Transcription Transgressions

logo for the Pryor Center

While August 2012 still feels like fall before last on remembering my second and final layoff from the newspaper profession, June 2013 seems longer than the six years it maths out when I recall that month’s part-time job, transcriptionist at the University of Arkansas Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History.

Those few hours a week did teach me two lessons I won’t forget, the value of transcriptions and the fallacy of transcriptions. Visiting the Pryor Center for a book reading inspired me to ink these up.

While my next university job was the 2014-15 term at its journalism department, the courses I taught did not have an opening for a reporting exercise I hadn’t seen anywhere (which doesn’t mean it’s not done). In some beginning or intermediate journalism class, it’d be cool to present a 3- to 5-minute recording excerpt, such as from the Pryor Center, and have the students transcribe it. By transcribe I mean word for word, with all the stumbles and repeats the least and greatest of us utter when speaking.

They would be encouraged to repeat the tape as often as needed, using a free transcription software app. Afterward, I’d hand out or put on a screen the official transcript so they’d see what they missed.

The only students who could get an A+, one would predict, would be someone who was a former stenographer.

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I Would Appreciate Your Vote

My Razorback roots go deeper than I thought. My maternal grandfather, Ernest Mendel of Fort Smith (born in Hot Springs), evidently attended the University of Arkansas. I've checked the Senior Walks of several years; he didn't graduate.
Ben Pollock
Candidate Ben Pollock
Official U of A photo, summer 2014

I am running this week for a position on the University of Arkansas Staff Senate. The online balloting ends Monday, May 6. If you are a U of A staff member, you may choose to vote for me, and the following 150-word statement I was asked to submit just might sway you!

Or not.

As a longtime volunteer, I enjoy giving back. Working at the University of Arkansas these three years has been so satisfying this is an opportunity to return the favor. On the Staff Senate, I’d like to increase the body’s visibility through the year. That’s not just special events but would work toward an ongoing, transparent presence on campus.

About me:

My Razorback roots go deeper than I thought. My maternal grandfather, Ernest Mendel of Fort Smith (born in Hot Springs), evidently attended the University of Arkansas. I've checked the Senior Walks of several years; he didn't graduate.
My Razorback roots go deeper than I thought. My maternal grandfather, Ernest Mendel of Fort Smith (born in Hot Springs), evidently attended the University of Arkansas around 1920. I’ve checked the Senior Walks of several years; he didn’t graduate.
  • Fort Smith native, 3rd-generation Arkie
  • Bachelor’s, Communication, Stanford University
  • Master’s, Journalism, University of Arkansas, 2003
  • Earlier career: newspaper editor/designer, reporter, columnist
  • Current job: Webmaster for the College of Education & Health Professions since mid-2016; previously 2014-15 instructor with the Journalism faculty/Ethics Center
  • Activities
    • Treasurer, National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation
    • Recording Secretary & Communication Director, Arkansas 965
    • Planning committee, WordCamp Fayetteville, teacher of WordPress 101
    • Board member, Ozark Poets & Writers Collective
    • Also: Compassion Fayetteville, Canopy NWA, Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas, Temple Shalom, NWA Pride Band

So check your emailbox for for a message like this:

image of email of ballot link for  2019 Staff Senate ballot

Lunch. Free? Sure.

Guy Unangst, early 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom, Little Rock. Photo by Sandra Wyman
Guy Unangst, early 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newsroom, Little Rock.
Photo by Sandra Tyler

I have one good story about the recently departed editor Guy Unangst but didn’t know it was a story until a new reporter in around 2004 asked me, “Did you have a fistfight with Guy Unangst in the middle of the newsroom?”

“We did? What, us? Nah, there was no –.

“Wait a minute. You must mean the time –”

Who was I? In 2004 I was on the night universal desk of the Northwest edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In 1997, the year of the story, I was the new Sunday editor, overseeing the newsroom end of producing the Sunday and Monday editions. Print.

Who was the previous Sunday editor?

Gruff Guy was.

In October 1991, Gannett Inc. closed the Arkansas Gazette, and the Arkansas Democrat bought its assets and became the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Demzette management was determined to not grow complacent as merged papers seemed to do. It helped that Gov. Bill Clinton was elected president and the state newspaper had become relatively prominent. We used that clout to attract better talent.

The Democrat had hired me in 1985 as a news copy editor. A year or so later I became assistant wire editor and a year or so after that wire editor, in charge of national and international news, pulled from wire services and the syndicated arms of papers like The New York Times and Washington Post. After 10 years, I begged for a change.

