retired, living on a small pension. The legal bills will be difficult, and he will have to sell almost everything he owns to move back to England with no support system and no job – not even a place to live. Friends have created a GoFundMe to help with his expenses, while others are writing to Senator Duckworth and begging the world for a moment of common sense..

I have traditionally stayed away from political writing since becoming a journalist, because one cannot maintain neutrality when wading into the fray. I can’t criticize a policy one day and then write objectively about it the next. (Or, rather, I can, but no one would take it seriously.)

I’m not a full-time reporter anymore. I’m still working freelance, and that limits what I can say or do – to an extent.

But on this story, I am not objective, as Father Boase is a friend. I will not be covering it for any news organization. Thus, I can say that the emperor has no clothes, and dare anyone to tell me otherwise.

Father Boase does not deserve to be deported. He poses no danger to our society. He made a mistake that others have made, and face consequences just as ludicrous: a woman in Texas is serving five years in prison because she voted, not realizing that her prior fraud conviction made it illegal for her to vote. She is literally serving more time for voting than she did for inflating tax returns as a tax preparer nine years ago.

As immigration lawyer Marleen Suarez said, Father Boase is an educated, English-speaking man. Imagine how hard this is for an immigrant who isn’t fluent in the language yet, and doesn’t understand the labyrinthine requirements placed on him – but faces terrible penalties for the slightest mistake and may be returning to a dangerous, life-threatening situation.

It’s madness. We have a hard enough time getting our natural-born citizens to get off their couches and vote, with turnout of barely 61 percent in the last and most contentious election, and yet we will tell the immigrant residents who live here, pay taxes and are subject to our laws that they have no voice in making them.

Except, of course, when you’re told you can vote, and do, and then we say, “Oops, never mind.”

If we are to rethink immigration in the United States, let us rethink it in terms of common sense and not some backward reactionary ‘Merica nonsense that aims to exclude all “others” by knee-jerk response. America is still a good place – at least, it can be. We should be honored and proud that so many people want to come be a part of it, and are willing to undergo the endless nonsense we place in their way. Being born here is a happy accident of fate. Moving here is a choice, and one we should celebrate, not deny.

Let it begin with allowing a good man and faithful priest to remain here, in the land he loves, and become a citizen as well. Put an end to the madness of the king.

Fall Deathmarch and Stalking Guide

I do this to myself every year. Every year I say I am not going to schedule myself like a chicken sans head in the fall, and every year I do it anyway.

Really, there’s no other way. If you’re a horror writer and you’re not working in the fall, you’re not working. With our current circumstances, we’re going to have to start declining cons in the new year, so this is our last chance for a long time to do the cons, see our friends and readers and readers-who-are-friends, and P.S. make a little cash.

Just a little. Sadly, the cons simply do not pay off for authors as they once did. So. Hint. Buy some books from those poor starving authors if you want to see them the following year. Yes, AT the show. We love ebooks as much as you do, but that 17 cents per copy six months from now won’t pay the hotel bill.

Anyway, here’s where you can find me and mine this fall, and I hope you’ll come by and say hello! If you bought a book or a print, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings any, but seriously, it’s always good to see humans.

Just be aware, I’ll also be disappearing into the hotel room to study and write up endless essays and other grad-school-type-stuff and I might or might not burst into a random string of polysyllabic metaphors if you get a few drinks into me.

Sept. 15 – St. Louis SPJ Boot Camp (journalism). I’ll be speaking about ethics and serving pizza, no sales. If you’re a journo student, you still have a day or two to sign up! It’s FREE.

Sept. 26-Oct. 1 – Excellence in Journalism, Baltimore. Just attending this time, as well as serving as delegate for St. Louis SPJ. I’ll be tweeting journo stuff at @edonaldmedia and personal observations at @edonald, as usual. I used to live in Baltimore as a teenager, and am looking forward to finding myself some Berger cookies! I’m not vending, but if anyone is interested in picking up a book from me, please contact me before Sept. 24 and I’ll stash a few in the suitcase. Also looking forward to seeing family and old friends, so let me know if we can grab drinks at the Harbor!

Oct. 5-7 – Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. Attending, giving a seminar in “The Business of Writing,” vending as Literary Underworld and hosting the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar both nights. I’ll be accompanied by the Menfolk (read: husband Jim, son Ian) and my good friend Sela Carsen, who is definitely an author you should consider if you like romance. Or even if you don’t – she is queen of the fairytales! Imaginarium is one of my top-recommended cons for writers, beginning or established, and you should definitely consider it.

