Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

I usually write my “favorite stories from last month” wrapup on the first Sunday of each month, but last week I felt compelled to write about voting and common decency.

Now that we at least have results from the election, it’s back to regularly scheduled programming with my favorite SmartBrief stories from October.

BoardSource

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

I always look forward to hearing about the newest group of MacArthur Fellowship winners. There were 21 winners this year. I enjoy the challenge of trying to squeeze as much information as possible about such accomplished people into our two-sentence summaries (as you can see, in this case I added a rare third sentence to try to give more winners their due). These people are in good company, with one of the many accomplished alumni being Lin-Manuel Miranda (class of 2015).

Business Transformation SmartBrief

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

A Black-owned bank gave Ryan Williams an opportunity when many other potential financiers had turned him down. Here, he discusses why it’s so important to provide capital to companies owned by Black people and explains why that correlates to reducing racial disparities.

International City/County Management Association

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

This flood-protection system in Venice has come up in SmartBrief before. They were put to the test for the first time, and worked (for the most part), leading one business owner to say she was “somewhere between incredulous and happy when it worked.” Maybe it would have been a more dramatic story if it had failed, but 2020 needs some success stories and I’m happy this system protected businesses and a vulnerable city.

National Association of Social Workers

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

We had so many great stories in this newsletter last month. We discussed the elections, challenges of the pandemic, an asexual person’s take on life and more. However, I have a soft spot for farmer mental health, owing in part to having worked on the Crop Insurance SmartBrief before I was an editor. I’m always happy when we can share a story that can help fortify a farmer or help a social worker be prepared to serve someone in that profession.

National Emergency Number SmartBrief

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

The Journal of Emergency Dispatch has such informative articles about the profession. This one, “You Drive the Incident,” was no exception. The author explains how the way a dispatcher modulates their voice can make a notable difference in how a call goes. She also recommends dispatchers listen to themselves on a recording. Do any of us like listening to ourselves? I don’t particularly love it, but when I’ve forced myself to do it when preparing a speech, etc., it has helped me to a better job. I’m sure the same is true for dispatchers.

Reserve Officers Association

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

This article itself is nice, with its focus on holistic health. What caught my attention, though, was the inclusion (for the first time) of postpartum health considerations.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

I’m pretty excited that female astronauts finally have a toilet that is more tailored to their needs. Space is a pretty bad place to have an uncomfortable experience in that area of life.

UN Wire

Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

This was a brief mention from a newsletter standpoint, but I was drawn to the fact that India and Pakistan cooperated to undertake “control operations” to prevent locust infestations. The two countries have a tense relationship, so this was heartening news. What if countries (and individuals) took account more often of the risks faced by being stubborn and found a way to come together?

The STEM Summit is a wrap!

On October 22, I had the opportunity to be a part of SmartBrief’s STEM Education Pathways Summit. Our speakers included Nadia Lopez, author of “The Bridge to Brilliance,” who opened a school in Brooklyn that made an incredible difference in its students’ lives. I got to moderate two sessions and help with the social media of the day’s other sessions. It was such a joy to work on this with my colleagues and to virtually meet so many fantastic educators among the 1,000+ participants. You can access the recordings on-demand by visiting this link.

Geniuses, better toilets in space and more
Geniuses, a better toilet in space and more

About working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying and have questions, please email me so we can discuss further.

Here are a few of the most recent US-based positions that have been advertised:

Editor (finance) for tomsguide.com (NYC)

News editor for tomsguide.com (NYC)

Managing editor at T3.com (NYC)

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

Peyton Manning tried to be anonymous, but …

I had a celebration (September 10 was my two-year anniversary as an editor at SmartBrief) and a lesson learned (don’t try to attend two simultaneous online conferences without getting your other work covered) this month.

These were my favorite stories:

BoardSource

I love the fact that Peyton Manning tried to make this donation anonymously. The world needs more giving that’s done just for the sake of doing a good thing rather than gaining attention.

Business Transformation SmartBrief

A reader sent me a less-than-positive message about the poll question in this issue that corresponded with this story (Will state and county fairs recover after the pandemic?) Maybe I failed to convey the connection, but fairs are about more than cotton candy and fried Oreos. In the case of Los Angeles County, the Fairplex is a nonprofit that serves the L.A. County area year-round. According to its website, the Fairplex “provides more than $2.7 million in tax revenue, and an additional $5.8 million from Fairplex-related events.” Business transformation isn’t just about big corporations making more widgets; it’s about businesses serving communities in a way that is economically advantageous.

International City/County Management Association

Full stop … this is my favorite type of story (and admittedly I have a few favorites). If my family sees this, they’ll say, “Yep — mom would totally clean a storm drain twice a month for a T-shirt.” It wouldn’t be about the T-shirt, though. I love efforts that bring communities together. It’s why I was a part of this.

SmartBrief on Leadership

Editing SmartBrief on Leadership is a rare privilege for me — something I get to do when the regular editor is out. One line in this Entrepreneurs article that we summarized is, “Everyone has a role in how we reach racial justice in this country.” It’s so true.

National Association of Social Workers

The bill this article talks about is the John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. The article discusses the “invisible wounds of war” and features a picture of Hannon’s family, survivors of his death by suicide. Thank you, veterans, for your service. I only hope our country gives you the mental health care you need and deserve.

National Emergency Number Association

Dennis Schlies showed incredible professionalism and focus to keep working as a dispatcher even as his own home was burning and he didn’t know the whereabouts of his wife and the older adult in their care (the humans are safe now; the house is not).

Reserve Officers Association

Having grown up a Navy kid, I’m a sucker for a meaningful military ceremony. I love the visual of the fire trucks spraying this KC-46A Pegasus in greeting as it arrived.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

I love how one of the winners of a Breakthrough Prize got the idea for the discovery that led to him winning a prize in mathematics by thinking about “how a droplet of water will spread across the surface of a napkin.”

UN Wire

“Learning is not a crime, and neither is living — on the contrary, these are rights,” said a high school student from Niger who addressed the United Nations Security Council. I strongly agree.

About National Inclusion Week

Last week was National Inclusion Week in the UK (SmartBrief’s parent company, Future, is based in the UK). As part of the week, we were encouraged to make videos about what makes us included at work. Here’s mine:

About working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

The tweet I sent on my SmartBrief anniversary. I’m so grateful to be a part of this organization.

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

July — it’s a month that starts off with a holiday that celebrates freedom, but most of us spent its 31 days hunkered down in our homes waiting for positive progress toward getting rid of COVID-19. Those of you who are essential workers didn’t have that luxury, and I applaud you with the most resounding applause I can muster. Thank you.

My colleagues and I are getting a bit tired of writing the three words “amid the pandemic,” but sometimes that’s the only way to express the backdrop of business and life right now, especially when we have a limited amount of space. Therefore, although it’ll make a few colleagues grit their teeth, here are my favorite stories from the July newsletters I edited for SmartBrief — yes, amid the pandemic.

BoardSource

In the July 9 issue of the BoardSource newsletter, we shared an article in which the CEO of PayPal, Dan Schulman, discussed how PayPal is giving $30 million in grants to Black-owned businesses as a demonstration of support. He explained his philosophy:

“Values can’t just be words on a wall. Otherwise they’re just propaganda. You have to live them, you have to act them out. And you have to demonstrate them visibly.” – Dan Schulman

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

Business Transformation SmartBrief

I have been fascinated by the fact that the pandemic has led to a change shortage and a general speeding up of our society’s progress toward being a cashless society. In the July 24 issue, one of the summaries included three articles — one about the coin shortage, another about how quickly the world will become cash-free once the pandemic wanes, and one about the various ways grocery chains are responding to the coin shortage — that covered different aspects of this topic. This is the only brief in which I routinely run polls, and here’s what people think about the route to a cashless society:

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?

