The Researcher Reads Up: Baltimore

So, I’ve decided to start an irregular series on my blog called the Researcher Reads Up.  I find social media both thrilling and overwhelming in general; on one hand, there is so much info out there, on the other hand, THERE IS SO MUCH INFO OUT THERE.  I’ve always been grateful to folks who take the time to compile reading lists, links, and other education tools, so I’ve decided to pay it forward/back/sideways and start compiling lists of useful links on issues that I care about, but in which I am not an expert.

I’ll be linking especially to folks whose voices have been historically marginalized and/or who are affected directly by the issues in question.  I’m not claiming to be impartial by any stretch, but I will try to link to a variety of news sources, because I think reading a variety of sources and opinions is useful to understand how a conversation is being framed.  I’ll also try to cite my sources best I can, because links can go dead, go behind a paywall, and it’s simply good manners to other hardworking writers and researchers.

Today’s links are about the protests and the conditions leading up to the protests in Baltimore, MD.

Things to read:

Coverage by major US news sources:

CNN coverage (continually updated)

Fox News Coverage

Narratives of Violence and Non-violence:

Coates, Ta-Nehisi.   (2015, April 27) Nonviolence as Compliance. The Atlantic.

Smith, Mychal Denzel. (2015, April 28) Toward a New Broken Windows Theory. The Nation.

Traister, Rebecca. (2015, April 29). The Violence in Baltimore Didn’t Start with the Riots . The New Republic.

Burroughs, Todd Steven. (2015, April 29) Former Black Panther Paul Coates Remembers Charm City, Circa 1968. The Root

Updates on investigation in Mr. Gray’s death and other legal actions:

Baltimore Public Defender’s description of jail conditions for detainees

Reuters reporting on Gray investigation

History of Race, Poverty, and Policing in Baltimore:

Fletcher, Michael. (2015, April 28) What you really need to know about Baltimore, from a reporter who’s lived there for over 40 years. The Washington Post.

Rockman, Seth.  (2003, July) Mobtown U.S.A. Baltimore.  Common-place. Vol. 3 (4)

Puente, Mark (2014, September 28) Undue Force. Baltimore Sun.

Coverage in other countries:

Sevastopulo, Demetri & Chon, Gina.  (2015, April 28) Baltimore hit by worst riots since 1968. The Financial Times.

Sevastopulo, Demteri. (2015, May 1) Baltimore riots highlight city’s deprivation. The Financial Times

Baltimore, en llamas tras disturbios por muerte de afroestadunidense.  (2015, April 28) La Jornada.

Other reading lists:

Baltimore-based writer Michael R. Underwood has good set of links to start.

The Rumpus has a timeline of events and links.

People to follow on Twitter:

@Karthynia is a Chicago writer, journalist, historian who tweets and links on issues of race and recently wrote a piece in the Washington Post on police violence.

@WesleyLowery is a journalist for the Washington Post, he did extensive coverage on Ferguson.

@tanehisicoates is a journalist for the Atlantic (see previously cited article)

@BlackGirlDanger is an editor and founder of Black Girl Dangerous, an online publication that amplifies the voices of queer and trans people of color.

A Twitter list of people on the ground in Baltimore, created by Matt Pearce.

Coverage in Conservative Media*

Williamson, Kevin.  (2015, April 28) Riot-Plaugued Balitmore is a Catastrophe Entirely of the Democratic Party’s Own Making. National Review

Driscoll, Robert. (2015, April 28) Freddie Gray is Not Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown.  The National Review

Response in Chicago:

Chicagoans Rally over Police Violence (2015, April 29) The Chicagoist 

Briscoe, Tony and Jeremy Gorner.  Hundreds Gather in Chicago to Protest Police Violence  (2015, April 27)  Chicago Tribune

Things to Do:

In Baltimore:

per Michael R. Underwood: “The Maryland Food Bank is going to be facing a ton of demand this week as people’s lives and schedules are disrupted. Baltimore City Schools are canceled today, a place where many children get their only reliable meals. And many parents will have to miss work today to take care of their children.”

In Chicago:

The Campaign for Equitable Policing is lobbying for a bill in the Illinois House that would require private police forces on university campuses to have the same transparency and reporting laws as public police forces.  Learn more here.

A bill to give reparations and establish a memorial for survivors of torture under police captain Jon Burge is being voted on this week in Chicago.  Learn more here.