Oct. 12-14 – Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Attending, speaking, vending as Literary Underworld, and as of now we plan to open the Traveling Bar both nights. Sela is joining us again, and I’m not sure how many of the Lit Underlords will also be in attendance, but we’ll be looking for you!

Oct. 20 – Dupo Art Festival, Dupo, Ill. Vending as myself, both books and art. This is part of a chili cookoff that should not be missed!

Oct. 21 – Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Just selling this time, and not my own books – I run the charity used book sale for Parkfest that raises money for the American Cancer Society. (Psst. Volunteers welcome.)

Nov. 3 – St. Louis Indie Book Fair, St. Louis, Mo. Selling only and as myself, books only (no art permitted).

Nov. 9-11 – ContraKC, Kansas City, Mo. A 21-and-up “relaxacon,” selling as Literary Underworld with books and art, and the Traveling Bar will be open both nights.

At last I stay home, and celebrate a rescheduled anniversary with my long-suffering husband. Then begins the holiday fairs…

August Linkspam and Future Musings

It was a quiet month here at Donald Media, largely in transition between the daily news beat and the brave new world of freelancing. I imagine bylines will be much rarer, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing.

My official last byline for the News-Democrat centered on the turbulent history of the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses of Southern Illinois University, as another president is forced to resign. I was a bit nervous writing this story right before I switched gears, but since both sides seemed to feel it was fair, I breathed easier. If both sides are happy or both sides are mad, you’ve done your job. It ran a week after I left.

On CultureGeek: a review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  and Christopher Robin.

On the Patreon:

• A essay titled “First Rough Draft of History” musing on departure from daily news, available to subscribers $5 and up.

• Blog posts on “Freelance Folderol, Part 1,” and on grad school: “First Class” and “Paradigm Shifts,” available to all subscribers.

• A photo essay from the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Chinese Festival, available to subscribers $3 and up.

• A fiction excerpt from Banshee’s Run, the work currently in progress, available to subscribers $10 and up.

On the home front, we spent much of August in a mad frenzy of mucking out the house (which got about 75 percent done) and setting up my office again. It had devolved into a dumping ground of storage, and still is only halfway mucked out. But I have shiny new computers in the Tower now, which should greatly expand my capability to make art and words to entertain you endlessly. Now all I need is time…

Buckle in, because I imagine the movie reviews over on CultureGeek are going to largely center on journalism movies for a while, since that’s what my grad school research will focus on. I’ve had to (at least temporarily) discontinue the Linkspam posts and the Fake News Roundups here on Donald Media, because honestly, there’s only X amount of me to go around. Those are fun features, but time-consuming, and frankly the hit counts don’t justify continuing them until or unless I acquire more hours in the day.

I’ve been asked if I intend to write political essays now that I am no longer working for the newspaper. It is very tempting, and Zod above knows there’s plenty of material these days. Here’s the thing: I don’t know what form my freelancing will take. Most freelancers I know develop a niche and specialize in a particular kind of content. I haven’t done that – if anything, I’ve been a generalist my entire career, hopping from subject to subject from day to day. In short, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that I will still be called upon to write politics, and thus it would still be inappropriate to opine about the issues of the day.

But yes, it is tempting.

Coming up this month: lots and lots of school, more Patreon work as the membership grows, the Student Boot Camp for SPJ, and the annual Excellence in Journalism Conference in Baltimore, which I will be attending to represent St. Louis SPJ. Watch my @edonaldmedia Twitter for the journalism-related material, and @edonald for personal and photographic evidence. As you might know, I lived in Baltimore for a time as a teenager, and I have fond memories of Charm City. I am really looking forward to five days staying right at the Inner Harbor, and will be shooting photos of anything that will stand still. If only I ate seafood.

In the meantime, the freelance folderol continues, the photo backlog is piling up, and the Patreon is (understandably) getting a large amount of my attention. You might consider subscribing

Flashback: Workaversary

This post was originally published on June 19, 2017.

A random thought occurred to me tonight: This month marks 17 years with the News-Democrat, and simultaneously marks 20 years in journalism.