Guy, who had worked at some major dailies, was hired as special projects editor to oversee enterprise reporting including investigative pieces. The Demzette around the same time hired another top editor for investigative reporting, and Guy proposed a new job he could also do, Sunday editor.

Reporters appreciated Guy, his meticulousness and his fierce loyalty to them. The newsroom’s midlevel editors, however, disliked answering to him on the biggest edition of the week. If there had to be a Sunday editor, make it someone else.

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Truth in the Stars

Four blue stars on Arkansas flag defined
The symbolism of the four blue stars on Arkansas flag is explained.

It’s been embarrassing.

The state flag of Arkansas includes an explicit reference to the Confederacy. The overall design can be seen as having similarities to the Confederate battle flag of the American Civil War. The early 20th-century legislation establishing the banner sets four large blue stars within a diamond to refer to the nations to which Arkansas has belonged: a triangle indicating Spain, France and the United States, and separately and uppermost the Confederacy.

During the 2019 General Session of the Arkansas Legislature, a Democratic Little Rock representative proposed dropping the Confederate reference and making a star symbolize the indigenous tribes that dwelled here before the European conquests. It was twice defeated in committee.

Why take the state’s word on such a matter? Why not as citizens proclaim the four blue stars be both inclusive and accurate? This detail might not make a sanctioned state history textbook, but a nongovernmental group could promote an alternative symbolism in defiance of accepted and prejudicial dogma.

Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees approved such a resolution March 28, 2019. I wrote the text, being a union member, sitting on the board as recording secretary and communications director. [A similar post is on the 965 website.] The rationale is that nearly all Local members are directly and indirectly workers in education. A modern flag is a teaching device, presenting facts and concepts. Educators have a vested interest in symbols that we use to impart knowledge and values.

Star Crossed: A Symbolic Act of Civil Disobedience

That Local 965, AFSCME, promote a fair and historically accurate representation of the official Arkansas State Flag.

Since 1923, the Arkansas Legislature has held that its fourth, separate blue star signifies the state’s membership in the Confederacy, the other three blue stars in place from 1913 representing the nations having held the territory from which Arkansas was carved — Spain, France and since 1803 the United States. (Reference)

The four-year Confederacy being considered a sovereign state comparable to the Republic, not to mention European nations, pales in comparison to how indigenous tribes dwelled in the region for centuries before, primarily the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo. (Reference)

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2,000 Words

Photos of Trump about to welcome Clemson football team with silver setting, lit candles and prepackaged fast food, and a photo from Snopes of Roger Stone's Nixon face tattoo
Main photo NBC News, inset photo

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

This is my Facebook profile photo and cover photo for Sunday. Can’t stomach it for more than that nor wish others to deal with it longer either.

“Revulsion” is not an impeachable offense for Donald J. Trump, but these snapshots should convey revulsion and the facts behind DJT’s unfitness for office. These photos should imply the extent of who he is, was and will be.

The balance of power has moved away from DJT and the Republic Party and its leadership, with the Democratic Party majority in the House of Representatives. That leaves the GOP, which dares not utter opposition publicly to the president, his policies or administration, controlling the Executive Branch, the Senate and increasingly the Judiciary Branch.

We’re probably stable as a nation until a huge calamity — a natural disaster bigger than the worst hurricanes of this century OR a terrorism attack greater than 9/11.

I fear the Democrats will feel they have no choice, in such circumstances, to give the current administration whatever it wants, comparable to 2001-02.

Let’s pray and think good thoughts, shall we? Simultaneously we citizens can further restore the balance of power in the nation’s capital and state capitals.

Any updates to the post will identified as such.

Shakshuka 181, It’s Vegan

Skillet of Shakshuka 181
Vegan Reverse Shakshuka, 181

Shakshuka is a skillet dish where eggs are poached in a savory tomato sauce. It’s North African to Middle Eastern but generally considered Israeli. Cook and food writer Mark Bittman this week blogged on Epicurious editor David Tamarkin and his variation White Shakshuka.

Traditional shashuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce
Traditional shashuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce. Credit Wikimedia Commons

It looks wonderful, eggs poached in a stew of oniony-lemony white beans. It’s a reverse, though I’d call it 179 degrees not the full 180, as it’s still eggs.

Eggs and beans are redundant protein.

A true 180 would be egg-sized tomatoes floating in a whitish sauce. Call it 181, being a one-off from an impractical polar opposite. Mine is vegan with no added fat (but see notes).

The 181 is good looking and tasty. Grocery tomatoes are fine, so this is a year-round dish. Quick. It’s so quick that my pictures should be updated later on, as all I had were red onions and that darkened the stew to about a 182. Continue reading