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The Cohort: What I learned leaving journalism for politics – Poynter



Christina Coleman was the news and culture director for Glamour magazine, where she built out a content strategy for the 2018 midterm elections. Prior to that, she created the news vertical at Essence magazine to cover the 2016 election. In 2019, she joined Cory Booker’s presidential campaign. Now, she’s a freelance editor and digital content creator.

I almost turned around.

I was caught in a wind tunnel at the intersection of Broad and Lombardy in Newark, New Jersey, holding a just-warm-enough cup of coffee that was sloshing over the rim. My hair whipped my eyes, a tote bag sliding off my shoulder as I fought a whirlwind to get to the front door of the old New Jersey Bell Telephone Company Building. I was quite literally a mess. Shocked by the long commute I had just taken. And undecided.

The stakes were high. Walking in and accepting a position on a presidential campaign could jeopardize nearly a decade of the work I had done as a journalist and editor. Ethically, it could be a conflict of interest. And the idea that I was giving up the security of coming home to the only career I knew was crushing. I loved storytelling. I loved the built-in activism and duty of journalism to tell the truth, especially in unprecedented times.

But the moment — one that came after I spent at least four straight years assigning, editing, and reporting election and political coverage — called for me to jump on the faith that I could be a part of political change in this country in a different way.

I rode an elevator that would break too many times on the way up, walked into a wide third-floor room still filled with the sound of power tools working overtime to complete the office space, and sat at wobbly IKEA Linnmon tables fashioned as workstations that, if not cleaned with lemon sanitizing wipes every two hours, would accumulate a noticeable sheen of gray dust. Scrappy. It was, for all intents and purposes, a political startup and a far cry from the glass tower I sat in as a director of news at Glamour magazine, where I was sandwiched between an upscale shopping mall and the Conde Nast/Bon Appetit test kitchen in the One World Trade building.

This article originally appeared in an issue of The Cohort, Poynter’s newsletter for women kicking ass in digital media. Join the conversation here.

The decision was supposed to be made virtually. But considering what I was putting on the table to make this career switch, I insisted on spending some time in the office. I needed to feel it. Upstairs, I met the staffers and advisors.

There was a Black woman national political director, a state communications director who was hired at seven months pregnant, a Black campaign manager, an Indian American press secretary and a number of staffers of different identities who lived at various intersections. The inclusion was clear and something of envy for newsrooms around the country. And that diversity made me believe we had a fighting chance to address the concerns of communities across America in an actionable way. For the first time in a long time, I was inspired.

When I accepted the position, the campaign manager wrote “Christina Said Yes!” on a whiteboard above his desk. This was more of an affirmative epistle for me than for the teams I’d be working with. Outside, the Newark Light Rail dinged its bell as it passed in what I would find to be a respite and reminder of the outside world on debate nights when we worked until the p.m. hours turned back to a.m. What we were fighting for was right on our doorstep; the city of Newark could very well be any city in the country that faced a clean water crisis, food deserts, environmental injustices, and inequity in public school education. The physical toll of using our bodies to run, to walk, to knock doors brought many to tears. We needed to raise money to keep the campaign going. Keep the lights on. You were your work, and there was no escaping it.

This wasn’t an easy way out of journalism burnout. Both careers required me to work just as hard, even though I had to show up in a different capacity.

For 11 months I did this on Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential campaign, first as his Content Director (managing longform and short copy for the senator’s platforms) and then as the Director of Millennial and Influencer Engagement (building a broad coalition of support from validators and penning targeted outreach plans to engage various communities). I don’t regret a thing.

But my worry that my plan to be civically engaged on the flip side could backfire wasn’t unfounded. Heard in whispers in media urban legend and in mission statements I’ve never laid eyes on, prominent publications won’t take journalists who break from the herd. Objectivity remains a debatable subject. And the assumption that many of us leave because of the uncertain future of journalism is insulting, even if it is grounded in necessity. (In 2019, nearly 8,000 people lost their jobs in media, according to Nieman Lab. Freelancing can be financially dubious and job security hangs by a thread at most media companies, especially now.)

