Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Controlling the Agenda

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This is a quickie.

For years, I’ve written in this blog about journalistic tricks, techniques and tendencies. I’ve talked about the dark art and dark humor of writers and reporters as they try to balance objectivity with their own humanity. And I’ve looked at how important it is to not become part of the story you are covering.

But with the Club Q shootings in Colorado this weekend, I am sadly reminded of something we as coverers of the news can’t do, which is try to control the agenda. We cannot and should not, as reporters, journalists and writers bent on telling an unbiased story, work to influence people to form an opinion about something, one way of another.

However … that does not mean that we simply repeat the prevailing, dominant agenda, whatever that is. If the zeitgeist is “Mass shootings are prevalent, growing and seemingly, unstoppable,” we search for balance and evidence that communities are fighting back against haters. If the zeitgeist is that “Shooters are inhuman monsters,” we look for extenuating circumstances that pushed shooters down the path to be shooters. If the zeitgeist is to blame victims, we look to hold law enforcement and public policy responsible for holes or hypocrisies in how civil or administrative law is applied.

In other words, if there is a sunny optimism to the extreme, we inject some realism. If there is crushing despair to the extreme, we show how people are determined to fight their way uphill to make it work despite the odds. And in the case of Club Q, if the community of shooters past and shooters to be feel like they’re making headway toward remaking the world in their bloody image, we show communities lighting candles, rallying marches, and doubling down on wrestling murderers to the ground before they can do more damage.

Through hundreds of political interviews over years, I’ve heard a crude sentiment inferred by some that goes something like this; “If you don’t agree, it means you don’t understand. And if I can’t make you understand, it means you’re stupid and therefore, less than me.” Nowhere in there is there any balance. If that is a creeping attitude that is used by those folks to control the agenda; although there is much writers, reporters and journalists can’t do, there is one thing we can certainly do.

And that is, we must highlight the full spectrum of thought, opinions, words and actions, not just the loudest, meanest and dumbest part of it.

Written by Interviewer

November 22, 2022 at 01:48

Posted in Scratchpad

Look Away

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To the point.

This morning, CBS Weekends broadcast a story featuring women in general, and women veterans in particular, who have endured the loss of one or both breasts. Included in that report was former Air Force member Sheila Johnson. Ms. Johnson was featured several times in the report. Once at the end of the report, as one of four images of women who were featured in the report. And earlier in the report, as she was being photographed in the studio of artist Charise Isis.

The “Grace Project”, begun by Ms. Isis, aims to eventually capture the countenances of 800 women who look viewers in the eye while they dare you to look at their chests, mutilated by surgeon’s scalpels in the course of removing metastasized cancer. That number was chosen because in the U.S., 800 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. As of this writing, she has 600 portraits. Ms. Isis, her “Grace Project” and the women vets whom she assigned to the “Athena Division” of the project, were fearless.

At the start of the report, anchor Dana Jacobson warned viewers that the story would contain images of women who had gone through partial and radical mastectomies, so that was no surprise. It was also no surprise that the piece would show the raw emotions as well as the raw scars of these women who bared their chests as part of a declaration of their wholeness or their determination to reclaim it.

What was a surprise was the total weakness and inconsistency with which I’m positive CBS’s decency standards ultimately imposed on the report. Namely, in the first introduction to Ms. Johnson, she was coyly videotaped by the camera operator as standing with part of her torso strategically hidden by a photographer’s umbrella while the other half of her torso, bearing her breast-less chest was visible. Except, it wasn’t visible. It was blurred. And in the instant that I saw that, I realized that snowflakes had prevailed.

Throughout the report, including at the very beginning with Marine Corps veteran Barbara Arndt standing in Central Park, being photographed by Isis, holding a sword above her head, female veterans were shown unblurred and full chested, with and without tattoos. And at our last view of Ms. Johnson, as one of the four women stills, that same breast was now unblurred.

