The Hunt For Disabled Hillbillies
Posted on 10.07.17 by Danny Glover @ 6:34 pm

Every now and then, journalists in the big city get the urge to head for the hills of West Virginia and hunt stereotypes. They always find their prey. Then they tell stories that misrepresent the reality of life for most West Virginians.

You can call it Hatfields-and-McCoys journalism because the tradition is at least that old. The latest installment comes courtesy of The Washington Post, which sent a reporter hunting for hillbillies as part of the paper’s series on Social Security Disability Insurance.

I have no gripe with the topic. It’s worthwhile to shine a light on the Supplemental Security Income system because of its cost and susceptibility to fraud and abuse. I also have no problem with West Virginia being part of the story because 4 percent of West Virginians get SSI benefits — more than any other state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. One in five working-age residents in Logan County, which the Post visited, are among them.

What galls me are the predictably cliched portrayals of country folk, and they start with the opening anecdote about digging roots from the hills for money: “For the people of the hollow, opportunity begins where the road ends.”

The implication is that the anecdote represents the norm — not just in that hollow but in all of Logan County and the entire state. Poverty reporter Terence McCoy made that point clear a few paragraphs later when he added, “In West Virginia, getting by means digging roots in the mountains.”

No, it doesn’t! Maybe it’s OK to spout that kind of nonsense when writing the script for a reality television show like “Appalachian Outlaws,” but it’s bad journalism.

I spent most of my first 24 years in the Mountain State and still visit regularly, and the only person I ever knew who dug roots was my paternal grandfather. And he did it as much for the thrill of hunting ginseng, a rare find in his part of the state, as for the money.

Most West Virginians who fall on hard times don’t dig roots to “get by”; they turn to family for support. That’s a bit harder to do when multiple family members are on the government dole and/or are estranged from each other. The Post found a family like that not because it’s the norm but because it fit the false image that urban elites have of the state.

That’s also why the Post repeatedly called attention to the fact that Donna Jean Dempsey, the main character in its tale, lives in a rundown shack without running water. It’s mentioned twice in the story and in two separate photo captions.

The photos further reinforce the ridiculous perceptions that prim-and-proper journalists tend to have of West Virginians. The portraits include: a woman who wears the same filthy flannel and blue jeans for a week; a shirtless, bushy-bearded Bubba sitting on a porch; and a gaunt mountain man who relies on oxygen after five heart attacks and two strokes.

Then there is the closing anecdote. Having survived to another SSI payday, Dempsey treated herself to three six-packs of beer at the local dollar stores. McCoy milked that development for all it was worth, characterizing it as “the best moment of the month” for Dempsey.

“She lit a cigarette, stretched out her legs and opened a beer,” he wrote. And then a few sentences later: “She looked down at her beer and thumbed its lid. She took a sip. The moment could last a while longer, she decided.”

Save for a trip to the still and Dempsey sipping from a moonshine jug, he couldn’t have asked for a better redneck ending to this chapter of yellow journalism about West Virginia.


Filed under: Government and History and Human Interest and Media and People and Photography and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

John E. Kenna Was No Robert E. Lee
Posted on 08.27.17 by Danny Glover @ 2:57 pm

West Virginia doesn’t have a “Confederate statue” inside the U.S. Capitol, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the reports of historically ignorant journalists in Washington.

In their rush to pile onto the growing pile of maligned Confederate statues, the media recently set their sights on the National Statuary Hall Collection. What better place to prop up more straw men for knocking down than in a building with 100 famous statues?

This particular angle to the debate over the Confederacy piqued my interest when I first saw it in The Washington Post because the disparity appeared egregiously unjust at face value. “The U.S. Capitol has at least three times as many statues of Confederate figures as it does of black people,” blared the ridiculously long but seemingly fact-based headline.

The problem is that readers can’t take anything the media report these days at face value, especially when it involves an explosive topic like race. Many journalists are hard-wired to assume that racism exists whenever outrage about it grows loud enough. And they have no interest in digging deep into a story line if their research might undermine their assumptions.

So it is with the attack on “Confederate statues.”

