Behind the Scenes of the 2013 AAUP Survey

Annual report gives the low-down on the highest-paying universities in academia.

**Photo Credit: bcaaup.org

Ever wondered how much professors are paid for their efforts? Well, there’s a survey for that.

Each year, for at least the past five decades, the American Association of University Professors’ research office has collected and compiled self-reported data on full-time faculty salaries and benefits from private and public universities and colleges throughout the U.S.

The data collection for the AAUP survey usually runs from November until February, according to Samuel Dunietz, an AAUP Research Associate. The data is then synthesized by a committee of less than five people, led by AAUP Director of Research and Public Policy, John Curtis.

The survey is a well-known, go-to resource that faculty members, colleges and universities, and the general public can use to inform themselves about the compensation faculty members earn, set within the wider economic context for higher education.

“We’re looking at the state of the academic profession so faculty members can know what they can expect to make if they’re coming into academia or have been working many years … and also to see how much the academic profession is worth compared to other industries and the general public,” Dunietz says.

Longevity of the AAUP survey has enabled it to capture a snapshot of wider trends in faculty salaries through comparison of the current survey with past surveys, such as when the economy has struggled or prospered, Dunietz explains.

For at least the past decade, the AAUP has shared its data with The Chronicle of Higher Education, the number one source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators, according to The Chronicle’s website.

The publication’s staff, including Database Reporter Jonah Newman and News Designer and Web Developer Brian O’Leary, tabulates and presents online the results of the survey, adding to it the Department of Education’s Integrative Post-Secondary Education Data breakdown of full-time versus part-time professor salaries. AAUP works with The Chronicle to ensure the information provided is presented accurately online, Dunietz says.

Users of The Chronicle’s web survey interface can filter by highest-paying schools, state, faculty rank and gender as well as access more detailed information about each institution, along with trends over time.

Although, the reported numbers vary from year to year, the 2013 survey included data from more than 1,200 higher education institutions. The analysis of the data revealed that after three years of average salary increases trailing behind the rate of inflation, the overall increase last year was relatively comparable to the hike in consumer prices—but barely. The rate of inflation last year was low enough for faculty salaries to keep pace, according to 2012-2013 AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession.

Compiling the AAUP survey each year is no easy task. It requires strong analytical skills and some technical expertise not only to create a system to collect data, but also to extract that data meaningfully so it can be used, says Dunietz, who has helped with data analysis of the AAUP report the past three years.

“My sociological background had a huge impact on my position here,” says Dunietz, American University Public Policy master’s student who earned his sociology degree from University of Maryland.

Once the data is compiled by AAUP and shared with The Chronicle of Higher Education by mid-March, Newman cleans up the data, organizes and formats it, so it can be presented online — in less than two weeks. He is also responsible for calculating percentiles that ranks which colleges and universities pay well among their comparable group. For example, the 2013 AAUP survey has revealed that University of Los Angeles in Calif. is the highest paying public university with full professors earning on average $167,000 a year.

Newman is a data guru, of sorts. He is the all-important-link between data and presentation, making sure the data from the AAUP survey is as correct and reliable as possible.

However, when Newman joined the publication straight out of undergrad from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he had to up his Excel game.

“I think I had basic Excel skills that most people in my generation have. I’ve grown up using Excel. There were a lot of things that I didn’t know,” Newman says.

He says he has improved his Excel skills through learning from his colleagues and attending sessions like last year’s National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting’s “My Favorite Excel Things,” which revealed unconventional Excel tips and tricks.

“I learned an attention to detail,” Newman says, “The percentile thing was a process of doing something over and over and I had to make sure I was doing it right and doing it carefully and not introducing any errors into the data.”

Furthermore, Newman says he has learned the importance of planning ahead, collaboration, and communication so that everyone on the survey team knows when the deadlines are and when everything launches online. The Chronicle of Higher Education usually publishes the AAUP survey results in April.

Before the AAUP survey can go live, The Chronicle’s designer and web developer Brian O’Leary must decide which design features will carry over from the previous years’ surveys as well as confirm that all components of the survey continue to work, and modify as necessary. For O’Leary, it’s an ongoing process of deciding which page elements need to change and which are left unchanged.

“I think that’s something we’ve always taken very seriously,” O’Leary says, “And we’ll continue to try to raise the quality of what we present and try to make it better and more intuitive. But it’s a negotiation between improving and keeping things consistent and useful.

O’Leary’s studies in English in undergrad and poetry at the master’s level, makes him an unusual choice for executing The Chronicle’s web design and development, although he has spent two stints there doing just that.

“I largely taught myself,” he says, “I don’t necessarily recommend it for everybody, but for me, it worked well. I learned flash and kind of got it on my own and decided I wanted to learn more and that sort of led to my entry into programming.”

If any bumps in the road crop up while Newman and O’Leary work to take the AAUP annual report live, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Interactives Senior Editor Josh Hatch has their back.

Hatch says he relies on his journalistic perspective and underlying understanding of technology and design considerations, grasped from his journalism degree from the University of Richmond and time spent at USA TODAY in multimedia storytelling, to set priorities and guide his team.

“I think it’s having an understanding of all the different disciplines, maybe not a master of them all; but I understand them enough and at a deep enough level that I’m able to weigh them all together in my mind.”