Like most journalists and content creators, my profession is deeply connected to my identity. I needed to make sure that, whether or not I went back immediately or at all, I handled this moment with care to ensure that I could go back in some capacity.

There were certain sacrifices I knowingly made when I joined a presidential campaign. For one, hard news reporting would likely be off limits. But the profession is evolving in ways that make room for various avenues of storytelling, where my expertise can be valuable. If you find yourself in a similar position, here are some things to remember.

Don’t get hung up on “objectivity”

One of the cardinal rules of journalism is to report with accuracy, truth and neutrality. But here’s what I learned, both as a Black woman journalist and as a political operative in the field: Objectivity can’t exist in the world of journalism as it stands.

Newsrooms across America still employ majority white, straight, cisgender men — a demographic that does not reflect the world they report on. The advent of Black media is probably the most searing example of the detriment mostly white newsrooms do to the American narrative, but more recently, underreported stories like trans women murders or environmental injustices that are cataclysmic for brown and Black communities prove that the need for diversity and perspective in newsrooms is just as important as neutrality.

Our lived experiences matter in the newsroom, and as long as we are taking care to make sure our stories are truthful and accurate, they are valid. 

Don’t abuse your contacts

Journalists relying on their contacts to get the story is not dissimilar to political operatives relying on connections to organize. But as a journalist in this new political world, it was important to keep some lines separate.

Have a code of conduct and follow ethical guidelines, similar to that of a journalist, when you have to engage with contacts from your past. Be transparent about your new role and any conflicts of interest that may occur. You don’t want to blur these lines if you go back to the newsroom.

Like journalism, the hard part of politics is getting people to trust you. Don’t make it confusing for them.

Hone your skills

Most of my journalism knowledge was transferrable in political organizing and content distribution, and I made sure to put it to use while on the campaign. I was media trained, I had contacts, and I could pinpoint a story and narrative angle. I knew what policies and messaging were important to brown and Black communities, having spent the past few years focused on social justice, reproductive freedom, the fight for Black lives, and both the 2016 general and 2018 midterm elections. And the hard skills — research, fact-checking, writing, and editing — were used daily, which allowed me to keep in practice regularly.

But the journalism skill that never let me down: picking up the phone.

It works in both politics and storytelling. And in a world where most people communicate through text and direct message, it’s most effective to get the information you’re seeking.

On my last day in the office, two weeks after we suspended the campaign, the 10% of staffers who stayed behind to close out sat at what workstation tables were left standing. This space, one that we had built up to be a full-functioning campaign office, was back to its construction zone beginnings; monitors littered empty offices and the smell of a new coat of paint over the CORY 2020 wall lingered heavy in the air. This was the end. It was over.

There were whispers of another kind. What are you going to do, now? One started a new campaign already. Another discussed going to a nonprofit. I transferred my remaining documents and walked out onto that perpetually windy intersection once more. The evening was surprisingly still, and on the horizon I could see the beckoning tip of One World Trade in Manhattan.

I didn’t know what was next. But I knew I had to go home.

For additional insights, inside jokes and ongoing conversations about women in digital media, sign up to receive The Cohort in your inbox every other Tuesday.

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The House's green surface bill runs into politics – Politico



Presented by Freight Rail Works


With help from Tanya Snyder and Brianna Gurciullo

Editor’s Note: Morning Transportation is a free version of POLITICO Pro Transportation’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.

Quick Fix

— The House’s ambitious surface transportation bill released this week is already running into some problems, with some industry groups and Republicans crying foul over what they called a “partisan” process.

— Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao stuck by the agency’s hands-off approach to regulating air travel during the pandemic in an interview with POLITICO.

— As part of an escalating row with China over airline access, DOT said it will ban Chinese flights from the U.S. later this month.

IT’S THURSDAY: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Get in touch with tips, feedback or song lyric suggestions at [email protected] or @samjmintz.

“Cruisin’ down 11th / Glance to my right, the passenger seat’s unoccupied / Here’s how I know that we had nothin.’”

LISTEN HERE: Follow MT’s playlist on Spotify. What better way to start your day than with songs (picked by us and readers) about roads, railways, rivers and runways.

