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My Fellow Citizens,

Remember when we only had to compain about soundbites? Who else has had enough of reporting on the President’s twitter habits?

We hear how early in the day he started tweeting, who he assailed and what TV program he was likely responding to when he picked up his phone. I spent most of 2017 in denial, refusing to accept that twitter is an official channel of government information. Now I think I’ve found a way to cope with it (but only because I had to). 

Twitter trends have shown that fewer and fewer “normal” people use the site every year. It has never been representative of the American people at large. I thought those demographics alone justified ignoring the Presiden’ts twitter account. But then a federal court case fielded questions about the President’s “right to block” users. 

The administration argued that this was an exercise of the President’s personal right to free speech. The Plaintiffs argued this compromised their right to petition the government. In the middle of May 2018, Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald determined that @realDonaldTrump is a “public forum operated by the government” so that “viewpoint discrimination is strictly prohibited.”

When the court decides you’re wrong, it’s time to come to terms with things. 

When I thought about it, I had once watched a journalist use twitter with amazing and impactful results. Andy Carvin from NPR crowdsourced his fact-finding while reporting on the Arab Spring. To clarify, I am talking about how empowering it was to watch a journalist work and feel like you are watching events unfold, maybe even influencing them by helping to relay a piece of verified “intel” to the right person. There’s no denying that it feels good to be a part of someting. 

And that’s the logic for the perfect tweet. Cicero wrote it: “Freedom is participation in power.” That's short enough for the classic 140 character count.

 If you use twitter wisely, the character limit becomes an amplifier. It's up to us to use that power multiplier for good work and worthwhile causes. Let’s share good journalism that moves beyond silly questions like how many times the President tweeted this morning. 

I’m also enjoying the idea of replying to @realDonaldTrump with Cicero quotes.

What short, powerful quotes move you to take action? Please reply to this email and share them. Let’s imagine that we can convince people to stop the endless scroll and think. What would you have them thinking on? Engaging with powerful ideas matters as much as contributing to a good cause.

Let’s make those invitations to think as easy to come by as GoFundMe pages!

Let's think together,
It's totally fair to think this note is about twitter. You could also read it as being about the state of journalism today. On that note, be sure to check out a recent guest post from Sarah Nugent: Advertising, Algorithms and Distrust: The Free Press is Getting Fired

If you have made a conscious effort to support the free press by paying for a subscription or showing support in another way, I would love to hear about that too. That's something we need to start talking about like it's a civic duty.

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Questions of Civic Proportions

What other changes of mind would improve today's politics?
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(share your answers in our learning community)

Thinking of civics as a code kids need to know to be successful adults.
Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed suggesting students need to know civics as much as they need to know computers. Every National Academy alumni except one shared the story (not actual numbers). While other states have taken up legislation requiring students to pass a citizenship test, Florida Governor Ron De Santis made quick work of his campaign promise to improve civic education with project-based learning. State lawmakers there recently proposed policies awarding students a seal on their diplomas for completing civic engagement course work and established a framework for democracy schools.

There has been plenty of harrumphing over the lack of civic knowledge and apparent decline in support for democratic institutions in public polling. Who makes the strongest case for what our civic education should look like today? Please share your ideas in the Studio

Thinking on racial questions would move forward with empathy.
It turns out that the Jussie Smollet case fits a historical narrative and it's one that requires us to work through this story with care. That doesn't require forgiving Smollet or minimizing what he did. The suggestion here is that we all take a moment to understand just how deep stories like this cut and how they can work to set us back. These recurring stories repeat themselves for a reason and the stories about blackface in Virginia prove the point. Turning to the work of James Baldwin and a psychology professor that provided crucial evidence for Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Susan Lanzoni says we continue to struggle because of our continued failure to treat these questions with empathy

Reflecting on Governor Northam's current status, Lanzoni writes:
"Failing to cultivate empathy will not just harm Northam’s relationship to his black constituents. Without empathy — the combined emotional and rational understanding of the impact of racism in the lives of African Americans — he is likely to neglect policies that could alleviate systemic discrimination. Indeed, the lack of empathy on the part of white Americans has long impeded the fight for racial equality." 

Thinking about the media would start with a democratic understanding of their role.
So this is where we have to talk about the President's tweets. Authorities discovered a Coast Guard officer with plans to kill journalists and the President continues to call the press the "enemy of the people" each and every day. Alec Baldwin's skit on SNL making fun of a fake national emergency even prompted the President to talk about retribution. The persistence of this storyline has led A. G. Sulzberger, publisher for the New York Times, to agree to two Oval Office meetings with the President and to subsequently take his case to the pages of the newspaper:
"All these presidents had complaints about their coverage and at times took advantage of the freedom every American has to criticize journalists. But in demonizing the free press as the enemy, simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle. It’s a principle that previous occupants of the Oval Office fiercely defended regardless of their politics, party affiliation, or complaints about how they were covered.

The phrase “enemy of the people” is not just false, it’s dangerous. It has an ugly history of being wielded by dictators and tyrants who sought to control public information."

The NYT's daily podcast, The Daily, has an excellent conversation with Sulzberger, detailing every norm breaking twist in the story. 
*The "join the conversation" link above will take you to Politicolor's online learning studio where you will need to be a member to access the content. It's free so request an invite when you see that option.
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A big question in the Learning Studio:
Will "identity politics" be the end of democracy? 

Good book recommendations on Facebook:
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Ben Franklin gets covered in
Journalism Isn't Dying. It's Returning to its Roots


Reading Meanings: W. E. B. Du Bois and The Souls of Black Folk

Our Black History Month project to take a deeper look at The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois has nearly run its course. This project came together after a newspaper suggested this title was required reading. That's one list that got it 100% right.

Our next email goes out on Tuesday. It's definitely not too late to join us. That email will include links to the whole series.

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Good Work: Flint Beat and Local Journalist Jiquanda Johnson

This story comes to us by way of Johnson's interview with Bustle. Her story communicates a passion for her community that's as strong as her commitment to local journalism. What problem did she want to solve?

"Flint was full of 'stories not being told' and 'people who had a voice but didn't have a platform.'"

The coverage of the water crisis focused on big stories like the Legionnaires' outbreak even as other families suffered through bacterial infections and cancer diagnoses. Other stories in the community went unnoticed--no one reporting on gun violence, literacy rates or poverty.

With experience writing for a regional paper in the area, the Flint Journal, Jiquanda believed she had to take action and bring residents news that's "directly relevant to them." A seemingly simple proposition, however, still carries all the weight of looking for financial support. One fundraising strategy we're going to have look for next November is #GivingNewsDay. This campaign runs on the a very familiar Giving Tuesday with the  goal of raising funds to support nonprofit journalism. 

Read more on Bustle: How Flint Journalist Jiquanda Johnson Is Reporting On The Water Crisis From The Inside

Jiquanda says she doesn't think of herself as an activist but her community does. She gets phone calls from people checking on her when she misses important public meetings. Jiquanda says, "I just thought I was this little girl from Flint trying to make a difference in journalism." That's one question that has been decided. Johnson is clearly making a difference for Flint residents: 

"Johnson watched reporters from around the country flock to Flint when the crisis made national headlines in late 2015 and 2016. Suddenly, she was surrounded by strangers who were publishing stories about her city.

'You're scrutinizing them because you're in the thick of it,' she says. 'You're here every day. You find some of the reporting isn't doing the story justice. Even now.'

In Johnson's experience, Flint Journal reporters split their attention between many cities because they cover the entirety of Michigan's Genesee County. Johnson, on the other hand, focuses only on the city of Flint — but she's just one woman." 

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