Post writer Wil Haygood gives talks at Notre Dame

Written for Fundamentals of Journalism course, unpublished. 

Journalism, Wil Haygood said, is about shoe leather.

“You cannot do important journalism via the telephone,” said Haygood, a Washington Post journalist and author of six books. “You can’t. Shoe leather. Great journalism comes from shoe leather. Getting out, going to find people and knocking on doors. Because there’s somebody else not working as hard as you. That’s how you’re going to get that lead.”

Shoe leather, he said, propelled him to fame in 2008. Haygood, who assumed the 2014 journalist-in-residence position at Notre Dame this week and spoke to Dick Ciccone’s Fundamentals of Journalism class on Monday, said he had an inkling Barack Obama would win the presidential election. What if, he thought, he could find a black man who had worked in the White House before civil rights legislation passed, to illustrate how times had changed?

“I wanted somebody who lived and worked at the most powerful address in the world, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and they aren’t free,” Haygood said. “They aren’t totally free. And so I started looking. I didn’t think I would find anybody. I asked a lot of questions around town, made a lot of phone calls.”

Haygood said he combed the D.C. area looking for his subject. No luck. Then he got a call. A woman heard he was looking for a black White House employee, and her mother knew one. She gave him a name – Eugene Allen. Haygood grabbed a phone book. Dozens of Eugene Allens later, he found his man. Allen and his wife, Helene, agreed to be interviewed.

“I wouldn’t have gotten that story if I hadn’t ran around Washington and Maryland asking a lot of questions, tracking this man down,” Haygood said.

Haygood’s story, “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” went “viral,” he said. It ran in newspapers around the world, and the story soon became a movie, The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels and starring Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker.

Shoe leather, Haygood said, allowed him to find the most compelling stories, the most interesting people. Sometimes, however, those people were less than willing to talk to him. When Haygood wrote for the Boston Globe, he saw a blurb about Sgt. Matthew McKeon, a Marine recruiter who in 1956 led his men on a punishment march through a swamp. Six died. As the anniversary of the incident approached, Haygood wanted to write a profile of McKeon.

After McKeon, who had been court-martialed, declined on the phone to be interviewed, Haygood said he traveled to his hometown to introduce himself. McKeon still said no. Then Haygood asked him to talk about the Marines who had died. McKeon told Haygood to take out his notebook. He got the story.

“To get somebody to flip, to after they say no, then they say yes, that’s almost as huge a part of the enterprise of getting the story as writing,” Haygood said.

Before he wrote for the Post or the Globe, before he interviewed Frank Sinatra, Jr., got kidnapped in Somalia or watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison, before he wrote The Butler, three biographies or his autobiography, Haygood shoe-leathered in Charleston, W.Va. He was a copy editor at a local paper but ran around the city on his days off, writing stories for free. That caught the attention of the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who hired him as a writer.

Which goes to show, Haygood said –  to be a successful journalist, you had to stay on your feet, never take no for an answer and take advantage of every opportunity.

“If somebody cracks a door open, you got to kick it in,” he said. “You got to kick that damn door in and go.”

Exhibit on Polish history opens in LaFortune

From The Observer

A traveling exhibit detailing the history of Poland from the beginning of World War II to the end of the Cold War and the country’s role in international affairs during the 20th century opened Monday in the Dooley Room of LaFortune Student Center with a public reception.

The display, “From War to Victory: 1939-1989,” showcases noteworthy events in Polish history, such as the 1939 German invasion that kicked off World War II, Polish resistance during the war and years later during Soviet occupation, the emergence of the Solidarity trade union in 1980 and the first democratic elections since the beginning of the Cold War. The exhibit tells its story through photos, quotations from Polish and other world leaders as well as explanations of events in both English and Polish.

The exhibit was created by the Institute for National Remembrance, a Warsaw-based organization which preserves Polish documents and provides education about 20th-century Polish history. The Polish Club of Notre Dame, which has previously sponsored Institute of National Remembrance displays, brought the exhibit to Notre Dame, senior Polish Club co-president Julia Banasikowski said.

Banasikowski said the exhibit emphasizes the Polish struggle for freedom and connects its history to its current status in the international community.

“This exhibit depicts crucial events in Poland’s history, and it shows what brought it to be such an influential part of Europe today,” she said. “For example, its former Prime Minister Donald Tusk was just chosen to be President of the European Council starting in December. Obviously, they are going to have a big leadership position, and they’re a key U.S. ally in talks about Ukrainian-Russian tension.

“They’re a very important part, not only for Europe, but also for the United States. So this will be an interesting exhibit not only for people of Polish descent, but historians, political science majors, anybody who is interested in Europe.”

Senior Arthur Laciak, the other co-president of Polish Club, said the exhibit was a way to teach Polish history to those who may know nothing about it.

