Tag Archives: Journalism

Am I Rita Skeeter?

Dear Reader:

When I dressed up in a green and black feather boa and headpiece on Halloween night and headed out into the community to take pictures and jot notes for my newspaper column, a few people yelled, “I know who you are…Rita Skeeter!”

My response? “Um, I didn’t plan to be Rita Skeeter, but I guess I’m glad I’m somebody.” In truth, I picked up the costume pieces on a whim a couple months ago, and on a whim dressed up on Halloween before heading into town. I guess with the fluffy boa, my signature red lipstick, my glasses, and my notebook and pen, I did bear a slight resemblance to the Harry Potter newshound.

My new life as a journalist keeps me out and about in the community, talking to the people who run the town as well as the regular people who live and work here but keep out of the spotlight. I’ve been to selectmen meetings, covered events at the elementary school, interviewed community members for profile pieces, and even slurped down some green juice at a free showing of the film FAT, SICK AND NEARLY DEAD at the public library. I practically beg people to send me tidbits of news that I can expand into articles. I am in my element. I can be nosy but detached, involved but not imbedded. I stand outside it, observe, and report what I see and hear. It’s awesome!

I’m also humbled by the responsibility. Okay, so it isn’t the end of the world if I spell someone’s name wrong, but I do need to be cognizant that everything I chose to highlight and everything I chose to leave out creates meaning in the story. I can chose to underscore the positive or I can spotlight the conflicts and negativity. Is this choice to highlight the positive a kind of skewing of the truth? Is it an angle?

Of course it is.

I hope I’m NOT Rita Skeeter, the reporter in the Harry Potter series who slants everything toward the sensational and titillating. I hope I have more journalistic integrity than to take others’ innocent behavior and twist it into something scandalous, but I also hope to write the truth, to capture this place in all its weirdness and its normalcy, its high moments and its times of adversity, its people and its industry. In other words, I do have an agenda. My agenda is to strengthen the community by showing my fellow citizens who we are, what we do, how we do it here in our small, rural town.

Day 44: Big News from D.C.’s Newseum

Front Pages Exhibit on Pennsylvania Ave.

Dear Reader:

Pop quiz for all of you Outside the Box.

1) What five fundamental freedoms are guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution?
2) What are the names of the five family members of The Simpson’s?

This was one of the questions asked our tour group by a docent at the Newseum, where Hubby and I spent the better part of yesterday and today learning a great deal about journalism in all its current and past forms. If you are at all interested in “the news” and have a chance to visit D.C., I recommend this museum which is situated right on Pennsylvania Avenue just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Capitol Building.

Here’s some of what we saw.

Graffiti on Berlin Wall

Five sections of the concrete Berlin Wall that separated East and West Berlin from 1961 until 1989. The West Berlin side was colorful with graffiti. The East Berlin side was almost bare, a visual representation of the difference between freedom and oppression.

Kazinsky's Cabin

The Unabomber’s cabin. Ted Kazinsky sent mail bombs to universities and airports in protest against industrialism. Kazinsky lived without running water or electricity inside the Montana cabin for seventeen years. His brother finally tipped off the FBI that Kazinsky might be the Unabomber they had been searching for after the Washington Post and the New York Times published his 35,000 word manifesto. The Kazinsky materials are part of an FBI exhibit at the Newseum.

Funny . . . But Not Really

David Horsey’s political cartoons. This exhibit was amusing after looking at more serious stuff like Pulitzer Prize photographs, Hurrican Katrina newspaper and television reporting, and the 1st Amendment exhibit.

Where the Action Is

View from the 6th floor terrace. Here you can see the beautiful Capitol Building, the National Gallery of Art (where the Da Vinci is located), the National Archives, and off in the distance a few more of the Smithsonian Buildings such as the M.O.A.I. and the Castle.

Pennsylvania Avenue

A great timeline exhibit is found up here telling the history of Pennsylvania Avenue. Did you know the Ku Klux Klan paraded down the avenue in 1925? In 2009, President Barack Obama walked down the same avenue during his Inaugural Parade. What a long way we’ve come. Too bad it took so long.

Blue chairs in The Food Section

The Food Section. This cafeteria is run by Wolfgang Puck, an award-winning celebrity chef. Hubby and I enjoyed an excellent lunch there yesterday.

Stick To Your Ribs

The ribs were fantastic, and the macaroni and cheese . . . what can I say? Melt in your mouth, creamy, cheesy, yummy.

Salad Plate

My salad concocted at the extensive salad bar was fresh, crisp, and satisfying with some pasta and some delicious blue cheese crumbles.

Bathroom Humor

Amusing “misquotes” highlighted in aqua tile in the ladies room.

Giant Comic Strips

No great newspaper is complete without The Funny Pages.

The Portland Press Herald

The front page of the Portland Press Herald from Portland, Maine.


The set of This Week with Christiane Amanpour on ABC. Since we watch “This Week” religiously every Sunday morning, Hubby and I were hoping to spot one of our favorite journalists on our Sunday visit. We got to the Newseum just before 10 pm, just as taping ended.

Ms. Amanpour and Me

Ms. Amanpour was right outside the studio when we got there. She graciously shook my hand and agreed to have her picture taken. I told her how thrilled I was to meet her and said, “I also saw you on Gilmore Girls.” She laughed and said, “That was fun.”

I am always impressed with Amanpour’s ability to ask just the right probing questions when she interviews politicians and the way she keeps the Round Table discussions running smoothly every Sunday (not always so easy to do, I imagine, with so many different personalities weighing in with their journalistic insights). Meeting her in person was amazing. Totally made my day.

Twisted Satellite Receiver

The twisted satellite receiver from the top of one of the Twin Towers in New York City against the backdrop of front pages from around the world reporting on the horrible story. This is found in the 9/11 Gallery.

There was so much more to see–Pulitzer Prize photographs, a page from a Gutenberg Bible, examples of newspapers from way back to the beginning of the printing press, important historical front pages, short films about topics such as sports reporting, bias, and race issues in journalism. The tickets we bought were good for two days, but really it would take at least a week to see and learn everything.

Reporting from Washington D.C, this is Shelley Burbank for Outside the Box.

(Answers–Question 1: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Petition. Question 2: Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie.)