I'm starting a bit of a tradition this Thanksgiving week by re-publishing a blog entry I wrote for my Mass. Global Action blog four years ago as an Open Media Boston editorial for the second year running in these pages. I figure that our audience has grown quite a bit since last Thanksgiving, and that I'd like more people to hear a different perspective about the holiday - if only that they may learn about how Native Americans lost New England in a vicious war instigated by expansionist English colonists over 330 years ago.
It was strange to read today's Boston Globe article about the response of some Massachusetts small businesses to the premium increases that the health insurance companies are proposing for next year. Though the average increase for small businesses will be 10 percent - an already ridiculously high figure - some of these businesses will see their premiums go up by much more than that.
It's rather disheartening to see the way that the ongoing economic downturn gets spun in the news media. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the official unemployment rate went up into the double-digits for first time since April 1983. Specifically, 10.2 percent of American workers - 15.7 million people - were out of work in October. Up from 9.8 percent in September. And that's just the narrow U-3 analysis of the job loss numbers.
One of the vexing things about running a non-profit news operation is that the same restrictions that apply to regular non-profit organizations also apply to us. So we are not allowed to back candidates for elected office in this pages until we come up with some kind of legal arrangement that allows for it. I find this rather ironic considering that corporations are able to exercise huge amount of direct influence on government, and corporate-owned news operations absolutely have the right to back candidates chosen by their editorial boards.
Covering the protests against Barack Obama the other day was a tricky bit of journalism. Not technically, but in terms of narrative structure. Because each of the two protest sites had more than one group protesting - and the groups were not all in coalition. Indeed, one group was fairly conservative. To attempt to do the protests justice, we divided our available Open Media Boston staff into two teams. I went over to the Copley Square protest with our new staff photographer, Diana Mai.
While it has been a long and busy couple of weeks for Open Media Boston staff, I'm gratified to report we managed to both keep our publication moving along and help pull off a useful event - the National Writers Union Digital Media Conference - on Friday and Saturday. I'm still processing exactly what I want to say about what I learned from my participation in the conference, but I thought I'd use this week's editorial to simply thank all the many people that volunteered their time to make it happen.
Occasionally there is a harmonic convergance of activities by a variety of progressive peace and social justice organizations in Boston - and lots of important events happen in the space of a few days. This coming week is one such, so I thought it would be a good idea to showcase some of the many options on offer.
[And ok, I also thought "wow my colleagues at Open Media Boston and I all have work to do on the Digital Media Conference; so I'd better just write a short editorial this week and focus on doing that conference prep thing."]
So here's what's coming up
These are still tough times for working families. Massachusetts unemployment is at 9.1 percent. National unemployment is at 9.8 percent. The real unemployment rate - including a legion of "discouraged workers" who have run out of unemployment benefits, but not found work - is likely double that amount.
Open Media Boston is pleased to invite our viewers to attend a conference that we're co-sponsoring with the National Writers Union called "Shall We Write for Free or Shall We Write for Pay? Writers Face the Digital Age." The event will take place Friday, October 16 and Saturday, October 17 at the Egan Research Center at Northeastern University. Other co-sponsors include the John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute at Northeastern, Grub Street Writers, PEN New England and the Women's National Book Association.
It's rare to see virtually the entire Boston political establishment and media united behind a group of workers in a labor dispute, but that presently seems to be the case - given the near universal outrage we're witnessing over the firing of over 100 Boston Hyatt housekeeping workers that came to light this week. So it goes without saying that Open Media Boston backs the so far informal calls for a nationwide boycott of all Hyatt hotels.