I suppose I could count my career from my occasional dabblings in junior high or high school newspapers, or from the point where I switched majors to news editorial and started working for the University of Tennessee student paper. But for my own purposes, I count from my internship at the Union City (Tenn.) Daily Messenger, which began this month in the sunny year of 1997.

It doesn’t feel like 20 years ago, and sometimes I feel like I catch glimpses of the greenest cub reporter to step into an old-fashioned newsroom. Many of the tales I could tell from those days belong over drinks in a bar, not in this blog. But I can tell this one: I learned more from the editor of the Daily Messenger in six months than I could have learned in years of study.

His name was David Critchlow, and last I heard, he’s still running the show. They had never had an intern before, and they had no desk for me, so they set up a work station in the corner of the conference room. Full of the confidence borne of two whole semesters of journalism school [insert laugh track], I dutifully typed up obituaries and weddings (loooooooong weddings; in the deep south, wedding announcements are not three lines and a picture, folks) until I started getting assignments.

After I turned in my stories, Critchlow walked into the conference room, read my lead back to me, and snored.

The number of snores reflected how boring, basic and summary my leads were, and I learned how to improve them. By the end of the summer, I had my own city beat, gotten Critchlow down to one snore per lead, covered Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr. (sort of) and had a part-time stringer job as I finished my last semester of school. I graduated in December 1997, got married (the first time) a week later in Memphis, and five days after the wedding, I reported to my first newsroom job in La Salle, Ill.

Two and a half years later, I was hired by the News-Democrat, reporting to work in June 2000. The Boy was all of 18 months old; his father left in 2003. I was a single mom while chasing stories all over the metro-east until Jim and I moved in together in 2012, and married two years later.

Now the Boy is graduated and college-bound, Jim is halfway through his own degree, my resume is up to six pages long (which is really egregious), and I’m still downing the coffee with one hand and typing with the other every day. Standoffs and fires, murder trials and city council meetings, marching union workers and political protests and school test score analyses. I’ve interviewed presidents future and past, politicians without number, young kids and visiting celebrities.

I’ve interviewed a bookstore owner who couldn’t read until he was nearly 20 years old, and seen crime photos that made a juror faint. I’ve stood beneath a glass dome representing science and religion together, in a boat with volunteers testing for illegal dumping on the river, and by the side of the road watching them pull the pieces of the bodies out of cars.

I’ve frozen my tail off in an observatory with Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about communing with the stars through science, stood watch behind the yellow tape at a collapsed culvert that killed a child, and watched an unassuming, ordinary man who just won a gold medal in karate kick the everloving hell out of a practice dummy. I’ve played good cop and bad cop, taken verbal abuse without counting and been happy never to duck bullets. (Except that once sort of but it doesn’t count.)

I’ve met the most amazing journalists the profession has ever known, learned from them and been proud to stand with them. I’ve done the best I could for my fellow journalists here in St. Louis through SPJ, and been honored to work with some of the top ethicists in the nation to rewrite the Code of Ethics in the hopes that our “ethics evangelism” will help us all remember our calling when the heat is on.

It’s one hell of a privilege, this life.

Was the summer of 1997 really 20 years ago? I already have socks older than some of my co-workers; soon my career will be older than some of my fellow journalists. Eh, what’s that, sonny? I can’t hear ye…

I wish I had something more profound to say about this milestone than, “Holy Walter Cronkite, I’m old.” Maybe that will come, as I work on my Occasional Research Project of Doom (on the fictional portrayal of journalists) and I am asked to speak more and more often to new journalists and budding writers about the work that I do.

For now, I’m proud to be doing a job I believe in, that I know makes a difference in the world, and a job that needs doing, whatever the costs may be.

But I think Critchlow would probably make me restructure that sentence.

July Linkspam Roundup

It was my last month working full-time for the newspaper, but it sure wasn’t quiet. (As you can tell, since this roundup is about a week late.) My thoughts were much focused on the transition, as you can imagine.

On the Patreon

• An essay/travelogue from the Kansas City trip titled “Prospero’s, the magic portal” for patrons $3 and up.

• A photography array from a November shoot in Yosemite National Park for patrons $5 and up.

• “Last Week,” a series of musings on the final shifts of my daily news career, and “Goodbyes” about my farewell speech for all patrons.

• A fiction excerpt cut from an upcoming longer work titled “Banshee’s Run” that I think works as a short story by itself, for patrons $10 and up.