So, besides the punkish corporate sensibilities of viewing women’s breasts vs. viewing women’s mastectomy scars, I wondered:

  • Is it because video animates an image in such a way that makes blurring the same breast that’s not blurred in an image, OK?
  • Is it because that right breast hadn’t yet undergone a mastectomy and so it violated the FCC’s indecency standards (and CBS didn’t want to risk a Janet Jackson’ Superbowl 2004 fine). Sort of like, once something can be referred to in a “clinical” way; a “penis” rather than a “dick”, it’s not violating any standards.
  • Did somebody screw up and blur one too many breasts or not blur one too few breasts.
  • Or, were an experienced producer and editor confused by a torso that seemed to hold a breast rather than a mastected breast; a confusion only amplified by an inconsistent indecency standard? (see Schitt’s Creek here)

Whatever the reason, the message is clear. And the audience knows it, even if CBS doesn’t. Once again, women get to suffer the insinuation that looking at them in such honorable, affirming and courageous contexts is somehow, wrong.

Black Rock reporters and producers, outstanding job. Black Rock management and/or the FCC, get your schitt together.

See the work of The Grace Project here.

Written by Interviewer

November 20, 2022 at 06:03

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Richmond Neighborhood CNBSeen Event

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Press Release for 5/21/22

Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA) plans public safety event with local nonprofit

OREGON CITY, OR, UNITED STATES, May 6, 2022 — When Philando Castile’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2016 was live streamed by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, writer Don Merrill was across the country working on other projects. “But I had no idea his death would have such an effect on me,” said Merrill. So much so, he traveled to Minneapolis to see the site, then covered with pictures, balloons and flowers. He also met another black man who was trying to prevent future deaths resulting from traffic stops gone bad, from happening again. Through his own car repair service, he was offering to replace bulbs in cars for free.

Merrill liked the idea and in 2016, with the help of two friends, started CNBSeen, a nonprofit devoted to replacing inoperative lights on vehicles. The issue of police stops has been at the center of many questionable police shootings in recent years. So much so that in the 2022 Oregon legislative session, and after failed previous attempts, lawmakers successfully introduced legislation that prohibits police from stopping a vehicle for minor infractions like burnt out lights. Between 2017 and 2020, Merrill was working on publishing a book. But in 2020, he reanimated the idea of CNBSeen, esp. in light of the killing of George Floyd.

The Portland Police Bureau’s quarterly “Stops Data Report” shows historical and disproportionate stops of black and Hispanic drivers – https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/news/read.cfm?id=271347. Subsequently, many neighborhoods became interested in hosting CNBSeen events after being contacted by Don Merrill. Unfortunately, COVID caused many initially interested to drop out of hosting events because of the double whammy of disease and waves of civil unrest that left police struggling to serve them. As health officials declare that the United States is no longer in “a pandemic phase”, masks slowly come off, and communities in and around Portland slowly recover, neighborhoods are looking for events to bring people back outside to reengage.

One of those neighborhoods, the Richmond Neighborhood Association, has planned an event with CNBSeen to take place in conjunction with its Spring Clean Up event on Saturday, May 21 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. The event, situated at Central Christian Church, located at 1844 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd, will host CNBSeen in the church parking lot until 12:30 p.m.. Vehicles needing minor bulb replacement are invited to enter the North parking lot from SE 40th. Once there, a greeter will ask a few questions while a technician from All Around Automotive replaces burnt out bulbs provided by Automotive Products. A list of lights not replaced by CNBSeen, as well a service disclaimer can be found here – https://wordpress.com/post/dmassociates.wordpress.com/8825. For more information about this event, please contact the Richmond Neighborhood Association at richmondnasecretary@gmail.com. Don Merrill thanks RNA, volunteer technician and auto restorer Michael Rowe and Automotive Products for their support.

The Richmond Neighborhood Association exists with the goal to provide a forum to develop neighborhood cohesiveness and improve livability by coordinating neighborhood projects, disseminating information and promoting active involvement in neighborhood activities – https://www.richmondpdx.org

CNBSeen is a nonprofit with the missions of social justice and public safety – http://www.cnb-seen.org

Automotive Products, 1700 SE Grand St., Portland OR 503-234-5241, http://www.automotiveproductsinc.com

Written by Interviewer

May 22, 2022 at 10:03

Posted in Scratchpad

I Can Live with That

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I’ve been doing candidate interviews as a public service since 2014. I expect that since then, I’ve probably talked with nearly 300 candidates. And with each interview, I am again reminded and amazed by how candidates respond to questions. Some are grateful to be asked things they haven’t been asked before. Others are clearly annoyed by questions they consider pedantic or pedestrian. Others go as far as making it clear to you that they consider some questions much more intelligent than others. Such is the nature of political candidates and political candidate interviews.