Hatch, who also teaches part-time at American University in Washington, D.C., says he works closely with Newman and O’Leary to ensure the AAUP survey content is easily digestible for the reader.

The Chronicle presents the AAUP survey annually because salary compensation is of intense interest to its readers, many of whom are faculty members or administrators, according to Hatch. The survey consistently drives traffic to The Chronicle’s website.

“I think it’s our most trafficked thing that we have on our website,” Hatch says.

Despite the iterative nature of the AAUP annual report, there’s fresh learning opportunities for everyone involved in the creation process. For example, Hatch says his team has developed technically and socially — not without spirited debate.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot and it’s something that even though it’s largely the same process year after year; each year is different. There are new things I’ve learned and each year, there are changes that have to be made, even if they are not obvious,” Dunietz says.

It’s that time of year yet again — Newman has already met with a colleague to begin planning analysis for the 2014 data.

Snapchat is ‘ripe for experimentation’ in newsrooms

While the payoff may not be immediately clear, Snapchat has become an unlikely, yet invaluable tool for contemporary journalists.

**Photo Credit: Selena Larson readwrite.com

A number of news companies are now “fishing where the fishes are” with the help of Snapchat, the viral photo and video-sharing mobile application that some have dubbed the “new Instagram.”

The app, co-founded by Stanford University student Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, his recently graduated business partner, was partly inspired by former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s disastrous decision to exchange sexy photos on Twitter.

Snapchat, launched in 2011, originally gained traction among teens and millennials who could send their friends goofy or racy images that vanish 10 seconds after they are viewed. It became easily identified by its smiling, yet now rendered faceless mascot “Ghostface Chillah,” named after former Wu-Tang clan rapper Ghostface Killah.

Accordingly, it rapidly grew in notoriety and value, receiving a $3 billion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook, for its ability to attract smart-phone users seeking a private, ephemeral way to send original content to friends.

Despite its overnight success, Snapchat’s value to news organizations has been less obvious compared to other social networks that could be used to direct audience members to the publisher’s site such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

However, the addition of Snapchat Stories in October meant users could compile images and short-videos, known as “Snaps,” and share this flip-book-style album with their followers. Instead of content vanishing after mere seconds, it remains available for 24-hours. This shift has opened doors for news organizations such as the Washington Post to jump on the Snapchat bandwagon and experiment in the newsroom.

Having already tested the waters with the PostPolitics account in mid-January, Cory Haik, executive producer and senior editor for digital news at the Post, decided on a whim to live-Snapchat the Super Bowl commercials as they came on as well as provide quick commentary.

“It’s really been on our minds and we just really wanted to experiment with it and sort of push the bounds and new audience,” Haik said.

The undertaking was inspired by a Super Bowl live-Facebooking event she saw. That got Haik thinking about using Twitter for audience engagement, but the “waterfall of tweets” persuaded her to try out Snapchat instead.

The non-controversial subject-matter made covering the Super Bowl ads low-risk and ripe for experimentation, she said.

Haik said she was surprised by how difficult it was to keep up with the ads on live TV and then write commentary with only 30 characters, equal to a quarter of a Tweet.

“Oh my gosh, you have to be really quick and really concise,” Haik said.

The goal was to tread lightly and see what sort of response the Post received. Once the Snapchats caught on, Haik promoted the “experiment” midway through, which attracted some new followers.

What sets Snapchat apart from other social networking platforms is its one-to-one engagement, she said.

“There’s no comments. There’s no liking. You can’t repost anything. It’s an experience,” Haik said, “You produce something in the palm of your hand and someone else sees it in the palm of their hand. It’s like a tunnel to someone. It’s entirely different than any other medium that we’ve used or are using.”

Haik raises one of the main challenges news organizations face when adopting Snapchat to deliver the news— there is no readily available method to drive traffic directly to a media outlet’s own site from Snapchat. Despite this hiccup, journalists are still choosing to use the technology to reach a new and much younger audience.

For example, NowThis News, a NYC based startup that creates news and entertainment-focused video channels for a Millennial audience across social and mobile platforms as well as an early adopter of Snapchat for news coverage, has managed to attract between 4,000 and 5,000 followers, according to Maya Tanaka, digital video producer for NowThis News.

Much of NowThis News’ audience on Snapchat is under 15-years-old, a demographic that is increasingly moving away from Facebook and doesn’t engage with Instagram as much, said Tanaka.

The startup has been using Snapchat since October, propelled by the news cycle of its Washington, D.C. office. When NowThis News first started using the app, it concentrated its efforts on video, but has since shifted its approach to mostly still photography with text and drawing.

With the app, the depth and complexity of the story really depends on the comfort level of the reporter managing the account and his or her knowledge of the story. Issues with brevity of character count can be mitigated through drawing with fingers or a stylus, said Tanaka.

“It’s a very pleasant platform, so it’s easy to stay. Once we got in there, we just kinda got hooked and kept doing it,” Tanaka said.

For news outlets like NowThis News, Snapchat is more about engaging their audience and extending their brand to a new, wildly popular platform than it is about driving traffic to their home site. Though, this outlook may be due in part to the difficulty of calculating metrics. With Snapchat, news organizations are only able to track the totals of followers, views, and screenshots. An absence of transparent analytics makes it difficult for news organizations to monetize their efforts using the app.

However, Snapchat’s founders have said that the screenshot feature can be equated to a “like” or a “favorite,” a signal to the sender that the image sent was favorably received, according to a New York Times blog post by Jenna Wortham.

