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My state of mind will always be Purple.

I was reminded by my friend (and political opposite) Lea that this week marks the 6th anniversary of the Purple State of Mind duo visiting Tallahassee – a visit that inspired so very much. To mark the occasion of our anniversary with John and Craig, today seemed to be a wonderful occasion to re-run our tribute to them. John and Craig, we love you.

There are some people who change your life forever from the minute they walk into it. Hard to believe it was just four years ago since it happened with the partners in Purple State of Mind, John Marks and Craig Detweiler.

Before the holidays, the Purple pair announced that they’re calling it a day for their Purple State of Mind website, being the busy guys that they are with many new things on the horizon.

In John’s Farewell to Arms he reflected:

Lacking in the appropriate humility, perhaps, we thought we might bring a tone of moderation, conviviality and openness to a dialogue with someone whose views of the world we did not share and by extension to the national discourse. It’s an open question whether we succeeded at the former. We failed with epic grandeur at the latter. Rhetoric that was mean-spirited and intolerant seven years ago has become embittered, ferocious and increasingly violent today.

John couldn’t be more correct in his assessment that despite efforts like Purple, the national dialogue has gotten worse. But I’d like to suggest to John that he’s looking around instead of down. Looking down shows an entirely different reality.

John and Craig, over these years, have traveled America planting little Purple seeds. Like they did in Tallahassee, they came in, made lifelong friends and changed hearts. They planted possibilities that in some cases – in our case – has grown to reality.

There are daunting, overwhelming forces that are creating the rancor our nation is currently laboring under. Here’s a partial list: The internet, search algorithms on the internet, email chain letters, the fiscal crisis, unemployment, highly targeted marketing techniques, demographic and sociological trends, 24-hour news, talk radio, and – the big elephant in the room – human nature.

The only way anything will ever change is that crazy people with big ideas about what can be different plant seeds.

In his goodbye post, John called The Village Square a “real world vision of where the Purple idea can go.” We humbly accept that less as a current reality and more as an aspiration for what we might become. “Purple State of Mind” is a category on our blog. There are five pages of Purple graphics in my WordPress image library. There are 2,258 hits when I search my computer for “Purple.” There are 34 pages of Google hits for a “Purple State of Mind” search.

Because of John and Craig, I will forever capitalize a color, I think that pretty much says it all about what it is they did in one little corner of this big angry world. (And they even did it with their shirts on, see below…)

Everything we ever do will be tinted Purple. And that is a start.

Hedrick Smith: Can we heal our great divide?

Tallahassee Democrat: Town hall format allows for face-to-face interaction

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

Tallahassee-Democrat-logo-squareWilnick SaintCharles, 34, was a student at Florida A&M University when Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was student government president, but he never took the time to discuss issues.

SaintCharles, who stayed in Tallahassee and now works at Citizen Insurance Corp., got that chance Thursday night while attending the annual “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” event hosted by the Village Square at St. John’s Church. Nearly 80 people attended the event that drew several local elected and appointed government leaders.

Read the entire article at Tallahasssee.com.

Tallahassee Democrat: Join the Town Hall

If you’re in Tallahassee and want to attend Thursday night’s Tallahassee Town Hall, click here.

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat (print edition only):

rachel redcoatWhen it comes to getting things done in a country, there were actually some advantages to having a king.

If a kingdom had a problem, a good king could send for the most brilliant scholars in the land, commission them to scribble mathematical formulas into the wee hours, apply his royal intellect and issue an edict. Of course, there were the bad kings and the heads that rolled… which, more or less, gets us to where the American story begins.

As they went about the business of building a country without a king, our founding fathers had more than a little trouble agreeing with each other. Democracy turns out to be a pretty sloppy business. But no matter how unpleasant they found it, the framers never had the luxury to avoid the difficult conversations.

There was every reason to think they would fail – the notion that a diverse people could self-govern was a nearly insane idea at the time. Still, the founders did more that believe we could muddle our way through our diversity; they bet our future that diversity of opinion could become a strength for their new country.

They designed our form of government around that bet.

In America, political foes become partners in ensuring “deliberation and circumspection” as they engage in order to govern. This clashing of opinion creates a competition of ideas that deepens thinking, sharpens solutions & moderates extremes. James Madison saw the Bill of Rights as a “mere parchment barrier” compared to the power of this factionalism to check the power of the majority and insure freedom for the minority.

