Good luck, Gabby

I didn’t know Gabrielle Giffords before January 8, 2011.

Why would I?

I didn’t live in Arizona and wasn’t particularly plugged into that part of American politics. Sure, I’m sure I saw her name in news stories and reports, especially after Arizona’s controversial immigration law was passed. But as with most other American congressmen and women — and even governors — her name just didn’t stick.

Then January 8 happened. I remembered following the events of that day on Twitter, especially her “death” — which was later proven to be untrue. That day was the first time in a long time I turned on CNN to follow the events in Arizona.

I don’t know why, but Giffords’ story struck a chord with me. Even before we knew anything about how she was doing.

After the first post-shooting images of her were released, I was even more struck by Giffords and her story. She looked so happy, so at peace, so OK.

Giffords’ first television interview was with Dianne Sawyer. I spent most of the hour in tears watching in amazement at the videos of this woman fighting so hard to be who she was all over again.

“She sounds like a child,” my boyfriend commented after one section where Giffords spoke.

He was right, she did. She spoke in short, usually one-word sentences. She looked confused when she was asked some questions, but I still saw so much hope and possibility from her.

Late last year, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope was released — a book by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. The book told the story of Giffords’ life before the shooting, but more of it took place in the days, weeks and months that came afterward. How she fought to build her life back — to walk, to talk — to learn everything all over again.

Of course, the real question was whether Giffords was going to run for re-election this year. Whenever it was asked, Kelly always gave the same response: The decision was Giffords’ alone to make, and she had until May to make it.

Then this weekend we got more news from Giffords. Only this time, it wasn’t about her future aspirations. This time it was about her present situation. She had decided she would be resigning her congressional seat.

In a video released on her website, wearing a red jacket almost just like the one she was shot in just over a year ago, Giffords said farewell:

“I will return,” Giffords promised, smiling in a way that you could almost see the “old” Gabby shining through.

She promised that while she was getting better, she needed to take some time to focus on her recovery. And while she didn’t expressly say she wasn’t planning to run again, the video made it pretty clear that her political career was probably done.

The New York Times reported Sunday night that Giffords would end her term in congress finishing the Congress on Your Corner event in the supermarket parking lot where she was shot one year ago.

Perhaps because of that decision, and so many others, I still see hope from Gabrielle Gifford. Sunday’s events reminded me of some of what she had written in Gabby‘s final chapter entitled “Gabby’s Voice:”

Hope and faith. You have to have hope and faith.

Everything I do reminds me of that horrible day. Just rolling onto my side is hard. Hard to sleep at night. Reminds me of how badly I was hurt. It was hard but I’m alive …

Long ways to go. Grateful to survive. It’s frustrating. Mentally hard. Hard work. I’m trying. Trying so hard to get better. Regain what I’ve lost. Want to speak better .

Trying to get back to work … I’m so sorry I’m unable to work right now.

I hope I never have to fight a battle like the one that Gabrielle Giffords is fighting, but I know I will fight smaller battles throughout my lifetime.

I hope like Giffords, no matter how tough my fight may seem or how futile it appears to be, I hope I am able to hold my head up high and carry on. I hope no matter how dark things may seem, I am able to say exactly what Giffords said:

I will get stronger. I will return.

 

Of that, I have no doubt.

Good luck, Gabby.

Photo for blog post a screengrab from Giffords’ video announcing her resignation.

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Young journos take note. This post is full of good advice. Read it, learn it, live it. basemboshra:
I’ve been thinking a lot about young journalists lately. Maybe it’s simply because I’ve been invited to speak to some journalism classes in the past few months and have been impressed by how many bright, intelligent and ambitious young people still want to be part of an industry that few seem…

Initials B.B.: An editor’s advice to young journalists

basemboshra:
I’ve been thinking a lot about young journalists lately. Maybe it’s simply because I’ve been invited to speak to some journalism classes in the past few months and have been impressed by how many bright, intelligent and ambitious young people still want to be part of an industry that few seem…
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I’ve been thinking a lot about young journalists lately. Maybe it’s simply because I’ve been invited to speak to some journalism classes in the past few months and have been impressed by how many bright, intelligent and ambitious young people still want to be part of an industry that few seem…
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I’ve been thinking a lot about young journalists lately. Maybe it’s simply because I’ve been invited to speak to some journalism classes in the past few months and have been impressed by how many bright, intelligent and ambitious young people still want to be part of an industry that few seem…
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Five resolutions for journalists in 2012

At the start of last year, I wrote a piece for the Toronto Star’s intern blog with some resolutions for journalists.

