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Monday, October 25, 2004

What are you reading?

I'm curious, what do you read regularly? Check this out from Time Out New York.

And this is good news from the Wall Street Journal. It seems Dow Jones is going to offer free access to Nov. 8-12 in an effort to drive new subscriptions. That's good news because now viewers can decide after viewing the online content for a week if they think it's worth paying $79 year for a subscription.

Ticket to the world

My passport arrived in the mail last week. I've been trying really hard not to be too giddy but the thing is, that little blue booklet is my ticket to the world and don't think I'm not completely JACKED (as my boys would say) at the possibilities.

Suddenly there are no barriers to just hopping on a plane and heading to London for Christmas or Paris in April. Well, okay, maybe there's that huge barrier known as money. But in the eyes of the state department, I can travel the world.

Much of last week was spent preparing for Korea. I wrote a presentation: "How Blogging is Shaping News Coverage," and I booked my flight. It's a long ways to Korea, 7,333 miles one way to be exact. I'll be leaving Cleveland at 9 the morning of Nov. 14, will switch planes in Minneapolis for a long flight to Tokyo (though I've just learned that two of my SPJ colleagues also will be on that flight, making the 12 hours seem not so bad) and then endure three more hours from Tokyo to Seoul, picking up a few more SPJ colleagues on that flight. We arrive in Seoul at 9 Monday night.

We've got Tuesdsay to get adjusted before the conference starts on Wednesday. My 82-year-old Grandma called me Friday night and told me that jet lag is all in your head. (Apparently she told my late Grandpa the same thing when they spent a month on their Grand Tour of Europe 20 years ago.) "Just get outside and keep to a schedule and you'll be fine," she said. Gram originally called me to say she wanted to join me on the trip. I think she's very nervous about me traveling that far, but she's also excited about the opportunities. I've promised to give her a a full report over lunch when I return.

Now on to the next big Korea challenge—what to pack...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Struggling with the church

For many reasons I've struggled with my faith over the past few years. I am a born-and-raised Roman Catholic and (aside from my fours years in college) I've been a practicing Catholic all my life. But it's hard work. The personal, private side of my faith still sustains, but the communal practice—the "church"—has left me feeling raw. And that's not good, because celebration is a big part of the Catholic faith.

I find little cause to celebrate right now. And its largely due to the politization of Catholicism. Driving down Lake Road in Bay Village the other day I nearly veered off the road at the sight of a smattering of campaign signs that read: Catholics Against Kerry. What??!! Is this what our faith proclaims? That we are not FOR something (or someone) but AGAINST a fellow church member? And, gee, let me guess the ONE reason why?

My blood was boiling. How can you sit there in church on Sunday, send your children to Catholic School and profess to ascribe to God's all loving model and then throw a sign like that in your yard? Simply proclaiming your support of Bush/Cheney would suffice. Though I don't profess to have any hotline to heaven, I'm pretty sure Jesus would NOT approve of such slamming of individuals in his name. And what message does that send our children? That we are short-sighted enough to base our entire political belief—and our very important vote—on one issue, which really has little to do with the state of our country?

When it comes to issues involving the future well-being of our country, they are numerous and they are critical and they are being largely ignored in this election process. Life is not black and white and it's an ignorant viewpoint to base your decision on one issue. The wise voters will read varying viewpoints and make their own determination, not based on one issue, but based on their informed perceptions about who will do a better job of leading our nation.

Connie Schultz had an excellent column in today's Plain Dealer. She writes about Catholic women who are feeling hurt, betrayed and angry by their church. I can relate.

Connie writes:
"For weeks, Catholic women have written and called me, often anonymously … they want me to know their faith is important to them, that they attend church regularly and want to remain active in their parishes. But they also want to talk about how painful it is to sit in church these days because their wombs, and what they do with them, have become fodder for sermon after sermon meant to influence how Catholics will vote in this election."

As one woman told her: "It's not just what the priest says, it's all the propaganda that comes with it." I'm not sure if I believe the diocesan director of Pro-Life that these efforts are not directed by the diocese. I'd like to think that's true, but this is a diocese that has made it mandatory for volunteers at schools and churches to be fingerprinted if they spend more than four hours in the building. Seems to me the problems related to the sexual abuse scandal were largely (though not exclusively) at the hands of the clergy, not the parents who volunteer.

