A Haiku tribute to journalist Jim Lehrer

January 24, 2020, 8:26 PM UTC

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Turns out not all white men feel professionally threatened by women and people of color, and a shocking cancer cluster in a Black neighborhood in Houston is raising serious questions. And start your weekend with the most heartwarming TikTok ever!

But first, our Haiku tribute to journalist Jim Lehrer, who died this week at 85. May his vision for journalism be our continued blessing.

“It’s not about us,”
Jim Lehrer used to say, but
losing him feels so

personal: His rules
for journalism and life
made the world better.

Do nothing I can’t
defend,” was top on his list;
and “assume others

are as smart, caring,
and good as I.” Assuming
noble intent is

a radical act
in a modern age! Let the
good outweigh the risks.

Have a radically wonderful weekend, we are so grateful for you.

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Ellen McGirt

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On Point

Not all white men feel threatened by competition, new data shows In "Race, States, and the Mixed Fate of White Men", researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst show that contrary to conventional thinking, not all white men are worried about workplace competition from people of color and women. “Seen through the lens of class stratification and local labor markets, any statement that lumps all white men, or all women or all minorities, together is likely to be wrong,” they write. It's not about enlightenment, however. “What we find is that white men’s advantaged access to middle and upper class jobs is largest in states with large minority populations. In those same states, working class white men face substantial labor market competition from minority men.” It fuels certain grievances. “[I]t is these working class white men who are the racially resentful and most opposed to further immigration and who were particularly receptive to anti-elite, anti-immigrant, and racial political messages.” Interesting. Also, their new data set, which contains demographic diversity data of various occupations among medium and large U.S. companies, is publicly available and searchable.
UMASS Center for Employment Equity

Some 43% of families in Houston’s Fifth Ward have cancer This cancer cluster was identified by the Texas State Department of Health Services last year, but residents have been alarmed for years. The issue is the Englewood Rail Yard, where rail ties had been treated with creosote, a known carcinogen, which then seeped into the groundwater under at least 10 census tracts. The rail yard is owned by Union Pacific, who claims that no toxins are currently in danger of reaching residents. (They did, however, offer $1,000 to any resident willing to sign a promise not to use any groundwater in 2014.) Local activists have been laboring alone (well, check out "Creosote man,") but are now getting some high-powered help from Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and activist Erin Brockovitch. Question: What do you think would happen if 43% of Greenwich, Conn., residents turned up with cancer?

Nearly 1 in 3 adolescent girls from the poorest communities around the world have never been to school That’s the stat, and here’s the report from UNICEF, generated ahead of the convening at Davos. “Poverty, discrimination due to gender, disability, ethnic origin or language of instruction, physical distance from schools and poor infrastructure are among the obstacles that continue to prevent the poorest children from accessing quality education,” they write. This sounds like a pretty serious pipeline problem, right?

On Background

Meet the Into The Spider-Verse family in real life! Theo Hendrie, who describes themselves as a writer and social commentary YouTuber, flagged this extraordinary TikTok account and immediately made everybody’s day. “Okay usually when I share TikToks I think are cool they get like five likes so this was unexpected,” they wrote. The star is a TikToker named Jenoah Bush, who describes himself as a “baby faced 20 y.o.” But @ just_jenoah_ has also been expertly recreating scenes from Into the Spider-Verse, with the help of his equally adorable family. Enjoy! And celebrate inclusion in Hollywood: When a family truly sees themselves represented, it’s a joyous thing. (And follow Theo if you’re so inclined. They seem pretty cool.)
Jenoah Bush on TikTok

On being black, successful, affluent, and deeply afraid You know these people. They’re accomplished and busy. He’s Ivy League educated and an attorney, she’s both a Methodist pastor and a consultant. They have three accomplished sons. Their 5,800 square foot home has five bedrooms, tennis courts, and a diving pool. "We did everything America said we should do," says Frances Waters of their perfect sounding life. But once they step out of their familiar circles in tony North Dallas, they’re nothing but suspects—ignored by hospitality staff, regarded with contempt by others. The microaggressions and “racism management” is taking a toll. “We’re unprotected out in the world,” she says.

The complicated math of gentrification and tourism in NYC This long read from Skift, the travel and hospitality research company, does a remarkable job exploring the transformation that New York City has undergone to become a beacon of safety and homogenous upscale tourism. It’s a heady post-9/11 mix of real estate development schemes, Airbnb, and savvy marketing. “While millions of New York’s residents live in the outer boroughs, often working in middle-class jobs or service industries, Manhattan and the more expensive parts of Brooklyn have gradually become defined by the kinds of people they exclude and the types of upscale businesses they attract.”


“Everyone should get their news however they want to and in whatever form they want. I’m not going to sit back in judgment of other people and the way they do it. If Letterman tells a joke with a piece of information in it that you didn’t know before, that’s fine with me, that doesn’t bother me. I mean, my God, you’ve got to get it off a serious news program or it doesn’t count? I don’t believe that for a second… If we don’t have an informed electorate we don’t have a democracy. So I don’t care how people get the information, as long as they get it. I’m just doing it my particular way and I feel lucky I can do it the way I want to do it.”

—Jim Lehrer, in an interview with Columbia Journalism Review, June 2, 2006.

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