February 2014 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

February 2014

#Sidney's Picks: Driving While Black; Border Patrol Shootings; Breathing Radioactive Waste

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Driving while black: Young black men are more than twice as likely to be stopped on suspicion than their white counterparts, regardless of how they drive. Is it time to bring back The Green Book

A Boston Murder Mystery

Susan Zalkind’s boyfriend Erik was brutally murdered in 2011 and his killing was never solved. Erik was a close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an obscure amateur boxer who would become infamous two years later as one of the Boston Marathon bombers. In her deeply-reported long form story in Boston Magazine, Zalkind argues that the marathon bombing might have been prevented if only the police had taken more interest in Tamerlan as a suspect in 2011. 

Rich Yeselson on Unions After Chattanooga

After the United Auto Workers lost the election to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN, despite the support of management, former union strategist and author Rich Yeselson wrote an influential essay for Jacobin, explaining why the UAW lost. Yeselson continues the discussion with Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg. 

#Sidney's Picks: Solitary Confinement, Scott Walker's Email Scandal, and More

The Best of the Week’s News

  • A Colorado prison official voluntarily spends the night in solitary confinement, feels like he’s losing his mind.
  • Man framed for murder gets $6.4 million settlement from NYC after 23 years behind bars.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Sexual Assault at God's Harvard

Patrick Henry College, a tiny evangelical university that prides itself of producing the next generation of intellectual elites for the Religious Right, has a rape problem, Kiera Feldman reports for the The New Republic. 

Sidney Winner Amanda Hess Featured in Media Bistro

This month’s Sidney Award-Winner, Amanda Hess, is featured in Media Bistro’s 10,000 Words column.

Media Bistro is a major trade publication. It’s great to see Hess’s expose of the sexist harrassment of female journalists having an impact within the industry. Kudos to Media Bistro for highlighting the issue and Hess’s important work on the topic.

The author of the profile, Alan Krawitz, is collecting his readers’ experiences with online harrassment. If you have a story of harassment or bullying online, tweet it to @10000words and keep this important conversation going. Add the hashtag #Sidney, so we can follow along. 


Kleen Getaway: Fines Quietly Lowered for Lethal Gas Explosion

Fines levied against Kleen Energy, the company responsible for the fiery deaths of six workers in a pipe-cleaning accident in 2010, were quietly lowered by 88%:

After six workers were killed in a massive gas explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown four years ago, federal investigators tallied hundreds of violations at the site and issued $16.6 million in penalties against more than a dozen companies — the third-largest workplace-safety fine in the nation’s history.

“The millions of dollars in fines levied pale in comparison to the value of the six lives lost and numerous other lives disrupted,” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said at the time. “However, the fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site.” [Courant]

The fines were lowered because Kleen convinced OSHA that many of its “willful” violations should be downgraded to a less-expensive category of infraction because Kleen was relying subcontractors to tell them how clean their pipes. 

[Photo credit: danmachold, Creative Commons.]

#Sidney's Picks: Science of Sex Toys; Al From's Boast; and the UAW Vote

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Will Volkswagen workers in Tennessee say “yes” to the United Auto Workers?
  • It wasn’t just the bridge: Chris Christie’s political career is a study in slime.
  • So, now we know who to blame: Al From claims he personally stopped the Democratic Party’s “headlong dash into social democracy.”
  • A famous anti-choice doctor in West Virginia appears to have fabricated lurid tales of women with “botched abortions” flocking to his emergency room.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

What's at Stake in the Volkswagen UAW Vote?

Hillman judge Harold Meyerson explains what’s at stake in this week’s historic unionization vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 


[Photo credit: A VW plant in Germany, by roger4336, Creative Commons.]

Amanda Hess Wins Feb Sidney Award for Exposing Online Abuse of Female Journos

Amanda Hess wins the February Sidney Award for her provocative essay, “The New Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet” in Pacific Standard. Get the Backstory with Lindsay Beyerstein.