I know there are some who would say, "Leave if you don't like it." It's not as simple as just leaving, though I'm sure many are feeling forced out. My heart is eased and comforted by the rituals of the Catholic church. It's what I know and, for the most part, what I need. One of the greatest comforts is that both my mother and grandmother have shared similar feelings throughout their lives, sharing with me their own struggles with the church, not necessarily their faith.

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I believe in God as an all loving and merciful being (that's my New Testament leaning). And I believe that it's the church's role to pray for the wisdom, guidance and leadership of ALL our political leaders, period. Not any specific one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Out of the rut

"Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive." — Edith Wharton

This has been one of those weeks in which I've sought to break out of the rut. How easy it is to slip into habits—waking at the same hour, eating the same foods for breakfast, reading the same material and in the same order. It often takes a conscious effort to break those habits.

Rewards are plenty when you turn toward uncharted ground. This week I've engaged in different opportunities, including speaking to two groups. What a difference meeting with different people has on your outlook.

Last Saturday morning I spoke to the West Side Writer's Group on stretching your writing muscles. I was prepared to speak for about 20 minutes and then answer some questions. But this incredibly lively group of fiction writers and poets had many questions and the first time I looked at the clock, it was an hour-and-a-half later. We spent time getting to know each other, talking about what we read, what we write, what inspires us, what scares us.

Yesterday afternoon I joined two of my SPJ colleagues and a magazine editor in discussing freelance writing with students in a feature-writing class at Cleveland State. I loved hearing about the students ideas, their passions, their plans. And I was reminded that sometimes the best remedy for falling into a rut is to drag yourself out to the masses. It forces you to open your eyes to new possibilities. And it gave me ample inspiration to carry me through another few weeks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Good morning, Mr. President

As professional experiences go, interviewing a former president has to rank pretty high. Yesterday I had 15 minutes on the phone with former President Jimmy Carter. Admittedly I was a little starstuck at first.

"Wendy, I have President Carter on the line," said the publicist.

"Good morning, Wendy. How are things in Cleveland?"

"Good morning, Mr. President. Things are fine, wet and crisp as you'd expect in October." Phew! I got through that first comment without fumbling over my words. I was supposed to talk to him about his new book, which I did. But I had a world leader on the phone and felt compelled to ask him questions related to his work on behalf of human rights and freedom and to ask him to respond to his criticism of the Bush Administration. Here's what I learned:

1) He's not so soft-spoken in an interview situation. He was "handling" the interview quite smoothly just like most politicians. The worst experience I ever had interviewing a public official was with George Voinovich when he was governor of Ohio. I had to interview him the morning after Christmas and he managed the entire 45 minutes driving his agenda of "working harder and smarter." When I finally managed to get a question in about his record on education (he called himself the education governor and most in the education community took exception to that moniker), his handler said, "Governor, we have two more minutes." I nearly tossed my pen in frustration.

2) At the age of 80, I get the impression Carter's not holding back in life. He's advocating peace and democracy worldwide through the Carter Center, writing and traveling constantly. Of late he's also speaking out (to the dismay of Republicans) and publicly disagreeing with the Bush Administration's handling of foreign policy. (Many have questioned whether it's acceptable for a former president to question the commander-in-chief. I, for one, believe this commander-in-chief needs to be questioned more, not less.)

More recently he's charged that the election process in Florida (and he even mentioned Ohio) has not yet been been fixed. He's concerned about our loss of integrity in the election process (a point he apparently shares with local voters after listening this morning to WCPN's discussion with the head of Cuyahoga County Board of Elections). The Carter Center, which is in the profession of holding honest elections around the world, will turn its attention and standards for uniformity and integrity and balance in the elections process on its own country this year.