Surface Transportation

LET THE SURFACE CIRCUS BEGIN: House Democrats’ climate-focused surface transportation reauthorization got skewered on Wednesday by Republicans and some industry groups, including those representing the rail industry and state transportation departments. GOP lawmakers accused House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio of shutting out Republicans and unveiling a partisan bill that has an “extreme” environmental agenda. Some turned to the Senate’s version of the bill, which included a climate title for the first time but holds more modest goals than DeFazio’s proposal to discourage states from building new highways and include climate impacts in transportation plans.

Two weeks to work it out: DeFazio told reporters that Republicans left “very little room” for engagement on climate issues and Democrats crafted the bill according to their own priorities — and that they’d likely have no problem passing it in the House even without Republican votes. But before the July 1 floor vote comes the June 17 markup, and DeFazio said he scheduled a two-week window between the release of the bill text and the markup to make time for amendments and other input from Republicans. Tanya Snyder has all the details for Pros.

Guinea pig: The transportation bill markup will be a trial run for new House rules that allow the legislative process to go forward remotely, as our Connor O’Brien observed. He notes that the surface vote will happen before the defense authorization bill, and that T&I is a bigger committee than Armed Services.


NOT OUR JOB: Chao hit back at criticism over how her agency has handled regulating pandemic measures for airlines, calling questions about masks and social distancing “labor management” issues. “When the federal government gets involved, we tend to be much more heavy handed,” Chao said on Wednesday, while noting that her agency continues to “monitor” the situation.

Her comments, made during a virtual interview with POLITICO Playbook, earned a strong reaction from labor unions and workplace safety advocates. David Michaels, who was head of OSHA during the Obama administration, called it an “abdication of duty.” Labor unions for flight attendants and pilots, which have called for DOT to make health guidelines mandatory, were mad, too. “There’s a difference between heavy handed and just washing your hands of this critical responsibility,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, calling DOT an “outlier” on safety.

An example of the patchwork: Delta Air Lines on Wednesday said it would keep preventing customers from picking middle seats and extend caps on seating through the end of September. “On routes where increasing customer demand is driving flight loads closer to our caps, we will look for opportunities to upsize to a larger aircraft type or add more flying,” the carrier said.

DOT FINALIZES SERVICE EXEMPTIONS: DOT issued a notice late Wednesday easing airlines’ service requirements that are a condition of receiving CARES Act aid. The final order, which is unchanged from a previously published preliminary order, says carriers can suspend service to either 5 percent of the points they cover, or five points, whichever is greater. “The Department believes that the process we are finalizing here strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of communities to maintain at least minimal access to the national air transportation system during the public health emergency, and the needs of carriers to conserve financial resources to weather this time of unprecedented loss of demand,” the agency wrote.

EYE FOR AN EYE: DOT announced on Wednesday that it plans to stop Chinese passenger carriers from flying into or out of the U.S. this month because China hadn’t taken steps to give Delta and United Airlines the OK to resume service to the country.

Move gets results: Shortly after, China said in a statement that it will ease its restrictions on foreign airlines flying into the country, according to Reuters. “Qualifying foreign carriers currently barred from operating flights to mainland China will be allowed once-per-week flights into a city of their choosing starting on June 8,” the story says. The number of flights can increase if no passengers on the incoming flights test positive for three weeks.

The DOT restriction, which would hit four Chinese airlines, is set to go into effect June 16. As our Brianna Gurciullo reports, DOT said its move would “restore a competitive balance and fair and equal opportunity among U.S. and Chinese air carriers in the scheduled passenger service marketplace.” The agency says its “overriding goal” is for airlines from both countries to “be able to exercise fully their bilateral rights.”

Calling all China watchers: The trajectory of the U.S.-China relationship will determine whether this century is judged a bright or a dismal one. POLITICO’s David Wertime is launching a new China newsletter that will be worth the read.

THE LOW LOWS: Airline fuel consumption hit its lowest point in at least 20 years in April, according to the new numbers from DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. There were 447 million gallons of fuel consumed that month, down from 1.5 billion the year before, a 70 percent drop.

