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Marshall Personal Statement

A little over a year ago I wrote an essay that changed my life.

Today – September 18, 2018 – I am boarding a plane to the United Kingdom, where I will spend the next two years pursuing two master’s degrees. 

I look back on my Marshall Scholarship personal statement as a manifesto of where I’m from, how far I’ve come, and where I hope to go. I have decided to publish it here to offer insight into my journey, to make known what I hope to accomplish, and perhaps to inspire others to explore and follow their passions.

It is truly empowering to have my efforts and ambitions recognized by the Marshall Commission, and I look forward to making the most of the privileges and opportunities enabled through this scholarship.

(Disclaimer: This is not an official Marshall post, nor is it the only or best way to write a personal statement.)

On a bumpy bus ride to São Paulo this spring, I interviewed a woman for an assignment I was doing about the inequalities created and perpetuated by the city’s spatial segregation.

Mid-monologue, she paused and recalled a television broadcast she had seen a few years earlier that had stuck with her. In it, a journalist spoke about how the people who best understand the inequalities of the world are domestic workers.

I was stunned. A sense of realization washed over me as elements of my identity that I had never previously considered suddenly fell into place.

Of course, I thought. This was why I was in Brazil. This was why I was conducting interviews about the marginalization of Paulistanos. This is what had driven me to want to become an investigative journalist.

During the formative years of my youth, my mother was a housekeeper. A kindhearted, Catholic Polish immigrant, she spent her days driving from our tiny apartment in the ethnic enclave of Wallington to the wealthy suburbs of northern New Jersey. She saw glimpses of how the “other half” lived as she cleaned their homes and washed their clothes. Growing up in an impoverished eleven-child household in communist Poland, my mother could have only dreamt of the luxuries that were so commonplace for her employers.

She became acutely aware of the economic and social hurdles before her, but also of the possibility for mobility. She started community college the year I began kindergarten, and together we learned English and navigated the American public education system. She graduated with an associate’s degree and though I outpaced her in linguistics, I never surpassed her in wisdom. Observing my mother’s interactions with the world shaped the way I thought about justice and ethical responsibility.

At my mother’s encouraging, I began from an early age to inquire into the workings of the world and put those musings to paper. As the internet became increasingly accessible, I began to explore worlds and ideas that enabled and inspired me to reach far beyond the borders of my small town. That curiosity only grew with time, as I began to think more critically about my own place in the world and what my contributions would be.

Beginning university, I struggled with a crippling sense of inferiority as I compared myself to my peers, who include the children of wealthy businesspeople, accomplished professors and even presidential advisers. As I found my footing, however, I came to realize that my inheritance from my mother – her ability to recognize social injustices and to empathize with those who experience them – is just as precious.

I also realized that journalism – the field of study that my mother suggested I pursue – could allow me to further explore, and bring awareness to, the disparities that I had witnessed and was learning about.

It is perhaps one of the strongest human urges to feel heard and understood. Yet in a world with such persistent inequalities, it can be difficult for everyone’s experiences and truths to be acknowledged and validated. The complicated reality is that interpretations of truth vary across cultures, communities, faiths, and even from one individual to another.

In many cases, truth is something that is dynamic and multidimensional, something that can refract a different light depending on how you choose to look at it. Perhaps it is not within our capacity as humans to conceive of the Whole Truth, but it should be the ambition of good journalists to come as close as possible, and to make that truth accessible to all who will listen.

At their best, journalists report stories that capture human life in all its gore and glory – our experiences, our triumphs, our shortcomings, our struggles. They write the first draft of history, hold the powerful and privileged accountable, and help amplify the voices of those who might not otherwise be heard. In order to accomplish this, journalists must also be able to step back and observe larger trends, issues and movements that occur within and across cultures and societies.

My studies, work and travels have served to further reinforce my beliefs about the value and importance of ethical, thoughtful, quality journalism. The existence of multitudinous forms of media is prime evidence that humans want and need their stories to be heard.