But something no candidate likes, and all candidates stumble over, are questions they should know something about but don’t. And this goes back to one of the historic conundrums candidates face when running for office; do they focus on larger issues or do they focus on local issues? Because a candidate that goes to the legislature with the intention, Jimmy Stewart style, of being a man for all of the people, looks at every vote in the big picture. But, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the lesson of former US Representative David Mann is instructive. Mann, a democrat, was elected to the US House in the early-90s by the people of his Cincinnati district. Once there however, his constituents accused him of voting for issues that weren’t their issues, namely NAFTA. In other words, as far as they were concerned, he forget who he was working for. And when House elections rolled around again, he was essentially yanked and replaced by a republican. It’s an economic calculation. As a politician, you have to weigh how much big picture stuff will your constituents stomach vs how much local stuff will your legislative colleagues stomach. Tip too far in one direction and you risk losing your moorings from the other direction. And that has a tendency to determine where you expertise will lie.

But, of course, I don’t care about any of that. I ask questions on subjects a candidate running for that office may encounter, esp. if the incumbent already has. And since the very nature of politics is dealing with the unexpected, they may eventually encounter … everything. Legislator A in House District 17 may have to vote on an issue affecting the rest of the state. But her constituents hate the legislation. Where should legislator A’s loyalties lie; in serving the greater good or in making sure her little square of bread is safely buttered? So if I ask candidate A about a possible Senate vote on regulations for business, even as they’re from a rural district feeling industrialized parts of the state have problems they don’t, and excessive regulations are killing their way of life, and candidate A decided to fills the answer with silence, punctuated with a lot of “ummmmms” because they haven’t really thought about the big picture, it’s going to be interesting.

From my POV, this is either someone who needs to do more prep before they venture another interview, or someone who is totally reliant on the “from the people” narrative to the extreme, meaning, they know as much about the complex issue in question as the “average” person. Since “I am them and they are me,” the unspoken logic goes, “my voters don’t want some political insider anyway.” Some candidates have even implied that the founders came from farmers who did just fine. And nearly three centuries ago, that worked. But in 2022 America, as it relates to a host of complex issues, study after study shows that average knowledge is not that impressive and in a legislative setting, can even be a little dangerous since no votes can afford to be cast in a vacuum.

So, I sometimes end up annoying candidates. I’m not trying to. But when it comes to drawing out answers from someone who wants to do things in your name, have reign over your money and control the lives of you and your loved ones for generations to come, it’s an occasional reaction I can totally live with.

Written by Interviewer

April 27, 2022 at 10:08

Posted in Scratchpad

I Can Relate …

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This is a quickie. I am reminded again why an interviewer should never insert themselves personally into an interview, either because you end up generating something unintentional or being unintentionally complicit in something.

It’s very easy to do. You want to be cordial, even accommodating to help the conversation move forward. So you commiserate, you affirm … and the moment you do, you potentially put your foot in a bear trap. That’s why, as I mentioned in this post from many years ago, questions focused on the interviewee and answers from only the interviewee are the safest route for the journalist. Even sharing a laugh can be fraught.

I’ve had dozens of political candidates tell me, over nearly a decade of talking with them, that I don’t judge them, that I make them feel comfortable, that I ask good questions. But none of that means I make a habit of saying things like, “I know how you feel” because even if I do, I keep it to myself because, one, it’s not about me and two, that is the first step into a minefield.

By leaving yourself out of most inclinations to identify with whatever the guest is talking about, you don’t find your feet tangled in the reeds at the bottom of whatever swamp later inconsistencies in their story trap you in. You don’t want to be, in any way responsible for or implicated in some dialogue related mess later because you went somewhere you had no business going, not matter how well intentioned.

Clear, clean questions keep separations between them and you sharp, and that’s safest for your both.

Written by Interviewer

April 22, 2022 at 05:47

Posted in Scratchpad

Stories vs Policies

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I am drawn to talk to politicians. In light of the events our country periodically plows through and is changed by, I’ve come to believe what I can do is use my experience to flesh out the thoughts and plans of those people who would lead us. In the course of that work, I hope I’ve revealed to some voters the fitness of some candidates over others, but in the end, that is their decision … not mine.

