July linkspam, new outlets and more!

It’s been a crazy busy month, though one of the weirdnesses of freelance magazine writing in particular is that you’ll do a pile of work in July, but it doesn’t appear until September or November. Still, by my standards, July was a bear of a month.

This month I celebrated my one-year anniversary of full-time freelancing, and we haven’t been evicted yet! I go into greater detail in “One Year Later” as listed below, but suffice to say it’s been an interesting, rewarding and ultimately positive experience, and I have a lot more to learn.

Also, this month I launched on Medium, which allows me to share essays and get paid by the click. I’m still figuring out exactly how it works, but a lot of good writers seem to be making money there, and what I’ve read so far is good quality. Please feel free to check out my page, and if you are so moved to click and “clap” for my work, it is deeply appreciated.

Here’s what went public this month:

Endgame checkmate (CultureGeek)

Today we celebrate our Independence Day (CultureGeek)

Behind the lens: Work featured in photography exhibit (Donald Media)

9-year-old serves as ‘mayor for the day’ (Belleville News-Democrat)

Highland to upgrade water plant (Highland News-Leader)

I don’t know if it’s art, but I know what I like (Patreon)

Roundtable: Spider-man: Far From Home (CultureGeek)

Highland Street Art Festival goes forward despite city opposition (Highland News-Leader)

Another roar at Pride Rock (CultureGeek)

Highland votes in favor of fewer construction inspections – with a twist (Highland News-Leader)

Cyberattack causes major outages on campus (The Alestle)

The National Aquarium (Patreon)

Here comes the sun: Sgt. Pepper’s is a big hit (The Alestle – my first restaurant review!)

Highland High School graduate gets perfect ACT score (Highland News-Leader)

One year later (Donald Media)

“Alleged victim” (Medium, a rewrite of a previous essay.)

“What do you like to read?” (Medium, see above)

In addition, you may have heard about a recent incident in which a high-ranking political operative admitted impersonating a student journalist in order to get into a conference call with a candidate from the opposing party and lob accusations at her. As president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists, I wrote a statement condemning the action that was endorsed by a majority of the St. Louis SPJ board, and our statement has since been picked up by other news outlets, including the Telegraph and the Intelligencer.

Here’s the statement.

As it discloses, I am personally affiliated with The Alestle at SIUE, having served on its board for years and worked with the students this summer in an editing and advisory capacity; and my SPJ vice president is the Alestle program director. However, I believe this gives our opinions greater weight, not lesser: we know for a fact that this “student journalist” does not exist, and our responsibility to call out unethical behavior per the SPJ Code of Ethics is not lessened by our connections to the student newspaper.

Finally… I didn’t write this one. But the local newsmagazine, Edge of the Weekend, featured my family in an in-depth profile for their back-to-school edition. The weirdness of three family members all going to college together finally made print. The photos used are mine, because my menfolk are my favorite photographic subject. Many thanks to Jill Moon, magazine editor for Hearst Illinois, for thinking of us.

We’ve gotten a lot of attention on this story, and it’s been really sweet to see how many people are cheering us on and supporting us as we enter our second year of family-wide higher education and abject poverty. Six jobs, three tuition bills, two impending graduations and one car. It’s been… interesting.

And in three weeks…. here comes the fall semester!

June bylines

Colleges help students with autism reach higher education (Diversity IS Magazine) – this actually published in May, but I missed it for last month’s roundup.

Inspection debate in Highland still simmering (Highland News-Leader)

Highland Council mulls over allowing food trucks (Highland News-Leader)

The Spindler Building: If Walls Could Talk (Patreon)

Dark Phoenix rises, and it’s not so bad after all (CultureGeek)

“Alleged victim” (Donald Media)

The Alestle asks: What’s your favorite MRF memory? (The Alestle, just compiling quotes this time with photography in the gallery)

The historical marker sits close to the road, while the site itself is somewhere back in the trees. The land that once housed the Mississippi River Festival’s music acts has since been used as a radio-controlled airplane field, an outdoor astronomy lab and the current

Highland city leaders decide against granting funds for Chamber’s art festival (Highland News-Leader)

Highland weighs number of inspections required for new housing (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction: Prologue to Yellow Roses (Patreon)

Note: I have finally remembered to update my Contently site with more samples of my work. I try to keep it at no more than 100 clips, a sampling of my various nonfiction works. Click the link to see more.

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

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!

June Linkspam Round-up

At least my last month in daily journalism won’t be boring.

On the Patreon:

• A short story titled “Dead Heat,” for patrons at $10 or more.

• Blog post: “Goal No. 1 – Unlocked,” for patrons only.

• A short story titled “Sisyphus,” one of my golden oldies, open to all.

• Photo posts of a double rainbow sighting ($5 and up) and the MoBot glass show. (open to all).

• A personal essay on “Life After News,” open to all.

I also posted this essay on meeting a group of Chinese journalists.

You can get all this lovely content by subscribing to my Patreon!

In the news:

• Feature: A son’s gift to his father: 16 more years of life and counting

SIU board to vote on firing President Dunn

SIU meeting to fire Dunn illegal, chairwoman says

Board deadlocks on firing Dunn

• Granite City teacher resigns after allegations of affair with student

Storm pummels metro-east; 45,000 without power

Also, a public statement as president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists regarding Lindenwood University’s decision to stop printing its student magazine after controversial (and award-winning) stories.