Anywhere in the US:

Learn about several upcoming bills regarding incarceration and police militarization, via the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

*self-identified by publication as conservative

My #1 advice to new prospect researchers (and writers): read the newspaper

One of my favorite professors in college was Dr. Rajaram Krishnan, who taught economics and used haircuts and candy bars as his go-to examples when demonstrating economic theories. He was funny, he was informative, he pushed us to consider different perspectives,and he said things that have stayed with me for the rest of my life.  I wish I had taken more classes with him–I didn’t take more because I was afraid of getting anything less than an A- and I knew that with my shaky math skills, I would probably get a B.  I would choose learning over grades now, but at 19 I hadn’t made that leap.  So it goes, as Mr. Vonnegut says.

One of the many things Dr. Krishnan  shouted told us was “read the damn newspaper, for God’s sake!”  His point was this:  even if you don’t agree with the conclusions of economists and policy-makers, even if you don’t agree with the way major newspapers present news stories, those conclusions and decisions will affect your life, so it’s good to be familiar with the conversation.

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“I find your knowledge of the Argentinian debt crisis even more attractive then your amazing tango skills, Amelia. We should definitely go out again.”

Despite my professor’s very good advice, reading the newspaper occupied the same space in my brain as flossing my teeth–yes, yes, I KNOW it is good for me, it is part of being a responsible adult human, will give me powerful bone-crushing incisors when I’m old and need to nibble my way out of the ropes my nemesis’s ninjas have bound me in (I plan on being an awesome old person) but after college and grad school I managed to put reading the newspaper off in favor instant and fleeting gratification, like Netflix.  So I flossed and read the newspaper haphazardly, usually before I wanted to impress someone during a job interview or a date.

Then I got a job as a prospect researcher, and was assigned to read the Financial Times, every day.  Not the New York Times, with its sexy font, not the Economist with its glossy pictures of world leaders–the Financial Times.  Every day.  And I needed to understand the articles enough to actually decide what was important enough to forward to the rest of the department.

The first few months were hard.  I never read business and economics news regularly before and it felt like walking into the middle of a conversation.  There were a lot of terms that I used but realized quickly that I only half-understood, like hedge fund and commodities, and many terms I didn’t understand at all, like quantitative easing and currency swaps.   In addition, reading about global economics felt like walking into someone’s beloved soap opera, or a book series, everyone else knew the cast of characters and had decades of experience with them and I kept asking questions like, “Wait, is he the central bank governor or the head of the World Bank?  I thought she was the prime minister, not the president–no, wait, she used the be the prime minister and now she’s running for president.  Okay. Who is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase again?”

Honestly, if I was doing it on my own, I probably would have given up and ran away to the New York Times.  But it was my job, so I stuck with it.

Learning to read the Financial Times reminded me of learning Spanish, I couldn’t look up every word I didn’t know in every article, but I gave myself the task of looking up a couple words every day and really digging into at least one sub-industry per week.  One week I read lots of articles on hedge funds, another week I learned about currency markets.  And like learning to read in a foreign language, the daily work started to add up and I began to understand more and more of the text.

As a prospect researcher, simply sitting down and reading the Financial Times every damn day was the best crash course in economics and industry intelligence I could have gotten. It served two purposes: it provided a never-ending stream of information about the global economy that I could use as a my own personal lesson plan, and it allowed me to listen in on a conversation happening among my organization’s prospects…which in turn helped me write and research about them more efficiently and with more insight.

Moreover, reading the FT regularly began to serve as a touchstone for other interests–I paid attention to how issues I cared about, such as income inequality, or racial discrimination in the workplace, were portrayed in a publication geared towards business professionals and policy-makers.  I noted how the Financial Times, a UK-based paper, covered US politics and events, and I compared the coverage of particular world events in FT versus US-based news sources.  As Professor Krishnan had said, knowing the way the conversation is being framed is important data in and of itself.

One of the joys and challenges of being a prospect researcher and  a writer is that you must be able to see the world from multiple vantage points and that requires the willingness and ability to leave your intellectual comfort zone.  It is not comfortable to read unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts every day; it is not comfortable to admit that you don’t know something yet–but it is such a joy to realize that you can learn and write about so much more than you think you are capable of.

Dear Lucy, I disagree with much of your career advice, but that's okay, because your over the glasses glare is on point.

Dear Lucy, I disagree with much of your career advice, but that’s okay, because your over the glasses glare is on point.

The Financial Times has now, to my great surprise, become one of my favorite things to read.  I love their breadth and depth of coverage on the emerging economies, I love their special reports on particular industries, I love their cranky job advice columnist, I even love their ridiculous nerdy puns in the headlines.  And I love the feeling of listening in on one thread of the global conversation.

So here is my #1 piece of advice to all brand-new prospect researchers:  read a business periodical every day, even if it is hard at first.  A subscription is relatively cheap and it’s the best daily professional development  you can get.  If you can read more than one newspaper, even better.  But just read.  It’s worth it.