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New York City Must Include Writers in Its Support for the Arts

Photograph of Central Park Lake (NYC) courtesy of Nkon21 under CC BY-SA 4.0

“The City Council has already shown an incredible commitment to ensuring the broader artistic economy is supported during this disastrous time,” said PEN America’s COO Dru Menaker. “But we’re alarmed that writers have not been explicitly included in calls for support . . . “



A citywide coalition of literary arts organizations sent a letter to the New York City Council insisting that council members consider writers and literary arts organizations as a vital part of the city’s artistic infrastructure in its upcoming budget. The letter asks that the council ensure writers and the organizations that support them are included in any relief package designed to revive the arts community amid the coronavirus crisis.

“In times of national crisis, we have long turned to writers for inspiration, understanding, comfort, and enlightenment. Writers who call New York City home have helped this country and the world make sense of global depression, war, and the societal impact of racism, inequity, and hatred,” the letter reads. “Our city cannot afford to let this literary legacy lapse by ignoring the needs of our writers at this critical juncture.”

The letter – addressed to council members Van Bramer, Gjonaj, Moya, Cumbo, and Borelli of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations – says that the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on the arts has been clear, and the City Council has already called on the mayor to ensure federal relief funds are directed in part to artists or arts organizations. But those calls have omitted novelists, nonfiction authors, poets, essayists, playwrights, translators, and other writers. Writers have lost significant income, facing canceled speaking engagements, declines in book sales, loss of teaching, and publishers failing to pay royalties and advances, creating acute financial need.

“The City Council has already shown an incredible commitment to ensuring the broader artistic economy is supported during this disastrous time,” said PEN America’s COO Dru Menaker. “But we’re alarmed that writers have not been explicitly included in calls for support. PEN America, as a literary organization but also as a membership organization representing nearly 3,000 writers across the city, believes that the City Council can do the right thing here. Writers, now more than ever, are essential to the life of the city. And their livelihoods are imperiled by the loss of part time and gig work that often keeps writers financially afloat.”

The letter calls on the city council to include writers as part of the artistic community, as well as the organizations that showcase and support them. That means an explicit mention of writers and writers’ organizations in any legislative language relative to supporting the arts. The letter calls on the Council to provide tax credits to city-based businesses to support literary arts organizations, relief for commercial rents, and a project that would remunerate writers to document the impacts of the pandemic on New York City.

“We hope our representatives in the Council will address the financial and health needs of those who provide the City with its essential services, including our first responders and healthcare professionals, and that they continue to fund programs that provide the sick, homeless, disabled, the undocumented, and marginalized communities and youth with the care and attention they need,” the letter says. “But as you contemplate ensuring how best to use relief funds to shore up the arts, we call upon you to recognize the vital role the literary community writers and the literary organization that showcase and support their work will play in bearing witness to these troubled times.”

This post is courtesy of PEN America.

PEN America runs the Writers Emergency Fund, designed to support writers who are most directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Read more about that fund here.

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


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

PEN America Launches: Journalists Covering COVID-19 Digital Honor Roll; Journalists Combating Misinformation, Supporting Civil Liberties

Illustration courtesy of Logan Weaver, Unsplash

“Journalists are putting their health, safety, and wellbeing of their loved ones on the line to uncover today’s most vital stories,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.



PEN America announced its Local Heroes: Journalists Covering COVID-19, a digital honor roll to recognize journalists and news organizations for their role in keeping citizens informed and for sustaining democratic accountability amid the coronavirus crisis. As part of PEN America’s work leading up the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the Local Heroes project is an online celebration of the work journalists are doing to provide life-or-death reporting at this precarious time.

Journalists are putting their health, safety, and wellbeing of their loved ones on the line to uncover today’s most vital stories,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “They’re doing so despite the incredible strain on the local journalism industry, which was facing crushing financial pressures and job cuts even before the pandemic set in and is now hard-hit by the economic standstill. While we’re used to spotlighting journalists for World Press Freedom Day in places like Azerbaijan, China and Turkey, this year we’re training our lens closer to home, on Austin, Chicago, Tulsa, and other U.S. cities where journalists are on the frontlines of a story that is dangerous in a different way.”

As part of the Local Heroes initiative, PEN America is profiling and elevating the work of journalists from Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Raleigh-Durham, Tulsa, and more. Online interviews spotlight ways that journalists are combating misinformation, providing accountability over local and regional officials, and shielding civil liberties at a time when leaders are keen to exploit a crisis to curtail rights.