Even though the app may be lacking in metric-tracking capability, it more than makes up for it in its level of intimacy, immediacy, and choice, Tanaka said.

“If you don’t want to follow our stories, you don’t have to. It’s not flooding your feed, we’re not pushing our information on you, you’re choosing to look at it,” Tanaka said.

NPR made the plunge to try out Snapchat when Melody Kramer, digital strategist for NPR, noticed a lot people were flocking to the app, including her younger brother.

“We try to go to where ever our audience is, so we thought a lot of people are on it, how would NPR look on this medium?” Kramer said.

However, she has taken a unique approach to incorporating Snapchat into NPR’s newsroom.  Kramer has been using the video functionality of the app to shoot 15-second video of reporters sharing an interesting fact from their news stories. Then, she downloads the video to her smartphone’s camera roll and “Snaps” it out to NPR’s followers every day.

“I don’t think it’s different than any other social media platform we’re on. We’re seeing what our audience likes and we’re adapting to it,” Kramer said, “I’m proud that we’re on there.”

Kramer said NPR has received very positive responses from both inside the building and outside and has attracted thousands of followers. However, she was reluctant to comment on the future of the app, “It’s not within my wheelhouse,” she said.

It is unclear what the future holds for Snapchat’s staying power in journalism, but there’s a lot to be said for the value of experimentation and efforts to adopt this new medium in newsrooms.

Tanaka was lukewarm in her optimism. She said, while NowThis News has made a strong effort of keeping pace with Snapchat, everyone is at least six months behind technological advancements.

“We’re going to get really good at this and then move onto the next thing that we find that someone will tell us about; and that person will probably be 15-years-old. So we’re learning, everyone’s learning.”

Grateful Sunday

**Photo Credit: thehappinesscoach.biz

Quite often, I’m so busy going, trying to accomplish the next assignment, goal, or dream that I fail to stop and take stock of my environment, internally and externally. I have so much to be grateful for!

This Thanksgiving, my mom provided a way for me to join her at my grandmother’s house, so I didn’t have to spend my favorite holiday alone. I was surrounded by family and ate some incredibly delicious food. Thank you!

I’m realizing that every moment, every day is worth showing appreciation. I shouldn’t wait until Thanksgiving each year to practice gratitude. There is someone or rather there are many someones out there praying for the very things I so often take for granted.

Lately I’ve been chasing happiness, but I think  happiness has been here all along if only I would be more present and acknowledge all the blessings I have to be grateful for. I’m happy I came across this TED Talk by Brother David Steindl-Rast , a Benedictine monk, called, “Want to be Happy? Be Grateful.”

Brother David says it’s gratefulness that makes you happy. When you practice grateful living, you acknowledge that every moment is a gift and opportunity is a gift within a gift. The key to grateful living is to, “Stop, look, and go.” It’s important to stop, take stock, and remember there is so much to be grateful for, whether it’s for clean air that fills your lungs, a capable and healthy body, loved ones who pray for your success and happiness, or a roof over your head and clothes on your back. Those are some of the things I’ve been taking for granted lately.

Brother David’s message is just the wake-up call I need this Sunday and every day, so I remember that,

If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity. You’re willing to share. If you’re grateful, you’re enjoying the differences between people and you’re respectful to everybody. A grateful world is a happy world and that changes this power pyramid under which we live. It doesn’t make for equality, but equal respect and that’s the important thing.

Thank you, Brother David Steindl-Rast for that reminder. I’m grateful.

What are you grateful for this Sunday afternoon?

Breaking the Shell

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**Photos via nastassiadavis.com and gutstoglory.com (right to left, respectively)

Have you ever felt stuck like you needed to break free of a shell you’ve created for yourself through fear, anxiety, doubt, alienation or that life has dealt you like getting laid off, losing a loved one (figuratively or literally), or falling ill?

Lately, I’ve  been feeling like a caged bird or one trying to peck its way out of its shell. I’m seeking the confidence to find my wings, so I can soar. There’s a big blue sky out there, sometimes with threatening rain clouds in view, but a bird knows how to navigate if only it will trust itself, realizing it was created to fly.

I leave you with a quote, lyrics, and song that will hopefully inspire you to think about and break through a shell that may be limiting your ability to fully direct and claim the quality of life you wish to have.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding… And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy.”

— Kahlil Gibran

My mom sent me the lyrics to the song “Break the Shell” featured on the album titled Songversation released this past summer by American R&B/ neo soul singer, India.Arie. I found they resonated so deeply with my life at this moment. Maybe they will speak to you as well. Enjoy!

I met a prophet dark as the night
She could see into my soul
Said she’d been watching and had some advice
She said shadows make you whole
A life without pain is a wolf in sheep’s clothes
Cause if you listen to the lessons that it holds
You’ll find the gold

Child it’s time to break the shell
Life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly until you break the shell

I can remember when I was a child
How the grown folks seemed so crazy
Why are they so angry, why are they so loud?
And when I grow up that’s never ever gonna be me
That was the moment that I decide
That I would build a wall just shy of six feet tall
Too strong to fall

Child it’s time to break the shell
Life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly until you break the shell

Courage is not being hard
It’s time to peel back all of the layers
You put between who you’re meant to be
And you who are
And go be who you are

So much disappointment to finally understand
That there is no such thing as perfect
Were all simply doing the best that we can
And we have a choice to live or truly be alive

This is your life

Child it’s time to break the shell
Life’s gonna hurt but its meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly until it breaks the shell

Child it’s time to break the shell
Life’s gonna hurt but its meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
The bird cannot fly until it breaks the shell

Do with these words what you will
Its time for us to be for real
You’ll be stuck on the ground until
You finally break the shell

**Lyrics via Song Meanings

**Video via OWN TV

India.Arie performs a stripped down acoustic version of “Break the Shell” on OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday.”