3) When I mentioned that I was traveling to South Korea soon, he told me to keep an open mind. (I think I can manage that.) He claims that the Bush Administration has driven a wedge between North and South Korea over those pesky nukes. It seems that many of South Korea's younger set favor reunification at any cost and, well, that just doesn't sit well with us Americans, what with our aversion to nuclear weapons, terrorism, dictactorships, etc. He heard President Bush describe how he was in the most dangerous spot in the world at the DMZ and Carter says he looked at his wife, Rosalynn and said "that’s where we built eight houses last year." Think I detected a touch of smugness in that remark.

Beyond feeling at his age he's entitled to speak his mind, I can't help but wonder if he doesn't have his own agenda. Who knows…? If John Kerry is elected president there may yet be a position for Carter as special ambassador to North Korea. Or for the Carter Center to be peace broker of the decade, thus earning it a much-coveted Nobel Peace Prize. Hmmmm…

Friday, October 15, 2004


My current favorite song is by John Mayer. I find the lyrics poignant to my life and filled with wisdom beyond this musician's years. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

"I know a girl
She puts in the color inside of my world.
She's just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change.
And I've done all I can
To stand on the steps with my heart in my hand.
Now I'm starting to see
Maybe it's got nothing to do with me.

"Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do.
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too.

"Oh, you see that skin
It's the same she's been standing in,
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she's left
Cleaning up the mess he made.

"So fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too.

"Boys you can break
You find out how much they can take.
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without warmth from a woman's good, good heart.

"On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the guide and the weight of her world...

"So fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do.
Girls become lovers
Who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Going international

Life has certainly taken a quantum leap in the last month. I have been invited to be a member of the Society of Professional Journalists delegation to Seoul, South Korea for the second East Asia Journalists Forum Nov. 14-21.

While there, my colleagues and I will be participating in a three-day exchange with journalists from that part of the globe, led by our counterparts in the Journalism Association of Korea. We've been asked to provide speakers for panels and I'll be speaking on a panel covering trends in the new media industry.

One of today's tasks was to turn in my passport application (which I had to pay out the nose to have expedited). As I pulled out of the Westlake post office parking lot it hit me: I'm finally going to see another part of the world. I'm thrilled and scared and trying my hardest to keep cool but inside my stomach is doing a little jig.

It was a trip that almost wasn't. I received the e-mail notice and nearly dismissed it out of hand. I mentioned it casually to my neighbor who looked horrified when I said I hadn't really thought about going. "I know you're not thinking about NOT going," she said.

I set about getting more information about the trip and discovered that I nearly passed up an incredible professional opportunity. I talked to my family about going and met with some resistance. It's not exactly the most stable part of the world and it's right before Thanksgiving and my oldest son's birthday. But I'll be home in time for all the festivities and, in the end, it was just too good an opportunity.

Our trip will take us across the U.S. and the Pacific to Tokyo and then on to Seoul. It's about a 20-hour flight across the international date line. In Seoul, we'll have lunch with the mayor of Seoul, visit the DMZ, talk about war and the role of journalists, hear from Christopher Warren (president of the International Federation of Journalists), dine with government ministers, visit historic Gyeongju and the Bulguk Temple.

My head is spinning. I've been asking everyone if they've ever been. Turns out two of my brothers-in-law have, and I've been duly warned about kimchi, a common delicacy of beef and cabbage in which the beef is slow-cooked in a clay crock buried in the ground amid manure. Yuk! Think I'll pass.

I've also been warned by one of the women who attended last year that the members of the JAK love their rice-based liquor and apparently imbibe with gusto at karaoke bars.

Warnings aside, everyone I talked to said it's an amazing experience, one not to be missed. And so, as my son Ryan told me, "Screw the terrorists." I'm going to Korea.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Long-term payoff

A good friend of mine once counseled that I must think about how I can solve a particular editor's problem, as in their need for good stories/ideas, etc. Of course I should've known this because I've been an editor with those very problems. But somehow hearing his words and "steady there" always seemed to set me in the right frame of mind for evaluating a potential project. And so whenever a new one wafts my way, he is the person I consult first. The reason is that he's never given me bad advice.

In fact, in a way he's been the one to gently shove me when I've hesitated and the one to cause me to ease off the gas when I'm a bit too jazzed. How can you thank a friend like that? It's impossible, really, except that you have to do what he espouses daily and pay it forward to someone else.