Alysia Harris and Anna Simonton of Scalawag Magazine in Atlanta, GA and Durham, NC say: When we publish a COVID-19 related story, we ask how can this empower people right now to protect their families, to advocate for their rights as workers, or organize with their neighbors for housing protections.”

Connor Sheets of AL.com in Birmingham, AL says: “One big concern is that many agencies, local governments, law enforcement agencies and other public entities are failing to respond to records requests, denying them on dubious grounds, or delaying response for extended periods of time, and blaming it all on the coronavirus.”

Between now and World Press Freedom Day in May, PEN America is accepting recommendations from across the country to say #ThankYouJournalists. The project will continue to profile reporters who work in for-profit and non-profit newsrooms, for community papers and online-only outlets, for broadcast and print outlets. PEN America is providing seven additional ways for Members and supporters to support strong accountability journalism at a moment of crisis. And this week, PEN America will launch a nationwide petition calling for federal relief funds for local reporting.

Last year, PEN America brought World Press Freedom Day to the U.S. for the first time, fanning out across the country to hold discussions and events about the powerful role of local news,” said Katie Zanecchia, director of national outreach at PEN America. “A global pandemic forced us to change up those plans this year. But it’s also provided us a stark example of the crucial role journalists are playing during this emergency when their own industry and their own lives are in jeopardy.”

This feature is courtesy of PEN America.

RELATED:

PEN America last year released Losing the News, a comprehensive national report looking at the bleak financial picture of local reporting across the country, but also proposing innovative new ways to transform local journalism. The organization is also leading a campaign on Capitol Hill to ensure the next coronavirus relief package includes funding for local press.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton


 

In Defense of the Fourth Estate, A Landmark First Amendment Lawsuit Against President Trump Will Proceed

Il quarto stato (1901): a march of strikers in Turin, Italy / Public Domain

The term Fourth Estate or fourth power refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognized as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.

The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The equivalent term “fourth power” is somewhat uncommon in English, but it is used in many European languages, including German (Vierte Gewalt), Spanish (Cuarto poder), and French (Quatrième pouvoir), to refer to a government’s separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial branches.



Today a federal court ruled against President Trump in a lawsuit that claims he has used government power to retaliate against media coverage and reporters he dislikes in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, the court denied a government motion to dismiss the case and will allow it to go forward on allegations that President Trump has retaliated against the White House press corps and certain holders of security clearances who work as media commentators based on their First Amendment-protected speech.

PEN America, with counsel Protect Democracy, the Yale Law School Media Freedom of Information & Access Clinic, and Davis Wright Tremaine, filed the landmark lawsuit to stop President Trump’s campaign of censorship against the press. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the president’s bid to dismiss the case, allowing it to proceed to the discovery phase.

Susan Nossel courtesy of PEN America Center under  CC BY-SA 4.0 license

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CEO of PEN AMERICA, the plaintiff in the case, issued the following statement:

“It’s hard to think of a moment in American history in which unvarnished, accurate news reporting has mattered more than it does now. This decision is a victory not just for PEN America and our own writers, but also for the journalists and media outlets doing the vital, risky work of keeping us all informed.  But above all, it is a win for all individuals who depend on a free press to dig out the facts and hold leadership accountable without fear of reprisal.  We sued the president because we believe the First Amendment prohibits him from retaliating against speech he dislikes. We are grateful that this essential suit can move forward, vindicating the rights of all those who rely on a free press.”  
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JENNIFER EGAN, PRESIDENT of PEN AMERICA, issued the following statement:“PEN America is profoundly grateful for the court’s timely decision. Though we filed our lawsuit more than a year ago, the Trump administration’s punitive stance toward the press has continued unabated, with corrosive results for truth, fact, our democracy, and—most recently—public health.”

KRISTY PARKER, COUNSEL for PROTECT DEMOCRACY, one of the organizations representing PEN America in the lawsuit, issued the following statement:

“The president can take to Twitter to complain all he wants about media coverage, but he abuses his power and violates the Constitution when he uses his office to punish members of the media. This is not North Korea—we don’t allow our politicians to control what the press says or punish the media for coverage that Dear Leader doesn’t like. Just the opposite—we rely on the media to hold the powerful accountable to the people. It’s important for all Americans that the press can do their jobs freely.”

The lawsuit was filed by Protect Democracy and co-counsel on behalf of PEN America, a leading organization of writers and literary professionals. The lawsuit claims that President Trump has violated the First Amendment rights of PEN America and its members through his threats to use—and actual use of—government power to punish the speech of those he perceives as critics in the media.