Foodie Adventures

**This is a hypothetical film treatment I produced for my Digital Storytelling and Strategic Communication class. This production is not affiliated  with Taste of D.C. in any way.

With a documentary and video journal “vlog” style, Foodie Adventures is part of a digital campaign that intimately showcases D.C. residents and food enthusiasts’ explorations of Taste of D.C., a two-day culinary event that provides access to more than 70 of the District’s very best and up-and-coming restaurants, breweries, and live entertainment.

At the heart of Foodie Adventures’ first installment is Los Angeles, Calif. native—Cathryn P., a self-described foodie experiencing Taste of D.C. for the first time. In the midst of the lively festival, we follow her as she samples an assortment of food offerings ranging from a chili dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl to a Chipotle grilled cheese sandwich from The Big Cheese to snickerdoodle cookies from Captain Cookie & the Milkman. In between shots of Cathryn devouring and commenting on the food, we also hear some of her “foodie” confessions, see her peruse a brand-new white Fiat, and receive directions from a fellow festival-goer. Along the way, Cathryn observes and films an impromptu dance party, prompted by high spirits and flowing libations, taking place in front of Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant. Through her eyes and indelible charm, viewers receive a “birds-eye-view” of the enjoyment in store at the Taste of D.C. festival.

**This is my second serious video effort.

District Residents Take a Bite out of Taste of D.C.

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**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

The Taste of D.C., the largest Mid-Atlantic culinary festival, came back for another taste this year on Oct. 12 and 13.

In its third year, the two-day culinary event delighted foodies with access to more than 70 of the District’s very best and up-and-coming restaurants and breweries, along with live music.

There were also eating contests, including Ben’s Chili Bowl World Chili Eating Championship and BGR The Burger Joint’s first Burger Eating Competition as well as live food demonstrations.

The festival took over five blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 14th streets and drew a crowd of 50,000 people, despite the gray backdrop and occasional sputtering of rain drops.

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

The festival drew many first-timers, including Satya Malladi, a 4-year D.C. resident.

“I’m here to taste all different beers that D.C. has to offer and try different foods.  This is my first Taste of D.C. event, so I’m all excited about it,” he said sipping on a dark German beer purchased from the festival’s beer garden.

Although the food offerings such as half-sized chili dogs from Ben’s Chili Bowl, chipotle cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches from Big Cheese and pumpkin ice cream sandwiches made fresh at Captain Cookie & the Milkman were mostly under $10, some festival-goers eyes and stomachs were bigger than their wallets.

“The food is good, but I thought there would be more free taste tests. I didn’t know everything was going to be paid, but they’re featuring a lot of good restaurants,” said Niki McElroy of Laurel MD.

However, Molly Guntli of Bethesda, Md. and her friends got quite a bargain with a Living Social deal; a $30 ticket included $25 in drinks and admission. General admission tickets were regularly $10. Taste also catered to those affected by the government shutdown with a furlough special, buy one get one free tickets with valid government I.D.

The Taste of D.C. organizers covered their bases, so that food could be enjoyed by all.

“They’re excited that there’s vegetarian food here other than typical vegetarian (options),” said Suzanne Simon, co-founder/owner of Chaya, a pop-up restaurant that sources local and sells travel-inspired vegetarian tacos with rustic Mexican undertones.

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

Daiya, an alternative cheese company, appealed to festival-goers with lactose and soy intolerance and fans of free things by passing out samples of their newest offerings, including three flavors of their specially formulated cheeses and cream cheeses.

“We always like to introduce our product to someone new. It’s great for anyone who has allergies or is looking for a healthier option,” said Jocelyn Chan, a Daiya representative.

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

At the festival, there was also a corporate presence with kiosks featuring Fiat, Car 2 Go, and Power Home & Modeling Group, among others. But they had their work cut out for them attempting to distract foodies from their lust.

“People obviously are not coming here just to talk about windows, siding, and roofing. They’re coming here to taste the food and drink wine and so we have to grab their attention,” said Davvid Saidman representing vendor, Power Home & Modeling Group.

Prompted by flowing libations and mega-hits like, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and “Ignition Remix” by R. Kelly played by a cover band, spirited festival-goers danced carefree in front of the 11th Street music stage.

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

**Photo Credit Erin Robertson

“We want this to be the event that people circle on their calendars because there’s nothing like bringing people together with food, music, and libations and really just having a wonderful time on one of the most beautiful streets in America,” said Matt DiVincenzo, Taste of D.C. organizer and senior at American University’s Kogod School of Business.

‘Crafty Bastards’ Explain How to Take D.I.Y. Crafting to the Next Level

Although tough decisions whether to dress up as Miley Cyrus from her raunchy MTV VMA performance this year, complete with a foam finger, or a zombie from the successful AMC TV show, “Walking Dead” for Halloween haven’t been decided, buying a $5 day pass to Crafty Bastards Arts & Craft Fair and getting a jump-start on Christmas shopping was a decision definitely worth making over the weekend.

