Category Archives: politics

Best Investigative Reporting

asylumMy feature article in Bloom Magazine, “The Plight of Asylum Seekers,” took second place in the Society of Professional Journalists’ “Best in Indiana Journalism” competition for 2017, in the category of Best Investigative Reporting for small-circulation magazines. The graphics, by Joe Lee, also won second place in their category.

I’m honored.

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The Collapse of Trust

distrustI caught a BBC interview this morning with Richard Edelman, Chairman of Edelman Worldwide. He was speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, about the often-cited Edelman Trust Barometer, his company’s annual global survey on the trust and credibility of key institutions. Edelman himself looked shaken by the results of the 2018 Barometer. Here’s a link to the Executive Summary. I felt it was worth sharing.

Globally — but most especially in the US — there has been an unprecedented crash in trust in institutions, particularly media and government, and in information. People have no faith in the information they have been receiving, and in their own ability to distinguish real information from fake news. Nowhere is this collapse of trust more evident than in the US, where media are under attack from government as never before.

There is an interesting nuance to the fall of trust in media, however: Respondents view “media” as including the non-traditional online platforms, including social media, from which many people get most of their news and insights. But trust has fallen sharply both in social media as sources of truth and (tellingly) in the veracity of information gathered from “people like me” —  peers in social networks. There is a substantial uptick in trust for experts, especially technical experts, and a downgrading of information populism. This reverses a several year trend of cynicism toward expertise, and distrust of the motives and credibility of experts. If accurate and sustained, this reversal could suggest a renewed interest in institutions like science and academia — in my opinion, a welcome and overdue development. Oh, and this includes journalists — respondents say they distrust media, but trust in journalists rose, year-on-year, more sharply than for any other group.

The 2018 Trust Barometer also measured a significant uptick in trust for business leaders, CEOs and brands. That’s the main reason I’m blogging about this.

One of the main forms of work product I generate for corporate clients is Thought Leadership content — bylined articles, white papers, eBooks, guest blog posts and the like. There is great demand for this kind of content because corporate-affiliated thought leaders have important ideas to convey, but little time to devote to writing. I help people who have this quandary to get their ideas out of their heads and into erudite prose.

Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer forces us to confront some dark realities about the global economy. But it also presents us with an opportunity: Globally, people are hungry for ideas, and increasingly are looking to thought leaders from the business community to provide them — including ideas that have little direct connection to your company’s commercial offerings, but for which you nonetheless have genuine authority by virtue of your institutional leadership.

The world is listening. You have knowledge to contribute. Your thought leadership content — already a key component of a realistic Content Marketing program — will find an increasingly receptive audience this year, and that can help increase Awareness and Audience Engagement with your brand. If I can help you to get your ideas out there, please let me know.

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Attorney General Sessions: Stop Scapegoating Immigrants

I try to keep politics separate from this blog and from my professional social media presence. But I’ve spent too much time and energy on the issue of asylum law in the U.S. to listen passively while Jeff Sessions conducts his ignorant, nativist campaign against asylum-seekers.





The attorney general is pointlessly, cynically scapegoating desperate people who are in the U.S. legally, seeking safe haven from typically-violent persecution in their home countries. Until they have their hearings with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — for which they are usually made to wait two to three years — they are legally not subject to deportation, and it is grossly irresponsible for the attorney general to make statements that could prejudice USCIS against their petitions.

For at least the first six months after these people apply for asylum, they are not legally allowed to work. They are entirely reliant on their own savings or on charity. They’re certainly not taking jobs from Americans.

Even after they have their hearings, asylum-seekers typically wait years before a final decision comes down. While they are waiting, they usually are underemployed, if they are employed at all. And they are laying very low — asylum-seekers keep to the shadows, lest they attract the attention of people in their home countries who could take action against their friends or relatives.

“This is the worst part of asylum law. People talk to me, and I am 95 percent certain that they will be harmed if they go back home, but I know the government will deny them asylum.”

Christine Popp, immigration lawyer, Bloomington, Indiana

If you’re assuming that demonstrating that the applicant is likely to face violent reprisals on returning to his or her home country is enough to justify asylum…think again. Under U.S. law, the asylum-seeker has to prove that their fear is based on their membership in a persecuted group. Groups are narrowly and tortuously defined.

Most asylum applications are denied. Denials often are for arbitrary reasons, or no stated reason at all. The applicant’s chance of approval is largely based on the jurisdiction in which the hearing takes place; some offices reject more than 90% of the applications they hear. And the federal government commonly appeals asylum decisions that result in approvals.

Jeff Sessions’ rant about applicants’ gaming the asylum system is not based on any factual analysis. It’s just the latest Trump Administration attempt to make its critics feel powerless in the face of its incessant stream of irrational, antisocial, irresponsible, destructive policy pronouncements. This plays well with Trump’s extremist base, but it is immoral and impractical policy.

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