The resolutions were:

  • Journalists should be wary of what they tweet;
  • One should always spell check before clicking “publish;”
  • One should not just social media source, but also talk to people in the “real” world;
  • One should have a life outside of work;
  • Journalists should join the conversation, not just observe.

I thought it would be fun to update the list with resolutions for 2012. I took to social media asking for suggestions, so here they are my five resolutions for journalists in 2012.

1. I will double check my facts before clicking publish

Hey, errors happen it’s a fact of life. Sometimes they’re funny, often times they’re not. As the media world evolves into a continuous deadline, it’s important now more than ever to make sure the information we are posting — in news stories, on Twitter or in live blogs — is as accurate as it can be. Take the time to fact check and due diligence. You owe it to yourself — and your readers.

2. I will embrace new technology

It would be great to say new technology is done, but that’s likely very far from the truth. New social media networks, like Path, continue to crop up while old social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, continue to make changes to stay current and maintain their users.

It’s important not to get too comfortable with the tools we use or to get too stuck in our ways. If the last 10 years has taught us anything it’s that new technologies and tools are always cropping up. If we get too stuck in our ways, then we’ll run the risk of going the way of newspapers or the music industry and dying a slow death.

3. I will not sit at my desk for my entire shift

This resolution comes from Kate Schwass-Bueckert, a wire editor with QMI Agency in Toronto. She writes:

This past year, I finally recognized my eyesight was not what it used to be. I had to get glasses. And I sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day — getting up and stretching while I’m heating up my lunch or just taking a quick walk to get a coffee is going to be new goals — it will hopefully keep me healthier and keep my butt from becoming too large and flat!

4. Putting more honesty into your work

Also the result of crowdsourcing, this resolution comes from Alex Fox, who is not a journalist, but works in the communications industry. She writes:

As I’m moving forward as a communications person in the international development industry, I’m much more conscious of the factors that influence the messages we see depicting poverty and injustice.

The most common image you’ll see of Africa and development is one of poverty and despair (think World Vision and Children’s Christian Fund), and in contrast to this, a lot of organizations are shifting to more positive imagery (Like EWB and Oxfam).

After spending a summer in Ghana, I’ve really learned that neither of these one-snapshot representations are truthful, as the reality is much more complex, lively and ever-changing.

I’m currently working on a campaign called ‘The Complexity Project” that promotes Africa and development in a way that embraces the complexity of the situation and problems in all its material — rather than focusing on one representation or scenario.

When working on all the branding, written content and material, I keep in check by asking myself “Is this truthful? Is this message guided by what the public wants to see, or will get them more engaged? Does this representation of (for example) my friend Emmanuel from Northern Ghana show him and his reality objectively and truthfully?”

I think this is transferrable to all communications and journalistic endeavours: Is the message or story that is being communicated show all sides and complexities of the situation? Is it geared toward a specific audience? Is it tilted a certain way for an influential audience (for example advertisers in a newspaper)? I truly appreciate news stories that show all perspectives and realities of situations and stories, and I am trying to do so in my work representing Africa, development and injustice in the world moving forward, in 2012 and longer.

5. Explore the open source world

Another resolution from Schwass-Bueckert:

 I know there’s a whole world of information out there, willingly being shared, and I am not as knowledgeable as I should be about it. I want to learn more about it, and how I can tap into it. I’m not even sure if calling it “open source websites” is the right name for it, but I definitely want to: a) figure out what to call it; and b) figure out how to use it in 2012.

What are your journalism resolutions for 2012? Please share them in the comments.

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The worst breakup

Best FriendsThere’s no breakup worse than the one with your best friend.

It seems no amount of time or distance can help heal the wounds caused from it. And the Internet only makes it worse — especially the Facebooks, Twitters and blogs of the universe.

Even if you’re not Facebook friends anymore, the rollout of Timeline has caused you to relive past wall posts filled with making plans. It’s also shown you pictures from long ago of the two of you laughing. Giggling for no reason. Cleaning out closets. Facials, pedicures, coffees.

You ask mutual friends and acquantiances how she is. You’re saddened when she decides not to show to friends’ parties.

You saw her once at a public party. You went to wave and smile, she turned her back on you. You were left alone.

Others understand. “I recently broke up with my best friend, too,” a friend confides. Her sad smile lets you know you’re not alone.

You hear of milestones you’re missing in her life, just as she is missing milestones in yours. This time when you move, she won’t help you pack, she won’t help you clean out your closet, she won’t help decorate.

You want to reach out to her. Try to make things right. Try to be best friends again. Do you text? Email? But something stops you from writing that email: Has too much time gone by? Does she feel the same? What if she is happy we’re not friends anymore?

I just miss my best friend.

(Photo courtesy of P.J.M. on Flickr.)

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