Human Rights Day: December 10th

On December 10th, 1948, the then-new United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting a global standard for human rights across all nations, cultures, and demographics. Obviously, that one action didn’t magically create world peace, as anyone who follows  international news can attest to. However, as a society, if we can learn from this foundation, by working together to solve the many human rights crises raging both at home, and around the world—repairing devastated locations, striving to give people everywhere access to basic needs like food, clean water, and medical services, assisting marginalized populations such as refugees, the homeless, the elderly, immigrants, and prisoners, fixing income inequality, pushing giant corporations to curb the effects of climate change—we can use the message outlined back in 1948 to shape a better future.
In honor of that event in 1948, the day of December 10th has since been known as Human Rights Day. Here are my thoughts, as written for the Join Us For Good initiative:

Celebrating International Human Rights Day, Today and Every Day

Human-Rights-Day-1

On December 10th, 1948, one of the first major achievements of the United Nations was the adoption of a bill called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was the first global affirmation of human rights in world history. Since 1950, every December 10th now honors that historic moment with the annual celebration of International Human Rights Day, a day where people of all nationalities, creeds, and backgrounds can come together to recognize our basic human rights as well as what progress can still be made today… READ MORE

 

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REBLOG: True Tales Live: “Day One” (Video)

Nicholas Conley

This past month, I was honored with the opportunity to appear on the second season premiere of the local NH television program, True Tales Live.  As with the True Tales radio program that preceded it, True Tales Live seeks to give storytellers the opportunity to share actual stories from their life.

For this episode of True Tales Live, I shared my story, “Day One,” where I delve back into my early days working in a nursing home, as a nursing aide on a longterm care unit, and how that experience changed my views, my perception, and my way of trying to be there for other people.

Though the series can be watched on local TV in the NH area, everyone else can check it out here on the official True Tales YouTube! My section begins around 46:50, in the video below:

Other storytellers in this episode include Arnie…

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The Problem with Paywalls

Over the past few centuries, it’s been said many times, in many ways, how the cornerstone of democracy is a free press. For the sake of having a more free and just society, we also want an informed society. Newspapers, news websites, news stations, and so on must have the freedom to write about anyone, or anything, at any time, in order to hold the world’s most powerful institutions in check. In the same way that news institutions need to sharply critique the policies of other institutions, though, it’s equally important for citizens to be able to carefully scrutinize the news they read: to ensure that all news sources, from the New York Times to JoeBillysNews.com (not a real site!), use proper citations, follow journalistic standards, correctly present information, don’t misrepresent facts, and so on, in order to make sure that the public isn’t just informed, but accurately informed.

So, in that spirit, I have a critique: what’s the deal with paywalls?

For those who might not be familiar with the term, “paywalls” are what we call those screens which flash up when you’ve read a couple articles on a specific news site, displaying a message along the lines of, “You’ve read 2 of 3 free articles this month. Please subscribe.” Once you read all 3 (or however many) articles, the news site will then cease to display “free” articles until the following month. Basically, you get walled out. Kinda like this:

brickwall paywall news paper

Now, I understand the principle behind this. New sources are a business. Understandably, that business needs to support itself, a task which has become more challenging in this era of digital revolution.  The problem? Getting people to actively read the news can already be a challenge, and that number is only going to dwindle further if doing so requires coughing up a weekly or monthly subscription.

The truth is, we live in the age of free information. If a news site puts up a paywall, it doesn’t encourage people to subscribe: it turns them away. This results in lower readership, which in the long run, damages the business. Paywalls are an attempt to impose old standards upon new formats, and they don’t work. The bigger problem, though, is one of ethics. The “must pay if you want to read the news” model isn’t just out of date, it’s dangerous for democracy.

As a writer myself, I strongly believe that clear, informative, well-sourced news should be freely available to every single person, of any class, of any demographic, in order to promote a more educated society. Paywalls are a form of classism: they create a fiscal barrier between lower-income individuals and proper news sources. There are countless individuals and families out there who simply can’t afford a monthly subscription, because if it comes to choosing between food, medication, or a newspaper, basic needs are going to win the wallet battle. As a result, paywalls run the risk of sending potentially informed individuals into badly-sourced, less-refined news sites, thereby resulting in a less educated populace. Kind of goes against the spirit of the free press, doesn’t it?

We should want a strong free press, but we also need a press that provides free information, as well. While news sources need to find new ways to support themselves, the immense disadvantages of paywalls (both for moral and business reasons) prove that they are an ineffective method, as well as being problematic for society at large.

What do you all think?

True Tales Live: “Day One” (Video)

This past month, I was honored with the opportunity to appear on the second season premiere of the local NH television program, True Tales Live.  As with the True Tales radio program that preceded it, True Tales Live seeks to give storytellers the opportunity to share actual stories from their life.

For this episode of True Tales Live, I shared my story, “Day One,” where I delve back into my early days working in a nursing home, as a nursing aide on a longterm care unit, and how that experience changed my views, my perception, and my way of trying to be there for other people.

Though the series can be watched on local TV in the NH area, everyone else can check it out here on the official True Tales YouTube! My section begins around 46:50, in the video below:

 

Other storytellers in this episode include Arnie Alpert, Emilie Spaulding, Gail Licciardello, Joanne Piazzi, and Annette Slattery. Definitely worth watching, and to everyone behind the scenes, thank you for putting this program together.

True Tales: Past the Horizon Line

Back in February of 2016, I was honored to have the opportunity to share a true story on the radio station WSCA 106.1 FM, and in front of a live studio audience.

That story, which I called “Past the Horizon Line,” was about my real life experiences working in a nursing home, and how my friendship with one particularly amazing Alzheimer’s patient had a profound impact on my life.

As longtime readers know, much of my writing — including my novel Pale Highway (which deals with Alzheimer’s), as well as Clay Tongue: A Novelette (which deals with post-stroke aphasia) and my upcoming book, Intraterrestrial (which deals with traumatic brain injuries) — has been based on my experiences working in healthcare, but it’s not often that I get to share too much about what those real experiences were like, and how they shaped the person I am today. For that reason, I’d like the share this clip with you all, where I tell my story, “Past the Horizon Line.” Thank you for watching.

 

 

PEN America

I’m proud to announce that I’m now a member of PEN America, the East Coast United States chapter of PEN International. Founded in London in 1921, PEN is the world’s oldest human rights organization, and also the oldest international literary organization, with its membership comprised of novelists, journalists, poets, essayists, playwrights, and more. PEN International works to promote the important role that writers have in shaping society, by emphasizing mutual understanding between cultures, speaking out against tyranny, and bringing people together. The organization also coordinates the PEN Prison Writing Program, which provides inmates a much needed opportunity for self-expression through writing, as well as access to writing mentors, and an audience. PEN also fights for freedom of expression and freedom of the press across the world, sounding the bullhorn for writers who have been imprisoned or killed for their writing.

From their website:

 

pen

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

PEN America is the largest of more than 100 centers of PEN International. For more than 90 years, we have been working together with our colleagues in the international PEN community to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. In doing so, we are building on a tradition begun in the years following World War I and carried forward by thousands of American writers.

Needless to say, I’m both honored and excited to now be a member, and look forward to doing my part to further these important goals in whatever way I can. After all, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, is the cornerstone of free society.