My open letter to the executive editor of The New York Times about covering President Trump

 

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Dear Dean Baquet:

President Trump has embraced whole hog that favorite American pastime of blaming the media. He says “the media elites” are biased and dishonest. He says he will handpick the reporters who get the privilege of closer access to the White House.

The editors and reporters at The New York Times are very smart, dedicated people. Perhaps they don’t need any advice. I am going to offer some anyway.

Don’t play by his rules. Trump likes to flood the field with lies, and part of his long game is to discredit all the bastions of truth and credibility. Teachers, scientists and journalists and writers will be in his crosshairs. Keep fairly, accurately, thoroughly – and aggressively – covering his administration. Avoid sloppy work, fact errors and gotcha zingers. Develop sources, but avoid an overreliance on unnamed sources. The Trump White House is not going to be one big happy camp. Egos are gonna clash, and things, I suspect, are gonna get nasty internally. People are going grouse. Your reporters will have to sift out all the motives and agendas, of course. Also, follow the cash piles and the public documents, and put things in perspective.

Dig, dig, dig. It’s a huge potato mound. It is your duty to uncover the tubers. You will face immense pushback from the apex of power. But you have been here before, and you stuck to your guns. Because you did, the United States is a better place.

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The time I drove across the Cascade Mountains and the ‘Red Headed Stranger’ rode shotgun

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I recently made a long, solo drive from Seattle over the Cascade Mountains, and I found a great road trip companion: Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger.”

In Eastern Washington and Oregon on my way to the Columbia River Gorge the haunting songs with sparse arrangements were the perfect soundtrack for the stark landscape out my windshield – rolling alfalfa fields and parched, barren hills dotted with spindly wind turbines.

In Nelson’s long murder ballad, a wayward preacher wanders the Old West with a broken heart and blood in his eyes.

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A Columbia River wind farm

windmills

From the roadside, they stand deceptively spindly, stark white rotor blades affixed to hubs teetering atop a troupe of toothpicks dotting a parched moonscape high above the river gorge, aloof and mesmerizing like ballet dancers as they spin cartwheel style converting a famous blow into electricity, kindred spirits with the giant Columbia dams that came before.

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In Seattle, where a walk in the neighborhood is threatened by more cars and less parking

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Walkway or driveway? My neighborhood strolls are often blocked by vehicles straddling the sidewalk.

I’m not talking about a quick pull-in to unload groceries or building supplies. Cars and trucks are parked overnight and often left that way all day. Some partially block the sidewalk, forcing walkers to squeeze between silver bumper and prickly shrubbery. Other cars are completely blocking the sidewalk, forcing school children and dog walkers out in the street.  Continue reading

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Honoring Civil War soldiers and sailors at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Seattle

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Boy Scout Troop 100 spent Saturday morning at Seattle’s Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery cleaning the moss and dirt off of old headstones and planting flags in preparation for a Memorial Day ceremony.

It is altogether fitting and proper that the Scouts should do this. Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was originally called, started out as a way to honor the soldiers who died during the Civil War. The first such remembrance occurred shortly after the war ended, in 1865 in Charleston, S.C. A group of newly freed slaves decided to honor Union soldiers buried in a mass grave at a place called the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, grounds the Confederate Army had used for a prison camp.

The newly emancipated African Americans dug up the soldiers’ bodies and gave them proper burials. They erected a fence around the cemetery and dedicated it to the unknown men who had fought to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery. On May 1, 1865, 10,000 people gathered at the cemetery and marched around the racetrack. Children sang “John Brown’s Body” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Afterwards, the graves were decorated with red rose petals.  Continue reading

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