FOR THE RECORD: After the New York Times reported this week that TSA officers had been “called out of the airports to help protect federal property” amid protests in the D.C. area over the death of George Floyd while in police custody, the agency made clear that those employees weren’t security screeners but rather law enforcement officers. “@TSA officers who interact with and screen passengers and their baggage at airports every day did not participate in responding to #BlackLivesMatter protests. Airport TSA officers are not law enforcement officials,” agency spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said in a tweet.

Around the Agencies

GOVERNING FROM HOME: In the interview with POLITICO, Chao also noted that while she expects the transportation world to return to normal relatively soon, there could be long-term changes to employers like hers that could stick around. “We’re going to see trends develop in telework,” Chao said. “Do we really need a building for 5,500 people [the size of DOT’s headquarters] when more and more people are feeling more comfortable teleworking … and video conferencing?”

The Autobahn

— “Pakistani aviation authority says PIA pilot ignored air traffic control.” Reuters.

— “Full rollout for contactless payments in NYC subways delayed until December.” The Verge.

— “Former UAW president pleads guilty to embezzlement, racketeering charges.” Wall Street Journal.

— “VRE seating is now every other window seat.” WTOP.

— “Air Canada retires last Boeing 767 after 37 years.” The Points Guy.

The Countdown

DOT appropriations run out in 118 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 1,214 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 118 days.

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Northern Ireland after coronavirus: three scenarios for politics and peace – The Conversation UK



When it comes to disruptions from outside, the Northern Ireland conflict has a reputation for being immune to them. Winston Churchill observed this after the first world war, in one of the most quoted remarks on Irish politics:

… as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.

A century later, the “integrity of their quarrel”, for the most part, remains. That said, external developments like the US civil rights campaign, the end of the cold war and the EU have influenced events in the region.

So far, the coronavirus pandemic has interacted with Northern Ireland politics in some intriguing ways. At the beginning of the crisis in mid-March, the cross-community executive became split on whether to follow Dublin’s lead in immediately closing schools or stick with the UK’s more relaxed approach.

Yet since then, the first and deputy first ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, have maintained a mostly united front. This has been in contrast with the three years before January 2020, when their parties wouldn’t work together, leaving Northern Ireland without devolution. The mere sight of Northern Ireland’s provincial politicians, schooled in the tribal minutia of a nationalist conflict, battling a global natural disaster has been arresting.

North-south co-operation has also been in the spotlight. This is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement. While Belfast and Dublin agreed they would share information on the virus, deficiencies in coordination have been exposed.

Another feature of the crisis in Northern Ireland has been the outpouring of support for the NHS from across society. Remarkably, murals praising this (British) institution have appeared in both unionist and nationalist areas.

Does any of this matter? When the deluge of COVID-19 subsides, there are three possible scenarios. The first is, of course, that there won’t be any long-term consequences of the pandemic and that political life picks up mostly where it left off.

However, the pandemic could, on the other hand, worsen divisions. Stormont now has its own roadmap out of lockdown, which is different to those of both London and Dublin. This has cross-community support but there is still plenty of room for unionists and nationalists to split over virus policy.

Anger at the Conservative government’s handling of the crisis, and the prominence of the devolved administrations, could hasten the end of the UK, with all the tumult that would bring to Northern Ireland. Paramilitary murders and threats have continued during the shutdown. And the dreary steeples of Brexit have never been fully out of view.

A chance to change

But a third possibility – and narrowly, the most likely – is that the virus, overall, has a stabilising influence. It could put political identity politics into perspective.

While COVID-19 is an external shock, it has shone a light on existing social realities: inequality; challenges in education; the quality of people’s environment, lifestyle and relationships; and above all, the health service. Public interest in these issues may increase over Orange-Green politics.

As the success of the non-aligned Alliance Party and Greens in the 2019 election showed, this process was already under way. Before the crisis, the main parties knew that the current period of devolution could be the last chance they get to show the public that they can govern effectively. The socio-economic damage of the shutdown may stimulate bold, unprecedented policy solutions.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster prepare to present their coronavirus plan.