International City/County Management Association

We have a section in the ICMA SmartBrief that recognizes when local government professionals make transitions such as retirement or beginning their service in a new place. It was such a pleasure to be part of sharing the news of Jane Brautigam’s upcoming retirement as the city manager of Boulder, Colo., in the July 28 issue.

Jane is the current president of ICMA, and I was at the association’s conference last year in October when she took office. Going to the conference gave me such an appreciation for the role its president holds, and I recall the positive message she shared as she took over. I’m so glad I had that opportunity to be a part of ICMA’s annual meeting and to get to know some of our readers.

Here’s an interview with Jane as she began her term:

National Association of Social Workers

Recently, I drove my dad to a single-day surgery clinic so he could have a procedure done. The clinic had told me they had a “shady spot in the parking lot” where I could wait for him (because the lobby is closed to visitors). I didn’t mind waiting in the car (especially now that I finally have a car with air conditioning).

However, I had not given too much thought to restroom options, since they had said the procedure would last 45 minutes. Apparently I’m really bad at medical procedure math, because I took them at their “45 minutes” word and didn’t factor waiting time pre-procedure, prep time and recovery time into the plan.

About half an hour after I had dropped him off, the staff asked me to come get his jewelry so they wouldn’t be responsible for it. When I approached the door for the jewelry, I asked if I could use the restroom. Although the answer wouldn’t have been a firm “no” if I had been pushier, the answer was, “well then we would have to take your temperature” and they clearly did not feel inclined to do that. I asked if I had time to drive somewhere to go to the restroom (this seems hilarious in retrospect) and they said “yes.”

I went to get gas, which I needed to do anyway. That place’s restroom was closed.

Then I figured Starbucks would be a safe bet. After navigating the Starbucks parking lot (why are so many of them so awful?), I went into the establishment and saw a “restrooms closed” sign.

Then I ended up at McDonalds. Their bathrooms were open (limit 5 people at a time). This has been the second time during the pandemic that a McDonalds has saved me when I needed a restroom (thanks, McDonalds).

I would have needed to do the whole hunt all over again if the staff hadn’t found my dad “cute” and wanted me to come in to hear the post-procedure instructions. Thankfully, I was able to use the restroom then (it had been a few hours since the McDonalds trek). I did fail the initial temperature test (maybe because I had been sitting in a hot car for a few hours? I didn’t want to run the air conditioner continuously so I had been alternating window open and A/C on), but I finally passed and was able to use their restroom.

How does this relate to SmartBrief you ask? The whole time I was on the restroom odyssey, I was thinking of an article we shared in the July 24 issue about how there are so many fewer public restroom options during the pandemic. For some homeless people, this apparently has led them to either wear adult diapers or use “5-gallon buckets filled with kitty litter.” What has our society come to when this is the only option for some of our fellow humans?

National Emergency Number Association

Let’s just juxtapose two stories that represent July for the Public Safety SmartBrief from NENA. In the July 28 issue, there was a story with the headline “Agencies advise against calling 9-1-1 about masks.” Then in the July 30 issue, we ran “Experts advise calling 9-1-1 in certain mask situations.” Different places, different policies. Ultimately, while there are limited times when it’s appropriate to call 9-1-1 about a mask situation, it’s not OK to do it to tattle on someone who isn’t following the rules. That clogs up phone traffic and may keep someone whose life is in danger from getting help rapidly.

Reserve Officers Association

In the July 6 issue, we discussed the National Guard’s response to COVID-19. The National Guard has been part of our awesome free testing site here in Tallahassee (I got tested there in May). The Defense Department has approved giving two medals that National Guard members can earn for their service. They are the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Armed Forces Service Medal. These are well-deserved honors for such critical work.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary Society

An article we shared on July 13 about a 120,000-year-old necklace that helped researchers understand how string originated was interesting enough. But here’s what got me: One of the study’s co-authors, Ofer Bar-Yosef, died in March. His wife was the study’s primary author and said, “I know he would have been very happy and proud to see this paper out.” I found this very poignant.

UN Wire

In the July 13 issue, a story discussed the Srebrenica genocide and how nine additional victims of the massacre from 25 years ago had been buried recently. So many things about this story were so sad, but as with so many things about UN Wire, it was the human face of the mother profiled in a video embedded in the story — a mother who lost her husband and her sons — that made this story stay with me.

“I can’t bring them back, I can’t forgive [the perpetrators], and I can’t take revenge.” – Ramiza Gurdic

Also in my SmartBrief World:

The Education Writers Association National Seminar

I participated (virtually of course) in the Education Writers Association National Seminar, and I very much appreciate EWA awarding me a scholarship to attend. My colleague, Kanoe Namahoe, also attended. She and I are working on a wrapup post, so I’ll link to that next month.

For now, I’ll share that one of my favorite sessions was the one with Nic Stone, author of “Dear Martin” (among other books). “Dear Martin” was challenged in Georgia earlier this year. Very few things fire me up like a book challenge. Here’s something Nic Stone said that I agree with wholeheartedly:

“Censorship issues always highlight to me the way adults in positions of authority think about children.” – Nic Stone

A post about anti-racist workplaces

I wrote What is it going to take to get unstuck from racist practices at work? based on a Quartz webinar I attended in June. If your workplace has done something that helped you and your colleagues make progress toward being an anti-racist workplace, I’d love to hear.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

What does kitty litter have to do with social work?
Side note: You know this is an old picture because I haven’t gotten my nails done since the pandemic began. :-/

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

June: Not your ordinary news month

When I wrote my wrap-up of my favorite May stories from SmartBrief, I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference between the pre-May 25 stories and the post-May 25 stories. I even added a story from the June 8 issue (which at the time hadn’t even been published yet) because I found it so reflective how rapidly the nonprofit sector’s focus had shifted after George Floyd’s murder.

Setting the tone

I realize it’s probably an awful habit to check my email before I get out of bed in the morning, but I do. Therefore, the first work-related thing I read on the first day of June was Why are leadership thinkers silent about Floyd and the protests? by SmartBrief senior editor James daSilva. This post made a difference to how I approached the month for a few reasons. To put it most succinctly, “silence is also a message,” one of the key points in the post, is so true. It’s true as it relates to the way governments and businesses choose to respond to challenging times in society, and it’s true for us as individuals.

In addition, I breathed a sigh of relief after reading this post because it was a sign to me about the choices I could make in my editing work as the month progressed and as I contributed to SmartBrief’s leadership Twitter account, which I help manage (please feel free to follow if you don’t already). Finally, it was published at the beginning of a day that finished off with the CEO of Future plc, SmartBrief’s parent organization, saying , “We have never made a political statement at Future and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.”

As an organization we won’t know if we have succeeded in showing that we support that fundamental truth for a long time. But it made a difference that our CEO said something — immediately and without reservation.

Now, having gotten that long prologue out of the way, these were my favorite stories from June.

BoardSource SmartBrief

In our June 3 issue, there was an article about how to empower Black-led organizations to help their communities. Author Jamye Wooten founded an organization that provides microgrants through the Baltimore Black-led Solidarity Fund. Wooten said, “Relationships move at the speed of trust and social movements move at the speed of relationships.” This captures so much about what makes nonprofit efforts work (and last), all in one sentence. 

June: Not your ordinary news month

Business Transformation SmartBrief

The Business Transformation SmartBrief (BTSB) has four focuses: change management, “people, planet and profitability” (which is, to overgeneralize, about environmental, social and governance factors in investing), digital innovation, and any research that applies to those areas. An article we shared in our June 3 issue discussed 10 reasons change management efforts may fail. One of the reasons is the belief that “leaders can force people to change.” In my experience, a leader may be able to make change happen, but doing so comes at a cost to morale, productivity and long-term success.

