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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.



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.

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



Quotable: Apparently something some people knew a really (really) long time ago.

jefferson_bw

“The more men of good hearts associate, the better they think of each other.”

–Unnamed Federalist Senator, during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (from The Washington Community, James Sterling Young)

________

This is a topic near and dear to our hearts at the Village Square, as the notion of the Village Square was philosophically drawn from the Jeffersonian dinners hosted by the third president, partly in an effort to get the early “tribal” legislators to interact with each other. Our motive at the Village Square is to engage liberals and conservatives. Here’s a fabulous description of the events written by newly-created Washington Intelligencer Publisher Margaret Bayard Smith, a frequent dinner guest of Jefferson:

At his usual dinner parties the company seldom or ever exceeded fourteen, including himself and his secretary. The invitations were not given promiscuously, or as has been done of late years, alphabetically, but his guests were generally selected in reference to their tastes, habits and suitability in all respects, which attention had a wonderful effect in making his parties more agreeable, than dinner parties usually are; this limited number prevented the company’s forming little knots and carrying on in undertones separate conversations, a custom so common and almost unavoidable in a large party. At Mr. Jefferson’s table the conversation was general; every guest was entertained and interested in whatever topic was discussed.

One circumstance, though minute in itself, had certainly a great influence on the conversational powers of Mr. Jefferson’s guests. Instead of being arrayed in strait parallel lines, where they could not see the countenances of those who sat on the same side, they encircled a round, or oval table where all could see each others faces, and feel the animating influence of looks as well as of words. Let any dinner giver try the experiment and he will certainly be convinced of the truth of this fact. A small, well assorted company, seated around a circular table will ensure more social enjoyment, than any of the appliances of wealth and splendor, without these concomitants.

YES. We say, yes.



Civil Politics: More Information does not necessarily lead to Civility

logo-civil-politicsFrom CivilPolitics.org:

A recent article by Ezra Klein at Vox.com eloquently makes an argument that we at CivilPolitics have also done a lot of research in support of – specifically, that if you want to affect many behaviors, you cannot just appeal to individuals’ sense of reason. The article is well worth a complete read and is excerpted below, but the gist of it details a simple clear study by Dan Kahan and colleagues, showing that individuals who are good at math stop using their rational skills when the use of those skills would threaten their values.

Read the entire CivilPolitics post online here.

Read the Ezra Klein piece here.



Florence Snyder: Dexter Douglass

Dexter-DouglassWith the passing of Dexter Douglass, Florida has lost a lawyer who made friends out of clients, and left them in better condition than he found them.

Douglass hung out his shingle in an era when lawyers aspired to be the first person in town that everyone looked to as a wise counselor and community problem-solver. He held to that standard, even as the practice of law changed.

Douglass was a high priced gladiator in high stakes, high profile litigation and a master storyteller who could have made a lot of money without working hard as a cable news “legal analyst.”

Instead, and to the end of his life, he preferred helping real people with real problems, whether or not they could afford to pay.

Journalists old enough to remember a world in which professionals and public officials could think and speak for themselves appreciated Douglass’ accessibility, his love of language, and his ability to take his work a great deal more seriously than he took himself.

Reporters who know the difference between real and fake friends of the 1st amendment paid their respects in print and in person at his funeral Saturday at Tallahassee’s Faith Presbyterian Church.

“Sometimes he didn’t like what we wrote about him or his governor”[Lawton Chiles, in whose administration Douglass served as general counsel]legend in her own right Lucy Morgan told the Miami Herald. “Several times he and I had shouting matches over the phone,” said Morgan, who headed the St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau in years when Douglass was regularly making big news “but the next time I’d see him it was as though we had never argued.”

William Jablon, a 45 year friend, underscored the point in his eulogy.

“Dexter served as my mentor and lawyer for 35 years when I became headmaster of Maclay School,” Jablon said. “He always told me do the right thing….. He also told me that in speaking with the press tell them the truth; it always confuses them.”

Douglass took joy from the practice of law because he kept things simple. Get up in the morning. Don’t do anything stupid all day long. Don’t let your clients do anything stupid, either.

In 58 years as a working lawyer, Douglass had only two kinds of clients: those who took his advice and were glad they did, and those, like recount loser Al Gore, who listened to some other lawyer and wished they hadn’t.

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