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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Constitutional immersion in the City of Brotherly Love

In a few hours I'll turn my attention away from the mass of editing and toward packing for my weekend as a fellow in the Peter Jennings Project for Journalism and Constitution. I depart for the City of Brotherly Love tomorrow morning and, hopefully, will have a few hours before the weekend begins to explore the area around Independence Hall, where I'll be staying.

I don't need much—a good local bookstore, a walk through Independence Hall, and a stroll through the historic neighborhood of Society Hill. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and my photos will turn out. Otherwise, I'll find a good coffee shop nearby and while away the hours with my book.

For now, I'm in packing mode. Gotta make sure I have all the necessary traveling items—iPod, cell phone and charger, journal, laptop and cords, notebook, business cards, boarding pass, gum, throat lozenges, camera and batteries. Should I bring my tape recorder? Nah. I don't want to mess with it and will prefer instead to absorb the info.

I'll be posting a bit here and there as the weekend continues. The conference is a mixture of small group case study workshops with larger discussions on the Constitution and race, women and the law, and interrogation and the Geneva Accords. Sherilynn Ifill, University of Maryland law professor, will lead my workshop on a free speech case involving Minnesota judicial candidates and the "announce clause."

Early this morning I was thinking about what my husband would say when friends ask, "Where's Wendy?" His response is likely to be: "She's in Philadelphia for some work thing." That response is fine, but the real reason I'm going is to become a better journalist, to get inspired by the subjects that first inspired me to go into journalism.

A trend began to slowly emerge as I sat down to write my personal statement for my fellowship application. It began with the realization that all my life I've been counseled by well-meaning people not to rock the boat. But the longer I wrote, the more my path became clear. I'm giving a voice to those who don't have one or can't use theirs. I write about ordinary people, sometimes doing extraordinary things, living extraordinary lives or facing extraordinary challenges. These were the stories that stood out from nearly 20 years as a journalist:
"For the farmers who watch as their fertile land is stripped from them so that the wealthy can build their mansions; for the blacks and whites who must daily work on the delicate balance that an integrated community requires; for the business owners who find their livelihood stripped away at the hands of one man's greed; for the undocumented immigrant mothers who are torn away from their children in order to serve the interests of the law; and for the educators who embody in loco parentis in the hopes that they can save a generation of children from economic despair."
I write out of a belief that we can—and must—do better as a nation. For my part, I'm going to Philly to learn how to do better by those ordinary people about whom I write.

Word of the day
introspection: a reflective looking inward : an examination of one's own thoughts and feelings


Michelle O'Neil said...

Don't forget to watch Larry King tonight after you get all packed.

And while you're there, ask the journalists why they've dropped the ball on autism.

Thanks Wendy!

Jill said...

Ooo - have a FANTASTIC time!!! :)

Wendy Hoke said...

Thanks to you both!