The post’s author wrote, “A senior manager who tried that approach told me, ‘All I got was malicious compliance.'” The term “malicious compliance” seems about right. And I agree with this reminder: “People need to understand the motivation for change and leaders must ‘win them over’ to succeed.”

Entrepreneurs

I filled in as the editor of SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs for the June 26 issue. The issue included a story about Alexa von Tobel, who founded LearnVest, a company that was designed to help people understand financial planning better. LearnVest was sold to Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for $375 million. Von Tobel discussed how she started the business with only her savings (no capital). “I had so much conviction,” is what she says about her process.

Although von Tobel was discussing a business decision, “I had so much conviction” seems to apply to other aspects of June 2020 and the challenges we all face.

International City/County Management Association

In the June 22 issue of the ICMA newsletter, we included a story about how the St. Paul, Minn., City Council voted to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Prohibition of conversion therapy is an important issue to me. I advocated for such a prohibition here in Tallahassee, Fla. It ultimately passed, but one of the City Commission meetings I attended as the discussions played out will stay on my mind for a long time. People who have been personally affected by conversion therapy were courageous enough to describe their experiences. People who spoke of their opposition to conversion therapy were too cowardly (or perhaps just uneducated) to be compassionate toward people who didn’t fit their idea of the absolutes into which people should be sorted.

I’m happy to see conversion therapy bans being passed in more places. The American Psychiatry Association has opposed the practice since 1998.

National Association of Social Workers

Relando Thompkins-Jones wrote a piece called Representation Matters in Social Work: We Need More Black Therapists. We shared that piece in the June 9 issue. Thompkins, who is Black, discussed how frustrating it was to have a (white) therapist who “hadn’t heard of Amy Cooper, didn’t understand the racial dynamics at play in the story, and was not aware of the death of George FloydBreonna TaylorTony McDade, or others.”

Thompkins-Jones makes the case that there need to be more Black therapists, and suggests a “pathways approach” that provides support such as mentoring, field placements and workshops to help build skills for aspiring Black social workers.

Must practitioners always share the same identities of the people they support? No. Are understanding identities and their connection to power, privilege and oppression in relation to others important? Yes. Do we need more Black therapists? Yes. — Relando Thompkins-Jones

National Emergency Number Association

I have lived in Florida most of my life, so hurricane prep has been a consistent part of our routines. In this article from the June 4 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief (NENA), a county emergency management director was discussing how hurricane preparations will be complicated by the pandemic. After explaining that people seeking to stay in hurricane shelters would “need to bring including masks, snacks, food ready that’s to eat and bed rolls,” Rupert Lacy said, “A shelter is refuge, not comfort.” That is technically true. I’ve never had to stay at a hurricane shelter (yet), but I can’t imagine a time when comfort is more sought after than when you and your family are away from your own home, unsure if it will still be standing when you return.

Reserve Officers Association

The June 1 issue of this newsletter had a story that discussed how the Army Emergency Relief program had expanded benefits for Army National Guard members or Reservists affected by the pandemic. One of those is a zero-interest loan of up to $3,000 to deal with taking care of the remains of family members when it’s impossible to have a funeral right away due to lack of capacity at funeral homes. This is known as “dignified storage.” There’s nothing wrong with the term, but it made me sad that it has to exist.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

There were some excellent pieces of writing about the need for more diversity in science last month. In our June 9 issue, we shared US scientific societies condemn racism in the wake of George Floyd death. Several scientists presented compelling statements. Megan Donahue, an astrophysicist who is also president of the American Astronomical Society, wrote, “Racism persists because many of us have refused to see it.”

In addition, I found Donahue’s candidate statement from the time she ran for the office. The election was in 2017, so this statement dates back at least three years. Part of her statement reads, “I propose to increase AAS-supported outreach to underserved communities. We have hard work to do to meet the challenges ahead, from shrinking science budgets to meeting our own high standards for opportunities for all.”

Donahue’s statement occurred long before the George Floyd murder. It’s not that racism wasn’t present in 2017, but there wasn’t a national conversation of the type we’re having now. I admire Donahue for making diversity and “opportunities for all” a part of her platform.

UN Wire

I’m sorry to end this month’s wrapup on such a negative note, but the June 26 issue of the UN Wire newsletter had a story about the millions of Yemeni children facing starvation due to the pandemic.

And if the picture of the starving newborn atop this story doesn’t move a reader, I don’t know what will.

It’s a heartbreaking image, but one that the things I’ve discussed in all the other stories above — motivation, trust, conviction, acceptance, comfort, dignity, making sure the underserved are accounted for and putting aside our refusal to see racism — can be applied to making the type of change that literally helps people survive.

How to Build an Anti-Racist Company

I participated in a webinar on June 11, How to Build an Anti-Racist Company. (There’s a full replay here for Quartz members or people who take the 7-day trial.) This is a huge topic to fit into one hour, but that hour was an hour well-spent, and it will help me make a more focused contribution at my organization.

I wrote about the webinar here, and would love for you to tweet SBLeaders to share a commitment can you make to making your organization more anti-racist.

June: Not your ordinary news month

Working at Future/SmartBrief

This is a section I share every month. I do want to add that our organization just grew substantially as Future’s purchase of TI Media was finalized.

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

June: Not your ordinary news month
I always work from home, but right now all of our staff members are working from home. For that reason, here’s a nice memory (and a lovely quote) from my visit to our DC office last December.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

No sports? No problem! Here’s a news game

The world is pretty much without professional and college sports right now. I have done 18 posts to highlight my favorite SmartBrief stories for each month, so although this little game won’t replace the thrill of the Final Four or a spring of baseball, hopefully it will change things up a little bit from my previous formats and exercise your brain.

The briefs I edit fall under the “nonprofit” umbrella, yet they are pretty diverse. Maybe it’s just the pandemic talking, but as I looked back at my favorite stories from April, there seemed to be similarities I don’t always see. Is it logical that there was an intersection between social work and business transformation? Is there a way science and social work converge?

I will do my usual breakdown of briefs and favorite stories after this, but if you want to challenge your mind, here’s an option.

Click on the graphic below and it will take you to a game.

After clicking on the graphic: 1) Click the green arrow to start 2) Click the red “next” button 3) Now you’re at the game! Drag the topic area to the quote you think it matches. For example, if you think “public safety” matches up with ‘Why don’t we just try … then become that?’, drag “public safety” to that quote. It will only stick the correct brief area to the correct quote, so the good news is you’ll have scored “100” by the time you’re done!*

No sports? No problem! Here's a news game

Whether you played the game or not, here are my favorites.

BoardSource (Nonprofit board management)

This story in the April 7 issue of the BoardSource newsletter was about how the American Refugee Committee went about rebranding itself. The article goes in-depth about how the organization arrived at its new name, “Alight.” I was struck by the executive director’s comment that they asked themselves, “Why don’t we just try to do what we think is right, and then become that?” So many businesses and nonprofits do things the other way around — picking a name or logo and then trying to squeeze themselves into that identity. I liked the call to really think about WHAT you are doing before telling the world WHO you are.

Quote: Why don’t we just try to do what we think is right, and then become that?

Business Transformation SmartBrief (Business transformation)

This is the newest brief to my lineup (it was created in December of last year). It has the word “business” in its name for a reason, but I like the stories that encourage people to think in transformative ways as much or more than the stories that are more narrowly focused on business and the fourth industrial revolution. In the April 10 issue, we shared a story about the power of imagination, even at times like this when businesses are forced to make very cut-and-dried decisions to survive.

Quote: Imagination is … one of the hardest things to keep alive under pressure.

