DC to NYC: My DIY Experience

Look no further for evidence of my interest in experiencing the economy first hand than my weekend DIY trip from DC to my new home in NYC.

I decided it was an experience I needed to have: rent a UHAUL, drive to Manhattan and unload it all into my new place. But it was a group of strangers that made the experience and helped me feel connected to this country I call home – a place I work to understand on a deeper level every day.

First there was Pierre, a UHAUL representative who finalized my reservation over the phone when I hit a wall with the website. Regardless of his friendly disposition, Pierre ended up misleading me to believe I could dump the UHAUL at any of the after hour locations in NYC. (There are none, and like other big companies with thousands of employees and a seemingly disorganized call center, I later got the run around when I really just needed help). But that was really, the only unpleasant experience. Because next, there was Greg.

Greg was a 20-something-year-old. Toothpick thin but strong beyond belief, he met me at my new place to unload the truck. Greg was one of the 35 men who answered my Craigslist ad, (all within minutes), to unload my truck. I say look no further for evidence of how bad the economy is than the volume of people hawking the ‘Gigs Offered’ vertical of CL, offering time for dirt cheap. I only answered the people who offered resumes and/or references, and Greg, a guy my age who had to take a break from college, which I assume was financial-related, was my first choice.

And while Pierre and Greg were the bookends of the trip, the constant that got me through was Liz, a friend of a friend who just so happened to also be in route from DC to NYC the same day. She didn’t miss a beat when I asked her to tag along and acted as a voice of confidence and support as I navigated the wily interstates of the east coast with a cargo van full of items I love.

So now here I am, on a crowded subway heading from the Bronx to midtown west to get my fourth week at CBS News started. I had to drop the van off at the Bronx locale, which amazingly, was no problem at all. Who knows what the next days and months will hold in my new city. But one thing is for sure, there are many new people like Greg I can’t wait to meet to learn a little more about it.

Onward and upward…and a DIY move, while a great experience, I hope never again! 🙂

Erica Anderson
Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from EricaAmerica’s posterous

On Assignment for @katiecouric

A few months back a journalist friend in Washington, D.C. suggested that I get to know one of his friends who works in Communications at CBS.  It was more a networking opportunity than anything else. We tried and missed each other a couple of times and then, a few weeks ago, from the seat of my $19 bus ticket from DC to NYC, I powered up my Mac, connected to wifi and tried again. This time it worked – and the next day I was off to CBS News for an impromptu conversation that turned into something much more.

Four weeks after that bus ride, here I am looking around my apartment at an unsightly stack of boxes. A pile of stamped thank you notes waiting to be mailed to friends. And of course, my trusty Mac – powered up, connected, and ready to make another move. This time to let you all know that on Monday, I’ll be reporting for my new gig with CBS News.com and @katiecouric – the long form web show Katie kicked off a year ago.

And as I look ahead to Monday, I can’t help but think this opportunity with CBS News and @katiecouric is my chance to meld my past experiences – moonlighting as a citizen journalist for MTV News and CNN iReport and working in digital communications. The exciting thing is with @katiecouric, I have the chance to apply myself full time in a field I am incredibly passionate about: journalism.

So with that, I think it’s time I get back to those boxes. Once I am settled I look forward to getting back to you all. If luck has it, maybe it will be to share with you the chances CBSNews.com and @katiecouric are set to take. Who knows – it seemed to have worked for me.

Sitcom TV and the Cognitive Surplus

Thanks to Nick @ Nite, I spent the 1990’s watching classic American sitcoms. From I Love Lucy to Bewitched, I loved meeting my family after a sun-filled summer day around that television. But as the years went on, it was the lure of a new screen in the room – the computer – that pulled me away from the connectivity of those nights and into the future.

Clay Shirky reminded me of those memories when I watched his 2008 Web 2.0 Expo talk about the “cognitive surplus.

Here is the back-story.

