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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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Clear It With Sidney

Fri, May 2, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

  • The adjunct faculty at Howard University voted by a margin of over 90% to join a union, making Howard the first historically black university with unionized adjuncts.
  • It sounds like an urban legend: A woman finds a plea for help from a prison laborer in China stitched inside her Saks 5th Avenue shopping bag. But DNAinfo tracked the author down and authenticated the letter.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Wed, Apr 30, 2014

Craig Welch and Steve Ringman have won the 2014 Hillman Prize for Web Journalism for "Sea Change: The Pacific's Perilous Turn," published by the Seattle Times and supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. 

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Craig Welch and Steve Ringman have won the 2014 Hillman Prize for Web Journalism for "Sea Change: The Pacific's Perilous Turn," published by the Seattle Times and supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. 

The pair travelled the world to document the toll of ocean acidifcation, a little known but devastating side effect of climate change that threatens coral reefs, fisheries, jobs, and food supplies worldwide.

Welch's elegant science writing and Ringman's arresting photos depict what acidifcation has already done to the Pacific and point to an even more dismal future if action is not taken. Their reporting was enriched by innovative web-based features and social media outreach. 

To report a story that is taking place largely underwater, Welch and Ringman became certified scuba divers, despite having no prior diving experience. 

Welch has been covering the environment for the Seattle Times for 14 years, garnering several journalism awards. He is the author of the book Shell Games. Ringman is a 20-year veteran of the Times. His award-winning coverage of the renewal of the Elwa River became part of the book Elwa: A River Reborn.  

This is another in a series of profiles of the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. These prizes honor journalism in service of the common good. Follow us on twitter at @sidneyhillman, Craig Welch at @CraigAWelch, and Steve Ringman at @sringman. Use the twitter hashtag #Hillman2014 to find out the latest buzz on the Hillman Prizes , including our upcoming awards ceremony on May 6 at the New York Times Center. Use #Hillman2014 to tag your tweets about the Hillman Prizes. We want to hear from you!

 

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Tue, Apr 29, 2014

Jonathan Cohn is the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism for "The Hell of American Daycare," a feature story in The New Republic that uncovered a national pattern of unregulated, dysfunctional, and dangerous daycares. Cohn tells the story of a young mother from Houston who lost her 1-year-old daughter in a fire at an unlicensed facility. Like many working poor parents, the woman was forced to send her child to a substandard daycare because she couldn't afford anything else.  

Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic and the author of Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis. He shared the 2010 Hillman Prize for Blog Journalism for his coverage of health care reform. 

This is another in a series of profiles of the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. These prizes honor journalism in service of the common good. Follow us on twitter at @sidneyhillman and Jonathan Cohn at @citizencohn. Use the twitter hashtag #Hillman2014 to find out the latest buzz on the Hillman Prizes , including our upcoming awards ceremony on May 6 at the New York Times Center. Use #Hillman2014 to tag your tweets about the Hillman Prizes. We want to hear from you!

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Mon, Apr 28, 2014

Pat Beall is the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Newspaper Journalism for her coverage of prision privatization for the Palm Beach Post. Beall compiled 13 years of national data on private prisons, documenting a decade’s worth of squalor, violence and abuse that stemmed from a pattern of hiring too few guards or guards with little experience. Some guards came to the job with criminal histories; others committed crimes while still on the job. The Post’s comprehensive list of major prisoner abuse, published online as an interactive map, is the only one of its kind.

Beall's 8-month investigation exposed the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council as a major proponent of prison privatization. She also discovered that, despite what the public had been told, privatization wasn't saving taxpayer money. 

Beall is an investigative reporter with the Palm Beach Post. Prior to joining the Post, she was the editor of the Orlando Business Journal, which racked up over 300 journalism awards under her leadership. 

This is another in a series of profiles of the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. These prizes honor journalism in service of the common good.

Follow us on twitter at @sidneyhillman and Pat Beall at @patbeall1

Use the twitter hashtag #Hillman2014 to find out the latest buzz on the Hillman Prizes and the upcoming awards ceremony on May 6 at the New York Times Center. Use #Hillman2014 to tag your tweets about the Hillman Prizes. We want to hear from you!