Irish republicans have argued that the pandemic, which respects no borders, proves the illogic of partition on a small island. But pandemics, we hope, will not be something Ireland or any country has to face often. And the problem of differing strategies between neighbouring countries is not unique to Ireland, but has been felt across Britain and Europe. The crisis may actually slow the momentum of the Irish unity discussion, which had been given so much oxygen by Brexit, especially given the looming financial pressures.

When the dust settles, Northern Ireland could have a stable executive focused on everyday politics in the north, pragmatically aligned with Dublin or London or Brussels on particular issues. In other words, the region could find itself closer to the vision of the Good Friday Agreement than it has been for some years.

What is beyond doubt is that sectarianism, Northern Ireland’s local brand of social distancing, offers no protection from an infectious disease. Whatever its legacy, COVID-19’s indiscrimination proves that the physical space is in fact a shared one. Those who live in that space share the same fate, no matter the imagined national communities to which they purport to belong.

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Politics – Moe must continue to remember his roots – Yorkton This Week



More so than just about any business you can think of, politics is all about knowing whom you are and where you have come from.

The problem, however, is that it’s quite easy to forget all that, even under normal circumstances.

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And with the stakes so high in this COVID-19 crisis, it’s likely even harder for our leadership to remember the fundamentals of this province.

As such, Premier Scott Moe had some mixed results in being able to do so.

There is one area in which Moe has been rather successful in remembering where he has come from and reminding all of us in Saskatchewan of exactly who we are.

The Premier recently wrote: “Hats off to our farmer for perseverance and hard work this season” to congratulate that seeding was at the five-year for this date.

In a world where nothing seems normal – Saskatchewan lost a staggering 53,000 jobs in April – agriculture saw a 1.4-per-cent increase in employment in April as seeding got into full swing.

It’s done so without receiving anything resembling the federal subsidies other business are getting. So far, only $252 million has been made available to farmers across the country to deal with effect of COVID-19 – very little of which has made its way to western farmers and ranchers. Moreover, it’s only one-tenth of what the Canadian Federation of Agriculture requested.

Yet farmers are demonstrating what Moe aptly described as “perseverance” in carrying on with seeding that will be an estimated 37 million acres this year. Some of them have had to leave last year’s crop in the field because of horrific harvest conditions last fall.

Agriculture is simply soldiering on, pumping millions into the local economy as farmers buy seed, fertilizers, chemicals and fuel.

The net result is that Saskatchewan has seen an increase in exports in the first quarter of 2020, largely due to canola, pulse, agricultural machinery, oats and soya beans sales.

 It is important for Moe and others to acknowledge what we are – especially, in these tough times when the impact of the pandemic is taking its toll on all of us.

However, Moe and his government hasn’t always been quite so successful at remembering its roots, as was demonstrated by the recent Saskatchewan Health Authority driven decision to temporary close to 12 rural hospital emergency rooms as part of the SHA’s pandemic readiness plan.

One gets the need to prepare health staff everywhere in the province for the potential impact of a COVID-19 outbreak.

But the simply fact of the matter is there has been no more than one active COVID-19 case in all of central and southern rural Saskatchewan for a month. To even “temporarily” completely close rural ERs during seeding poses a very real problem.

That it comes from a government that represents all 29 rural seats is even more bizarre.

It took a letter from 21-year Arm River-Watrous MLA Greg Brkich to the SHA and to his own cabinet before the Sask. Party administration seemed to realize this.

In his letter, Brkich expressed frustration over the temporary closure of the Davidson Hospital ER – the only hospital between Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Outlook.

“Local folks are being short changed again in rural Saskatchewan” by being left without quality emergency care, Brkich wrote.

Given the history of the closure of 52 rural hospitals by the former NDP government 27 years ago, it’s especially strange that the Sask. Party government would have missed the significance of what it was doing.

To his credit, Moe took responsibility for the “communication” problem and offered assurances the closed ERs would be re-opened in mid-June.

But it does seem to demonstrate how important it is for politicians to remember where they come from.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics since 1983.

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