I met a woman in rural India who started a community newspaper called Vividha that had large text and simple sentences to accommodate the needs of its readers. The newspaper, which was a compilation of stories reported by the community, was read aloud for those who were illiterate. In San Francisco, I found a newspaper called Street Sheet published by the city’s homeless citizens, which features current affairs, art and poetry. Each paper is sold for $2 by homeless or low-income vendors, who get to keep all the money they earn. And social media, as messy and divisive as it may be, also has the potential to overcome geographic barriers, reconcile disparate groups, and conquer information asymmetry. I have spent time researching and working on solutions that overcome issues like algorithm-induced echo-chambers on Facebook, which breed misinformation and political divisiveness.

What I have learned from all of these experiences is that reporters cannot achieve their mission unless they are tuned into the lives of all kinds of people – across political, economic, social and other spectra. No person should be excluded from information that pertains to their life. Poor journalism has major consequences; so does insufficient journalism.

Being the daughter of a former domestic worker allowed me to become more attuned to struggles for social and economic equity. Practicing journalism enables me to further explore those matters and, simultaneously, gain a better grasp on how my background and experiences shape my values and ethics.

Having this consciousness has filled me with a sense of obligation to work diligently and thoughtfully to use my skills, my privilege and my voice to help others be heard.

Thoughts on Stephen Colbert and the future of late-night

Ever since it was announced that Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report,” would be replacing David Letterman as host of the “Late Show,” countless late-night viewers found themselves asking, “Who is the real Stephen Colbert?” Who was the man behind the fictional blowhard host of the satirical late-night show?

Even now, eight months since the show’s premiere with Colbert at the helm, it seems that audiences still haven’t quite figured it out. Every day, I see articles with such headlines as “What does Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ want to be?” and “Letting Stephen Colbert be Stephen Colbert (whoever that is)” and “Can Stephen Colbert get his ‘Late Night’ groove back?” and on and on.

Has it really been that hard for Colbert to forge his own identity and prove it to the public?

LATE NIGHT LINKS | MAY 1 – MAY 7

Each week, I will be compiling a list of late-night comedy-related articles and video recommendations.

Read:

  • In a recent interview with The New York Times, late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler spoke out against the repetitious structure of late-night programming. In particular, she criticized Stephen Colbert for falling into this pattern.

“There are 10 or 11 guys doing what used to be done by two guys. That’s not interesting… Look what’s going on with Stephen Colbert and that show,” she said. “What is that? He’s being himself and he’s not. He didn’t go in and make a different show. He’s just following in the footsteps of someone else.” – Chelsea Handler

  • This week, in his “A Closer Look” segment, Seth Meyers came to the defense of teachers in Detroit, who have been going on strike to draw attention to the miserable conditions in the city’s public schools. The video was recognized by Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.
  • Former SNL star Maya Rudolph spoke to Rolling Out about being a black female comedian on the show.

They don’t love you like I love you: ‘Lemonade’ takes over late-night

Beyoncé’s hour-long visual album “Lemonade” dropped last week, and it’s been the object of many music-lovers’ attention. Of course, many late-night hosts were also quick to capitalize on the media frenzy.

Watch the hosts’ various hilarious attempts to bask in Bey’s spotlight:

James Corden’s monologue was a (beautifully shot) visual journey.

LATE NIGHT LINKS | APRIL 23 – APRIL 30

Each week, I will be compiling a list of late-night comedy-related articles and video recommendations.

Read:

  • An article in the LA Times begged the question, “Can Stephen Colbert get his ‘Late Night’ groove back?”

In the high school cafeteria of late night, “The Late Show” is the table with the Model UN kids; “The Tonight Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” are the jocks.”

  • In an article in VarietySeth Meyers rated presidential candidates’ guest appearances on “Late Night.”