In 2008, Shirky credited the television sitcom (summary here: Gin, Television and Social Surplus) as the most critical technology of the last few decades. He says, and I paraphrase – that as the country came into the five-day workweek around the start of the second World War, society experienced something new: free time. Problem was, people, like my grandparents, didn’t know how to handle it. So they “panicked” – and flocked to TV that acted as the “social lubricant” to our patchwork society. For decades, it linked us all together. It was present media. And with the onset of the Internet, web 2.0 and the long tail of choice, the sitcom and well, TV, has been challenged by choice.

If you follow Shirky’s perspective, he goes on to say that society is just now waking up from a collective bender, a bender that has exposed a cognitive surplus. Massive amounts of time that people choose to spend in different ways – from updating Wikipedia page to creating video content to building a personal brand.

So who will be the game changers that create the new sitcom – the new social lubricant? Will there be one or many? And who will find the avenues to construct the new model of business, news and entertainment around it?

I can’t wait to dig into Shirky’s new book – fittingly named The Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

Posted via email from EricaAmerica’s posterous

Mango Diplomacy: A People to People Market

While I sit and wait for my curry at one of my favorite local restaurants, I am reminded of the story of the mango and how it connects to my journey towards journalism. First, let me offer some background.

The mango is a fruit native to India and tied to a 4,000 year history. Up until three years ago, Indian mangoes we kept from the U.S., restricted by a trade embargo that paved the way for Mexico and parts of South America to cash in on a estimated $156 million a year market. Apparently, Americans really love their mangoes.

I know all this nerdy fruit history because I went to the mango celebration in 2007, signaling the lift of the trade freeze. Hosted by the U.S. India Business Council, the room was packed with policy deal makers, reporters, diplomats, executives and yes, Indian mangoes. Served with ice cream.

I met a man named Raghubir Goyal at the event and went on to write about the lift of the freeze for his newspaper, India Globe. He returned the favor in an unusual way – by introducing me to Helen Thomas, who took me under her wing and taught me about the standards and ethics of journalism – the ones she met  each and every day, for 57 years, at UPI.

But back to the mangoes. As it turned out, last week, I got something in the mail. A box of Indian mangoes.

The mangoes came complements of Dr. Savani, a dentist living in America. I called him a few months ago, on a whim, to see how the mango imports were going. Apparently, not so well.

“We have no business model for selling the mangoes,” he told me on the phone. “…and the market is still dominated by South American mangoes.”

He went on to tell me how he works with Fed Ex and once a year, brings in a shipment of mangoes and send to the types of people at the celebration in 2007. To remind them of the farmers desire to sell their product in the U.S.

I ended my India Globe article in 2007 with this quote from USIBC President, Ron Somers – which I find fitting to leave here now.

“As India’s prosperity rises and U.S.-India commercial and trade relations deepen, jobs and opportunities will result on both sides. Will mango imports affect U.S.-India trade? Let’s just say mango diplomacy will strengthen the people to people connection crucial to any true partnership.”

**Erica Anderson has been to India three times, where her Uncle served as Chief Executive Officer of General Electric India for fourteen years.**

Posted via email from EricaAmerica’s posterous

Personal Democracy Forum: A New Generation of Thinkers

Last week I was at Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) in New York City. PDF is known as the premier global conference on how technology is changing politics and government. This was my second year attending and it was a remarkable few days.

My favorite panel was “Truth, Fact Checking and Online Media” with Jay Rosen, NYU Journalism professor, Bill Adair, creator of Politifact, and Marc Ambinder, politics editor at Atlantic. During the panel, they discussed the maze of misinformation that exists online, and how we, as professionals, can seek to be “trusted brokers” of facts.

Politifact is an especially compelling project – and one of my Tweets quoting Adair got a lot of buzz online. As Adair said, “Obama made 500 campaign promises,” and @politifact rates them as kept, compromised, broken, stalled or in the works on ‘Obameter.’

And as always, I enjoyed hearing what Professor Rosen had to say. He opened up his presentation with a photograph of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, and stated – There have been many situations in which “the press have been put in the service of untruth.” I think that’s an important quote to remember as we find our way through this new digital forrest of information, sourcing, news gathering and fact checking.

If you don’t know much about Rosen – his ideas are worth exploring. He is one of the most disruptive thinkers in our “future of journalism” crew. To see what I mean, check out his  suggestions to CNN to save their programming, or his advice for Meet the Press: fact check what your guests say on Sunday and report it online the following Wednesday.