“It shows Americans and people of different ethnicities the role Poland played in World War II and the post-war era, during the Cold War,” Laciak said. “I know a lot about Polish history and Polish politics because I grew up in a Polish family. I’ve shared stories with friends and other people, but a lot of this history is not known outside Polish families, so it’s great to spread the word and tell other people.”

Banasikowski said the exhibit helps the club educate the community about Polish history and culture.

“The Polish community is not all about just Polish sausage and Polish beer and polka dancing,” she said. “It’s also about history and culture, and a lot of people overlook that. There’s a misconception of that. That’s something that we really want, is to teach people about the importance of Polish history.”

The exhibit is open to the public and will be on display through Wednesday.

Republicans likely to gain Senate

Written for Fundamentals of Journalism course, unpublished. 

The Republican Party was poised to gain a narrow majority in the Senate and retain control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections in the midst of a shifting immigration debate, a growing threat from an Islamist militant group and nationwide dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama’s job performance.

Of the 36 Senate seats up for grabs this election cycle, Democrats held 21 and Republicans 15. According to the RealClearPolitics’ analysis of the Senate race based on its aggregation of polling data, control of the Senate came down to races in 10 states, six of which Republicans needed to win in order to gain a 51-seat majority.

Republican challengers held narrow leads over Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana, this week’s RCP Averages found. Races were within one or two percentage points in Colorado, where Republican Cory Gardner challenged incumbent Mark Udall (D-CO), and Iowa, where voters swung back and forth between Republican Joni Ernst and

Democrat Bruce Braley, who vied for the seat longtime Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) left vacant with his retirement.

The only Republican likely to lose his seat is Pat Roberts (R-KS), whose independent opponent, Greg Orman, widened his lead after Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the race, according to RCP.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives were contested, but RCP projected the GOP would keep at least 230 seats, a clear majority, on Election Day. Republicans, who currently hold 233-seat majority, had five more “safe” seats than Democrats, who hold 199. Just six Republicans were in danger of losing their seats, as opposed to 15 Democrats, RCP said.

The top issue in the midterm races was the economy, according to a Wednesday Washington Post poll. Voters had slightly more confidence that Republicans could handle the economy than Democrats, though mistrust in both parties was high, the poll found.

Republicans incumbents and challengers alike, however, focused their campaigns on their opponents’ affiliation with Obama. Obama’s nationwide disapproval rating was 53 percent, according to Wednesday’s RCP Average, and 50 percent were opposed to the Affordable Care

Many Republican Senate candidates promised to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare law once they gained control of Congress, though actually dismantling the law was unlikely, Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn argued.

“Options would range from a targeted repeal of small slices of the law to a broad slash-and-burn strategy,” Haberkorn wrote. “Republicans say that if they win in November, members will decide together how exactly to move ahead. But GOP sources said some strategy discussions already are underway.”

Immigration reform also came to the forefront in some Senate races. According to the L.A. Times’ Maeve Reston, Republicans such as New Hampshire’s Scott Brown and Tom Cotton of Arkansas characterized their opponents as soft on border control, while others attacked Obama for delaying executive action on immigration reform until after the midterms.

“The president, they note, merely postponed his threat to use his executive power, and could well grant legal status to as many as several million people now here illegally,” Reston said. “Though it is Republicans who have stalled immigration reform in the House, they believe

Obama’s delay has given them a new opening to attack Democrats — for addressing issues affecting Latinos only when it is politically convenient. Potentially at stake is control of the Senate.”

The growth of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which prompted Obama to order airstrikes in both countries, became an issue in recent weeks, prompting security-themed political ads in several states, including New Hampshire and North Carolina, according to CNN.

Even if Republicans gain control of Congress, the party is unlikely to gain a 60-seat majority in the Senate, which would allow the possibility of Democratic filibusters on top of Obama’s veto power and constrain the G.O.P.’s ability to pass the laws it wants.

The GOP also faces serious internal challenges as the gulf between Tea Party conservatives and mainstream moderates widens. House majority whip Eric Cantor lost his seat to Tea-Party-affiliated Dave Brat in a June primary, and several Republican incumbent senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and six-term incumbent Thad Cochran (R-MS), faced significant primary challenges from Tea Party opponents.

The divide within the Republican Party would do little to relieve the Congressional gridlock ahead of the 2016 presidential elections, some observers argued.

“Republicans will be going to war with the party they have, not the party they wish to have,” Bill Scher wrote for Politico. “All this incarnation of the GOP can win in November is the opportunity to work out its dysfunctional family issues under the white-hot spotlight of a presidential campaign.”

GRC hosts Sexual Violence Awareness Month

From The Observer

October’s Sexual Violence Awareness Month — a series of programs and events including giveaways, awareness campaigns, a panel discussion and a workshop — will focus on bystander intervention and taking action to prevent sexual violence on campus, Gender Relations Center (GRC) Director Christine Caron Gebhardt said.

Gebhardt said the GRC planned the month’s programs based on what it saw as an increase in awareness and discussion surrounding sexual violence issues.