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Photo Credits: http://www.empowernetwork.com and aprew01.wordpress.com

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Crafty Bastards presented by the Washington City Paper for connoisseurs of all things novelty such as monster-inspired historical prints and maps, chic hand-crafted knit accessories, creepy stuffed animals and doggie bling was, “bigger, better, and craftier” than ever.

“If Etsy were a mall, it would be kind of like this,” said festival coordinator, Nikki Caborale.

Only a brisk autumn stroll from the NoMa metro station and in its second year across from Union Market, the fair blossomed into a weekend-long affair with bigger tents housing more independent artisans selling handmade wares.  It also whetted shopper’s appetites with D.C.’s best food trucks and a selection of craft brews at the new Belgium Beer Garden, perfect for shopping breaks.

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Crafty Bastards Entry Signs

Urban and stylish shoppers, young and old, came from across the District and surrounding areas to engage D.I.Y professionals, hailing from all over the U.S., to discover and buy unique handmade goods, the variety that can’t be found in big box stores like Target.

“I like supporting original and individual craftsmen and buying unique things, so I was really excited to check it out and see things that I hadn’t seen before and support the artists,” said Laura McNeil, a shopper who traveled from New York City to attend the fair.

“It’s fun every time and it never disappoints me and it keeps growing and growing. It’s bigger this year, I think,” said repeat shopper, Rachel Wallach, a Los Angeles, Calif. native living in the District.

A lot of hard work goes into organizing Crafty Bastards each year, including a jury selection process that considers each artist’s mission statement, creativity, quality, uniqueness of materials, and decides who out of the 450 applicants will earn a highly-coveted spot to sell their goods in the festival’s 158 booths.

Despite Crafty Bastards’ competitive selection process, many of the vendors have participated in the fair since its inception, originally conceived to make Washington City Paper’s classified section come to life.

Crafters’ products continue to shock, awe, and evolve based on trends and their inspirations. Debbie Lee, 60 bugs owner, who sells products that come in the hand-embroidered variety, and Rania Hassan, goshdarnknit owner who sells Japanese gocco screen printed notebooks, lunch bags, and other knit-inspired items said they return each year to Crafty Bastards, even participating in the selection jury, because it is an event that has turned their hobby into a bonafide business.

Crafty Bastards 60 bugs

Crafty Bastards Gocco Notebooks

The fair has also fostered an artist community in the process.

“There’s an aesthetic that the creators of Crafty Bastards have tried to instill and it’s a sense of making things from the sheer joy of making things,” said Sean Hennessey, a sculpture artisan who runs self-titled company, Sean Hennessey.

“I think you have to support each other in this community and everyone does and that’s sort of why I think I’m part of it, why I think I like it, and why I’m here,” he said.

Many of the artisans haven’t quit their day jobs, but they craft as a creative outlet and a way to connect with their customers.

“When people identify with and connect with what I’m making and they like it, then it inspires me to make more,” said Tiny Henry of Tina Seamonster that specializes in zombie themed small gift items.

Crafty Bastards Tina Seamonster Magnets

Crafty Bastards Tina Seamonster Logo

However, getting into the D.I.Y. crafting business isn’t for the faint of heart.

Here’s some advice on how to take your crafting game to the next level:

“Always have passion. Never give it up. Make sure that you love doing it because starting a small business requires a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard work and if you don’t love what you do, then you’re not going to be happy,” says Virginia Arrisueño, a D.C. based full-time crafter and owner of DeNada, a company that sells luxurious knit accessories for men and women.

Crafty Bastards DeNada

Still don’t know where to start?

Henry says don’t be afraid to fail.

“That’s how you learn, that’s how you grow, and that’s how you end up doing something awesome,” she says.

Henry says her company is a product of five failures.

“You have to make a lot of something. The mere fact of making something will inspire you to perfect it, will inspire you to make something better, to make it more unique. You’re not going to find your voice until you make a lot of things. Give it away at first, charge nothing for it. Sell it really cheap,” Hennessey says.

Jeffrey Everett, American University alumnus who majored in design and owner of El Jefe Design, a company that sells fringe culture merchandise, including posters and stationary, offers his wisdom exclusively for AU students.

Crafty Bastards El Jefe

 “When you go out into the real world, make sure that your first job is (one) that you actually want to do and pursue because you’re building on the experience you have. Take classes that are outside of your major. If you’re an artist, take business classes. If you’re a film studies major, take some literature classes. You really need to know all angles of the profession you’re doing. You have to be very broad in what you do and you have to be really smart,” he says.

H Street Festival Didn’t Let The Rain Reign On Its Parade

On Saturday, residents from across the D.M.V area converged on the revitalized H Street NE Corridor, some for the first time, under threatening gray clouds, for the highly anticipated and popular 4th annual H Street Festival organized by non-profit, H Street Main Street.

The festival sprawled an additional four blocks this year from Fourth to 14th streets, NE and featured over 50 local and visiting artists, 80 performances on 10 stages with music genres ranging from rock, bluegrass, fusion, to gospel as well as a myriad of local, regional, and international cuisine served in food trucks or in stands set up in front of the restaurants that regularly call H Street home.