The contempt implied in the loaded phrase may make sense when the focus is on prominent rebels like Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens and Gen. Robert E. Lee. But as a native of West Virginia, I grew suspicious of the coverage when I saw in the Post a map of states with supposedly Confederate statues.


A state riven by war
Anyone who actually knows history knows that West Virginia became a state when the North illegally ripped 50 counties from Virginia’s boundaries during the Civil War. West Virginia created five more counties after the war, naming two of them after President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, heroes of the Union.

I didn’t immediately reject the idea that elected leaders in West Virginia could have chosen to memorialize a Confederate with one of its two monuments at the Capitol. After all, 18,000 West Virginians fought for the Confederacy.

West Virginia’s Capitol also is home to a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. At the statue’s dedication in 1910, the United Daughters of the Confederacy called Jackson “the greatest and most illustrious man ever born on the soil of West Virginia, a typical soldier, patriot and Christian.”

Union troops, on the other hand, weren’t recognized with the Mountaineer Soldier statue for two more years, and a prominent memorial to Lincoln didn’t appear until 1974.

But it still seemed odd that a state formed in the Civil War would have recognized a Confederate leader in the U.S. Capitol. With that history in mind, I turned to a remarkable storehouse of information called the Internet for answers.
(more…)


Filed under: Government and History and Media and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: None

The Two-edged Online Tongue
Posted on 08.04.17 by Danny Glover @ 9:19 pm

The story about the couple who ruined a wedding photographer’s reputation is troubling for many reasons, but one that jumped out in The Washington Post’s coverage is a subtle quote that speaks volumes about the Internet’s ability to empower malicious arrogance: “She’s a blogger. Make sure everything looks perfect.”

The photographer said that about her new client before she ever worked for the woman because she understood all too well the influence of a blogger scorned. Her words are the digital upgrade (or should I say downgrade?) to the adage about never arguing with a man who buys ink by the barrel.

The difference is that in the bygone era when newspapers mattered, most journalists who worked at papers still had editorial checks that prevented egregious abuses. Bloggers have no such restraints. Neither do YouTube or Instagram celebrities. Even average Joes and Janes with a twisted talent for riling the masses into a bout of public shaming can do great damage to an undeserving person’s reputation.

And the scarlet letter is now a scarlet alphabet. From A to Z, any whiff of imagined wrongdoing along the spectrum of “sin” is justification for humiliation — especially if exposing it online might bring a cruel blogger fame or fortune.

I am the guy who once penned what a colleague called an opus to the awesome power of blogs and who co-authored essential guides to Pinterest and Twitter. Teaching people how to use social media for good was my job, so the irony of now decrying the equally destructive power of blogs is not lost on me.

But such is the nature of the two-edged online tongue.


Filed under: Blogging and Media and News & Politics and People and Social Media and Technology
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The Dog Days Of Spring
Posted on 05.09.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:16 pm

Whenever the whether gets warm, this dog likes to cruise through our city in his master’s hot rod. My walk home from the train station this evening finally coincided with the driver getting stuck in traffic long enough for me to snap a photo.


Filed under: Pets and Photography
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Bears In Space
Posted on 03.31.17 by Danny Glover @ 9:10 pm

Sometimes in my research for work, I stumble across some of the coolest bits of trivia in aviation history — like the fact that America once launched bears into space to test the short-lived B-58 Hustler, a nuclear bomber of the Cold War era. Even better is the related cover illustration I discovered in a 1962 issue of an Italian weekly newspaper.


Filed under: Aviation and History and Media and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

The Myth Of The Impala Mama
Posted on 02.18.17 by Danny Glover @ 1:50 pm

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg loves cats. The Internet loves cats. But these days Buttigieg hates the Internet because it’s lying about one of her cat photos.

It all started Feb. 11. Someone who knows her work as a wildlife photographer recognized a cheetah picture of hers online. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise  —  Buttigieg published the “remarkable” photo on her blog, Facebook and Instagram last November after it won an international award. But the flood of messages that started pouring in from strangers that day stunned her.