However, there is one place where, as I prepare those stories to be heard, I have to make choices. And that is in the edit. I package long form, audio conversations in 30-minute increments mostly because if a radio station is going to use a piece, it has to fit within a block big enough to be substantial but small enough that it doesn’t interrupt a local or network programming schedule. Thirty minutes seems to be that sweet spot.

But candidates can be long winded. That is in part because of them. These people are passionate, and I want to ask them a question that gives them free range to talk about the answer for as long as they want, in whatever way they choose. One answer can go minutes long. But part of it is because of me. I could stop them at a certain point to make sure all of their answers to all of my questions don’t go beyond 30 minutes. But then, I could miss something that is a definitive reveal; something not mentioned in a bio or a campaign webpage. So, I encourage them to be long winded knowing I’ll take the hit later, meaning I’ll be spending hours listening to every word, figuring out how to cut it all down to something cogent, cohesive and in context.

One of the biggest aids in doing that is listening to stories they tell and how they interweave with policies they’ll promote. This is a simple version of say vs do. Although stories (which can be metaphors for how something that happened to them will translate into a belief that will lead to an action) can be telling, in the end, what a listener wants to know is how will you fix my problem? They MAY be interested in how their problem relates to the story told. But one of the things I’ve noticed interviewing candidates is often, many words are used to say (or not say) simple, direct things.

So, I end up asking, “If I include all of the stories the candidate considers important, and all of the policies that are related to those stories, will that make the interview unusable to the radio station?” Often, the answer is yes. Then, none of the candidate’s thoughts can be heard and the public has less information. Then, it’s deciding which stories to keep that have the strongest connection to a thing the candidate will actually do, rather than a piece of fluff that surrounds an unclear policy or an indirect answer. Sometimes, if there’s time, all of their stories can stay. Sometimes, some of them. Sometimes, because of that long windedness and passion, there are no stories and only their policies remain.

I have been doing this since 2014. I encourage candidates to tell me if they feel they have been misrepresented. So far, candidates across Oregon’s wide political spectrum seem to feel the intent of their messages have remained intact. It is important to me to make sure they continue to feel that way and that voters have the clearest, most concise picture of who they are and how they will affect lives if they’re elected.

Written by Interviewer

April 17, 2022 at 01:27

Posted in Scratchpad

Black Lives Matter (still)

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Driving along McLoughlin Ave as I am wont to do, I often see large groups protestors with flags and signs, expressing their First Amendment rights for conservative values and beliefs. But I rarely see “a” protestor, with “a” sign, expressing their First Amendment rights for progressive values because, I think, they are simply intimidated to be out there by themselves. It’s easier to be in a school of fish than out there all alone.

But some people just have the guts of “Nemo”, from the movie, “Finding Nemo”.

I met such a young woman holding a very large, homemade Black Lives Matter sign as traffic buzzed by one recent Saturday evening. I later learned she was Anna Sanger Reed, the Executive Director of the Western Energy Institute in Lake Oswego. I was so struck by the fact that she was out there, by herself, in a community that she admits isn’t always friendly to her message, that I just had to talk to her. Find our conversation here.

The traffic noise is kinda bad, so here is a transcript.