And other stuff, too. You might consider subscribing

In the News/Blogs

• “Should fireworks be legalized in Illinois when everyone ignores the law?

• An essay on “Annapolis,” which was cross-posted to the Patreon as a public post.

• “Our Year in Review,” a roundup for the St. Louis Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. We did more than I thought…

• A statement on “Lindenwood’s Legacy” regarding that university’s decision to shutter its print magazine after it printed stories considered damaging to the university’s reputation.

• “SIUE and SIUC had turbulent history before Dunn’s departure,” an examination of the history of the university campuses and what will be in their path going forward. Covering this controversy during my exit from the newspaper has been an interesting experience. Technically, this is my last byline from the News-Democrat as full-time staff, running about a week after my departure.

And elsewhere, I’m happy to announce that Highland Arts is now carrying my photography, both for in-stock prints and metal wall art. Stop by anytime, or go to the photography site and order directly from me. Custom orders welcome!

Fake News Watch

• While July 27 is a particularly important day for me, the planet Mars will not be making an approach close enough to make it appear bigger than the moon. Being that close would probably mean a Roland Emmerich movie is about to happen.

• Pretty soon I’m going to have to create a separate category for Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories. This week’s stupidity centers on the murder-suicide of FBI agent David Raynor, who was witnessed killing himself in front of police after stabbing his wife to death. He had absolutely nothing to do with the so-called Fast and Furious operation, which also had nothing to do with Clinton and the State Department. Also, he was not scheduled to testify in anything, much less a federal investigation.

• Wait, what? The meme spread that “for the first time in the 242-year history of the U.S., a one-year-old child appears in court as a defendant.” However, this is not true. It happens all the time  to immigrant children. And sometimes without an attorney.

• Former FBI attorney Lisa Page did not testify that China hacked the DNC server in contradiction of the Russian allegations. It was posted by Your News Wire, a well-known fake site, but Breitbart, The Daily Caller and others ran with it. Of course.

• Despite DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s statement that there are billboards in Central America on how to sneak into the U.S., there is no evidence of any such thing, much less one advising them to “grab a kid.”

• No, Clint Eastwood isn’t leaving his millions to the Trump 2020 campaign.  That would be illegal.

The mayor of San Juan is not facing fraud charges over disaster relief funds. Another mayor has been accused of fraud, but unrelated to disaster relief. Sabana Grande Mayor Miguel Ortiz-Velez allegedly took kickbacks for overestimating construction project costs. Why target Carmen Yulin Cruz with Ortiz-Velez’s alleged crimes? Cruz is a vocal opponent of President Trump and the relief efforts following Hurricane Maria, and that was apparently enough for Fox News.

• Last week the word “treason” was all over the interwebs, so Politifact dug into what actually is and is not treason. Legal experts say despite the plethora of memes, the legal definition of treason is far too narrow to be applied to anything that happened last week. It has to be during war, and while it doesn’t have to be a declared war (we haven’t declared war since WWII), just saying nice things about another country doesn’t count. Adam Gadahn was an American citizen charged with being an al-Qaeda spokesman, but was killed by a drone strike before trial. That was 2006, and the most recent indictment. As many pointed out, the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage, not treason. And Trump’s appearance with Putin doesn’t count, according to a unanimous collection of experts.

• I’m embarrassed that this one is the third most-searched this week on Snopes. No, ABC News did NOT ban flag lapel pins after 9/11. Seriously??

• Pick of the Week: No, the Obama family did not wear Che Guevara shirts in Cuba. And yet, 20,000 shares on Facebook. Again: Seriously??

It’s Actually True: A Russian asbestos company actually did place a seal with the face of President Trump alleging it had been approved by him. Uralasbest is one of the world’s largest producers of asbestos, and apparently extrapolated from pro-asbestos comments in Trump’s 1997 book and pulling the EPA off asbestos control.

 

Note: This feature does not take a stance on political issues. It is solely in favor of fact over fiction, at least in the public discourse.

Fake News Watch

Attempting to debug the internet… emptying the ocean with a thimble.

• John Fugelsang’s tweet about the Secret Service and  President Trump is going crazy online. Here’s the deal: The Secret Service cannot accept gifts from a subject they protect, not even hotel rooms and travel expenses or renting tables and lights near Mar-a-Lago. The Trumps are not directly sending the SS a bill, but the SS is required to pay for it, including rent in Trump Tower for their security station. What has never happened before (that I’m aware of) is a president who owns multiple resorts and golf courses and goes there often. The SS is therefore indirectly paying the Trumps, but it’s required by law.