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As if the competing aromas of barbecued ribs, Korean tacos, or freshly fried donuts weren’t enough to entice the anticipated 100,000 festival-goers, they could also browse over two-hundred booths lining the corridor varying from vendors selling colorful and unique dangling earrings, graphic t-shirts, vintage clothing, and artwork.

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Chickie Brown, a self-described history geek, was among the vendors hoping to increase brand recognition and revenue for her business. She is founder of Chickie Brown M.A.N.- Monarchs and Nomads, a men’s graphic t-shirt line that combines her love of art and history. The graphic t-shirts hallmark pop art, highlighting a blend of historical characters with flashes of intense color that draws the eye.

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Brown explains why she decided to participate in the H Street Festival, “To sell my tees and…be a part of the community. There are a lot of changes and I do really want to be a part of that. They’re kind of bringing this community (together) and making it more vibrant,” Brown said.

Shoppers that visited Brown’s tent reflected the diversity of the crowd, which ranged from young to old and every possible race and ethnicity.

However, H Street did not always lure an assortment of people or engender exuberance.

One festival-goer, Steve Mesker, a Capitol Hill resident since 1999, visited H Street in the 1980s with a friend for breakfast and recalled being the only two white guys on the entire block.

H Street has come a long way not only in terms of diversity, but it has also managed to advance beyond its reputation, once mired in urban decay and defined by its fire-charred and cracked sidewalks and vacant buildings with broken windows, attracting many frequenters.

“You know the eighties was not a great time in some neighborhoods here,” Mesker said referring to H Street. “It’s improved. Just in general, Washington has gotten a lot wealthier.”

Prior to the revitalization effort which has taken place over the past decade, native Washingtonian and Inspire BBQ vendor, Akisha Greene noted, “H Street was messed up during the riots of Martin Luther King Jr., so they burned (it) down, so it was a part of town that D.C. kind of wrote off.”

With the influx of wealth generated by real estate developers, rising property values has forced out some local businesses, paving the way for a number of new businesses that have cropped up along the H Street Corridor over the past few years, a trend that has been impacting the District’s trendiest neighborhoods.

“There wouldn’t be an H Street Festival without gentrification, but the cool thing is, I think they’ve done a good job. As you can see there’s a mix of crowd(s) here, all kinds of different people. That’s cool. I think D.C. still has that and hopefully that will stay,” Mesker said.

Mesker observed that while the festival has grown and was comprised of a mishmash of arts and culture and places to eat and drink, it also flaunted a tamer, corporate element by including kiosks for Ford, ZipCar, Car2Go, Geico, REI, and Arsenio Hall as compared to the funkier street festival held several days earlier in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood.

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Once shopping was no longer on the agenda, revelers could watch small-scale fashion shows, attend educational events, converse with local entrepreneurs, artists, and community organizers, or take their children to have their faces painted.

Additionally, there was a lineup of psychedelic and steam-punk inspired cars and trucks and Burning Man-esque installations that the crowd could meander around and snap photos of.

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Some the attendees became attractions too, for instance, a woman pushing around an electric blue stroller overflowing with four Dachshunds captured the curiosity of onlookers while others fawned over a 9-month-old cat on a leash.

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Despite the weather reports promising a cloudy day, by mid-afternoon the sky opened up and rain poured with a fury, slightly dampening the joviality of the festival.  Attendees caught off-guard without umbrellas scattered to find shelter and their movements throughout the festival appeared to be timed with the intensity of the downpour.

“As soon as I got out onto the street, it started raining and I had to just go and find a place to shelter from the rain, so I didn’t really get a chance to listen to any of the music,” said D’lena Duncan who drove in for the festival from Germantown, Md. and spent 30 minutes locating a parking spot.

It seemed the rain was determined to turn the H Street Festival into the H20 Festival, prompting jokes from the Fanthom Comics booth.

The vendors and festival-goers braved the inclement weather, but eventually with the rain unrelenting, the vendors, one by one, began to pack up prematurely.

Despite the clash between the spirited festivities and the uncooperative weather, the organizers of H Street Festival seemed to have successfully accomplished their goal of attracting people throughout the District and beyond to experience the hidden gems of the new and improved corridor.

“I generally like street fairs. I think it brings out the best in every neighborhood,” said Adar Schneider, a San Francisco native and junior at George Washington University.

All in all, it was a sublime day to sing in the rain on H Street, NE.

6 Things I Learned From Producing My First Video

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**Photo Credit: Jimmy Hicks III

On Tuesday, I showcased my first serious video effort along with my classmates in my Digital Storytelling and Strategic Communication class. The professor only expected that our first videos use cutting in camera, known as the “holy grail of filmmaking,” a technique that involves establishing the storyboard scene by scene and following that framework during the shooting process. However, I think a lot of us got carried away and definitely did more editing for our 2 minute films than the professor required. Most of the films were pretty great for our first attempts and revealed that the only way to learn and get better is to make mistakes. Here are 6 things I learned from my first video project:

