A New Brand of Politics

Photo of Danica Roem, courtesy of her campaign.

Photo of Danica Roem, courtesy of her campaign.

In Virginia, we have House of Delegates races every two years in odd years. Often, turnout is low and incumbents are strongly favored. But this race in District 13 between Democrat Danica Roem and Republican incumbent Bob Marshall could be a bit different. Well, it already is, because Roem is the first transgender candidate for any state legislature. She just won the primary by getting out and knocking on doors and focusing on traffic problems (a major issue in the northern Va. district).

Marshall is known for his social war bills against abortion, LGBTQ rights and access to contraception. He got 2.4 percent of his measures passed in 2016. His district has voted for Obama and Hillary Clinton, but he keeps getting re-elected because it's always an off-year. But with Democrats getting excited for the gubernatorial race, plus Roem's way of focusing on traffic and other local issues, we may see a change in District 13.

Here's my pre-primary interview with Danica Roem

Going Analog

One of the side effects of the election has been (for many of us) an exhaustion with social media and the nonstop arguments and disillusionment with friends and family. You know what I mean, I'm sure. Anyway, I wrote an article about that feeling and also how to stay engaged with your community while backing away from those online battles. 

We all know -- right? -- that we are not going to change hearts and minds by posting clever memes or shouting mean things on Twitter. 

Good. 

 

 

Gerrymandered!

U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va. 4th District). His district was redrawn because it was deemed racially biased by federal judges. Here's the new congressional map. 

U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va. 4th District). His district was redrawn because it was deemed racially biased by federal judges. Here's the new congressional map

Virginia has one of the worst gerrymandering track records in the country. Incumbent politicians have full control over the drawing of state and congressional districts, and they can -- and have -- carved around their potential opponents. The only thing not allowed is drawing districts that are racially biased

I have skin in this game. In Virginia, we have an organization called OneVirginia2021, a non-partisan group that advocates for an independent commission to draw districts after the 2020 Census. I've spoken on behalf of fair redistricting to my General Assembly legislators, and this evening, I interviewed OneVirginia executive director Brian Cannon for Open Source RVA, a radio news journal at WRIR-LP 97.3 FM. I'm a volunteer DJ and marketing committee member at the station.

If you are interested in gerrymandering and fair redistricting, watch OneVirginia's documentary, GerryRigged, and also John Oliver's recent report on gerrymandering.  And when my interview with Brian is available, I'll link to it here (forward to the 7-minute mark). You can listen to it live on WRIR this Friday at 2 p.m.  

 

Getting Used to the Format

I'm learning how to do things in Squarespace. Like post pictures. Here's one from the other night:

Matthew E. White and Flo Morrissey, performing in Richmond, Va.

Matthew E. White and Flo Morrissey, performing in Richmond, Va.

If you're coming here from LinkedIn or another professional place, hello! Aside from being a writer and editor, I am a professional curious person. That's why I became a reporter after graduating from college. I'm curious why people do things and what makes them change their minds and how they figure out their new paths. Here's my story, in brief.

Like so many journalists today, I've had to adjust my expectations. I started in the 1990s, and my first job was as an editorial assistant at a group of weekly newspapers. We were connected to the internet -- on two computers with dialup modems. I remember they both crashed the day the Starr report came out. I learned how to measure photos by pica, cut out stories with an X-Acto knife and paste them up. These were the final days of that sort of hands-on craft, but that's how we did things. At my next job, as a copy editor at a daily newspaper, we started printing pages directly to a film printer. 

By 2006, when I joined a monthly magazine as an editor, we progressed to uploading batches of proofed pages to our printer. I've always checked pages by printing them out (even now), but for almost everyone involved in journalism today, the process has become less physical and more digital. 

Today, as a freelancer, I'm trying to hang on to the tangible parts of storytelling: meeting in person, listening to what people are trying to communicate, helping them see their own story reflected in the written word. New technology can be overwhelming and off-putting, and goodness knows that I've wanted to throw things at my computer from time to time, but these are our current tools. Just like the X-Acto knife and blue wax pen were a few decades ago.

In short: Journalism and storytelling still matter and will continue to matter, as long as people have experiences they need to share.