Why not?

The whole idea of these panels is to bring together those “disruptive” thinkers – and another one worth noting is Newark Mayor, @CoryBooker, who joined the conference for the final key note. Booker uses Twitter as one way to connect to his community and crowdsource information about their needs.

Finally, here are some other great tid bits from my live tweeting:

  • Move over, Bit.ly. The U.S. government created a URL shortener.
  • What can you do with a kite, string and a digital camera? MIT’s Jeffrey Warren is mapping the Gulf oil spill with it.
  • See a pot hole? Broken street light? See Click Fix is a new web application allowing people in communities to report non-emergency situations – and get help, fast.

Transcribing the Helen Thomas Tapes

I’m sitting at a Cafe, transcribing more of the Helen Thomas tapes. When I met Helen in 2007, I asked her if it would be OK to film some of our conversations about life, journalism, politics and the intersection of each. Now it’s 2010, and it’s time for me to sit down and transcribe them all, show her what I’ve got, and see what step is next. Why? I suppose I feel the conversations and lessons that came out of our talks shouldn’t be kept just between us. So many people are passionate about reconstructing fact-first journalism.

She told me during one of our first meetings this was the most difficult time she has ever seen for a young person to enter journalism. Really? I was skeptical. Even during WWII, when she got her start? Even when women weren’t anything but coffee brewers and secretaries in newsrooms? Now? Yes, she told me. In a moment of self defeat, I told her about the advice of some Washington media who told me: if I wanted to get in, I should leave, work at a small news outlet in some small town, and try to make my way back. I loathed such advice. Why would I do that? Even in 2007, I felt a rising tide of change that I wanted to be around for. Helen agreed. “Start at the top. Stay in Washington,” she told me on a park bench outside the White House. And I did. Stay in Washington, that is. And in the years that followed, I would find my own way for education and experience, talking to Helen Thomas about it along the way.

Over the years our poignant conversations produced moments of intensity and real time lessons for me. It has been a remarkable privilege to have these talks with Helen. But truth be told, this isn’t about us. It’s about a significant shift in American journalism – and how two bookends of the industry viewed it. Analyzed it. Consoled each other over it. Found hope from each other in it. Learned from the others experiences with it. And at the end of the day, ended on a note that left each of us feeling optimistic about it.

Here is one quote from this batch, filmed in her cubicle on February 19, 2009:

EA: Two columns ago, you wrote about the stimulus, and about how Obama was courting (Republican) votes. And it didn’t work. Only three Republican Senators voted for the package. What is it really going to take to change the way Washington works, which is what he says he wants to do.

HT: I don’t think he’s going to change the way Washington works. That is, he ought to do what is right for the American people. And if he does, he’ll win.

Posted via web from EricaAmerica’s posterous

The Information Gap: Fact-Based International News

When I first moved to Washington in August 2006, I found a rich international culture. And within months of exploring the city, I was reminded of what I had always known – I love looking at the U.S. from behind the lens of international news.

The first time I left the U.S. (Indiana might I add) was to New Delhi, India, in 1996. I was an awkward 11-year-old, with blonde hair, braces and an insatiable curiosity about the culture around me. When I returned, I told my english teacher I might have a hard time keeping up with her curriculum, because I was planning on writing a book about my trip. (Insert laughter). The book never came but a draft sits in my parent’s home in Indiana, safe keeping for when the time is right.

Funny thing is, timing really doesn’t care about being right.

Ten years later, I was sitting in my D.C. apartment reading an article about how international news buearus were being cut right and left by struggling American media companies. It helped me to understand that massive cutbacks, newsroom shutdowns and a growing gap for fact-based news and information would soon ensue.  And in tandem, so too did  my obsession with the evolution of fact-based journalism.

Fast forward to 2010. A few months ago, I spoke on a panel at the National Press Club about how I’ve used digital tools to gather, produce and disseminate news. After the talk, someone from Radio Free Europe (RFE) approached me. He told me about their HQs in Prague and the mission to provide uncensored news in censored states like Afghanistan, Turkestan, Iran, Kosovo, Moldova and more.