  1. Editing Takes A Lot of Time! I learned that it’s necessary to schedule several hours of uninterrupted editing time.  For my first video project, I spent 7 hours editing, but I think once I develop greater familiarity with Final Cut X that amount of time can definitely be reduced by half.  I also learned that a lot of editing time can be mitigated by being attentive when shooting, for example, framing the shot well and controlling for light and sound. Editing can really help the narrative come alive and is only bounded by the editor’s creativity.
  2. Shooting with an iPhone Can Actually Yield Quality Results! I learned that if you invest in a quality film app like Filmic Pro and filming accessories for iPhones such as a Gorillapod, a GLIF– a mount for a tripod, lenses, and an external microphone, you can be well on your way to producing Hollywood cinematic quality videos, but with one caveat, you must develop directorial/cinematic technique.
  3. Controlling for Light, Sound, and Stabilization Can Be Crazy Difficult! While it can be overwhelming to have to think about controlling for light, sound, and stabilization, doing so will save you so much time and frustration in the editing suite.  In my first video, I decided to shoot outside and I noticed that I had to deal with the sunlight, which kept blowing out my takes, bystanders, and ambient sound. For light and sound, I learned that you should try to shoot indoors unless shooting outside truly matters to the story you want to tell. If you do decide to shoot outside, make sure that the sunlight is behind the camera and lighting the subject, but beware that too much sunlight can wreak havoc as well. Having an external microphone attachment can help capture sound better. I learned that the natural environment like a sidewalk or branch of a tree is your friend as well as a book or a tripod all can tremendously help to reduce camera shake, which if not tempered can cause stimulation sickness for viewers.  When worse comes to worse, there are ways to correct those issues during post-production, but you’re much better off controlling for those issues during production.
  4. More is More! I learned that it never hurts to ask your subject for voice-overs or to take more than enough b-roll. When you’re editing you may want to show your subject in action and use the voice-over to coincide with footage of the subject to break up the flow of the story or there may be issues with audio such as overpowering ambient sound that you’ll be grateful you thought to capture your subject’s voice-over and additional footage.
  5.  Don’t Forget to Think About Composition! I noticed when editing my film that I have a tendency to cut too low on my subject, hence giving my subject an inadvertent haircut.  I realized that how you compose a shot says a lot about your technique, but also the emotions you want to invoke in your audience. Apparently, there is the rule of thirds that says when you align your subject according to and along those nine intersections and two horizon lines when composing a shot, you can create more tension, energy, and interest than merely haphazardly placing your subject anywhere in the frame.
  6. Choosing a Dynamic Subject Will Help Make Your Story Come Alive! The subject of my 2 minute film is Amber T. Lee.  I think how she oozes passion when she articulates her story really translates to the viewer in a compelling way. After showing my video, my professor commented that my subject really helped make my storytelling come alive. I realized that featuring a captivating subject can help trump filming inadequacies.

Check out my first video effort and step into the creative world of Amber T. Lee, a 23-year-old bubbly, yet focused and determined self-supported artist: Portrait of Amber T. Lee.

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington Reveals Feelings of Triumph and Frustration

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**Photo Credit- Erin Robertson

On Saturday, amid a sunny backdrop, along with tens of thousands of others, I descended on the National Mall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, retracing the footsteps of those 250,000 people, who undeterred by the sweltering summer heat of 1963, marched for civil rights.

Preceding the march named “The National Action to Reclaim the Dream,” Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Martin Luther King III and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), arranged for a number of prominent speakers including King, Sharpton, first black Attorney General Eric Holder (D-N.J.), Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to gather on the white marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial where they addressed the crowd, reflected on and reaffirmed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “Normalcy Never Again,” popularly known as the revolutionary, “I Have a Dream” address.

Image**Photo Credit- e-strategyblog.com

In his speech, King delivered these famous words, “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

In the half-century since, much of Dr. King’s dream for positive change and greater equality for all has been realized and a number of the speeches delivered optimistically applauded America’s evolution in race relations.

The time that has elapsed reveals that attendees’ fashion sensibilities have shifted away from their predecessors’ finest threads like sharp suits, elegantly flowing dresses, and carefully coiffed and pressed hair. No longer are such displays of sophistication and respectability required to disarm, command credibility, and symbolize a collective emblem of worth. Instead, crowd goers seemed to feel freer to don casual attire with images of Dr. King, President Obama,Trayvon Martin, and other black political martyrs proudly emblazoned on colorful, commemorative t-shirts and sport dyed, braided, and natural black hairstyles.

As I walked among the throngs of people inching my way closer to the orators, I was encouraged to see considerable diversity. The crowd no longer looked like pepper with a dash of salt as seen in old photographs, but an all-seasoned mix.

Image**Photo Credit- The U.S. National Archives

For example, I met Allie O’Neil, a 22-year-old white girl originally from Birmingham, Ala., the city where the bus boycott sparked the genesis of the civil rights movement that escalated into widely broadcasted clashes between black youth and white police. The fact that she felt moved to attend the march demonstrates considerable progress.

“I feel like it’s important to be here to celebrate people who have fought a lot for civil rights and for human rights in general. And I think it’s important to be here still years after the fact to re-initiate the fight and the push towards human rights,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil noted that in the twenty years since she has lived in the South, she has noticed a lot of improvements particularly for the influx of Latino and refugee communities that are thriving and gaining access to more resources.

Furthermore, Anis Ahmed, a Maryland resident who emigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh 29 years ago, jubilantly turned out to celebrate the momentous occasion, representing NAACP of Montgomery County, Md.

