Episode 14: Barbara Gray on news research and the Queen of the Underworld

 

Photo of Sophie Lyons
Sophie Lyons is the subject of Barbara Gray’s forthcoming biography.

When Barbara Gray began her job directing the Research Center at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, she was only half a block from her previous job where she had been director of news research for The New York Times. The physical proximity is not at all incidental (the J school has forged a strong network with many of the city’s biggest media outlets), and the job overlap is significant (she brings loads of relevant expertise to her academic post). The skills that she advocates for, shepherds and teaches at CUNY have always been crucial to journalism, but they are especially critical in the digital information realm and even more essential – for everyone –  in the current news production and consumption culture. She talks about what she calls this “triage situation”; the importance of context, history and detail in reporting; the value of “failing up”; and her multi-faceted role as veteran news researcher, teacher and reference librarian.

As if that weren’t enough to fill a plate and an episode, there’s more. Barbara’s writing a biography of 19th century grifter-turned-philanthropist, Sophie Lyons. She talks about the genesis of the project, her research process and gives us a sneak peak of Sophie’s fascinating life.

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Episode 13: Dana Weinberg and digital publishing

I first met Dana Weinberg when I was a graduate student in the Queens College Applied Social Research program. She was, as you’ll soon hear for yourself, an incredible teacher. Her work at the time was around the sociology of nursing and we read Code Green: Money-Driven Hospitals and the Dismantling of Nursing, an amazing book which I often give to nursing students. It’s beautiful, both in terms of its prose and its ideas.

I was very interested to learn Dana is now working on the sociology of digital publishing. Her article, “Comparing gender discrimination and inequality in indie and traditional publishing” (with her collaborator, Adam Kapelner), examines the impact of gendered names on publishing, finding that books written by male-sounding names sell for higher prices than female — across independent and traditional publishing (sorry Kathleen!).

Dana also studies digital publishing from the inside as novelist DB Shuster. Her latest book, To Catch a Traitor is a is a Cold War spy novel. I was moved by Dana’s thoughts on DB Shuster helping her to find herself.

Also, in the spirit of correcting/clarifying, Dana correctly remembered that Art Worlds is by Howard Becker.

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Episode 12: Uncovering hidden stories

Linda Villarosa with The Campus editors
Linda Villarosa (center) with editors of The Campus Magazine, the oldest student-run publication within CUNY.

Linda Villarosa always knew she would be a writer, but when she was a little girl in Colorado, she probably couldn’t imagine that something she wrote would have a direct impact on New York State taking measures to address a critical life-and-death issue. She writes effective and affecting stories (read some of them here), directs the journalism program at City College and is a proud alumna of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. You’ll be inspired by her embrace of new challenges and complete lack of writing angst.

 

 

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Image courtesy of City College

Episode 11: Cereal and Hostful Confessions

In this guest-free episode, Steve and Kathleen take a break from highlighting CUNY scholars and aim the mic at themselves, indulging in some hostful (a term borrowed from Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist podcast) repartee. It begins and ends with cereal (or serial), and in between, listeners are treated to perhaps more information than is necessary about their hosts. Revelations include ambiguous criminal activity, secret ethnic lineage, and obsessions with NYC MTA material culture, handedness and the aforementioned cereal. Steve also lifts the curtain on his status.

Following the admirable model of actor Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast, we offer a post-recording fact check/errata/clarification. If you’re reading this before you listen, you’ll get an idea of the curiosities in store:

  • Kathleen’s vest was not addressed to her, as she knows better than to open mail not addressed to her. But the packing slip clearly indicated that the company had sent her the item in error. It turns out that she did nothing illegal. The moral question remains.
  • Steve was referring to the new ABC sitcom “Alex, Inc.” that is based on the origins of Gimlet Media, not a small replica of Jim nor a mini gym, as Kathleen was envisioning.
  • CUNY can boast three Guggenheim fellows this year.
  • We dismissively referred to the wildly popular podcasts Serial and S-Town.
  • Steve occasionally enjoys professional development at varying speeds via Udemy.
  • MTA motormen (correct term seems to be train operator) vs. conductors: who does what?
  • It’s the pothos plant, which goes by many other names, that Kathleen feels confident will thrive even in a subterranean workplace devoid of natural light.
  • Ancestry DNA results include a category called “low confidence regions” which, despite its benign name, has the potential to damage identities and/or families.
  • Steve descends from the Romaniote, according to Steve and his still harmonious family.
  • On sluggers and handedness.
  • A dream deferred on London’s Brick Lane.
  • It turns out you don’t have to make do with a variety multipack of breakfast cereals. Homogeneity, like most things, is available online!