DM – First of all, tell me your name.
ASR – My name is Anna Sanger Reed.
DM – OK and you live in Milwaukie?
ASR – I live in unincorporated Clackamas county.
DM – So, when I approached you, when I first saw you, one of the things I said was the BLM protests happened, for the most part, last year. A side goal of the BLM protests was to bring attention the fact that President Trump probably should not be reelected, and he wasn’t. So, it is July of the following year and for the most part, the BLM protests have died down. But you are out here on, what is it McLoughlin, no, 82nd …
ASR – 99E, yeah McLoughlin
DM – You’re on McLoughlin, by yourself at 7:30 in the evening on a Saturday …
ASR – On my second to last day of vacation, mind you.
DM – Right, OK so …
ASR – Of a week vacation …
DM – So, how many days have you been doing this?
ASR – This is my very first day coming out here.
DM – OK, so, and you’re holding a BLM [sign]. A very easy to see BLM [sign].
ASR – I just made it. I slapped it together. I got paint all over my wrist.
DM – OK, so the question I have is why are you out here?
ASR – The reason why is because I was driving home from watching my nephew, and I saw the group of people who were holding their American flags. And I saw a flag that said, “F” Biden, and I just felt like, this doesn’t feel the way I want my neighborhood to feel. I want my neighborhood to feel like it’s open and welcome to everybody. And so I made my own sign with my message and I came down here to show it off.
DM – So, I’ve seen the same groups of people. I see them in a lot of places. I’ve seen them down there, I’ve seen them up on Beavercreek Road. It seems like there’s a lot more of them than there are of you.
ASR – Right here, right now.
DM – Right. Why do you think that is?
ASR – I think that it’s hard for people to feel safe showing a non-Republican point of view in this part of town. And it’s one of the things I was a little nervous about buying a house in this area. But the more I just feel that feeling of divide, the more I feel like I can’t really afford to stand aside and not make my voice heard. And so, we have lots of conversations when the election was happening about whether or not we felt comfortable people putting signs in our yard. And it was a really tough decision but …
DRIVER – BLACK LIVES MATTER!
ASR – Woo Hoo! We ended up not putting any signs out which felt … that made me realize I don’t want to feel like I’m silenced in my own neighborhood. And so when I see other people speaking up, it makes me feel like, Oh, OK we can have a conversation out here where we show our beliefs. And the main reason I wanted to make my sign was because I don’t want anybody driving home from work or driving home from visiting their family and see that and feel like there’s any kind of intimidation or exclusion of a particular group of people, which to me when I see that, um, I know it can be interpreted that way And so I want to also make sure people see my sign, that Black Lives do matter.
DM – Do you feel like you could have a conversation with someone in one of those other groups though?
ASR – Potentially, but I know that I’m not a very skilled debater. You know, I’m not going to throw myself into a situation where I try to represent different groups because I know I don’t have necessarily the right things to say. But what I can do is use what momentum I feel like I can see to build on people feeling included. Just saying this isn’t representative of this community so that I don’t want people to feel like they can’t … you know, maybe people are out here looking to buy a house in this neighborhood. And if they see that, then I don’t want them to feel like they can’t be included in part of our community.
DM – OK, but by saying you don’t feel like you have the tools to say what you want to say or what needs to be said, are you making the assumption that they do?
ASR – I don’t really know. I think, for me, this was one of the first things I realized when I had a conversation bringing this up, it gave me a tool where I could engage. And so, for example, I actually did, when I first got home, in my room, I just said out my window, I tried not to yell but I said it kinda fast, “Black Lives Matter.” And I heard somebody’s voice say, “Not to me.” That just happened like, half an hour ago. And honestly, I don’t know if I would’ve gone and gotten – made a sign if that hadn’t have happened, but to me it was like, no you don’t say that to me in my neighborhood.
DM – Right.
ASR – So, this felt like such a small thing to do. But even just thinking about the individuals who might go past and see it and feel that they might have somebody on their side is really important to me.
DM – So then, how do you go about getting other people on your side who feel the same way? I mean, like I said, you’re by yourself. And the other groups don’t seem to have any problem assembling people who are like minded for them.
ASR – Yeah, well I think earlier when there was a lot more BLM momentum, I know there were quite people out on their own standing on street corners with signs. It’s just that when you saw they weren’t organized doesn’t mean there weren’t individuals on street corners You could look at it that way. I want to make sure … maybe then somebody else thinks, oh, well maybe on another day we can hold our sign up. You know, I don’t think there’s anything to gain by trying to rile them up. See, they’re like a block away. I don’t want to feel like I’m encroaching on their ability to have free speech. But I wanted to have my own message. Did you interview any of the people at the other …
DM – I didn’t even get that far. I don’t even see them.
ASR – Oh wow. Oh, they might’ve left. I decided I was going to be down here until they left, but yeah, there was a whole lot of them there.
DM – And so, let me make sure I understand. You saw them, …
ASR – Yes …
DM – And then, you came out …
ASR – I came home, slapped a sign together. And then I walked down here because I didn’t want anybody to be able to trace my car to where I live.
DM – Right
ASR – So its like I’m still a little nervous about it. So it’s like …
DM – But you purposely came out here, sort of as a direct response.
ASR – What I wanted to do was to have anybody driving this direction, I wanted them to see my sign first so that when they see that, they remember there was somebody that feel BLM is more important than all those messages. And it’s patriotic.
DM – Red, white and blue! I saw that. That’s the first thing I noticed was that it was red, white and blue. Anyway, it was really nice to meet you and talk to you.
ASR – I appreciate you talking to me.
DM – Yeah

Written by Interviewer

July 22, 2021 at 04:07

Posted in Scratchpad

Old Town/China Town Neighborhood CNBSeen Event

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PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
April 13, 2021

Contact:
Don Merrill
503-927-0030
cnbseenpdx@gmail.com

TAILIGHT EVENT ATTEMPTS TO ADDRESS RACIAL INEQUITIES

PORTLAND – CNBSeen, a non profit with the mission to replace tailights in cars for social justice and public safety, will hold its first event on Saturday, April 24, 2021 in downtown Portland.
The non profit was started by local journalist Don Merrill after the killing of Philando Castile by Minneapolis police in 2016.

