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Real journalism, real courage


Speaking in a small basement “banquet room” in the Rayburn Office Building, two journalists who have risked their lives to report the truth and some of the folks who support them reminded me why it is that I care about saving journalism (which does NOT mean saving newspapers).flowersbailey

Jenny Manrique and Fatima Tlisova have reported on the violent, corrupt abuse of power by agents of the governments and criminal elements in Colombia and Russia, respectively. The stories of the things they witnessed and the reaction from those whom their reporting challenged are chilling. Both women were harassed and threatened; Tlisova was detained, beaten and poisoned. Amazingly, each of them said they only decided to leave when the threats involved their families. Tlisova is currently winding up a fellowship at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation;  Manrique was awarded the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship. But these fellowships, wonderful as they are, only last a year.  The violent hatred of their governments for those who speak the truth lasts much longer.

Tlisova opened her talk noting that she had spoken to Congress  two years ago about the threats to human rights in Russia and that sadly she could not report that there was any improvement at all. Nonetheless, even from her location outside her homeland, she continues to report on events in the Caucasus.

Joel Simon of the Committee to evloevProtect Journalists (CPJ), noted that in addition to continued attacks on traditional journalists, online journalists are increasingly at risk and now more of the journalists jailed for their work publish online than in print. Fittingly, CPJ today announced the Ten Worst Countries for Bloggers.  When asked what could be done to mitigate the risks to online journalists of harassment based on the actions of internet providers of platforms, Simon pointed to the recently launched Global Network Initiative as the best hope. Meanwhile, Rodney Pinder of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) called on internet news companies to chip in to support training and other kinds of protection for journalists at risk.

The event was organized by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and supported by the Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press, whose co-Chair Rep. Adam Schiff opened the panel. It being Washington, someone asked the question of whether trying to get the US make a fuss about jailed journalists didn’t risk “distracting” from the larger issues of US foreign policy. Ugh. Joel Simon answered with great restraint that it wasn’t his job to worry about US foreign policy, it’s his job to worry about the journalists.

When you work with media and journalists for a long time, cynicism becomes more or less the air you breathe. It’s important (on World Press Freedom Day, which is May 3, and every day) to be reminded of the bravery that many many journalists around the world demonstrate and the dedication of the groups that work every day to support them and keep them safe. I wish I had half of their strength.

Flowers for Bailey
Uploaded on August 10, 2007
by Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was killed in August 2007 allegedly for investigating criminal activities of Your Black Muslim Bakery. (via On the Media)

Magomed Yevloev (Магомед Евлоев), found of, died in Russian police custody.

In honor of Ada Lovelace


Joining folks celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, by writing about one of many women in technology whom I admire.

When I met Carolyn in Moscow in 1992, she was not yet a woman “in technology.” She was editing translations of Russian journals into English for a strange little enterprise, one of several hundred groups named “Intersomething.” I worked there too, briefly, one of an uncountable number of odd jobs I had in those early years in Moscow. Carolyn eventually migrated to working for a law firm, translating documents from Russian to English. For a while she and I worked together translating a business newsletter, while I hosted an English-language radio news show. Then somehow she started doing some “computer stuff” for them, mostly because no one else wanted to. Or because whoever was supposed to do it wasn’t getting things done that she needed so she did them herself. Soon enough she was their IT person.

Then she moved back to California and got a job in a youngish company (what do you call a startup that’s been started up for a few years? An upstart?) that did conference calling systems. To be honest, I never exactly understood what she did, and I only saw her a couple times a year, but after a while I began to notice when I introduced her to friends that she told them she was a developer. And when I mentioned that I wanted to start a blog she offered to host the domain for me. I realized that while I hadn’t been paying attention, my thoroughly humanities-oriented friend had become a full-fledged geek. Just like that. Then a little while back she mentioned she had gotten involved in running an online social network called She and my fiancé have conversations about servers that make my head spin.

What makes Carolyn so cool? It’s not that she’s the most brilliant geek I know (she’s not) it’s that she joined this mysterious, predominantly male tribe with such seeming ease. She proved to me that you don’t have to be male, born after 1980, obsessed with computer games, socially awkward or in any other of a number of stereotyped ways to the manner born in order to be a happy and successful technology professional and enthusiast. No angst required. It seems interesting? There’s an opportunity? You find you’re good at it? Then do it.

I’m writing this late in the evening after all-day meetings with a group of about a dozen folks who work on computer projects. Would like to say it was surprising that the only other woman there does their graphic design, but of course it wasn’t. But knowing Carolyn helps me believe that it won’t always be this way.