So, despite the differences between the framers and the odds against them, in this new country the king was no longer the seat of power – it was now the humble town square. This was the unlikely place where our first citizens went about the business of building a country “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Almost 250 years later, that’s exactly what you’ll find Thursday night, when the Village Square, the Tallahassee Democrat and Leadership Tallahassee join forces to host the fourth annual Tallahassee Town Hall. It’s free and open to the public (go to tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org to print your ticket). You’re invited to bring take-out and a drink, roll up your sleeves and dive into our local conversation of democracy.

Facilitated by the publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat, Skip Foster, the program is at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown.

Joining the panel are Leon County Commissioners Mary Ann Lindley, Nick Maddox and Kristin Dozier; and from the City of Tallahassee, Mayor Andrew Gillum and Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

The program will be live-streamed at Tallahassee.com and you can even tweet your questions from home – in your slippers if you like (a cool freedom George Washington might not have imagined).

Sure, navigating hometown democracy probably isn’t your first choice on how to spend an evening. But if you come by St. John’s Thursday night, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider that you’ll be at the very heart of what makes us America.

A kind and intelligent ruler might not do a bad job deciding how things should run in our hometown, but there is no king; there will be no writ from on high. It’s up to people like us in this place we call home to care about the city we share.


Liz Joyner is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Village Square, dedicated to reviving civil discourse across the partisan divide. Created in Tallahassee in 2006, the Village Square now has five locations nationally. Contact Liz at liz@tothevillagesquare.org


IF YOU GO info:

OUR TOWN Tallahassee Town Hall
Thursday, February 19th
5:30 to 7:30 pm
Free and open to the public
St. John’s Episcopal Church
211 N Monroe Street, downtown Tallahassee
For more information or to reserve your seat http://www.tallahassee.tothevillagesquare.org
Watch livestream at Tallahassee.com
Stay for dessert and coffee after the program

Florence Snyder: A Valentine to David Carr

rachel-heart-desatLike all addicts, David Carr had a drug of choice. His was journalism.

He craved the constant rush that the news business provides. The endorphins unleashed in the newsrooms where he worked in Minnesota and Washington and New York made for a better high than “the frantic kind of boring,” that Carr described in his memoir about the years he spent out of newsrooms, shacked up with the harsh mistresses of alcohol and cocaine.

Carr got sober and spent the next 25 years as journalism’s Romeo. He loved reporting the news, and was an ardent lover of people who reported the news.

Unlike many aging baby boomers, Carr had no fear of new technology and no contempt for young people who did not equate the survival of newspapers with the survival of journalism.

But he brooked no insolence from new media whippersnappers who insulted the New York Times, for which Carr had “an immigrant’s love.”

The nut graf of Carr’s life is preserved forever in the 2011 documentary film “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” Carr is seen interviewing Vice founder Shane Smith about Vice’s coverage of Liberia. Smith babbles that mainstream media “never tells the whole story.”

Carr explodes, “Before you ever went there, we’ve had reporters there reporting on genocide after genocide. Just because you put on a fucking safari helmet and looked at some poop doesn’t give you the right to insult what we do.”

But Carr’s love was not blind. Day after day, year after year Carr documented the “industry suicide’ of old media while writing road maps for the people who will invent journalism’s future.

Some of those people are studying at Boston University, where Carr, the first holder of the Andrew R. Lack Professorship, created a “contemporary and entrepreneurial journalism” course called PressPlay: Making and distributing content in the present future.

Former Miami Herald Editor and Dean of the Boston University College of Communications says it was “…almost as the result of wishful thinking” how Carr came to the Professorship.

“Several of us were at a lunch that Mr. Lack hosted tossing about the names of people who might fit the vision of the Lack Professorship, that is, a person with a unique ability to understand and explain the changes, good and bad, that were occurring in the communication fields as a result of emerging communication technologies. Someone — probably Andy Lack — remarked that the person we were searching for would have to be on David Carr’s speed dial; it would have to be a person whom David would call when he was seeking insight into some development. Not in our wildest dreams did we think at that moment that David himself would be interested in this position and would find a way to join Boston University.”

Fiedler should not have been surprised. Carr spent every minute of his professional life teaching people inside and outside of the newsroom what journalism is, and why it matters.

On the last night of his life, Carr conducted yet another master class in finding stuff out and sharing it with the world, moderating a Times Talk about the film “Citizenfour” with its principal subject, Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the journalists to whom Snowdon leaked a trove of classified documents.

