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Clear it with SidneyHow our blog got its name >

Notes on journalism for the common good
by Lindsay Beyerstein

How our blog got its name

Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”

Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.

It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.

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Reuters Team Wins May Sidney for Childhood Obesity Exposé

Congratulations to Duff Wilson and Janet Roberts of Reuters, the winners of the May Sidney Award for their special report, "How Washington Went Soft on Childhood Obesity."

Wilson and Roberts used public records and dozens of interviews to explain how the food and beverage lobby launched an influence-peddling blitz of historic proportions when Barack Obama took office, more than doubling its expenditures in the first three years of Obama's presidency over the last three years of George W. Bush. 

The industry has never lost a major political battle. It defeated soda taxes in 24 states and several major cities; it got pizza declared a vegetable for school lunches; and it convinced Congress to kill a joint FTC/FDA/CDC report proposing voluntary guidelines on food marketing to children while the White House stood idly by. Michelle Obama abruptly switched the focus of her healthy eating initiative from challenging industry to sell better food to championing exericse.

Childhood obesity, which has tripled since 1980, is just one visible symptom of America's calorie-dense diet and sedentary habits. Unchecked marketing of junk food to children affects all youngsters, not just those above a certain BMI.

Read my interview with Duff Wilson.

[Photo credit: Meet the new vegetables. By Robobby, Creative Commons.]


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