“I was working on another big project,” said Merrill, “and saw that I couldn’t give proper attention to both of them. So I put CNBSeen on hold.” Merrill finished the other project in early 2020. After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police months later, he relaunched CNBSeen.

Merrill said Castile’s killing made him realize the number of people of color in general and black people in particular who are killed by the police after routine traffic stops, many of which involve a burnt out tailight. By September 2020, he had been invited as a guest speaker by a several of Portland’s seven neighborhood coalitions and at the time, had received broad support and promises of cooperation. By partnering with Portland neighborhood associations and auto parts stores, he hoped to bring similar events to many of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods beginning in January 2021. Numerous organizations around the country have hosted tailight clinics, including the “Gimme a Break (Light)” program in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The violence in Portland’s downtown in recent months however, along with the over taxing of police resources, has made some of those neighborhoods pull back and view the idea more cautiously. “I understand why they are hesitant. I think they feel like they’re trying to figure out how to keep their own neighborhoods afloat, and something like this might seem a little too esoteric right now,” he said.

But Merrill points to the recent shootings of Jenoah D. Donald across the river in Vancouver, Washington, Duarte Wright in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the near shooting of Army First Lieutenant Caron Nazario in Windsor, Virginia as the lastest examples of how a traffic stop can have bad outcomes. “A burnt out tailight shouldn’t be an extrajudicial death sentence,” he said. “In this moment of racial reckoning, … and we don’t know how long it will last, I wanted to do something.”

CNBSeen plans to focus on those neighborhoods with a higher number of police stops than the overall city average, according to the most recent Stops Collection Data (SDC) report from the Portland Police Bureau. The SDC shows stops by precinct conducted by both the Portland patrol and traffic divisions. The quarterly report consistently shows that black drivers are stopped much higher numbers across Portland than white drivers. Although events in specific neighborhoods are targeted at people of color in those neighborhoods in the interest of social justice, Merrill said that in the interest of public safety, the event is also open to anyone needing a bulb replaced. “If we don’t have a bulb, the driver could gets a rain check and can get a bulb at a later event.”

The event will take place at the Parking NW lot, 417 NW Couch in downtown Portland between 12 and 5 p.m. Merril thanks owner Al Niknabard and Guardian Parking Management Services for donating a portion of the lot for the event. Everett Street Autoworks will provide bulbs and staff to change bulbs. Covid-19 protocols will be in place meaning drivers need not leave their vehicles or have any physical contact with event organizers. The Old Town Community Association plans on including members of the Public Safety Action Coalition (PSAC) and invitations have been extended to Portland City Council and other elected representatives to support this community initiative. And, members of the Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative (IPAC) will be at the event to support restorative justice, discuss ways to reduce forms of violence and crime, and promote community healing and relations.

“We want this to be a community building event,” said Tiffany Hammer, a co-president of PSAC. “The neighborhoods of the Old Town Community Association are vibrant and events like this show the community we have hope in what can be.” “I want this event,” says Merrill, “to encourage other communities to renew their shared vision with CNBSeen to conduct their own tailight events.”

Those interested in helping CNBSeen, a 501c3 non profit organization, continue its work may donate to its GoFundMe at https://bit.ly/3wNI0NO. People are under no obligation to give, “but contributions will certainly be appreciated,” Merrill said.

“It’s not this huge thing. It just this little thing I think I can do, like throwing starfish,” said Merrill.

To learn more about CNBSeen and the April 24th event, visit CNBSeen’s website, http://www.cnb-seen.org. There visitors can find links to its evolving Terms and Conditions and upcoming events.

–30–

PSAC is a grassroots organization with its primary goals being to help educate, inform, and inspire the general public to become involved in their public safety system and help promote respectful and effective public safety advocacy to elected officials and government agency leadership.