If you want more data, the Washington Post tracked how much of Trump’s travel has been at his own resorts. As of that report, he had been in office 346 days and spent 116 of them at a Trump property, or 33.5 percent.

• Oh for the love of… No, the senior-citizen couple who died in New Jersey on July 7 were NOT scheduled to testify before a grand jury against Hillary Clinton. Neither of them had a damn thing to do with the pharmaceutical industry, much less the company that blew up the price of EpiPens, which also has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, which never seems to faze 4chan. The house blew up because of natural gas, possibly caused by poor installation of a new stove.

The Fourth of July meme that showed Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump celebrating Independence Day by visiting troops in three cases and golf in the fourth is not accurate. None of the photos were taken on any Fourth of July, and the Trump image on the golf course is several years before his presidency.

• There is no Congresswoman Ateesha Nubbins, and no one is proposing a law to establish an upper-age voting limit declaring no one over age 60 can vote.

• Immigration fun: No, immigrants cannot apply for asylum at U.S. embassies or consulates, no matter what happens in the movies. This one was repeated by a sitting Congressman. Asylum claims must be made while physically present in the U.S., and they have a year to do so. Also: No, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters did not tell CNN that Trump should “nominate an illegal immigrant” to SCOTUS. It’s a doctored image, and your first clue should be that “illegal immigrant” is not AP style. No, California does not have “39 percent illegals” in public school. It’s about 3 percent, about 12 percent parents. The same idiot meme that’s been circulating for decades says 66 percent of California births are “to illegals on Medi-Cal.” It was 15 percent in 2011, dropped to 12.6 percent two y ears later and keeps dropping.

Meanwhile, we usually don’t bother with things that are true, but people have been yelling Fake News at the word that a new ICE task force is charged with investigating and revoking citizenship from naturalized citizens. Sorry, folks, it’s absolutely true and it IS a new initiative, not people freaking out over something that’s always existed. It hasn’t happened since McCarthyism.

• Did Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh say presidents shouldn’t be investigated while in office? Analysis says: Sort of. In 2009, he wrote an article for the Minnesota Law Review in which he cited his experience with the Starr Report and opined that Congress could consider a law exempting the president from criminal prosecution because of the dangers of politicizing. However, legal experts say in context, the statement was about temporary immunity as granted by Congress, which has not been passed. Instead, U.S. v. Nixon still holds, which upholds that the president is not immune from subpoenas. Politifact has much more detail and rates it half-true.

• Speaking of SCOTUS, that pic of Sens. Schumer, Warren and Booker saying they don’t want a judge who follows the U.S. Constitution is rated “pants on fire” by Politifact, as the only source showing any of them saying these quotes is “The Babylon Bee,” which describes itself as “your trusted source for Christian news satire.” And no, of course the Notorious RBG  did NOT write that “pedophilia is good for children.” It’s a gross misinterpretation of an attempt to make a statutory rape law gender-neutral, in recognition that any gender can commit sexual assault.

• Of 98 statements of fact at President Trump’s campaign rally in Montana last week, 76 percent were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker database. They focus only on material fact, not trivialities or opinions. Some are perhaps just misleading – calling on Sen. Tester a liberal Democrat when he’s voted with Trump more than one-third of the time – while others are… um. Read it here yourself – it’s long.

• My Favorite Fakery of the Week: No, Disney is NOT planning to build a new theme part in Escanaba, Mich.

Trufax: Walt Disney DID consider building a second Disneyland in St. Louis. It was to be called Riverfront Square, incorporating prototypes for Pirates and the Caribbean and New Orleans, among others based on Davy Crockett and the Meramec Caverns, etc. It’s not far from Walt’s hometown of Marceline, Mo., after all, and the famous Main Streets of Disneyland and Walt Disney World tend toward a stylized impression of Marceline.

So what happened? Beer. Legend has it that August Busch Jr. publicly insulted Walt after the MouseMan declared they would not sell beer in a St. Louis park. Financing and ownership were probably also factors, and then Walt started buying up acres in central Florida….

Note: This feature does not take a stance on political issues. It is solely in favor of fact over fiction, at least in the public discourse.