Tag Archives: New York Times

Princeton: Not a level playing field

weekend reader map

Here is an interactive map.

Zero in on the Princeton zip code and one finds that  black children growing up poor in Princeton are expected to make $27,000 a year when they are adults, and Hispanic children can expect to make $25,000 a year. But white children can expect to make from $34,000 to $50,000 per year.

“Research has shown that where children live matters deeply in whether they prosper as adults. On Monday the Census Bureau, in collaboration with researchers at Harvard and Brown, published nationwide data that will make it possible to pinpoint — down to the census tract, a level relevant to individual families — where children of all backgrounds have the best shot at getting ahead.” This article by Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui was published in the New York Times on October 1, 2018, and sourced from The Weekend Reader. 


Protect our media watchdogs

If you don’t subscribe to the Times of Trenton or the Star Ledger or the Bergen Record or any other newspaper that still has a reporter covering the statehouse, do it now. If you aren’t a member of WHYY, with its newsroom at Newsworks, join now. Support Politico’s New Jersey desk. If you can find an independent online investigative reporter in your community, like Planet Princeton, contribute or advertise. 

You can march, you can write letters to the editor, you can call your legislators, but you can also help protect our democracy by bolstering the budgets of the investigative reporters trying to combat fraud and lies. 

I knew this before but this Wednesday New York Times column italicized my impulse.  David W. Chen, who wrote “In New Jersey, Only a Few Media Watchdogs are Left,” used to be bureau chief for the statehouse desk for the New York Times.

The New York Times no longer has a staff reporter covering New Jersey. The number of reporters at the state house has dwindled from 30 to 7.

John Oliver reminds us that social media and TV news mostly just repackage newspaper stories.

McCarter Theatre has it right. McCarter is running ads on Politico’s media page  

.NYT photo by Charles Mostoller

Poignant detail #1: The print version of Chen’s article showed two lonely news boxes in downtown Trenton. One was for the Star Ledger, which has coopted the Trenton Times state coverage. The other was for U.S. 1 Newspaper. What?? U.S. 1 covers state politics once in a while, as in this investigative piece,. We cover important issues and the boss sometimes opines in his column, but statehouse reporting — that’s not our mission.

Poignant detail #2: Chen’s ender was a salute to the 87-year-old columnist who uses a typewriter.  A colleague converts with the typed page to a PDF, using her cell phone, and emails it in.



Mix cricket with honey – or eat crow

Alternate 11-9 Cover & Front (1-8).indd

“In Trump’s America, don’t look for lurid conspiracies in the shadows. Beware of the dull ones that are right out in the open.” 

So says Diccon Hyatt in a column about conspiracy theories in a November 16 column in U.S. 1 Newspaper one of the more rational of the florid post-election conversations. “The Podesta e-mails revealed a truth that was much more frightening than a conspiracy. Most of the e-mails were routine campaign strategizing, and it is in these e-mails that a picture emerges. The campaign had no idea how to beat Donald Trump.”

Richard K. Rein also commented on the national politics on November 9 and November 16. 

Politics?? I tell people I meet,  at the chamber and elsewhere, that U.S. 1 “doesn’t do politics” and then I have to add “except when it does.” Back in the day we did a cover story on Rush Holt. And though the issue went to press on the DAY of the election Tuesday, Rein put prognosticators Sam Wong and David Daley on the cover.wang_pic

Wang has always been one of my favorite researchers to listen to and write about. As a Princeton University neuroscientist, and the author of books with broad appeal like “Welcome to Your Brain,” he doesn’t put on airs. One of his several passions is his effort to expose the bad effects of gerrymandering. “So no matter what the outcome of the national election, Rein wrote, “expect Wang to continue his work on the gerrymandering issue, which he shares with the public at gerrymander.princeton.edu.

The cobbled-together story in U.S. 1 combined excerpts from Wong’s blog at Princeton Election Consortium with quotes on Wong from David Daley’s book on gerrymandering plus bits from Wong’s lectures to alumni. But it was a way to cover national politics from a Princeton perspective,  so it worked.

Wrote Rein: “So if Wang is wrong in this tumultuous year, he will not only eat a bug (as he promised to do in 2012 if Romney had upset Obama), but he will surely go back to the statistical drawing board, to figure out where and what he and the collective public opinion polls had missed.”

Here is the New York Times column today where he explains why he had to eat the bug. Here is the CNN video of Wang eating the bug. It was a cricket, mixed with honey, as Wang noted, in the style of John the Baptist. Would it be unkind to suggest that his sources, the pollsters, eat crow?