CNBSeen’s mission is to replace burnt out lights on cars in the service of social justice and public safety.

IPAC is a united group of faith leaders, activists, social workers, police officers and community members. We came together beginning in July 2016 to address the crisis of violence on Portland streets, specifically, violence impacting communities of color.

Written by Interviewer

April 11, 2021 at 08:59

Posted in Scratchpad

PLEDGE: The Musical

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Coming to Zoom, Facebook Teams or a Google Meet near you, hopefully sooner than later.

Written by Interviewer

February 2, 2021 at 13:42

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Projects Everywhere

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The year 2020 goes down in history as the worst year I have ever lived. But it was, in some ways, the most productive. First, I decided in 2019 to interview Oregon politicians in advance of the 2020 election. My purpose was to do what I could to make sure people knew who they were voting for and what their intentions were. So, every month, between January and November 2020, I sent emails inviting politicians running for every level in Oregon State government, as well as independents running for President and candidates for Oregon Secretary of State, to talk to me. I did something very similar in 2014, though that was an off-year election. I just love politics and I love talking to politicians, mostly, because I’m always wondering what will come out of their mouths next. I interviewed about 70 candidates overall. The site got tons of visits and is still getting hits. I’m glad people found it and hopefully, found it useful.

(I don’t understand why this image is so fuzzy. It’s fine in preview.)

Next, after the death of George Floyd, I attended one of the early protest in Portland. It just happened to be the most iconic; the protest and die-in on Portland’s Burnside Bridge. The photo of the bridge over the Willamette River, shot from the sky and full of people, was one of the most powerful images of the entire Black Lives Matter movement. Shortly after that, I decided to revive a non-profit I’d put on hold as I worked on a book about public radio between 2015 and 2019, and self-published in 2019. The non-profit, called CNBSeen, has the mission of replacing burnt out lights on cars. The motivation was to try to bring attention to the crisis of police extrajudicial killing of black men for minor infractions like burnt out tail lights. I started contacting Portland’s 95 neighborhoods in June 2020, and by November, a GoFundMe has raised about $1500. Meanwhile, almost all of Portland’s neighborhood coalitions had shown interest in hosting an event. The plan was to always start the project in January and pilot it through to the end of 2021. The violence, whether in the form of needlessly destructive demonstrations or random shootings that have rocked Portland before and since the election are scary. But I have to push past that and get started.

And finally, referring back to the book, “PLEDGE: The Public Radio Fund Drive”, I always knew I wanted to do something more with it than just have it live between two covers, on a shelf. Ever since the earliest days of first putting pen to paper, I thought the story could be told in a couple ways. One way was through facts, figures, anecdotes, history and research. That’s what the book does. But I realized that I could also dramatize the essential story of the book, which is the day to day struggle an average public radio station faces to survive. With that in mind, and motivated by another book that was transformed first into a script, and then into a musical (The Book of Mormon), I decided “PLEDGE The Book” should become “PLEDGE: The Musical.” I’ve already written it, trademarked the name and copyrighted the script. I’m working with a composer right now to turn song treatments into basic melodies that I can put words to. A local theater group has offered to do a table read, and I’m looking at possibly doing a rough staging in June.

As part of the promotion for the book and the show, I’ve created a real website for a fictional radio station that is based on the fictional radio station in the show; KKAR. On each page, I say, “This is a fictitious radio station.” According to the FCC, the callsign is inactive and the community, in eastern Arkansas that I call Helen sounds like, but isn’t the real town of Helena. The station is one affiliate in a four station network owned and operated by the fictitious, “State College of Arkansas at Helen” campus. The story looks at events within KKAR over a nine day period. The political angst, technical issues, money fights and racial struggles are all a backdrop for the all important, twice annual, KKAR pledge drive. In addition, the show promises a musical score that looks at everything from how the podcast is trying to kill the antenna, to the underwriting vs advertising shell game, to how boomers and millennials see each other up close, to why “bums and losers” isn’t what free riders should be called on-air, but how that’s absolutely how staff see them off-air. The story is a perfect vehicle for the tragic successes and comedic failures anyone who has ever worked at or listened to a public radio station, will recognize.

This is a notice to you that PLEDGE v2 is coming.

Written by Interviewer

February 2, 2021 at 06:35

Posted in Scratchpad