International City/County Management Association (City/county management)

The reason I chose a quote from this story that was in the April 14 issue requires a brief explanation. The county council involved found itself in the position of choosing to reassure citizens that they would not increase taxes. That sounds a bit vanilla BUT … the prospect of a tax increase (which only one of the five members was supporting) really only got public attention because it was, for the first time, published in a larger newspaper than usual. It had to be published in a larger paper than usual because the smaller newspapers that used to carry legally-required ads of this type are now defunct.

The quote I chose for the “game” is “there are no more local print newspapers closer to the area,” but this is one that needs to be read in context.

“The advertisement was placed in small, local publications in years past. This was the first year that it was published in The Washington Post because there are no more local print newspapers closer to the area, [the county budget director] said.”

and

“The ad might have received more attention this time because it was placed in a large newspaper and people might be reading through the newspaper more because of a stay-at-home order in effect in Maryland.” (Also a statement by the budget director.)

Moral of the story: Newspapers of all sizes matter.

National Association of Social Workers (Social work)

Our team member who does the searches for the social work stories does a great job of trying to find angles we haven’t covered before. That’s why I especially liked this story in our April 23 issue about how the pandemic challenged traditional Ramadan practices this year. A social worker talked about how stay-at-home orders are especially difficult on elder members of the Somali American Muslim community where she works in Minnesota. The quote I used came from a business owner who was providing more context (and it’s certainly universal beyond social work).

Quote: The businesses here are losing a lot of money because few people are buying.

National Emergency Number Association (Public safety)

One of the areas of focus for the NENA Public Safety brief is how law enforcement uses social media to communicate with the public. That’s why I loved this story in the April 2 issue about a sheriff who is being a creative communicator. Sheriff Robert Maciol and other department staff members have been going to schools around the community to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and broadcast it on Facebook live. I’ve heard so many instances of kids missing their school routines. I have to imagine this delights some children (and their parents).

Quote: In these tough times, neighbors and communities need to band together.

Reserve Officers Association (Military reserve officers)

Before I read this article in the April 27 ROA newsletter, I have to admit I was a little skeptical (ignorant, I suppose) when I would read about an entire ambulance being decontaminated or an N95 mask being reusable if appropriately decontaminated. But this article explained it very well and made me appreciate the National Guard troops who are deployed against COVID-19 even more.

Quote: We’re trying to find out how much hydrogen peroxide is needed for how long, to be effective in different HVAC systems.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society (Science)

We use Gizmodo as a source fairly often in this brief, but I am always excited when one of the articles we’re sharing is from its Birdmodo category. In the April 9 issue, we shared an article about a rare hybrid hawk and how it came to be. The writer has such an engaging style; he makes bird stories fun to read while also providing accurate scientific information. I’ve been married for 27 years, so I can’t say I still know for sure whether it’s swiping left or right that’s a good thing, but I definitely got the point when the writer said this:

Quote: … after years of unrequited courting, someone finally swiped right.

UN Wire (United Nations Foundation)

Finally, UN Wire, which as you can imagine for an international brief dealing with issues relevant to followers of the United Nations Foundation was heavily weighted toward the pandemic. The story I chose a quote from is related to the pandemic too, but as a Shot at Life champion and advocate for children worldwide to have access to immunizations, this is the one that stood out to me. It’s from the April 29 issue.

Quote: The effect of the lack of vaccinations has already begun to emerge.

Fun with a webinar

Since going full-time at SmartBrief in September 2018 (I had been a freelancer for a while before that), I have been reflecting on the adventure of climbing a whole new learning curve after having a career in a different industry. Some things feel much more comfortable now that I can see the two-year mark in the near future. Yet there are always opportunities to do something new. In April, I got to moderate a webinar. My part was pretty limited (introducing the speakers, helping get the questions asked by participants to them, saying goodbye and closing things out), but the whole process was interesting.

As I’ve learned from being a volunteer producer on the New York Times readalong and from some other recent experiences helping facilitate livestreamed events, preparation matters OH SO MUCH. Therefore, it was as interesting to me to see the backend pieces (meeting with the presenters, etc.) as it was to do the actual event. If you’re interested in learning more about GovPilot (government management software), you can get access to the “Cloud-Based Government Management for Crisis and Beyond” webinar by visiting this link.

Keeping people informed isn’t a game

I’m proud of the work we do at Future/SmartBrief. I take seriously our role in helping people stay informed, especially at a time when information is flying all over the place (not all of it especially accurate).

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. As of this writing, the most recent position listed is this Digital Ad Trafficker position in our Washington, D.C., office. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

No sports? No problem! Here's a news game

*I know the score it gives you isn’t “100.” It’s actually designed for you to review the topic areas/terms first then try to beat the clock. Hey, I’m the nonprofit person, not the educational design person!

**The views expressed here are my personal views and not those of my employer.

Sister survivors: Moving on after abuse

Two 2018 ESPY winners, one I met in person and another I saw via video, factored heavily in my experience of the International City/County Management Association conference in October.

One was Jake Wood, co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, who gave the opening keynote speech.

Another was Brianne Randall-Gay, who won an ESPY in 2018 alongside her fellow Sister Survivors, the women who spoke out against serial abuser Larry Nassar.

I am positive every one of the hundreds of “sister survivors” would have traded the trophy, the time on the national stage and the acclaim to have lived a childhood free of sexual abuse.

“The Girls”

I first became aware of Abigail Pesta and her book, “The Girls,” when she appeared on the October 6 New York Times Readalong.

During the readalong, Pesta said one of her goals had been to capture the experiences of some of the athletes who may not have been as much on the public stage as gymnasts such as Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

Pesta’s book was thoroughly researched, and the research was perfectly complemented by her human, compassionate treatment (without glossing over extremely graphic details) of the young women she interviewed (along with their families).

If a book could be said to have a mission statement, I think this one’s is: “Help heal the past while protecting people, especially children, from being victims in the future.”

As survivor Natalie Venuto said in a Goodreads comment, “…reading this book triggered a lot of painful memories, but I know that it will help me heal.”

Meridian Township apologizes

I downloaded “The Girls” on Audible immediately after hearing Pesta speak on the readalong. As coincidence would have it, I was reading the passage about Brianne Randall-Gay’s attempt to tell the Meridian Township police about Nassar’s abuse in 2004 right before I heard Township Manager Frank Walsh and Chief of Police Ken Plaga iave a presentation, “A National and Personal Apology,” at the ICMA conference. It was one of the top sessions out of hundreds of options.

Here’s the police report:

Sister Survivors: Moving on after abuse

The police called Brianne’s family in after they completed their investigation, told them Nassar had confirmed his practices were accepted medical standards, and explained they were not pursuing any charges.

In 2018, after it became apparent that Nassar had gone on to abuse hundreds of athletes after Brianne, the Meridian Township in Michigan issued a public apology.

Walsh outlined five main takeaways other local government professionals should learn from this experience. The last one was, “investigate, apologize and foster change.”

Meridian Township has made drastic changes in their investigation protocol since this situation was mishandled. Walsh noted how the police report described in detail where Nassar inserted his finger into Brianne’s vagina, but it also says that he repeatedly massaged her breasts. Walsh discusses the powerpoint Nassar gave to supposedly document the medical nature of the treatment, but it does not refer at all to a breast massage. When a reporter pointed out the breast massage and its total irrelevance to the “treatment,” the reporter asked “How did you miss that?” A valid question, and the township is addressing that by the revisions to training and procedures.

Although the title of the session was “A National Apology,” and the apology was its centerpiece, the “foster change” part is undoubtedly the township’s most lasting legacy (that and whatever healing it allowed Brianne and her fellow survivors to experience).