Capital Networking Group: November 8

High Level Networking: Tommy Hilfiger (in pinstripes) greets Princeton Regional Chamber CEO and board chairman Richard Coyne (Alice Barfield looking on) at the Hyatt ‘s VIP reception downstairs before he was interviewed upstairs by Richard K. Rein for 400 eager fans about his book “American Dreamer.”

Election morning — how did I do this? – I am scheduled to speak at 7 a.m. at the Capital Networking Group at my own church, Princeton United Methodist, at Nassau & Vandeventer.

Upstairs,  the church is a polling place for District 10. Downstairs, in Fellowship Hall, I guarantee no politics. Only stories. 

For the entrepreneurs in this group, which meets every Tuesday morning for breakfast (good bagels!)

I’ll talk about how to promote your business or nonprofit, based on my experience as senior editor for U.S. 1 Newspaper and, after retirement, doing pro bono public relations for Princeton United Methodist Church, Not in Our Town Princeton,  the United Front Against Riverblindness, and the New Jersey State Button Society. For info, email: CJerry@jerrylaw.com but if you just show up that’s ok too. Check the website.

The items below popped up in my news feed this week and may find their way into the stories I’ll tell.

The first seven words matter. In person, you may make your first impression in a millisecond, the blink of an eye, according to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov (Association for Psychological Science) July, 2006.

“If you can’t be funny, be interesting.” Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine, from The Writer’s Almanac.

“If it’s familiar but has a certain something that sets it apart, you’ve got a hit,’ Tommy Hilfiger, American Dreamer, p.131

“Millennials expect transparency, sophisticated storytelling, and technical savvy.” Nicholas Fandas, “Beyond Money,” New York Times, 11-3-16

“The pay phone measured time in quarters, the Internet in taps and clicks.” In There’s Nobody Here by That Name, by Steve Bryant via Medium Daily Digest.

SO, you might ask, why did I use my photo of Tommy Hilfiger for this post? 

BECAUSE I COULD! Any good PR person knows never to miss a chance to tag along on celebrity coat tails, however slim the connection.

Of course — all the media attention to a certain celebrity is what got us to this point in the election cycle.

But, I promised, no politics.

Science scribe speaks 10-10-16

Mary Roach and Robert Krulwich. Photo by Stephanie Black 

New York  Times science writer Mary Roach talks  talked with Radio Lab’s Robert Krulwich tonight at Princeton University’s Friend Center 101 at 7 p.m.

Because I grew up with the smell of formaldehyde, I’ve long admired her for her best seller “Stiff,”  which dissects the truth about human cadavers. She’s on tour now for Grunt: the curious science of humans at war. 

Bon mots captured on my Twitter feed:

She positions herself as the ‘bottom feeder’ of science writers.

“Since I don’t have a science background I write (simply) for a roomful of me.”

To get her material, she said she does ‘random groping’ at start of her research and yes the word was deliberate.

“I don’t look for anything specific but I know when I find it’

Use vulgar words sparingly for best effect when you do use them, as in ‘A maggot breathes through it’s  – ss’


No longer overwhelmed spectators: NIOT

Marietta Taylor, long-time NIOT Princeton activist, with me, at the Unity Awards 6-5-15

For those of us who can’t watch sad or scary things (Simona, this is for you!) here is a New York Times article, The Benefits of Despair, suggesting that’s the reason why we are activists. “A feeling of general badness calls for no specific actions, you feel lousy and trapped by your circumstances.” But with what Lisa Feldman Barrett calls “higher emotional granularity,” you might react with a “more specific emotion, such as righteous indignation, which entails the possibility of specific action…You are no longer an overwhelmed spectator but an active participant.”

Yesterday’s Not in Our Town Princeton’s Unity Awards Ceremony, where we heard the inspiring stories of eight activist young people, ratcheted up my “emotional granularity.” Hurray, hurray, and hurray! Read about it here.

P1080029 lineup
some past and present board members of NIOT Princeton at the Unity Awards 6-5-15

Chuck’s Cafe in the Limelight Again

According to the New York Times today, the Menendez brothers will be featured in a true crime series next season.

NBC is developing a “Law and Order” true crime series (the first season is based on the Menendez brothers).

Those of us who were here at the time remember that the brothers owned the Buffalo wing eater on Spring Street. Will attention increase business? Somebody’s going to make money on this story. Again.