“The best guests are the ones who see [the show] as a break from the monotony of the campaign. And the worst guests are the ones who use it as another chapter in the monotony of the campaign — who say, ‘I will say the same things here I say everywhere else, and hopefully we will reach a different audience.’ ”

 

  • Variety also reported that former SNL cast member Will Ferrell, known for his political impressions, will play Ronald Reagan in a new satirical biopic.
  • According to Tech Times, NBC announced that it will cutting down about 30 percent of ads for “SNL,” which will allowfor around 30 more minutes of original content.

When comedians get it wrong

 

If you watched the above video without context, you would think that Donald Trump is an idiot who can’t remember the infamous date of one of the greatest tragedies in modern American history — the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

After Trump gave that speech at a rally in Buffalo, NY, comedians and the media used the clip to call the Republican front-runner out for misspeaking and mistakenly honoring a convenience store.

However, amidst the mockery, some news sources pointed out that Trump hadn’t misspoken — it was the public that had misunderstood. Rather than saying the wrong date, Trump was referring to New York Fire Station #711, the very first responders to the 9/11 attack.

Makes more sense, right?

LATE NIGHT LINKS | APRIL 17 – APRIL 22

Each week, I will be compiling a list of late-night comedy-related articles and video recommendations.

Read:

  • Human rights activist Cherno Biko wrote in Advocate.com about her experience behind the scenes during the trans-themed episode of “The Daily Show.”

The media can be a powerful tool for changing people’s perceptions and raising awareness, and this episode of ‘The Daily Show’ was a critical intervention… Folks like us must continue to share our stories and shift our culture towards a more loving, empathetic and compassionate place for the most vulnerable.”

  • According to the New York Post, a New Jersey teacher was forced to resign after showing his class John Oliver’s infamous Donald Trump video. The Middletown South High School teacher was pushed out after getting complaints from a parent who had learned about the screening from her child.
  • On a brighter note, Entertainment Weekly compiled a list of some of John Oliver’s greatest take-downs on “Last Week Tonight.”

(Oliver) knows how to hit his enemies where it hurts, and does so in creative ways that often extend into the world beyond his desk, sometimes achieving real goals or at least changing the narrative on a subject.”

How the internet has changed the landscape of late-night TV

Years ago, people who wanted to hear a nightly comedy monologue and see their favorite celebrities interviewed on TV had to gather around the television set and tune in when the “Tonight Show” or “Late Show” aired. If viewers missed an episode, there was little chance they would get another chance to see it, and they would thus would have to rely on hearsay to find out what happened. This, in fact, was the case until the internet and social media came around, providing a platform to share late-night content beyond its traditional late-night setting.

Today, most young people who are watching Jimmy Fallon’s celebrity shenanigans or John Oliver’s infotainment segments are probably not doing so in front of a television set, or even late at night. A large portion of these shows’ viewership comes from social media shares and internet virality.

LATE NIGHT LINKS | APRIL 8 – APRIL 16

Each week, I will be compiling a list of late-night comedy-related articles and video recommendations.

Read: 

  • In an article in Time magazine, Kathryn Cramer Brownell wrote about how, exactly 40 years ago this weekend, SNL debuted its first political parody. This ushered in a new era of political commentary, as well as a new perspective on the need for political figures to be seen as entertaining.

What happens, however, when entertainment becomes not just a tool to engage and communicate, as it has in the past, but the defining and driving component of a contest to win an office that also involves making substantial decisions about domestic and international affairs?”

  • Madeline Kaplan declared her love for Samantha Bee (or, in her words, ‘Samantha Bae’) and her show “Full Frontal” in an article in the Yale Daily News.

…the material Bee presents often falls halfway between journalism and humor, making salient political and moral arguments between jokes and asides.”

Can satire help restore media accountability?

In 2004, Jon Stewart — a news satirist from a comedy network — basically single-handedly derailed a CNN show by calling out its lack of journalistic integrity.

“Stop hurting America,” he begged the hosts of “Crossfire,” a current events debate program that had been airing nightly since 1982.

That’s right. A comedian took it upon himself to tell journalists — live, in front of their own television audience — that they were doing their jobs wrong. And it had an impact.