And finally… I was not permitted to use puns in this story. I think the loss of income going freelance will be worth it simply to be allowed to pun in public.

ME: Am I allowed to say he got stuck with the bill?
EDITOR: No.
ME: Sigh. Someday I’m gonna quack you up.
EDITOR: *stare*
ME: Look, Leader Pub’s lead is, “One Six Flags patron apparently thought it was duck season.”
EDITOR 2: Are you sure it’s not wabbit season?
EDITOR: I’m about to declare a time-out.
ME: I’m not allowed to use puns. See? No puns in my story, and it is physically painful.
EDITOR 3: Since you’re leaving, does that make you a … lame duck?
ME: *points* How come he gets away with that and I can’t make a single pun??
EDITOR: I gave him the side-eye glare.

May Roundup

I spent most of May finishing a project a year in the making: a package on teen suicide prevention co-written with Alexis Cortes at the News-Democrat. Alexis and I started working on this story before I was transferred to a different team, so it didn’t really have to take a year, but it kept getting postponed during the reorganization.

It was one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever worked on, and one that made me quite nervous. I’ve written about sensitive subjects many times – a series on domestic violence, an in-depth look at shaken baby syndrome, unlicensed day care centers, LGBT rights pre-Obergefell, racist harassment, etc. All of these subjects required careful, deft handling of both sources and subject matter.

But none of  them had the blatant warning sign: If you do this wrong, people will die.

Suicide contagion is a real thing and we shouldn’t scoff at it, particularly in the news business. Several reliable studies show that completed suicides rose by 10 percent in the weeks following Robin Williams’ suicide, which was widely covered in the press. Talking about suicide doesn’t make a mentally healthy person commit suicide. But something about reading about suicide or watching depictions of suicide in entertainment has a tendency to tip a person on the edge over into an attempt.

I told Alexis several times during our efforts to report on teen suicide that I’d rather we did it in a boring way or not at all than do it wrong and have suicide attempts on our hands. Both of us took extreme care in the reporting of the piece, and we were backed up all the way by our editing and audiovisual team.

Our first instinct, of course, was to focus on a family that had lost a teen to suicide and the impact it had on them. But I made a habit of asking every expert we interviewed one question at the end: “Do you have any suggestions for how we can approach this subject without doing more harm than good?”

And they all said, “Please don’t focus on a grieving family, or the memorials, the damage they leave behind.” Apparently that is one of the things that tends to kick off suicide contagion – along with graphic depictions of suicide methods, or words like “unsuccessful suicide attempt” as if suicide itself is a success. Or, as they told us, everything that 13 Reasons Why did in both seasons.

The show was part of the reason we looked at the issue, tracking the number of completed suicides in our region compared with state and national rates. With the guidance of counselors and experts, we focused instead on a young woman who survived, on ways schools are trying to cope with teen mental health, and on paths to heal and get better.

I’m proud of the work we did, and just as happy that we managed to do it ethically and responsibly. Would it have been a more compelling piece with a grieving family weeping into the camera and sad pictures of a grave? Perhaps. But it would not have been a responsible piece, and that’s more important than the hit count.

There are signs your teen may think about suicide. Here’s how you can get them help.

Teachers on the front line for teen mental health concerns

Parent Guide: Know the symptoms, and find them help

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

Also published in May:

SIU board will not support campus split

Swastika vandalism suspect refuses to speak in court (Yes, that’s in reference to this incident.)

Scarlet Letters: Memorial Day, or look out, it’s another food post!

 

Watch this space Monday for a major announcement.

March-April link roundup

It’s been a busy couple of months, with some neat changes pending I can’t talk about yet, and my appearances at Midsouthcon, the SPJ Region 7 Conference, and a couple of fun photo shoots I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

I particularly enjoyed my jaunt to Ames, Iowa, with side trips to the original Field of Dreams and the world’s largest (concrete) garden gnome. Of course, the highlight of the trip was the opportunity to talk ethics with some terrific journalism students, and I am very grateful to SPJ Regional Director Kari Williams for allowing me to speak.

Photos are in the processing queue, and I hope to have a new batch up on the photo site in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, enjoy some of these articles and a handful of blog reviews!

News/Features

Hospice patient had one wish, and a Fairmount horse made it come true.

Police investigate Wanda Cemetery for allegedly double-selling plots

Two dead, more than 50 hospitalized due to contaminated cannabis

Police believe they have solved the mystery behind local woman’s 2010 disappearance – murder.

Major Case Squad disbands without filing charges in murder of track star

 

Blogs

CultureGeek: Linkspam Hears the Verdict

CultureGeek: Linkspam defies Hollywood physics!

CultureGeek: Barnes and Noble’s ‘Red Wedding’

January-February Linkspam Roundup

We fell a little behind here at Donald Media, so here’s some of the work from the last two months. Cheerio!

News

‘Myth-maker’ of Collinsville High leaves legacy of storytelling

Flu outbreak has killed 16 children in the past week

Mabel the Pilot found after disappearing from local park

Here’s how to avoid scammers this tax season

Toddler was alone with mother’s body after murder, police say

Maull’s BBQ sauce may be sticking around after all

Don’t feed the swans, neighborhood says

Blogs

CarZeus and the Female Surcharge

To dust we shall return

My valentine

Walking with the dinosaurs: Vic Milan

Reason 42 why some animals eat their young

Voices in the dark

MovieGeek: Winchester

Superb Owl 2018