And that's exactly what I hope to do. Because the words he shared with me back in March and April, when I was still wondering if I had made the right decision about my career, are literally paying off for me now in terms of steady assignments.

There's not a professional situation I launch into these days in which I don't hear his words in my head: "Steady there," "turn this over in your mind a bit," "think about what problem you can solve," "how can you make a connection here," "how can you turn this into a positive for Wendy Hoke."

Though I consider him a friend, I suppose he's really been a mentor. The reason I bring this up now is that I've been reading and writing a lot about mentoring. I'm convinced that behind every successful individual is a mentor or mentors who were early observers of potential, and coaches for life. In a story I just completed, I asked CEOs of 10 companies about their mentors. All along the way, they were quick to credit someone who saw in them qualities that would pay off in the long term.

Although I'm still a long ways from my dreams, I take comfort in knowing that my friend and mentor is a phone call or an e-mail away, always the calm to my frenzy and the cheerleader to my doubting Thomas. And the constant reminder that I must be happy in small ways. With a little luck and effort, I hope to return the favor.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Contemptible decision

I’m pretty sure the average citizen could really care less about a federal judge’s decision to cite New York Time reporter Judith Miller for contempt for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA agent’s identity. But it shouldn't care less.

Just read this column from LA Times columnist Tim Rutten. He notes that “the Bush administration's war against the press entered a chilling new phase” with U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan’s decision.

Here’s an important excerpt:

“It's possible that only avarice makes corporate or governmental bureaucrats more ingenious than the inclination to secrecy. Faced with an embarrassing leak, why not demand that every employee who might have been the source formally waive any guarantee of journalistic confidentially? Anybody who declines might as well wear a sign that says, "Fire me. I'm the snitch."

“How long can it be before private corporations demand blanket versions of such waivers as a condition of employment?

“This country is now at war in part because our government acted on misinformation collected in secret and selectively disseminated. Miller and the New York Times were unwittingly complicit in that process.

“The fact remains, however that the road to Baghdad was paved with ignorance. Miller and her colleagues may understand this with a special clarity, but the 1st Amendment rights they defend are not theirs but the American people's. As they weigh the merits of Miller's case, Americans might ask themselves whether they'd like to know more or less about their government's conduct when they go to the polls next month. That's what this fight is about.”

And if you’re still not convinced of the urgency of this matter, I invite you to read Bill Moyer’s speech to the Society of Professional Journalists National Convention in September.

"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." — James Madison, fourth President of the United States

Panic relapse

It happened again two weeks ago. I nearly set myself down the same destructive path of stress that I sought to avoid by becoming my own boss. All the symptoms came rushing back -- the giant knot in the middle of my back, the chronic headaches, the hives, inability to sleep and a constant upset stomach. I thought I had learned the lesson that life is far too short to allow myself to be physically ill over work.

But I relapsed just as my counselor years ago warned might happen.

There simply weren't enough hours in the day to accomplish my work, let alone be a wife and mother. Granted all was complicated by the loss of my computer. Regardless, I was rapidly coming unglued. And when the pain in my chest started rising in the middle of a interview I knew I had pushed myself too far. Only this time I knew what was happening. So I sat in my car, took many deep breaths, put on a little Van Morrison and closed my eyes to the sun. I had a steady diet of coffee and Altoids for a week straight. It was time to get on the treadmill, drink plenty of water, eat well and not set foot in the office after dinner or on the weekends.

This weekend I spent a lot of time outside, playing with my boys. And it was just what I needed. Something about fresh air seems to clear the brain of all the clutter. I've come to some difficult decisions about some of the work I'm doing. I love writing. But the constant drain of one project was leaving my creative vessel utterly empty. And that's a frightening place for a creative person to find herself.

I was warned that the big steady paycheck may not be nearly enough for the time involved. And that's indeed the case. I've learned the hard way that I'll either have to substantially increase my fees or simply pass on the project in 2005.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Digging out

My computer is back with a new-and-improved hard drive and I'm beginning to dig out of the wreckage of a hectic week. Hope to be posting again later this week.

In the meantime, here's a little wisdom courtesy of musician Jack Johnson.

"Don't let your dreams be dreams,
you know this living's not so hard as it seems."