This is a video made by Brianne that is now used in Michigan for training law enforcement and others. Even if you click out of this blog, please do it after taking the seven minutes to watch this.

A former gym mom’s perspective

The New York Times Readalong community has become a close-knit group over its four years. This was pretty candid on my part, but I am comfortable enough in this group that I knew I could say it with support. One of my first comments as we were talking with Abigail Pesta and I was processing her description of her interactions with the survivors was, “I hope as a gym mom I would have had the strength to put aside my stage mom tendencies and see what was happening to my child.”

I’m not especially proud of it, but I had my own agenda that was a counterpoint to my daughter’s gymnastics goals. (And obviously, her gymnastics life is her story to tell, but it was a significant piece of my parenting, so I’m speaking strictly from my perspective.) I had been a fat, nonathletic kid who was always chosen last in elementary school for PE, and when I realized my child was an excellent athlete with the accompanying discipline and artistry, I was mainly relieved that her childhood wouldn’t be plagued by the self-doubt and ostracism that I had experienced on the sidelines of what appeared to be an athletic world I didn’t fit in.

We (probably more me!) would seek out private lessons anytime we traveled. There was a lengthy period where she didn’t feel well most days and I would give her a motrin and a decongestant — a combination that seemed to help her get through practice. Our expenditures were probably somewhat modest compared to some competitive gymnastics programs (thank you TGC for being so affordable!), but they were significant and included doctor visits to check out little physical twinges, nights spent worrying about a variety of things and the loss of perspective regarding whether she was happy or not.

She won the Level 4 state championship in 2006 and decided to leave the sport in 2007.

In retrospect, gymnastics was good for her (even with my stage mom-ness), and she left at the right time.

Most important, she was at a gym where she did not end up being sexually abused. I can only hope if I had been sitting in a room where a “doctor” was putting his bare fingers in her vagina on the premise that it was “helping” her (Nassar often conducted his abuse with a parent in the room, by strategically placing himself in a way that he disrupted the parent’s line of vision), my good sense would have overridden my ambition and I would have said, unequivocally and persistently, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT.”

Sports culture

I also think you could delete all of the references to gymnastics apparatus, leotards and the US Gymnastics Association from this book and it would stand alone as a testament to a culture that encourages children and their parents to trade a somewhat normal childhood for a regimented one that leads to scholarships and (potentially) money.

We will always be a culture that praises accomplishment, I think, but where does it end? Where do we as parents (and relatives/friends of young people) reinforce the message that “you are enough” whether you are an accomplished young athlete or not?

Communities protect predators

Another thread through Pesta’s book and the speech by Walsh and Plaga was the way people who abuse children often infuse themselves into the community and position themselves as a “good guy.”

Walsh noted that Nassar was running for school board in his community in 2016. Nassar got “over 2,000 votes” even after the initial story about his abuse was released. Walsh also commented about the 35,000 images of child pornography found in Nassar’s dumpster in front of his house when police conducted an investigation. Walsh said many people think it may be the pornography, not the experiences of the hundreds of his victims, that ensured he got jail time.

Nassar befriended these young women (it was grooming, not true friendship), gained the trust of their families, fooled almost everyone.

Preventing future sexual abuse

When I was sexually abused by a trusted adult when I was 13, I was fortunate that my parents believed me. Yet I am still haunted all these years later by the fact that it can’t have been just me that he was taking advantage of.

It’s one of the reasons “The Girls” and the presentation by the Meridian Township officials has resonated so much with me.

What if that officer in 2004 had had better training regarding how to interview a victim of sexual abuse?

What if the guarantee of the nurse who processed Brianne’s rape kit when she worried that she would be perceived as lying “it’ll be OK – they’ll believe you” … had been correct?

What if hundreds of girls could have had their confidence and childhood innocence preserved because Nassar had been stopped in 2004 rather than 2016?

What if? What if? What if?

Here are some tips from Stop It Now! in the event a child in your life says they are being abused:

  • Stay steady
  • Believe what they say
  • Reestablish safety
  • Free them of self-blame
  • Express your rage to appropriate people
  • Get help
Sister Survivors: Moving on after abuse

Brianne gets the last word

In the video I shared from Brianne, she says, “I have a wonderful family, a fulfilling career. I still suffer severe anxiety and nightmares related to the abuse.” She goes on to say “Today, myself and over 200 of my sister survivors stand together, bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse and promote a culture that no longer enables predators but empowers survivors.”

The ESPY was nice and well-deserved, but why did things have to go so far in the first place? Why are anxiety and nightmares still a part of Brianne’s life instead of just enjoying her young family and her adulthood?

Thank you, Brianne and sister survivors, for helping change this narrative. You are more than “the girls.” You are victors in every way.

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and “Working With”

I closed out October by going to my friend Rachel’s house for trick-or-treat. She lives in a neighborhood that is the center of activity for hundreds of ghosts, goblins and a T-Rex or two. Note to self: Don’t go to Rachel’s house next year unless it’s possible to get there before the kids descend. I’m just so relieved I didn’t take out a 3-year-old unicorn.

This month at SmartBrief felt a little like that too. Before I knew it, I was awash in great stories and couldn’t always see the road ahead of me very well for all the great content.

Here are my favorites:

BoardSource

In the October 10 issue, the Nonprofit Whisperer explained the difference between “working with” and “doing for” in nonprofit agencies. This is something I have personally been evolving about, so this perspective was meaningful to me.

National Association of Social Workers

Food insecurity among college students comes up not infrequently in the articles I read for SmartBrief. In the October 10 issue, I learned about the Leftover Textover program at the University of Oregon, a program that sends text announcements to students when there is food left over after campus events. Makes so much sense, but why does this have to be?

Sigma Xi, the Science Honorary Society

Chances are you either played with oobleck as a kid, or made oobleck FOR a kid, or in some other way have encountered the ooey gooey substance. In our October 14 issue, we learned all about the scientific data behind the predictability of oobleck. I was fascinated!

The video embedded in the article was so cool; it reminded me of my son and his curiosity growing up.

UN Wire

Have you ever heard of Varosha? If you have, you’re ahead of me in the geopolitical knowledge realm. We discussed it in the October 11 issue, because the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed its intentions to protect the uninhabited part of the Cypriot city of Famagusta from being resettled. (There are concerns that Turkey will try to change its status.)

I kept reading the articles, and looking at the pictures, and marveling at how a previously 2.3-square-mile, civilized place can go uninhabited for FORTY-FIVE YEARS.

The concern is that Turkey would disrespect the rights of Cypriot people who deserve to go back to their homes. Honestly, this one stumps me a bit but here is a decent explanation. I just suspect if I were there, I would be so tempted to just put a foot on that forbidden sand.

National Emergency Number Association

I was happy to read in the October 8 issue about new California laws that benefit first responders. One creates standards for peer support programs and another provides workers’ compensation for stress-related illnesses.

Reserve Officers Association

Feeding National Guard members is no small task. I learned from our October 2 issue about the Army National Guard Food Service Phillip A. Connelly competition, which seeks to recognize the best cooks in the guard. The food service manager credited a regional win to “an emphasis on basic kitchen skills, hard work by the cooks, and support from the rest of the company.” I loved this article because — although it was about food prep — it was also about excellent team work and the value of supporting each other.

International City/County Management Association

Because of the way the ICMA newsletter is structured, stories in the top section, which is always a leadership story, almost always gets the most clicks.

When story that is not a leadership piece makes it into the “most read” category for a month, I know it struck a chord somehow.

Such was the case in the October 2 issue with a story about officials in Ames, Iowa, who insisted on keeping their rainbow crosswalks that were intended to celebrate inclusion. I learned all about the Federal Highway Administration’s rules about crosswalks, which have been an issue for crosswalk art in other cities such as the keyboard crosswalk in Rochester, N.Y.