The plaintiffs argued that under the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of speech, President Trump can express his own views and criticize journalists and media organizations, but he cannot issue credible threats or deploy government power to retaliate against the media for its coverage. As laid out in the complaint, the president has in at least five situations used or threatened to use the regulatory and enforcement powers of government to punish the speech of journalists. He has:

  • Initiated a government review to raise postal rates to punish the owner of the Washington Post;
  • Directed DOJ enforcement actions against media companies, including CNN’s parent company Time Warner;
  • Interfered with White House press access;
  • Threatened to revoke broadcast licenses; and
  • Revoked the White House press credentials and security clearances of media commentators.

The court granted the government’s motion to dismiss on claims related to the first four situations, finding that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, but allowed the case to go forward on the claims related to press credentials and security clearances. The plaintiffs are asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment—a ruling that the president’s use of government power to punish the press violates the First Amendment. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could have far-reaching consequences for a president who has made a habit of retaliating against his media critics, and for future presidents who might seek to escalate attacks on the press.

The government had argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and failed to state a legal claim. Today’s ruling held that the plaintiffs can pursue claims for declaratory relief based on allegations of retaliation against the White House press corps and holders of security clearances.

The case will now move into discovery, where plaintiffs will be able to obtain documents from the government to substantiate its claims that President Trump has sought to use the regulatory state to punish media he does not like.

Read more about the case HERE.

*****

This post is courtesy of Wikipedia and PEN America.

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



Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

PEN America in the time COVID-19 moves Lit Festival from May to September; decries Trumps attack on journalist

American Museum of Natural History (NYC) courtesy of IngfbrunoCC BY-SA 3.0

Momentous Event at the American Museum of Natural History Brings Together the PEN America Community of Writers, Activists, and Cultural Luminaries to Support the Organization’s Increasingly Essential Advocacy of Truth-Telling and Free Expression



As a global public health crisis underscores the importance of credible, vital information, PEN America has confirmed a new date for the 2020 PEN America Literary Gala, its annual celebration of free expression and open discourse. The organization has rescheduled the event for September 15 (from May 19) and looks forward to convening its diverse, international community of writers, activists, and cultural luminaries in person to advance PEN America’s fundamental principles and honor the individuals who embody and uphold them.

“Denial, repression of facts, and disinformation have accelerated the spread of COVID-19 and impaired an effective response to it. Reliable truth—a prerequisite for assessing and ameliorating the crisis—is yet another casualty of this pandemic,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “We stand in solidarity with all truth-tellers at home in the U.S. and abroad and are mobilizing to shore up a literary community hard-hit by this unfolding crisis. The 2020 PEN America Literary Gala is an opportunity for the literary and free expression communities to stand up for their values and raise support to defend them. We regret having to postpone but are determined to mount a forceful stand together in the fall.”

Note: Trump also bragged about not distributing The New York Times or the Washington Post in the White House. For my own reasons, I’m not crazy about either paper, but the Times is traditionally consider the newspaper of record in the U.S. / J.D.



Trump Attacks NBC Reporter, Peter Alexander, When Asked To Assuage Fear

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel issued the following statement after President Trump chided a reporter for asking about what he would say to frightened Americans in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak:

NBC’s Peter Alexander interviewing Senator Chris Coons / public domain photograph courtesy of Senator Coons office

“President Trump’s shoot the messenger strategy of combating the coronavirus by attacking a reporter who did nothing more than point out the terror it is wreaking across America is shameful. Trustworthy, fact-based media has never been more essential to Americans than it is right now. The president’s effort to deflect the shortcomings of his administration’s response to the pandemic by attacking the reporters who question him has become an appalling daily spectacle and an international embarrassment to the United States. “



At the Gala, PEN America presents Patti Smith with the 2020 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award, for her prolific, multifaceted career and her unflinching determination to protest injustice and speak truth; and recognizes Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Executive Vice Chairman and Former CEO of Hearst, the event’s Corporate Honoree, for his dexterous, determined leadership of the company, an extraordinary source of philanthropy and a nimble force for quality journalism. As the event approaches, PEN America will announce the recipients of the PEN/Benenson Courage Award, for dauntless exercises of free expression, and the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, which goes to writers imprisoned for their work and spearheads advocacy campaigns on their behalf.

The PEN America Literary Gala is an annual highlight of New York’s literary, cultural, and social calendars and a vibrant cross-pollination of distinguished writers, human rights activists, publishers, editors, journalists, creative visionaries, and philanthropists. The event leaves guests moved and inspired to redouble their efforts in defense of truth, facts, the role of the media, and open dialogue as foundations of democracy. Proceeds of the dinner are crucial to PEN America’s cultural programming and advocacy work.

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


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

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