Members of his staff — most of them young and working on a newspaper for the first time — referred to him with varying degrees of affection and apprehension as “Oz the Great and Terrible.”
Mr. Rensenbrink referred to himself as a “working hippie,” shaped by counterculture values and a blue-collar work ethic. He was, by most accounts, a tough boss.
The Aquarian Weekly, headquartered in various northern New Jersey storefronts and warehouses in its 44 years, has outlived most of its underground cohort. After The Village Voice and The San Francisco Bay Guardian were taken over by corporate newspaper chains in recent years, The Aquarian claimed to be one of the last independent alternative papers in the country left standing and one of the oldest continuously published ones.
Mr. Rensenbrink, who died on Nov. 6 in Grants Pass, Ore., at 81, received offers over the years from chains looking to buy The Aquarian, with its circulation of 45,000. He said no each time. By the time he retired in 1999 and moved to Oregon, he had arranged to transfer ownership to an employee cooperative. The co-op has been publishing the paper — in print and online editions — ever since.
He’s a fascinating man with a fascinating legacy. The Aquarian Weekly staff write about meeting and working with him in this tribute on their site. Worth reading.
When she was in preschool she was interested in how babies are made, and we had this book, Where Willy Went, about a little sperm in a race to try to get to the egg. So she already knew about the sperm meeting the egg, but she didn’t know how [the sperm] got there in the first place. She asked me [about it], and I said, “You really want to know?” And she said, “Yeah.” And I just blurted it all out. It took about seven minutes. I told her the whole thing. She was like wide-eyed and I said, “Was that what you were expecting?” She said no. I said, “Has anyone talked about this at school?” And she said no. So I said, “Well, was it a surprise?” She said no. And then she said, “I mean yes.” I said, “Well, that’s it.” And then I had to tell all of the other parents [at her school], “Hey, by the way, if you hear [your kids say] anything about the penis getting bigger and blah blah blah, uh, this is where it came from.
Molly Ringwald, on explaining sex to her daughter, in an interview with Maude Apatow for Rookie Mag.
Maude is 15 and a writer for Hello Giggles. Molly is, well, now 45 and still everyone’s teenage crush. The interview is delightfully straightforward and refreshing and covers everything from being a teenager, to writing, acting, dealing with technology warping your brain, and being a mom. Stuff like this is why I adore Rookie Mag, a radically real, endlessly creative online site for teenage girls (created by a teenage girl).—Jihii
Related: Last week, Her Girl Friday invited Rookie’s Editorial Director, Anahaeed Alani to share the Rookie story and some wisdom at a panel on lady-powered start-ups. Here’s a video recap of the event, and here’s an interview with Anaheed by ReportHers.
Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.
Ryan Holiday, The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation and Outright B.S. in Modern Media, Betabeat.
Holiday writes of the extreme privilege often inherent in digital literacy and the fact that it’s expensive to be a core user of online media.
If I work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our media environment is significantly more difficult to track. Not everyone has their Internet time subsidized by an employer who asks them to sit in front of a computer all day. In fact, many people have jobs that forbid them from doing just that, with bosses who will write them up if caught checking their phone. These people–we often refer to them (derisively) as “average Americans”–are removed from the iterative, lightning-fast online media cycle for hours at a time and often for the entire day.
Before you joke about how lucky they are, think about how that would change someone’s relationship with culture. It means they end up getting their news from Facebook or from the “most emailed” stories of the day (of dubious validity). With only so much time left at the end of the day, they go to the one or two places that can give them the gist. Their reality is shaped by the things that tend to trickle about and from the Internet.
He raises the food/nutrition analogy to point out how dangerous the consequences of such a divide can be. American’s obesity epidemic, caused in large part by a culture of eating what’s cheap and convenient because of a lack of access and affordability, can and will replicate itself in unhealthy media consumption patterns. (Related: The Information Diet by Clay Johnson)
Culturally, a portion of the population will be stuffed with hormone-injected garbage (Huffington Post slideshows, Facebook linkbait and other Cheetos-like information) while the other portion lives in its own reality of tailor-made, high quality information that makes them increasingly wealthy and utterly detached. One side will be able to influence, direct and exploit the other side because one controls the media while the other is at its mercy.
The pro‐life perspective is that if you show a woman that she has an 11‐week‐old fetus and she sees the movement, and that convinces her to keep the fetus, then isn’t that a good thing? Whereas a pro‐choice person would say she didn’t come in and know she was going to get a sonogram; there is no medical reason for it. So why are you offering a sonogram except to convince a woman not to have an abortion, which is what she really wanted to do?
Documentary filmmaker Raney Aronson as quoted in a fascinating case study in journalism ethics (by the Knight Case Studies Initiative at Columbia) called Frontline’s “The Last Abortion Clinic”: What’s Fair in a Video World?
This case takes students behind the scenes into the making of a news documentary for Frontline, produced at the PBS affiliate in Boston (WGBH). The case tells the story of the making of “The Last Abortion Clinic,” a 2005 documentary by producer Raney Aronson and her team. The documentary combined a legal story (developments in the abortion debate since Roe v. Wade) with personal stories—interviews with women in clinics who had confronted the abortion question in their own lives. It focused on the state of Mississippi, which had only one abortion clinic remaining. The case chronicles the evolution of a documentary from idea to finished form. Along the way, it highlights numerous editorial, logistical and ethical decisions Aronson faced in her quest to tell fairly a complex and value-laden story.
The problem with the cutbacks in professional foreign coverage is not just the loss of experience and wisdom. It’s the rise of — and exploitation of — the Replacements, a legion of freelancers, often untrained and too often unsupported. They gravitate to the bang-bang, because that’s what editors and broadcast producers will pay for. And chances are that nobody has their backs.
Bill Keller, It’s the Golden Age of News, NY Times.
Keller points out that despite the fact papers have fewer and fewer experienced correspondents on staff, our access to those who are doing the work is unprecedented (and often free). Cutbacks have led to the rise of freelancers, who often lack the support needed to conduct their work as safely as they ought to be able to. He writes:
Some of them, of course, are tremendously talented, and many prefer freelance work over staff jobs for the freedom to cover what interests them. But for most of them, I suspect, it’s not a choice. Freelance work has long been a way to break into the business of international reporting; nowadays, increasingly, it is the business.
FJP: It’s an important read. I’ve got a friend who, while not a foreign correspondent, has been freelancing in the broadcast industry for years. And while she’s won two Peabody’s for her work, she’s struggled to maintain a livable salary with benefits. The fact that such a dichotomy can exist speaks for itself. —Jihii