I also had the pleasure of attending the ICMA conference in Nashville, Tenn.

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and "Working With"

Before I went to the conference, I prepared this pre-conference report.

The first day of the conference, Jake Wood, CEO and co-founder of Team Rubicon, spoke about conquering chaos. I wrote this post about the takeaways from his speech. And we met!

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and "Working With"
(The shirt and check were gifts from my Disney College Program parents’ group, which is giving proceeds from shirt sales to TR. Lucky me to be their messenger.)

I also shared this brief video encouraging people to subscribe to the brief.

And I wrote this post about the 10 words I heard on the conference’s final day that captured its essence.

About working at SmartBrief

As you can tell, it has been a full month. I feel so fortunate to have met so many of our readers at the conference. It meant so much when someone would say, “Oh I definitely get the newsletter!”

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 11/3/19:

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

A Recap

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

(I’m linking up this week with Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt “write about something you’re looking forward to,” because I’m looking forward to what November brings.)

My October: Oobleck, Varosha and "Working With"

Stories Worth Your Time: SmartBrief August 2019

“Busyness chokes deep thinking.” This quote, attributed to Todd Stocker, rings true to me. Our days don’t seem to afford much time for deep thinking, and that’s a loss for all of us. Do yourself a favor and think a bit more deeply about these stories I’ve curated from the SmartBrief newsletters I edited last month.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

Hopefully, it is well-established among my readers that I am a passionate supporter of literacy, reading and all things book-related. This article in the Sigma Xi newsletter touched on one of the reasons why. Titled “Science fiction as a potent policy tool,” the article talks about the role of popular fiction in shaping policy.

Scientists should focus less on the possibility that citing fiction works will weaken the power of accurate facts and more on the way doing so can educate and pique interest, says Lindy Orthia.

August 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

UN Wire

The United Nations wants to end child marriage by 2030. This article, shared in UN Wire on August 5, introduces a series called “The Worth of a Girl.” UNICEF says more than 12 million girls per year get married by 18, many of them without the girls’ consent. As the mother of a daughter, I grieve all those girls who don’t get a say in their future.

August 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

The rest of the series is available through this link.

Reserve Officers Association

The fact that the Circle of Heroes underwater dive memorial is free to visit (for people who can dive) isn’t the most important part of the story shared in the ROA newsletter on August 7. The most important part, of course, is the fact that it honors veterans. It also has the potential to help veterans with physical disabilities and mental health challenges by providing therapeutic diving opportunities.

I found the sentence about the “first-of-its-kind underwater dive memorial [being] free and open to the public – at least to people who can dive” amusing for some reason, even though it’s accurate.

Mainly, I admire the tenacity of the people who have supported this project and provided yet one more way to honor those who gave all.

August 2019 SmartBrief wrapup
An artist’s sketch of the underwater Circle of Heroes Veterans Memorial.
Photo Credit: Brighter Future Florida

National Association of Social Workers

Occasionally, there are little snippets of insight-via-wordsmithing that take my breath away among the many things I read when editing. In the August 9 NASW newsletter, we shared an article about times when challenges provide reminders of the need for self-care. This particular article discussed the author’s leg injury and the recovery period, which necessitated her reassessing her priorities and letting go of her fierce independence.

Sometimes the fall is the path, wrote Erlene Grise-Owens. It’s so true.

August 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

International City/County Management Association

The ICMA newsletter had a story last week that is one of my favorite types of stories in this brief (and in life). It was the fourth most clicked story last week, and the most clicked once I excluded the leadership items, which often rank highest since they appear first in the brief.

The town of Christiansburg, Va., wanted to honor a deceased fire chief by flying the American flag at half-staff. They went ahead and did that at the mayor’s direction, but while it was flying at half-staff, someone said “you can’t do that — it has to be by order of the president or the governor.” The city did raise the flag again, but the issue did not die.

They still asked the governor (who said “no” after the fact … and after the town manager asked three times). The mayor spent $247.50 on fees to get an official opinion from the city attorney (who concurred that the death has to have happened on duty to warrant the president or governor authorizing the half-staff honor). There was apparently a “string of emails” obtained by the Roanoke Times that chronicled the discussions.

The town manager said, “The governors make exceptions when they feel like it and they all seem to operate under the ignore the request model so that they do not have to tell you no — I had to contact them three times to get told no.”

While waiting for the governor, the mayor pursued the town attorney’s legal opinion.

The situation took many twists and turns. I can’t begin to calculate the staff time it theoretically took to work through it. At one point, the mayor said, ” There’s no insinuation I’m more powerful than the president or governor “

Eventually, they decided “Hey! Let’s buy our own city flag [cost: $224] and we can do what we want!”

BoardSource

I’m a little torn regarding which story to highlight for BoardSource. We run lots of stories every month that highlight incredible philanthropic efforts, such as this story about organizations that help people with disabilities through surfing programs. However, I think the BoardSource mission, “to inspire and support excellence in nonprofit governance and board and staff leadership,” calls on me as the editor of this newsletter to share strategies to make that mission a reality.

Perhaps that need for sound strategy is why “Resignation-request policies are a good practice for nonprofits” was the most-clicked story in August. The article looked at recent issues such as the board membership of Warren Kanders at the Whitney. Protests ensued because a company Kanders owns manufactures tear gas that was used at the US-Mexico border. Kanders eventually resigned.

“Probably right now, many boards don’t have a policy around [resignation-request policies], but prominent nonprofits are going to have to. If they don’t, they’re risking future funding or they’re risking public protests like the Whitney saw,” said Melissa Berman of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Resignation-request policies may not be glamorous nor do they inspire in the same way many stories we share each month do, but that type of topic is essential to good board management, and good board management makes the inspirational stories happen.

National Emergency Number Association

We shared a story in the NENA newsletter last week that covered a lot of ground in one article (making it really difficult to condense into two sentences). The article addressed an issue somewhat local to Phoenix (dispatchers’ efforts to get the City Council to increase funding so they can get additional staffing, systems and access to therapy resources).

In addition to talking about how Phoenix dispatchers are advocating for themselves, the article also discussed the 911 SAVES Act, which proposes reclassifying dispatchers from the federal “administrative support” designation to “protective service.” This would help them get more benefits, better training and more professional respect.

Speaking of the 911 SAVES Act, here’s my most recent Editor’s Desk video for SmartBrief. In the one-minute video, I explain the act and why it’s so important to dispatchers.

NOTE: I would appreciate shares of this video. The act has passed the House but not the Senate. While it is not my place to advocate, but rather to help NENA tell their story, this issue seems like such a no-brainer. We will all need 9-1-1 at some point (or a loved one will). (And big gratitude to Steve Harrelson and the Consolidated Dispatch Agency in Tallahassee, Fla., where I made the video. If only one the emergency of that one piece of unruly hair had been dealt with LOL.

It has been a year!

August 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

Technically, this comment should possibly wait until next month’s wrap-up, but it really seems relevant for August. I got a manicure in late August of last year that approximated SmartBrief blue as closely as possible. I did that because I had a video interview on August 29 and — although no one would see my hands — I wanted a bit of encouragement.

The nail color choice (and my answers during the interview) must have worked, because I received my offer of full-time employment a couple of days later on August 31.

Although I didn’t transition from my freelance status (which had begun in January 2017) to full-time until September 10, that sequence of events in August and especially the offer on August 31, has always felt like the true turning point. I learned so much throughout four years of freelance work, but I am at heart a person who does better on a team, and I am particularly grateful to be on this one.

