Young people showing way forward via social media

It’s an inspiring time to be the parent of teenagers. From my latest column…

Emma Gonzalez.

Emma Gonzalez barely knew how to use Twitter on the morning of Feb. 14, but six weeks later, she had tweeted more than 1,200 times and had 1.23 million followers.

Of course, her life changed that day, along with the lives of her Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School classmates in Parkland, Fla., when a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people. After Gonzalez gave an impassioned speech about gun control in the days following the attack, her social-media prominence swelled. Now, she uses the platform to connect with, recognize and elevate other users — particularly young people.

Since the attack, high school students nationwide have used social media like never before, inspiring organic collective action such as school walkouts across the country and this weekend’s “March For Our Lives” in Washington.

As Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight data analyst, noted a week after Parkland , “Something is different this time.” Keep reading…

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Trust in being challenged

I have struggled, like many, to understand the times in which we live. Certainly social media has changed the way we communicate but, more directly, it has allowed us to avoid challenging situations. That’s the wrong direction. We all need to be challenged on the assumptions we hold, and the best journalism does that by upholding the truth – even when it’s unpleasant.

I’ve been reading Timothy Snyder‘s short book, On Tyranny, with lessons for today from the rise of fascists and communist dictators in the 20th Century. “Post-truth is pre-fascism,” he writes. He goes on to exhort people to support a local newspaper or journalism outlet:

“The better print journalists allow us to consider the meaning, for ourselves and our country, of what might otherwise seem to be isolated bits of information. But while anyone can repost an article, researching and writing is hard work that requires time and money.”

Journalism is hard, but brings deep rewards for the strength of our democracy and our communities, while social media is easy and, when abused, it threatens the core values of our society. From my latest column in the Tribune-Review

“Americans must rethink their relationship with the news too. We have come to a point where many people put more faith in unverified information on social media — because it squares with their personal beliefs — than in trusting hard-working journalists who often challenge the opinions we hold. That has to change.”

You may read the full column here.

Trump’s enemies list

Sure, President Richard Nixon had his enemies list, but not even he thought of giving out awards in the 1970s to his least-favorite reporters. I only wish he had.

Even before graduating from college, I had the good fortune of landing a job with Jack Anderson’s “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column. With white hair, a round belly and braces holding up his pants, he joyfully touted his moniker as the “Mormon muckraker,” known equally for his devotions to religion and to rousting out government corruption. Staring as a World War II correspondent, he later joined investigative columnist Drew Pearson, taking over after Pearson died. Anderson never bowed to anyone nor shirked from exposing backroom dealing, righting a wrong or embarrassing a public official who abused taxpayer money.

The column reached 40 million Americans at its peak, appearing in hundreds of U.S. newspapers. The Washington Post ran it in the comics section, to which some disgruntled editor had banished it years earlier. Anderson loved that: More people read the funnies than the editorial page anyway.

My first summer with the column… Read more