“We are beginning to break the silence around sexual violence,” she said. “What that does is help people who are impacted by sexual violence not to be afraid to come forward and receive help, but it also puts a responsibility on us as a community to not merely acknowledge that … we know how to care for them and that we also think about, ‘How do we prevent this from happening again?’”Gebhardt said the GRC planned the month’s programs based on what it saw as an increase in awareness and discussion surrounding sexual violence issues.

Unlike in previous years, when Sexual Violence Awareness Month emphasized attention to sexual violence and its impact on the community, this year’s events will be more action-focused, in addition to raising awareness and providing support to survivors of sexual violence, Gebhardt said.

“After the [crime alert] emails come out, people say, ‘what are we going to do about this?’ and there’s multiple answers to that question,” she said. “One of the most important things is just not to ignore it. That’s one of the basic things that we can do is not to delete the email, but to say, ‘what is it that I can do?’ — Not what Notre Dame can do, but what I can do. If we all take an individual commitment to act, then we can … change our community where we not only say we don’t tolerate sexual violence, but we act to change our culture so that it can’t occur on our campus.”

To kick off the month, FIRE Starters, the GRC’s peer educators on gender issues, will hand out free t-shirts Wednesday in LaFortune Student Center and North and South Dining Halls. Senior FIRE Starter Deirdre Harrington said the t-shirts, which feature the text “I am my brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” are a way of connecting the national issue of sexual violence to the University’s Catholic character.

GRC staff will also host a bystander intervention workshop Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Notre Dame Room of LaFortune. Gebhardt said the workshop, which takes place earlier in the semester than it has in previous years, was a response to students asking how to take action on preventing sexual violence.

“What campuses across the country are realizing is that it’s not enough to say, ‘we need to intervene,’” Gebhardt said. “The reason why we do bystander intervention is to show students how to intervene, and I think that’s the biggest thing. The question becomes ‘What can we do for students to follow through?’”

Gebhardt said workshop participants will examine different scenarios in which they might need to be an active bystander, brainstorm obstacles to effective intervention and learn how to overcome them.

Harrington said FIRE Starters will hand out cups reading “Are you okay?” on Tuesday in LaFortune.

“This question has a double meaning — ‘are you okay’ is a way to ask for consent. [It’s] also to encourage bystander intervention, not being afraid to ask someone, ‘hey, are you okay?’” Harrington said.

Oct. 8, the GRC will host a panel discussion, “Know Your IX: Resources for Care and Support.” Referencing the federal policy Title IX, which mandates gender equality in schools and provides recourse for student victims of sexual violence, the panel will “discuss the most effective ways to care — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — for those who are impacted by sexual violence,” according to the event poster. The panel will include representatives from Notre Dame, the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph’s County and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

The annual Mass of Healing, which includes intentions for those impacted by sexual violence, will take place Oct. 13 in the Log Chapel. The GRC will hand out prayer cards throughout the week.

The same week, Men Against Violence, a GRC group which works to raise awareness about and prevent sexual violence, will hold a pledge drive and White Ribbon campaign. According to the event poster, the White Ribbon is an international movement which arose after an anti-feminist killed 14 women at a Canadian university.

Sexual Violence Awareness Month will conclude Oct. 30 with the GRC’s annual “Time To Heal Dinner” in the press box of Notre Dame Stadium.

Gebhardt said the month offers a way to look at the Notre Dame community’s level of awareness and plan for future action against sexual violence.

“After we plan, we step back and listen and see, what are the remaining questions?” she said. “As we do programming in the future, what are the things that we need to continue to talk about, what are the dialogues that people need to participate in, what are the concepts that are difficult as we talk about it? We live in it, so it’s on our minds all the time, so for us, when we talk about it, it’s painful, but it something that we can do.”

Harrington said the month would be a way for students to understand how to get involved in the movement against sexual violence.

“In order to get campus culture to shift surrounding sexual violence, we need to start with baby steps,” Harrington said. “… We’re building up so we can have events like Take Back the Night and the Time to Heal Dinner, where we’ll have larger attendance because the campus as a community says, ‘We’re going to actively stop sexual violence on our campus and throughout the country.’ In order to start this kind of culture shift, we need to start with poster campaigns, something simple that might remind someone or get the conversation started . . . [and] keep it going.”

Regina Gesicki, the GRC’s assistant director for educational initiatives, said students could participate in the month’s events regardless of their level of awareness or involvement in sexual violence prevention initiatives.

“We want to promote the idea that we are a community that really cares about each other,” Gesicki said. “From t-shirts with brothers and sisters keepers, all the way to learning how to be a bystander, to resources, it’s wherever you can be a part. Maybe you’re only at the point where you can wear a t-shirt. That’s fine. But maybe you’re ready to be certified as an active bystander. There’s a lot of different ways to get involved, and the idea is that this is offering a lot of opportunities.

“You don’t have to do all the things, but do something, and realize that it’s part of a larger effort not only to raise awareness but to raise the investment in the fact that our community is built by every single person.”