Openings on the team

I invite you to peruse this list of openings. I wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 9/9/19:

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To Recap

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

SmartBrief is designed for people who are in a hurry (aren’t we all). Each of these stories in one way or another made me slow down and absorb them in a deeper way than editing the story technically required. Each one matters, and each was worth spending the extra time.

(I’m linking up this week with Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt “write a blog post that ends with the word “time.”)

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

A Scientist Swallowed His Research and More: SmartBrief July 2019

Was July supposed to be a relaxing summer month? If so, I missed out on the relaxing. (I did sneak in a quick trip to Tampa to see Hugh Jackman in concert, though. What a treat to see such a consummate artist and spend time with a friend.)

July 2019 SmartBrief wrapup
A favorite image from my visit to Tampa.

I spent the rest of the month working as usual (and praying for our house to sell so I can afford to spend some time at a more laid-back pace during some future summer).

It’s a good thing I love working. July, as in all the other months, did not disappoint. We also created “best of” issues for the July 5 holiday. That was a fun project, and I’ll share a link to each one.

National Association of Social Workers

It’s no secret that homelessness is a chronic problem for many communities. The National Alliance to End Homelessness says 17 out of every 10,000 people in the US “were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018.” In the NASW newsletter, we shared the story of safe parking lots. Run by a nonprofit, these facilities on the west coast provide a safe place to sleep and access to social workers who help people living in their cars find stable housing. (As this post explains, the legality of sleeping in your car in public varies. The safe parking lots provide more stability and, as mentioned, case management that may help people find more permanent accommodations.)

I appreciate the creativity involved in this solution, and the effort to be respectful to the homeless people. Veterans are among this group, and they especially deserve respect and help.

This is the NASW July 5 “best of” issue.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

A scientist reached conclusions regarding the possibility that Florida’s Tamiami Foundation demonstrates evidence of an ancient meteorite strike. He and his team reached this conclusion, because fossilized clams dating back to that period contained “tiny, silica-rich glass spheres” that most likely were created as the result of a meteorite.

Although the story was interesting enough, there were two things about it that stuck out to me and elevated it to my monthly roundup. First, the scientist said he had 83 of the glass beads and “just kept them sitting around in a box for more than a decade.” It seems as though this theme arises often in scientific writing. A fossil was in a museum for decades, then someone took a new look at it and discovered a species or made some other riveting discovery. Sometimes it just takes new eyes to make a discovery.

The second thing that resulted in a double-take from me about this story was the scientist’s description of how a paintbrush moistened with saliva is the perfect implement for picking these tiny beads up. (Can you see where this story is going?) “I did accidentally eat a couple of them,” he said. Bon appetit. Don’t eat your evidence!

This is the Sigma Xi July 5 “best of” issue.

BoardSource

All of us are imperfect at best. I admire people who make the effort to reexamine their own choices and to make choices that are more fair and accepting. Northwest Area Foundation President and CEO Kevin Walker writes about a story he used to tell from a humorous standpoint about a time he was detained briefly by Canadian border officers after a momentary decision that led him to be on Canadian property without going through proper procedures. Would he have been treated the same if he “were a person of color? An immigrant? A tribal member from Turtle Mountain instead of an executive from St. Paul?” Please read this important story to find out his conclusion. I have also added a link to my We have to talk about white privilege post, as I do with the pieces I find that speak to the topic of white privilege in a powerful way.

This is the BoardSource July 5 “best of” issue.

International City/County Management Association

The top story for ICMA in July was this July 8 entry about the $5,000 reward police offered for information regarding John Wooner, the McFarland, Calif., city manager who was missing. Wooner’s body was found July 28, submerged in the Kern River in his city-issued car.

I can see why this story was so compelling to readers. He had been missing since May 14 by the time we shared the story. There were concrete details (such as the fact that his last known stop was at his estranged father’s grave) and other squishier pieces of the story (had he been engaged in malfeasance?). From an editorial standpoint, I am torn regarding whether it makes sense to include an item about his body being found or if that’s more feeding a curiosity than giving readers closure. Mostly, I acknowledge that he has a family left with questions and grief. What a difficult summer they must have endured.

This is the ICMA July 5 “best of” issue.

UN Wire

I love El Salvador. Therefore, a story about a woman charged with murder after giving birth to a baby (who was either born dead or died after being born — the story is a bit unclear about this) she says was conceived during a rape. The story goes on to say that women who miscarried have been routinely charged with murder.

A dense story with much to consider, but this one left me sad and questioning.

UN Wire did not have a July 5 “best of” issue.

Reserve Officers Association

Stacy Pearsall is a veteran. She has a goal; she plans to take 7,500 pictures of veterans, covering all 50 states, by Veterans Day of this year. She started the project in 2007 as she recovered from a combat injury. “I want people to realize that in every uniform is a human being with a heart and a soul, people they love, history and baggage,” she says.

I love this story, and I especially enjoyed reading about Pearsall’s service dog, Charlie.

ROA did not have a July 5 “best of” issue.

National Emergency Number Association

I wrote in my June wrapup about the 911 SAVES Act, a piece of nonpartisan legislation that proposes to reclassify dispatchers from “administrative support” (a federal clerical designation) to “protective service.” This stands to make a big difference for dispatchers in several significant ways. The Act passed the House and is on to the Senate.

I have worked with this topic for almost a year now; I am convinced this Act is a necessary change and I hope it passes.

While I’m on the topic of NENA, here’s a story of why our town is so great (almost always). I love being able to experience the things I write about, not just read about them. I decided to do an Editor’s Desk video about the 911 SAVES Act. I contacted the director of the Tallahassee/Leon County Consolidated Dispatch Center to ask about making the video there so the background looked more realistic. I heard back from him within 24 hours, and within a few days got a tour of our center and got all my questions answered. The director even said, “here — make it in my office so it’s quiet enough.” I could not have asked for a more generous interaction. The video is still in the works, but here’s a screenshot. I *really* appreciate the gentleman walking by with EMS on the back of his shirt. It’s as if I planned it that way!

July 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

NENA did not have a July 5 “best of” issue.

While You Were Working

I had the opportunity to “drive the ‘While You Were Working'” bus for a week in July when our editor, Sean, was out. Because WYWW has a different vibe than almost every other SmartBrief newsletter, it is simultaneously thrilling (because we have more flexibility) and scary (because editing without guardrails feels so risky). It certainly helped that my week coincided with the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary (YAY SPACE).

I have a hard time choosing a favorite story from that week. The July 19 issue was fun in many ways. We shared that crazy “Cats” trailer that had everyone agog. My colleague, Cathy, debunked the idea that astronauts ate “space ice cream.” We covered joyineering (it’s a thing, at least for one father and daughter). And to cap off the Apollo 11 celebrations, I shared this memory of visiting the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. Every astronaut who has lifted off from Kennedy Space Center walked through this door. I’m so grateful to NASA Social for the opportunity to visit and learn.

July 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

This is the WYWW July 5 “best of” issue.

Leadership

I had an opportunity to edit SmartBrief on Leadership for a couple weeks in July. This is my favorite brief to edit as a fill-in (and the most nerve-wracking). Although I do have favorite stories, I want to share something different — a feature we have added. I don’t know if it will always appear, but #FridayReads is a pet Twitter habit of mine, so I want to share!

In last Friday’s issue, for example, you’ll see the last item (except for the quote) is “What are you reading today?” Clicking on the item takes you directly to the tweet, and you can share what you are reading. I enjoyed thinking through the small details of adding something that looks so simple, but there are always steps in the process to check off the list, such as whether the image that has been chosen is a fit, who is going to update a nonevergreen item for future uses, and more.

If you don’t subscribe to our leadership newsletter already, please feel free to do so by visiting this link.

July 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

This is the Leadership July 5 “best of” issue.