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Episode 10: Richard Lieberman on teaching with archives

Dr. Richard Lieberman

Richard Lieberman is the head of the La Guardia and Wagner Archives, which just happens to be housed at LaGuardia Community College, my home campus. In this interview, we touch on a lot of great topics, ranging from the importance of faculty-led projects, to Wikipedia, to Ed Koch’s mayorship. If these seem like disparate strands, then you’ve never met Richard, who masterfully ties together the strands of history.

Richard’s many loves come through in this interview. He loves history. He loves teaching. He loves New York City. To sit with him is to become energized and inspired.

A quick bit of housekeeping. In the interview, Richard references Ann and Ximena. That would be my colleagues (and future interview subjects…I hope) Ann Matsuuchi and Ximena Gallardo, who work with Richard on the incredible Koch Scholars project.

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Image courtesy of YouTube

Episodes 8 & 9: A digital humanities double header

 

It was just a coincidence that I interviewed these two women right before NYC Digital Humanities Week (Feb. 5-9, 2018). In episode 8, I chat with my colleague, Robin Davis, grilling her about the thesis that she completed for the CUNY Graduate Center’s MA in Computational Linguistics. It’s titled “Nondescript: A Web Tool to Aid Subversion of Authorship Attribution.” After listening to her, I guarantee you’ll be intrigued and want to keep thinking about the topic. Fortunately, Robin offered some suggestions:

The second interview, Episode 9, is with Micki Kaufman, also a GC student, who’s working on her dissertation for a PhD in History. Her project is called “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me:’ Quantifying Kissinger.” She uses computational text analysis and visualization techniques to work with material from the Digital National Security Archive’s Kissinger collections. As serious and important as this project is, Micki prioritizes fun. Just listen; she’ll explain.

Digital Humanities is a large, encompassing, often ill-defined field. If you keeping hearing about it but aren’t sure what it is, these two interviews will help shed some light. Robin’s project is not strictly DH, since computational linguistics is actually a science, but the fields are definitely cousins, as Robin says, and I find that similar parts of my brain are used in trying to gain an understanding. Robin and Micki are both good at describing complex concepts in a way that’s clear and enjoyable to take in. Bottom line: These two projects are both very cool and socially relevant.

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Episode 7: Technology isn’t mysticism

Boone Gorges is the lead developer for the CUNY Academic Commons and a one-time CUNY grad student, making him uniquely qualified to navigate between the technical world and the academic one. As someone who truly believes free and open source software is the pillar of an informed society, I loved speaking with Boone, who can articulately argue that a broad technical understanding of our various systems–from operating systems to algorithms–is an important new literacy. He even makes a compelling case that understanding these systems, and understanding how best to focus our attention, is a form of information literacy, something that speaks to me as a librarian.

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Episode 6: Fruitcakes, folkways and photo ops

book cover

I discovered Claire Stewart’s book during a random Google jaunt and was thrilled to see she was a CUNY faculty member. I quickly acquired and devoured her book, which is a mashup of history, anthropology, sociology and popular culture – my favorite kind of stew. I visited her at City Tech where we recorded in the conference room of the Hospitality Management department, and afterwards she gave me a tour of the impressive kitchens and dining room (those enviable, enormous standing mixers!) where the teaching and learning and cooking and dining happens. I got the chance to meet other faculty in the program, and as a student in a chef’s toque came into the faculty offices with a plate of gorgeously plated food of some kind, I privately noted how extremely different their workday is from mine. I also got to sample some delicious, freshly-baked-by-students Danish. Claire and I discovered that we share an interest not only in the intersection of food and culture, but we geeked out about our love of digging deep for information and are both mystified that everyone doesn’t think research is the most fun activity in the world (Nancy Drew did figure in this conversation). We’re also both grateful that we were able to finally find the ideal place to satisfy our intellectual and employment needs. Thanks, CUNY! You can learn more about Claire’s professional experience and writing here.

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Episode 5: “Dope fiends” take the stage

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I took a vicarious walk on the wild side with Barry Spunt, author of Heroin, Acting, and Comedy in New York City (Palgrave Macmillan 2017), a companion to his Heroin and Music in New York City (Palgrave Macmillan 2014). His meticulously well-structured books contain the messy, dangerous, passionate, tragic stories of dozens of New York City denizens from the music and entertainment realm. They read like mesmerizing oral histories. We talked about his research and writing process and praised the holy New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. We did not talk (much) about the Boston Red Sox.

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Episode 4: Wraparound, Episodes 1-3.

In this installment, Steve and Kathleen chat with each other about what they’re reading and who they’re wearing. They also reflect on the three interviews they’ve done so far, finding a set of serendipitous commonalities that also correspond to the idea behind Indoor Voices. They did so at the LaGuardia Community College recording studio where they foresee having future wraparounds, so we all have something to look forward to.

Be sure to enjoy the soothing buzzing of Steve’s phone vibrating during the interview, perhaps pushing out the jackhammers in Barbara Katz Rothman’s interview as the most distracting sound in an episode…

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