Books Media Bob Uncategorized

Why journalism matters …

Ten Days in a Mad-House, Nellie Bly (1887)

Well, I don’t care about that. You are in a public institution now, and you can’t expect to get anything. This is charity, and you should be thankful for what you get.

— Miss Grupe, one of several “Nurse Ratcheds” in “Ten Days in a Mad-House”

After Nellie Bly, “the New York World’s Girl Correspondent,” feigns insanity to get admitted to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, she finds a horror show. Miss Grupe’s comment above is delivered after Bly is forced to bathe in icy water and sent off to bed soaking wet in a facility with no heat. She begs for a nightgown. But the poor don’t deserve such luxuries.

Nelly Bly

Bly’s reporting makes a difference. She spends 10 days in the asylum, which results in a series of newspaper articles and ultimately the book Ten Days in a Mad-House. (This book is available free thanks to Project Gutenberg, a powerful reminder that the Internet still is capable of using its powers for good.) After being plucked from the asylum, Bly testifies to a grand jury on the abuses, and ultimately an additional $1 million is budgeted for care of the mentally ill. That clearly doesn’t solve the problem. But I suspect it improved the lives of at least a few of these patients.

A few things I loved about this book:

  • Bly is a great writer and reporter. The story is riveting, and it’s a frightening reminder of how little power women had in society at the time. Several asylum inmates were women who were sent there by their husbands for refusing to “behave.”
  • There’s a Pittsburgh tie. Like Jane Swisshelm, another female journalist affecting change in her world, Bly grew up in the Pittsburgh area and spent time working at Pittsburgh newspapers, in her case the Dispatch.
  • The Gutenberg version retains the ads. So you, too, can discover the wonders of “Madame Mora’s Corsets” or the “handsome cake of scouring soap’’ called Sapolio. Or maybe you were looking for Gluten Suppositories to ease your constipation: “As Sancho Panza said of sleep, so say I of your Gluten Suppositories: ‘God Bless the man who invented them.’” — E.L. Ripley, Burlington, Vt.
Assorted Bob D.C. Bob Media Bob Transition Bob Uncategorized

My next gig: teaching at Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism

OU BobcatsI’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be the Scripps Howard Visiting Professional at Ohio University for the upcoming academic year. Some of the proudest moments of my journalism career came under the Scripps banner. Spending a year at OU teaching journalism seems a perfect next step for me.

The Scripps School of Journalism is a renowned program, which is demonstrated by the number of OU students I’ve placed in internships and full-time openings at the various media companies I’ve worked for.

I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve hired a Bobcat.

Now I’ll get to work closely with students as they develop their skills. If you’re shopping for talent, let me know and I’ll steer the best and brightest your way.

The statue of E.W. in Scripps Hall. His nose is shiny because students rub it for good luck before tests.
The statue of E.W. in Scripps Hall. His nose is shiny because students rub it for good luck before tests.

After I was laid off from Hanley Wood last winter, I started sizing up the opportunities that were coming in over the transom. Andy Alexander and I had coffee on P Street in D.C. and started talking about OU. Andy and I served on the Scripps School’s professional advisory board together several years ago, and after he left his role as ombudsman at the Washington Post he amped up his relationship with OU, including working as a visiting professional.

Andy got me thinking. I’d had numerous conversations with J-school director Bob Stewart over the years about opportunities to move to Athens to teach, but the timing never was quite right. This time, it was, and Bob helped make it so.

Lara and I moved from D.C. to Athens in late June. We were stressed about leaving D.C., which we love. But we’re now smitten with our new home. Athens is a great town (the farmers’ market rocks, and there are several great restaurants within walking distance of the house we’re renting.)  Shortly after arriving, I had a chance to participate in OU’s High School Journalism Workshop. The quality of that program convinced me I’d made the right decision.

While I’m teaching at OU I’ll continue the digital media consulting I’ve been doing under the LedgeSolutions banner.  And I’ll be rooting for the Bobcats.

This is an HDR shot I took of Scripps Hall several years ago. OU's campus is beautiful.
This is an HDR shot I took of Scripps Hall several years ago. OU’s campus is beautiful.


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Builder goes big …

Builder magazine September 2013Great to see Builder win the Magazine of the Year award in the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ Azbee Awards. Congrats to everyone who made this happen. Despite all the change that was happening at Hanley Wood through 2013, the staff still managed to produce top-caliber work. (I notice Architect also nabbed more than a few awards in the competition, too. Sweet)