 

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Fri, Apr 25, 2014

  • With both local abortion clinics shuttered by H.B. 2, women in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas are running out of options.
  • 2013 Hillman Prize-winner Shane Bauer is crowdsourcing the funds to spend a year investigating the U.S. prison system.
  • Football players at Northwestern vote today on whether to form a union.

 

[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

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Thu, Apr 24, 2014

In his Hillman Prize-winning book, Fear Itself, Ira Katznelson argues that the New Deal was a deal with various devils. In order to save America's foundering democracy--and usher in the progressive reforms of the New Deal--Franklin Roosevelt had to ally himself with various anti-democratic factions including the racists of the Jim Crow South.

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In his Hillman Prize-winning book, Fear Itself, Ira Katznelson argues that the New Deal was a deal with various devils. In order to save America's foundering democracy--and usher in the progressive reforms of the New Deal--Franklin Roosevelt had to ally himself with various anti-democratic factions including the racists of the Jim Crow South.

The South was adamant that the New Deal could not threaten segregation, and Roosevelt played along, allowing the South to effectively shut its black citizens out of the benefits of the New Deal. Fear Itself forces us to confront the hidden history of racism at the heart of one of the most beloved progressive initiatives in U.S. history. 

Writing in the New York Times, Kevin Boyle praised the book's thesis as a "powerful argument, swept along by Katznelson’s robust prose and the imposing scholarship that lies behind it."

Katznelson is Columbia University’s Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History and the author of When Affirmative Action Was White

We are very proud to honor Katznelson with this year's Hillman Prize for Book Journalism. 

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Wed, Apr 23, 2014

The wait is over! Meet the brilliant, brave, committed, creative winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes:

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The wait is over! Meet the brilliant, brave, committed, creative winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes:

  • Book: Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself, Liveright Publishing Corp, a division of W.W. Norton & Co. 
  • Newspaper: Pat Beal, "Private Prisons: Profit, Politics, and Pain," The Palm Beach Post.
  • Magazine: Jonathan Cohn, "The Hell of American Daycare," The New Republic
  • Broadcast: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Bud Bultman, Roni Selig, Melissa Dunst Lipman, Carl Graf, Saundra Young, "Weed: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports," CNN. 
  • Web: Craig Welch & Steve Ringman "Sea Change: The Pacific's Perilous Turn," The Seattle Times

Congratulations to all the winners. 

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Tue, Apr 22, 2014

Tomorrow, we will announce the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. Stay tuned to learn all about this year's crop of outstanding journalists. 

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Tomorrow, we will announce the winners of the 2014 Hillman Prizes. Stay tuned to learn all about this year's crop of outstanding journalists. 

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Fri, Apr 18, 2014

The Best of the Week's News

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The Best of the Week's News

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Tue, Apr 15, 2014

The Bureau of Land Management backed down from an armed standoff with militiamen on a Nevada ranch Saturday and returned over 300 head of cattle seized for non-payment of grazing fees, thereby setting the precedent that if you're white and well-armed, you can steal from the government with impunity. Just in time for Tax Day! 

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The Bureau of Land Management backed down from an armed standoff with militiamen on a Nevada ranch Saturday and returned over 300 head of cattle seized for non-payment of grazing fees, thereby setting the precedent that if you're white and well-armed, you can steal from the government with impunity. Just in time for Tax Day! 

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress explains how this fiasco came about:

This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered [Cliven] Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.

The rangers can't be blamed for temporarily withdrawing, given that they were facing real guns with stun guns, but this prudent short-term decision sets a terrible long-term precedent.

As Steve Benen wrote on the Rachel Maddow Show website:

But you probably see the problem: it’s unsustainable to think a group of well-armed extremists can simply block the enforcement of American laws in the United States. It’s perfectly understandable that the Bureau of Land Management saw a crisis unfolding and pulled back to prevent bloodshed, but there’s an obvious problem with establishing a radical precedent: you, too, can ignore the law and disregard court rulings you don’t like, just so long as you have well-armed friends pointing guns at Americans.

To put it mildly, that’s not how the American system works. Indeed, that’s not how any system of government can ever work.

[Illustration: A Nevada ranch, Creative Commons.]

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