An intellectual property thief had stolen her photo, invented a feel-good back-story for it, and engineered a viral sensation  —  one that wasn’t exactly flattering to Buttigieg. The tall tale portrayed the three cheetahs in the photo as heartless killers, their impala prey as a self-sacrificial mother and Buttigieg as a fragile soul who sank into depression after documenting a feline feast.

“In the beginning I thought it was absolutely hilarious, even the trolling,” she told me in an email interview six days after the hoax spread. “But then it was suddenly really overwhelming when I realized there wasn’t much I could do.”

Buttigieg is an information technology consultant whose passion for animals and for wild places inspired a foray into photography. She has carried a camera on wildlife journeys around the world for 13 years and started taking the photographic aspect of her observations more seriously about four years ago.

“I see my photos as a means to spread awareness about wildlife and the need to protect them and their habitat,” she said.

Buttigieg has shot pictures on three continents  —  Africa, Asia and South America. Her favorite places include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa, and the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. In September 2013, she was near the latter location, at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, when she saw a family of cheetahs trap a lone impala.

Cats of all kinds fascinate Buttigieg because of their beauty and expressive faces. Cheetahs stand out in the felidae species for their speed, quirks and sounds. The guides at the conservancy knew she loved cheetahs, and a mother and two adolescents were near the camp during her visit.

Read the rest of the story at Medium.


Filed under: Blogging and Human Interest and People and Photography and Social Media and Technology and Travel and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

The Deadly Track Of Life
Posted on 01.31.17 by Danny Glover @ 8:46 pm

Here’s a deep thought inspired by the image below, captured during my commute home this evening on Virginia Railway Expressway: Sometimes the track of life is unpleasant.
The Enlightened Redneck Philosopher


Filed under: Photography and Rednecks and Wildlife
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Airscape Photography Is Ready For Takeoff!
Posted on 01.21.17 by Danny Glover @ 12:28 pm

The image to the right doesn’t look like much, but what it means is that I passed my remote pilot’s test. I’ll soon be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (where I also happen to work as a contract editor and writer) to fly small unmanned aircraft for clients.

I’m in the process of creating a new brand within my communications company, Tabula Rasa Media, which I organized as a limited liability corporation four years ago. This entails registering the offshoot as a DBA, which is short for “doing business as.”

Under the name Airscape Photography, I will offer drone photography and video services to clients who want to capture aerial images of their homes, businesses or properties. I’ll also shoot photos and videos of scenic landscapes and architectural landmarks to sell individual prints.

I plan to take regular road trips to shoot footage, just like I did with my first professional camera three decades ago. My home state of West Virginia will be a regular destination because the scenery doesn’t get any better than in “Almost Heaven.”

Below are recent pictures from my hometown of Paden City and of New Martinsville, including one of the Wetzel County Courthouse:


Filed under: Aviation and Business and Photography and Technology and Video and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

OneFootWandering Through Life On Instagram
Posted on 01.19.17 by Danny Glover @ 6:16 pm

This is one photo of many posted by a young woman who had to have her foot amputated because of cancer. She kept the foot and now takes it with her as she journeys through Instagram life under the moniker “OneFootWander.”

A photo posted by cancer foot (@onefootwander) on

Kristi Loyall explained the idea behind the foot and how it has helped her cope:

It was my cousin’s friend’s idea. They messaged me on Facebook and said they had an idea that I should start an Instagram for my foot. I wanted to do it to make other people and myself laugh.

I was excited when 100 people were following my foot. A lot of people have left positive and kind comments. I didn’t really expect that. It actually made me feel better about my situation. It’s made my outlook on life more positive. I used to be kind of pessimistic.

She has one twisted sense of humor. I like it.


Filed under: Just For Laughs and People and Photography and Social Media and Technology
Comments: None

The Quick Brown Fox And Lazy Dog
Posted on 01.12.17 by Danny Glover @ 9:32 am

A pangram is a sentence or verse that contains all letters of the alphabet. One of the best-known pangrams is, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” And now here is the same English lesson in an entertaining video package.

I first saw this video on Twitter this morning and tracked the short clip back to a Reddit thread. But the brief clip actually is taken from a much longer video posted to YouTube nine years ago.


Filed under: Grammar and Just For Laughs and Video and Wildlife
Comments: None

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