pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

The Long Summer of Not-Reading (BookRiot)

I’m not a parent, but this was still an essay that has application in my life.  Frustrated with what a fight reading to his children became every night before bed, author Peter Damien gave it up for the summer.  In a house where books ruled and where he himself was a voracious reader, this was an immensely difficult thing to do.  But he did it for his kids, because:

Because reading should not be a chore…Reading should be approached willingly and happily, because you want to. It should be done when and how you want to, and that’s it. It’s as simple as that. It should not be fought over.

His son who struggled the most with reading has since come back to it naturally and is now keeping a reading journal.  I think there’s some interesting stuff here to think about, especially that this doesn’t just apply to kids: I think we as adults are allowed to have cycles with our own reading.  I’m a voracious reader and even I tire of it sometimes, preferring to get lost in a TV show or movies or, much more rarely, crafts.  But I always come back to reading, and it’s largely due to the fact that I allow myself breaks.

Is All of Twitter Fair Game for Journalists? (Slate)

Probably the most thought-provoking article I’ve read this week, this article, written by Amanda Hess, takes to task the concept of things like Twitter, social media, and journalism in the age of the internet.  It focuses on a woman (with a following of about 13,000 Twitter users) who tweeted about a recent rape case in the news and asked followers to share bits of their own sexual assault stories.  She received a great deal of response, which is what she wanted.  But when Buzzfeed picked it up, she got angry, because she didn’t give consent for that.

What had started as a story about consenting to sex had turned into a story about consenting to viral news.

Here’s the thing, though: Twitter is public.  When you tweet something out on your account, you are consenting for it to be picked up by your followers or by other people.  It’s easy to forget this, I guess, but I find it sort of weird that people don’t seem to fundamentally understand this.  That being said, the article doesn’t look at this issue as black-or-white:

The journalistic landscape has changed so much in such a short period that it feels a little square to harken back to traditional ethics codes. The Society of Professional Journalists’ version, which was established in 1926 and updated most recently in 1996, instructs journalists to “use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects” and to “recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention.” If reporters view all statements on Twitter as equally quotable—who among billions of Twitter users couldn’t be accused of seeking “attention”?—then the divide between public and private is rendered meaningless. On the one hand, news is being created and shared on social media, and journalists cover those platforms like a beat in order to keep their readers informed. On the other hand, the obliteration of the private sphere is very convenient for journalists, and not just because it enables us to exercise the right to a free press in service of the public good.

So, journalists play a role, too.  I’m not a journalist; I don’t have to decide what my ethics are here.  But I do firmly believe–and I teach this to my students all the time–that what you put out on the internet matters, and you have to be able to understand that it’s public and it’s published.  A lot to think about here.

How to be a Good Bad American Girl (The New Yorker)

A lengthy and fascinating piece about being an audacious young girl in America, this excellent piece traces a line between Lisa Simpson to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Harriet M. Welsch in Harriet the Spy.

The entire piece is excellent, delving into the author’s lives and their fierce female protagonists, but this bit stuck out to me:

The idea that survival requires impersonation, and that artifice is sometimes necessary, is especially charged for girls who are gender nonconforming. But, in recognizing this, both Scout and Harriet are further humanized. The lesson that they themselves may sometimes have to hide makes them more aware that everyone has secrets, and everyone has a complex inner life.

At any rate, go read it, guys.

What things got you thinking this week?

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