Ahmed acknowledged that without the blood, sweat, and tears shed by civil rights activists backed by watershed organizations like the NAACP several decades ago as well as the transformative words spoken by Dr. King, his ability to offer a better life for his children in the form of American citizenship could not have been realized.

“This is a great testament for all folks throughout the world and in this country and especially like me. I owe all of this to the 50th anniversary to celebrate and honor because without this movement, I couldn’t be here today,” said Ahmed.

Many attendees embraced the memorial as an opportunity to passionately champion their causes on hand drawn or printed signs. The issues varied from demanding an end to search and frisk practices to calling for immigration reform to appealing for acknowledgment of LGBT marriage rights, all contentious issues of the 21st century’s civil rights movement.

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**Photo Credit- Erin Robertson 

Dr. King’s words sensing the difficulties and simmering frustrations of the moment still resonate and could be felt among the crowd.

In recent months, there have been several setbacks such as the watering down of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, which has unleashed a firestorm of outrage. Those stumbling blocks were invoked by the speakers reminding audience members that much still remains to be accomplished to ensure equal opportunities and protections under the law for all people, regardless of color, creed, or sexual orientation.

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**Photo Credit- Erin Robertson 

Image**Photo Credit- Erin Robertson 

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn parts of the 1965 Voting Rights legislation inspired husband and wife, Robert and Gail Lamont, both white, to board an all-night bus from Chicago to Washington for the event.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Mrs. Lamont cited as one of three reasons that she and Mr. Lamont traveled from their home state.

The Lamonts met while teaching at a segregated black high school in the West-side of Chicago where Mrs. Lamont encouraged her students to memorize verses written by black poets like Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks.

On the heels of the civil rights movement of which they came of age, the Lamonts have worked tirelessly to assist in the election effort of President Obama, heading to Iowa nearly ten times in the past two presidential election cycles.

“It was very important to me to drag my white husband’s face to doorways in Iowa, so that Iowans know that white men were voting for President Obama too,” said Mrs. Lamont.

When I thanked Mrs. Lamont for taking the time to share their personal story as crusaders for civil rights she replied, “It’s so tiny, but every little person that does something just adds to the wave.”

“There are many more white people in this audience today than there was 50 years ago. That makes me happy. There are people who have changed their personal decisions in their lives and wanted to be here today. Other progress I see are people being hired in many more positions that weren’t available to African-Americans 50 years ago or even 10 years ago,” she said.

Like the Lamonts, others traveled considerable distances to attend the event. Eleanor Lundy-Wade bused in from Philadelphia, Pa. She was particularly excited to hear Rev. Joseph Lowery, present at the original march, speak.

“We’ve come to Washington to agitate,” the 92-year-old and founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference said, “And we’re going home to agitate.”

When speaking to the sort of “agitation” and progress that she would like to see, Lundy-Wade said, “If we can help every kid to graduate at least from college, that would be wonderful and that would be a big progress because then everybody would at least have the same minimal standard of excellence.”

Jim Stowe, Director of the Office of Human Rights for Montgomery County, Md. recalled watching the Civil Rights Movement unfold on the evening news as a 7-year-old. In his lifetime, he has witnessed a lot of changes for the better.

“A lot of progress has been made, but the problem is if we don’t keep making more progress, then whatever progress you would have made becomes null. It becomes pretty much stuck in a rut. And so, we must constantly be in a mode of improvement, of going forward, of trying to right wrongs, and (we) can’t ever be content with where we are.  There’s always a better place, there always is,” Stowe said.

For Stowe, progress looks like arriving at a place where people challenge themselves to grow comfortable interacting with others who think and act differently as well as fight as fervently for others’ rights as much as they advocate for their own.

After the speakers concluded, I and other rally members made our way to march east from the Lincoln Memorial, past the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the first of its kind on the National Mall dedicated to an individual who was not a former president, to the Washington Monument. Before dispersing, I noticed an older, yet vivacious woman holding a sign that read, “We Marched in 1963, March on Washington.”

Image**Photo Credit- Erin Robertson

I learned that Sarah J. Davison, a retired school teacher, attended the march 50 years ago as a 15-year-old president of North Little Rock, Ark.’s NAACP youth council. She attended the march the first time around because she was livid that she and her black peers were treated as second-class citizens, forced to sit in the back of buses, drink from “colored-only” water fountains, and use second-hand books at her segregated black high school.

Fast-forward 50 years, Davison said she never expected to see a black president in the White House, a major leap forward, but she also did not anticipate seeing the diluting of the Voting Rights Act, a major step backwards. While Davison said she is disappointed to witness such a rollback in the progressive momentum she fought tirelessly for as a youth, she still believes that America is a great place to live; she still loves her country, and she expects it to move forward propelled by its youth.

“I think we’ll move forward from today because it’s the people that move the country forward, so if we can make sure the young people, the adults, everybody is involved and says, ‘I want to make a difference.’ If we start letting young people know that they’re (here) to make a difference and they get involved, I think we will move forward in a more positive direction,” said Davison.

“I always (tell) young people, you weren’t born just to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. You were born to make a difference in the world,” she added.

On Wednesday, a more intimate march called the “March for Jobs and Justice” will be held on the actual anniversary of the March on Washington. President Obama will add further to his legacy as the nation’s first black president by standing on the very steps of the Lincoln Memorial where the slain civil rights icon stood to proclaim those well-known and profound words, “I have a dream.”

**Video Credit-sullenToys.com