The heart of a news story is often found buried within lines and lines of information. That was often the case with my favorite SmartBrief stories last month.
MacKenzie Scott (former wife of Jeff Bezos) gave over $4 billion to 384 groups last year, landing her the number two spot on the Philanthropy 50 (note: paywall) (behind her ex-husband). Scott announced the details of her contributions via Medium. Scott has made her donations in a way that contradicts much of traditional philanthropy — characterized by less paperwork and more flexibility. The New York Times calls her approach a “streamlined operation” (note: paywall).
This article (note: paywall) became my favorite in February because quite a few of the recipients almost missed the email notifying them of their awards:
Several recipients of gifts from MacKenzie Scott have described her contribution as their largest ever — and nearly as many have reported overlooking the initial email about the gift, thinking it was spam.
Moral of the story: Keep an eye on your emails; you never know what opportunity you might be missing!
Top February story: 7 ways to hang in there when you’re exhausted
Business Transformation SmartBrief
This story wasn’t my favorite because of the “digital transformation trajectory” part. It was my favorite because of this: As part of the discussion of how digital transformation is going to take place in a world that has changed so much, former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly asked, “What kind of obituary do we want to have?”
I appreciate the long view, and a perspective that makes room for a change from the time when we (as per Joly) “cut off our head from our heart and our soul.”
Top February story: “Aberration” of remote work maligned by CEO
National Association of Social Workers
I am fortunate to be able to volunteer at a local correctional facility (in nonCOVID-19 times). I have seen families coming and going for visitation when I was at the facility. Even without considering the fact that these children are not with their incarcerated parents, the visitation process can be dehumanizing and cold. This article talked about a program where the kids meet their incarcerated parents (who are dressed in regular civilian clothes) at the Chicago Children’s Museum (with appropriate security measures, of course). I love the idea of these visits being more “normal.”
I was also moved by this line: “My faults as a father have become my son’s weakness as my son.” (It was spoken by a father whose son is now under house arrest — the dad feels his incarceration contributed to his son’s path. As a parent, I could relate — we try to be role models that inspire our kids to be good citizens and revel in their strengths. I could empathize with this fellow parent.
Top February story: How to grieve when loss is ambiguous (note: paywall)
National Emergency Number Association
Craig Scholl sounds like a fantastic colleague and public safety professional. In a way, this is “just another retirement story,” but I appreciated the way he encouraged people to keep volunteering at a time when volunteer ranks are dwindling. I could imagine the bittersweet emotions he must have felt as “[d]epartments from all across the county congratulated Scholl on his career and retirement over dispatch radio.”
Top February story: Lawsuit faults 9-1-1 dispatchers in Kan. woman’s death
Reserve Officers Association
Here’s what makes this story unique: the Reserve troops were possibly better than active-duty members at moving meal provisions around Fort Hood because (for some of them) their real-world experience is running beer routes (UPS and FedEx too, but it was the beer that piqued my interest). You never know when your day-job skills may come in handy!
Top February story: Bronze star bestowed on Reserve airman
Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary Society
I could write an entire blog post about this story alone (but I’ll spare you). This brief focuses on scientific discoveries, as it should, but it makes the brief better and more multidimensional when we can share information that improves researchers’ lives. The TL;DR is that there need to be policies and guidelines that enable student scientists to bring their service dogs into labs. It makes a difference in creating career opportunities for people who use service dogs. Plus, there’s a really cool picture of a dog decked out in PPE — which perhaps should be CPE (canine protective equipment) in this case (although I suppose “pup protective equipment kind of works).
Top February story: Perseverance offers its first panorama of Mars
UN Wire (United Nations Foundation)
I despise the practice of female genital mutilation, so any month that has a story about FGM in UN Wire, it’s likely that will make my list. I hope I don’t have any stories to choose from someday because it has been eradicated.
Top February story: Probe concludes animals likely source of coronavirus
International City/County Management Association
This story appeared in the top spot in the February 26 issue of the ICMA SmartBrief. Usually, the story in this slot is a generic leadership story. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I am giddy with excitement when I find a story for the leadership space that is written by or about a local government professional. In this case, the story was especially suited for closing out Black History Month.
I hope you’ll take time to read Telatha Graham’s story.
I have watched with interest over the past year as the term Blue Lives Matter and the “thin blue line” have come to be perceived differently by many people. There was a story I shared fairly early in my tenure as editor of this brief about a town that lined its streets with thin blue line flag banners to recognize law enforcement. Since then, stories have taken a different turn, such as Memorial flag sparks debate in Maine town and Permission to paint blue line on Ariz. city street revoked.
Graham is in the unique and difficult position as having an emotional stake in the people behind Black Lives Matter and the people for whom “Blue Lives Matter” is likely a unifying mantra.
We haven’t all earned the credibility to proclaim “we are far better together than separated,” but Graham is and I applaud her.
(Related, slightly, I am so grateful to work at a place where the CEO repeated recently something she said last summer: “It is a fundamental truth that black lives matter.” It is a challenge to live out this sentiment, as a company and as individuals, but it means something that our leadership backs us up.)
(Also, the top February story in ICMA was Austin, Texas, to consider strong mayor proposal in May)
About working at SmartBrief/Future
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 newsletters and Future’s other enterprises.
All open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. Here are a few highlights (listed in order of most recent posting date (3/4/21) to least recent (2/25/21)):
If you are interested in applying and have questions, please email me so we can discuss further.
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Note: This post expresses my personal views.