Here’s another reason July was not “slow”

SmartBrief closed out the month of July with some big news. The company was acquired by Future plc. Learn more about the acquisition in this release.

How you, too, could stay busy with SmartBrief

I invite you to peruse this list of openings (3 are in DC, 1 is DC or remote depending on the candidate and there’s a part-time position). I wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 8/8/19:

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer (for the full-time positions) or email me so we can discuss further.

To Recap

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram along with Life at SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

Here’s to finding news (and career opportunities) that keep you informed, even when life is busy.

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

June news developments that made me say “WOW”

When Hugh Jackman sang the opening notes of “You Will Be Found” at his show in Tampa Friday night, I knew I was about to experience one of my favorite moments of the evening. When he was joined by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Tampa Bay, I had the added thrill of knowing no one — in any other city where this show is performed — would see exactly this show. Although I’m not local to Tampa, I appreciated my fellow Floridians being a part of the show, especially fellow Floridians so supportive of causes that are important to me.

As I’m looking for a thread among my favorite SmartBrief stories from June, I am thinking about my experience at the show Friday night. It mattered that the organizers involved local people. It probably would have been easier to secure some more “generic” singers … someone to vocalize the lyrics and complement Hugh. But these people meant something to me.

The stories we choose at SmartBrief (and the way we introduce them to readers) should mean something. They should make them feel “Wow, I’m glad I opened this newsletter. I’ll not see this combination, presented in this way, anywhere else.

With that thought, here are my favorites from June:

BoardSource

What performer earns a pre-concert standing ovation before they’ve even played a note? In the 6/3/19 issue of the BoardSource newsletter, we shared a story about measures the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is taking to deal with a massive budget shortfall. For example, the season is being cut from 52 weeks to 40 and the summer series was canceled.

The orchestra’s musicians have been protesting these cutbacks. According to this article, they received a pre-performance standing ovation, “a three-minute standing ovation at intermission and a one-minute ovation” that preceded an encore.

This is the announcement shared by Brian Prechtl, co-chairman of the BSO players (preceded by part of that pre-concert standing ovation).

The orchestra also added an unscheduled performance of “Nimrod,” which evokes loss, by Elgar. You can see a performance of “Nimrod” (not the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s, unfortunately) by visiting this link.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society

I had a boss once (who is still a friend) whose philosophy was, “you can have any title you want. Titles are easy to give out.” Not to put words in her mouth, but I knew her and her management style well enough to know that the point was two-fold: 1) Titles are free … it doesn’t cost anything to give someone pretty much any title and 2) Your work product gives you more status than your title.

However, she never met Linda Lee, who is (wait for it) an environmental fate chemist. How great of a title is that?!

Linda Lee came to my attention because she was quoted in a 6/5/19 article about the possibility that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used in biodegradable materials may leach into compost. Once that compost is used by human beings, the PFAS could end up in our bodies and potentially create health hazards.

Admittedly, we talk often about PFAS at our house because of Wayne’s responsibilities at Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. The term “environmental fate chemist,” however, has never come up. It seems so aspirational … that someone who goes into that field plans to make a difference. I’m betting my boss would have said, “sure fine call yourself an environmental fate chemist.” I’m glad Linda Lee is doing the work she is doing; all of our fates may depend on the work she is doing.

Reserve Officers Association

This article from the 6/10/19 Reserve Officers Association newsletter could be interpreted as a straightforward description of how National Guard members and reservists collaborated with local contractors in Hawaii to build a STEM building at a Girl Scout camp.

Although it is straightforward, National Guard member 1st Lt. Emelia Brooks, who was the mission-officer-in-charge, discussed how meaningful it was to be a leader on the project and a role model for girls and young women. She’s an environmental engineer, and she is usually in the minority as a woman at the workplace. She said her daughters think it’s cool to see their mom at the helm of this project.

“Representation is everything,” she said. She’s right.

June 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

1st Lt. Emelia Brooks, 138th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard and mission officer in charge of the Camp Paumalu, Innovative Readiness Training project FY 2019, oversees the construction of the project May 22 at Camp Paumalu Girl Scout Camp, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

National Emergency Number Association

While we’re on the topic of Hawaii-based stories, let’s discuss this incredible story from the 6/27/19 NENA newsletter. You might remember the story of Amanda Eller, a hiker who got lost while hiking in Hawaii and was found after 17 days.

Searchers were able to be much more effective by using a digital map developed with GPS data to make sure they didn’t duplicate efforts and cover territory they had already covered.

“We never would have pushed out if we hadn’t searched the reasonable area first. There’s no reason to start reaching further and further out of the box if we hadn’t completely searched the box ,” said volunteer search leader Chris Bergquist.

Bergquist’s statement could also be a life metaphor BUT I digress! Thanks to technology, Eller was found and other people’s lives may be saved because someone put the research time into developing the tools to make it happen.

UN Wire

This story about obstetric violence faced by women in Mexico from the 6/17/19 UN Wire newsletter was downright depressing. There are very few examples from the story I can even quote here due to their grisly and inhumane nature. Women (and girls) who died during childbirth, were rendered infertile due to cruel practices, who had to labor with absolutely no pain relief are the examples given. Indigenous women and poor women are especially subject to the human rights violations.

There must be a way to do better.

The International City/County Management Association

I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg for this story. In the 6/21/19 ICMA newsletter, we shared the Philadelphia City Council’s initial response to Facebook posts by more than 300 of its officers that contained violent and racist content. The posts were discovered as part of the Plain View Project, which works on the rationale that such posts “could erode civilian trust and confidence in police, and we hope police departments will investigate and address them immediately.”

This type of thing must be such a moment of truth for a city council and city staff. It’s an opportunity to lead, and protect residents from inappropriate behavior on the part of law enforcement. The opposite, of course, could also happen (and undoubtedly has in many municipalities). I hope for the sake of the citizens of Philadelphia that the council chooses the former.

Note: I’m not going to share any screen shots from the database (it’s too sad and I’m not sure what the permissions are). I will say one post I saw was enough to make me click out: “Its [sic] a good day for a choke hold.”

Smart Cities

I wish I could give the “favorite story” nod to this story from the 6/26/19 issue about the Tallahassee/Leon County GIS  program that has completely digitalized the disaster recovery process since Hurricane Michael last year. I do love my home team, but there’s already the possibility of a tropical depression or tropical storm developing in the Gulf of Mexico, and I refuse to give the darn weather gods any ideas about testing out all these digital disaster recovery tools. No, just no!

Therefore, all hail the Creative Village in Orange County with its 5G internet connections and other gee whiz smart city components featured in the 6/28 issue. I honestly thought “maybe we should move there” as I was reading the article and editing the summary. Mayor Dyer piqued my interest with “incredible quality of life.”

National Association of Social Workers

I saved the story that was so personally gripping for last (and that’s saying a lot given the obstetrical violence and racist law enforcement posts above).

In the 6/7/19 NASW newsletter, we shared a public service announcement created by students at Rockford High School in Illinois. The mayor asked the students to make the PSA after seeing them recite “I Got Flowers Today,” a poem about domestic violence.

Watch it for yourself; it doesn’t need my words:

Note: If you’re in Tallahassee and in danger, please contact Refuge House. If you live elsewhere and need help for a situation where you are in danger, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

June 2019 SmartBrief wrapup

Helping be a part of making people say, “wow” about their news

I invite you to peruse this list of openings (most are in DC, a couple are in NYC and there’s a part-time remote position). I wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

Here are the advertised open positions as of 7/7/19:

If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer (for the full-time positions) or email me so we can discuss further.

To Recap

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram and Life at SmartBrief Instagram. (There’s also a SmartBrief feature at The Muse.)

Here’s to finding news (and career opportunities) that wow you!

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.