2011 in review

This week on the show, we’re squarely focused on reviewing the year 2011 and the stories that kept us talking. Journalists and other newsy people voted the death of Osama bin Laden as the biggest news story of 2011 and I have to agree. But it wasn’t the huge news that kept me talking this year. Rather, it was the smaller stories I focused my energy on. I picked my top 5 favorite stories from this year to talk about, talk to death and then bring up several weeks later to recap.

1. Congress. I’m not sure I need to explain this any further, but for posterity’s sake I will. The year 2011 began with the Republican’s taking control of the House of Representatives, while the Democrats retained control of the Senate. So, you’d think everyone would get their compromise hats on and work together? Silly you. Of course they didn’t. Instead, they bickered throughout the entire year. Whether it was looming government shutdown, possible debt ceiling debacles or raising or lowing taxes, Congress showed America how little they care about the American. And it was bipartisan. Both sides refused to vote on the other’s measures, regardless of what the average citizen wanted. It seems to me that Congress has forgotten their actual job, to serve as a representative for the people of their district. And with an 8 percent approval rating, I think those people may be looking for new leadership.

2. Kardashimania. I am not a fan of the Kardashian family. In fact, I refuse to spell words that begin with c with a k just to placate a group of talentless folks. And this year, I especially talked about them. Less than a month before my own wedding, Kim Kardashian held her fairytale princess monstrosity, posing as a wedding.  With a man she’d been dating less than a year. Who wasn’t even sure he wanted to marry her, except for those pesky contractual obligations. But getting married wasn’t the problem. It is the sham of the marriage that irks me. This family doesn’t take real life events seriously. Marriage (I can just get divorced), parenthood (we have nannies for that), sex tapes (let’s make the most money we can out of it). But the lack of respect for marriage is especially appalling. Particualry considering Kim has been married before. And it lasted 4 years, not just 72 days. But being married cramps her brand so why would she respect a lifelong commitment. I feel sorry for all the parents who have to explain this trainwreck of a family to their children.

3. GOP presidential race. I have never known a field of candidates to be so underwhelming to their own party. No one is extremely excited about any one of them. And with so many people in the hunt, the chance for a true frontrunner to emerge are not great. But this race, and it’s subsequent thirty-million debates have kept all of America talking. Whether it is their marriages, their beliefs, or their religions, everyone wants a piece of every candidate. But it will certainly make for an interesting race.

4. Sex scandals. How many were there this year in the public eye? 10? And you’ll notice, none prominently featured women in power behaving badly. It was really only men (and please, correct me if I’m wrong). From celebrities to politicians to athletic superstars, the overwhelming theme was catching the boys in compromising positions. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love child (14 years ago!), Anthony Weiner and his, well, wiener, and the chilling allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn and Jerry Sandusky. With all that bad (and illegal) behavior, it’s not wonder 2011 was the year of men behaving badly.

5. Gay marriage, DADT and DOMA. While New York became the 6th and largest state to legalize gay marriage, President Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tel, giving gay men and women freedom to serve openly in the military. And the Senate held its first hearings on the bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I think, regardless of personal beliefs, people were talking about gay rights this year more than any other because it was in the forefront of our media. It makes people question these laws in the first place and whether they should stand up. But as the country moves towards more tolerance, these laws are coming to light in new ways.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street or Casey Anthony. I may have talked a lot about those stories, but they weren’t my favorites to talk about. Those are above. Hope 2011 was a great year for you and that 2012 isn’t the end!

The neverending quest for an interview

I’ve been “working” as a journalist for a long time now (look how cool I am!). Since January of 2010, on and off, I have been involved in the production of news. And in that whole time I am still in awe of one thing: how difficult it can be to get interviews.

For example, I started working with PBS’ To the Contrary in May of 2011. Michele Bachmann announced her candidacy at the first debate in June. I have been in touch with her campaign press secretary, her congressional communications director and her book’s publicity people. I have yet to schedule, let alone have an interview with her. She is one tricky woman to nail down. And every time I see her doing an interview I get a little upset. I know, I know. News people are supposed to have thick skin. I just can’t help but feeling like I’m the last kid picked in gym class.

Bachmann is not my only interview quest. She is just the only one who hasn’t turned me down outright. In general, I just hear no (which is like not getting picked at all) and maybe (which only serves to get my hopes up). Sometimes I schedule some great interviews. And sometimes I can’t get a response.

I’m easily discouraged. So hearing “no” once makes me want to give up and stop trying. In my job, that won’t fly. We have to schedule the great interviews, the interesting stories. And we have to get them in DC, which is no small feat.

But the best feeling? When we get the interview. When I can write it on our giant wall calendar because we scheduled something. I love that feeling. And that’s why I continue on this arduous quest. And Michele? If you’re reading this: PLEASE let me schedule you.

Recent stories

Because I love my job and because I like to share the awesome things I do, here are two of my recently produced pieces.

Meryl Streep goes to Washington

To the Contrary host Bonnie Erbe and Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep

I’m about to tell you something that may make you a little jealous. On Wednesday, I met and produced an interview with Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep. Yes, you read that right. Meryl. Streep. I’m sure you think I have the coolest job and as my Twitter followers know #iDOhavethecoolestjob. But it’s what brings Ms. Streep to Washington, DC, that I really want to write about.

The National Mall has a museum of natural history, American history, art and an aquarium. But, conspicuously missing is a museum to women’s history. You may think it’s covered by the museum of American history, but alas, it’s not. The American history museum does have a lovely display of First Ladies’ dresses. Nothing about their lives and works, but intimate details about their dresses.

I’m not trying to be overtly feminist, or challenging the influence of men. Men did a great deal for this country. But, so did women. And they deserve the same level of recognition with a museum of their own. Meryl Streep is the spokesperson for the National Women’s History Museum, which currently exists solely online. She is pushing Congress to pass a bill allowing the organization to purchase a site near the mall to build a museum. The bill passed the House soundly, but failed to pass in the Senate, as two (male) Senators put a hold on the bill.

Meryl Streep could put her name and face on any cause. She doesn’t even have to have a cause. She’s MERYL STREEP! But, she chose this one because she believes in giving women a place to be celebrated, recognized and learned about. I think many women would be surprised to find out there is not a museum of women’s history, not just in DC, but in the entire country. Whatever your thoughts on women’s contributions to history or the present, I believe it is important for young women and girls to know whose shoulders they can stand on to make their own influence on history. And maybe a museum is the way to do that.