Engulfing Experience: Fox or Hedgehog?

serra sfHave you forgotten about, or have your ever even seen, the giant sculpture jewel of Princeton’s campus, the Richard Serra sculpture? Two New York Times articles in the past two days made me want to go back and ‘walk’ the tunnel again. On May 12 Ken Johnson dubbed  Serra the “greatest living sculptor of Minimalist abstraction” and suggested that to view Serra’s work currently at the Gagosian Gallery was “an engulfing experience…Moving through the construction, you become acutely attuned to sight, touch and sound and to your own being in time and space. Consciousness itself becomes an object of consciousness.”  Today’s article on San Francisco’s MoMA features a Jason Henry photo (above) of the Serra sculpture at the museum’s entrance.

hedgehog fox

Serra’s 2010 sculpture, behind the Lewis Library (my photo above), is known as “The Fox and the Hedgehog.” As described on the campus web page, Industrial yet sensual, this massive sculpture invites visitors to walk through its steel curves in order to experience art, space, and environment in a physical way. The title, taken from an Isaiah Berlin essay on Tolstoy, quotes the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one great thing.” Serra extends this proposition as a question to students—will you be a fox or a hedgehog?

I am not a minimalist. Anyone who has been in my house knows that. But I like to feast my eyes on uncluttered space and put my body between the comforting metal walls of the Serra sculpture. If you haven’t tried it — do, and you can decide if you want to be the Fox or the Hedgehog. For me, that decision has already been made.




‘Grit is downstream from longing’

1973 BFF_at_SRV“The G.P.A. ethos takes spirited children and pushes them to be hard working but complaisant.” So said David Brooks in the New York Times in a column I want to keep, hence I’m writing about it now. Read it here and we can compare notes. Brooks says striving for the highest grades is “one of the more destructive elements in American education.”

I’ve been thinking about this since the ’70s when I watched children enrolled at a private progressive school, School in Rose Valley, which encouraged individual enthusiasm. I taught there for a year, as at left. When students transferred to public school. I saw lust for creativity at least temporarily squashed. At least those children didn’t succumb to “high GPA fever” as evidenced by OK but not outstanding grade averages.

Then we moved to  Princeton where some fight tooth and nail for GPA honors. Grade mongering is also rampant in neighboring districts, dare I finger West Windsor-Plainsboro? (As an aside, parents choose this value when they buy a house  according to a column in the Washington Post:  “Forty to fifty years of social-science research tells us what an important context neighborhoods are, so buying a neighborhood is probably one of the most important things you can do for your kid,” says Ann Owens, a sociologist at the University of Southern California.)

But arduous pursuit of grades is not all bad, according to Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur fellow and author of the new book “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance” as quoted by Brooks. People with grit also have a high moral purpose, she says, and “they know in a very very deep way what it is that they want. Everybody’s life is organized around some longing.”

fhjf grading papers with E
Frank H. J. Figge at the dining room table, with a granddaughter working alongside.

That helps explain my own motivation. I grew up with parents who took their work home, who worked all hours of the day and night to Get Things Done. My father taught medical school, did cancer research, and edited anatomy volumes. My mother helped him. They exemplified grit, a passion to succeed that was organized, not around grades, but around what you could accomplish. Drawn in also, to help, my sister and I absorbed the self discipline that, as Brooks points out, can lead to career success.

How do you teach this, or can it be taught? Can it be only absorbed? Brooks says that people with grit have a strong inner desire. “Grit is thus downstream from desire. People need a powerful why if they are going to be able to endure any how.”

Duckworth says that schools could be designed — not to encourage scrabbling for grades but to “elevate and intensify longings.” In a school like that,  Brooks suggests, “you might even deemphasize the G.P.A. mentality, which puts a tether on passionate interests and substitutes other people’s longings for the student’s own.”

When I talk to high school seniors, as an alumna interviewer of a selective college, it’s hard to differentiate between an overprogrammed student who has been coached to be enthusiastic about a cause and one who has a true deep passion for a cause. Then I wonder — isn’t it OK to find your passion later in life? Yes, I decided, if you established your “grit” when you were young.– Barbara Fox






Ghetto confinement then and now

DSCF1711 venice ghetto museum
From 1516 on, Venetian Jews had to live behind high walls on one island named after a copper foundry, “geto.” 

It’s wrong to use the word “ghetto” to signify “all things bad, broke, and black,” according to Mitchell Duneier, author of a book reviewed on April 17 in the New York Times. Khalil Gibran Muhammad reviewed “Ghetto: the Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea,” by Duneier, a Princeton University sociologist who is known for his book on sidewalk life, and who focuses on the black urban experience.

Duneier wrote that “Place-based policing” is one way whites majority historically used space to achieve power over blacks.

Muhammed writes that though “many white people know what it’s like to be poor…the ghetto involves more than restrictions on income; African-Americans, like the Jews of 16th century Venice…have historically had to contend with restrictions on where they could live — restrictions on space and on their very humanity.”

DSCF1701 venice ghetto museum
Inside the museum in Venice’s Ghetto Nuovo