So I began to dig in.

RFE is worth checking out. They have hundreds of journalists in areas that the Post, the Times and other American-focused outlets had to cut. (No doubt they still get stringer stories, but the presence is not the same.) RFE also has a sick amount of multimedia content, radio clips, and blog content like Journalists in Trouble that put it all into perspective. It’s a gold mine of information and hard to get content.

But my digging in is not without motivation. I am trying to see if I can help them out in terms of digital and content strategy, community building, engagement and targeting. So that when the time is right, the vulnerable, information-deprived audiences around the world, or even simply in America, will get the fact-first information they need.

While I continue to learn about RFE, I wanted to share with you guys some of the cooler stories I’ve found. Enjoy.

In Need Of Transplants In Tajikistan


Migrant Express: Stuck at the Border


Gay Rights: Not a Partisan Issue

Andrew Sullivan once wrote, in a heated blog post, (and I paraphrase) that equality for LGBT Americans is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue. His fervor gave me clarity and his observation stuck with me. So today, I’ll take it a step further because we are facing a symbolic moment in the journey towards equality.

Congress will be voting on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the next 48 hours. I’m asking my friends and family to call Capitol Hill and let their Representative know they SUPPORT LEGISLATIVE REPEAL in 2010. The phone number is (202) 225-3121. If you’re not sure what to say, you can take suggestions from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund here. You can also find out if your Member supports the legislation here.

Why do it? Too often do homophobic policies find their ways into national politics, making it difficult for people of all ages living in small towns, big cities and rural areas of America to live their lives fully and openly. They are paralyzed by fear of political and social retribution for being who they are. I know because it happened to me.

Learn more from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund and keep up with the latest news from the Advocate’s Washington, DC correspondent, Kerry Eleveld. Read her analysis of how we got to DADT here.

Finally, I thank you for doing your part. With integrity and compassion for others, I’m ready to take a stand. Are you?

Quick Shot: Stimulus Dollars In Action

Dupont Circle’s 17th Street area is under construction. Block by block, new sidewalks have been laid and lamp posts lifted up.

I guess this is part of the stimulus ripple effect? People are working, goods are being exchanged and the businesses around stand to also benefit. What D.C. neighborhood will be next? My hope is somewhere in the Ward 8, Anacostia region. It is by far the poorest population in D.C. A stark contrast to these city blocks below.

Erica Anderson
Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from EricaAmerica’s posterous

On the Ground at the DC #Summit Series

Last week I got a call from one of my favorite MTV Street Teamers – Charlie Berens from Wisconsin. Since our work with MTV ended, Charlie has been busy…he graduated from college and moved west to Los Angeles to chase his dreams. And as luck has it, I’ll be helping him do just that tomorrow when I help his production team cover one of the most exciting events of the year – The Summit Series.

According to the web site, Summit Series DC10 is an “invitation-only event that connects top young minds and inspires a new generation of leaders to succeed in business and life.” Panels range from Business to Altruism to Innovation to Arts and even Personal Growth.

Kiki Ryan over at Politico did a great write up on the event – so don’t waste all your time here! If you want to follow the event via Twitter, check in with these hash tags: #DC10 and #SummitSeries.

Some of the speakers I’m excited to possibly see include:

  • President Bill Clinton
  • Craig Newmark
 Founder, Craigslist
  • Alec Ross
 Senior Advisor for Innovation, U.S. State Department
  • Ted Turner
 Chairman, United Nations Foundation
  • Alfred Lin,
 COO & CFO, Zappos
  • Shervin Pishevar, 
Serial Entrepreneur & Angel Investor
  • Philip Rosedale
, Creator, Second Life
  • David Rubenstein, Co-Founder & Managing Director, The Carlyle Group
  • Ann Veneman,
 Executive Director, UNICEF
  • Howard Buffett
, White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Engagement
  • Wendy Kopp
, Founder & CEO, Teach for America
  • Mark Cuban
 Owner Dallas Mavericks; Chairman HDNet
  • Leland Melvin
 NASA Astronaut
  • Yosi Sergeant 
Co-Creator, Obama Hope Campaign