And then he collapsed in the newsroom he so dearly loved.


Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com

Florence Snyder: Journalistic credibility requires the attention from the top

Media bashers, media ethicists and the Greek chorus at Comedy Central will be gorging for a long time on the disgraced remains of Brian Williams.

But the credibility crisis now engulfing NBC News is not Williams’ fault. It is never the reporter’s fault.

An “anchor and managing editor” is neither God nor a kid with a YouTube channel. He does not edit his own stories and he does not put himself on the air.

Like print journalism, broadcast news employs an army of producers and business executives whose job it is to demonstrate with every story, every day that “we work for the viewers, and we care about the truth.”

The folks in charge of ethics and basic reporting skills at NBC have been failing Williams for a long, long time.

More than a decade ago, Don Helus, one of the pilots of one of the helicopters that figured in Williams’ escalating tales of derring-do, noticed Williams’ embellishments of his brief stint as a war correspondent in Iraq. Helus showed NBC the respect of writing a letter pointing out Williams’ factual errors.

Such communications are taken seriously at news organizations wishing to be taken seriously by audiences, advertisers and sources.

Helus had every right to expect that NBC would show him the respect of acknowledging his letter and investigating his concerns.

NBC instead ignored Helus and year by year, Williams’ propensity to self-aggrandize grew along with his salary and his bromances with Jimmy Fallon and Joe Scarborough.

It wasn’t until other soldiers who were around for Williams’ journo-tourism adventure came forward on Facebook to call him a liar that we began to learn that there might also be some holes in Williams’ award- winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Helus, now retired and living in Enterprise, Alabama, was unimpressed by the apology Williams offered his audience on last Wednesday’s Nightly News.

“I had to chuckle, and it is not because I wish ill of Brian Williams,” he told Erin Edgemon of theDothan Eagle. “It was just ‘admit you are wrong and take your lumps.’ It really wasn’t an apology. It was more of an excuse than anything.”

Excuses may cut it in business and politics, but not in the Fourth Estate. Williams’ name will live in journalism infamy, but the real villains are the yet-to-be-named people at NBC News who ignored Helus’ letter.


Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com

Tallahassee’s Dinner at the Square guest David Blankenhorn on religion, gay rights and the culture war

board-blankenhornAmerican Culture just Shifted a Bit with LDS Church’s Statement
David Blankenhorn, Deseret News, 2/6/15

In American religious life, something interesting just happened. Last week, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, long viewed as opponents of gay rights, publicly opened a dialogue about how to balance needed expansion of legal protections for gays and lesbians with reasonable exemptions intended to protect religious freedom. American culture just shifted a bit.

Read the entire article online here.

Ibn Morgan: A Tribute to Martin Luther King

McDonald’s nails the importance of neighbors (even arch enemies)

McDonald’s has managed to charm us with two very fundamental Village Square-ish concepts in their new “I’m Lovin’ It” ad campaign.

Quotable, after the tragedy in Paris

The great divide is not between faiths. Rather it is between terrorists and moderates, between those who are tolerant and those who “otherize.”

–David Brooks, in the New York Times

William Bratton: “If we can learn to see each other…”

“The police, the people who are angry at the police, the people who support us but want us to be better, even a madman who assassinated two men because all he could see was two uniforms, even though they were so much more. We don’t see each other. If we can learn to see each other, to see that our cops are people like Officer Ramos and Officer Liu, to see that our communities are filled with people just like them, too. If we can learn to see each other, then when we see each other, we’ll heal. We’ll heal as a department. We’ll heal as a city. We’ll heal as a country.”

–NYPD Commissioner William Bratton

Antelope Valley Times: Palmdale awarded Village Square grant

Palmdale-city-logo-300x300News from our Village Square Davenport Institute grantee, the City of Palmdale!

PALMDALE – The City of Palmdale has been named as one of two cities in California to receive a 2014 Village Square Grant through Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute.

Along with Palo Alto, Palmdale will receive services and expenses valued at $15,000 through the Village Square’s “Dinner at the Square” program, which is designed to improve the way residents in diverse communities engage with one another.

Read the entire article online at the AV Times.

In best CSPAN call ever, Mom calls out politically-feuding sons

Hat tip to Florence Snyder for finding this gem, it came to me with her note “finally, some good news!”

Screen shot 2014-12-16 at 1.02.39 PM