My First Month at The Wire, ICYMI

So yesterday marked the end of my fourth week with The Wire and the end of my fifth week in New York City! Both of these numbers confuse me. Like, they really perplex me. In the way I remember feeling lost in geometry classes. Sine? Cosine? A month’s work of writing for Atlantic Media? Tangent? But yes! I got through my first month, and without too many scars. In fact, I came out having already written a bunch of pieces I’m really proud of – much better than scars, I think. Since it’s the first weekend of August and I need to stop obsessively tidying up my apartment (the best motivation for developing OCD is having company over, apparently), I thought I’d take a second to share some of my favorite posts I’ve written so far. “The High Cost of Living in Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood” – I had the benefit of getting this in before Kim K thinkpiece fatigue set in, and it was a total kick to nerd out over finances in a Kardashian-adjacent property. (Other great stuff on the smartphone phenomenon: Zachary Wilcha on boldly going into this strange world; Greg Seals on how to hack the game.) “A Thorough and Barely Necessary Dissection of the VMA Nominations” – Look, I know there are a lot of great editors out there. But my editor, Joe Reid, talked with me for 2,000+ words about the VMA nominations AND ended our post with the signature “Pretty Hurts” ah-AH-ah. He’s the best, and this was a blast to work with him on. “The Best Project Runway Looks of All Time” – Got the loveliest feedback from the greatest people for this one. You’re all always “IN” in my book. (I’m sorry, that was terrible.) “Anna Kendrick’s Guide to Avoiding Getting Hathaway’d, Before It’s Too Late” – SAVE ANNA “Who to Pay Attention to in the Brave New World of Vine Celebrity” and “Trying (and Failing) to Tolerate YouTube’s Advertised Personalities” – #Engaging with the world of #teens and #socialmedia (the second was a #collaboration with my beloved co-fellow Shirley Li, who is the #best). “A Definitive Ranking of Nicki Minaj Guest Verses” – “Couldn’t get Michael KOAHS if you was fuckin’ Michael KOAHS!” Still spectacular. (And another Joe collab!)

The Wire Writing Test Posts

The four posts linked below constitute my writing test for The Wire‘s fellowship program. The posts were completed during the course of one day (Thursday, April 3). Thanks so much for the opportunity to participate in the test – looking forward to hearing from you soon!


Passion post: “Michelle Williams is Over Your #PoorMichelle Jokes”


News post: “Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Resigns”


Visual post: “Starbucks Barista Draws Satanic Foam Symbols in Coffee”


Home News from Afar post“Was ZunZuneo Ilegal? International Media is in Desacuerdo

Was ZunZuneo Ilegal? International Media Is In Desacuerdo

Twitter buzz took on a Central American spin this morning as users digested a massive Associated Press story about a U.S. program called ZunZuneo.

The program is a sort of “Cuban Twitter,” as commenters quickly nicknamed it, reportedly designed to create a Cuban uprising and undermine the Castro regime. Named after the slang term for a hummingbird’s tweet, “ZunZuneo” ran from 2010 until 2012 and hit as many as 40,000 users during its peak usage period. The service has remained dormant since then, and a single post on the program’s Facebook page alludes to exactly when it fell out of usage:

ZunZuneo Facebook

Unlike Twitter, ZunZuneo was a text messaging-based service, and was designed and executed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). However, no users were ever aware that it was a U.S. government-built tool. Early in the piece, the question of legality is raised:

“The program’s legality is unclear: U.S. law requires that any covert action by a federal agency must have a presidential authorization and that Congress should be notified.”

That question of legality is now being dissected by experts both at home and abroad, along with other issues and questions in the report.


The Washington Post
In our nation’s capitol, Adam Taylor focuses on the issues with the USAID’s perception in his opinion for The Washington Post. “USAID can’t be perceived to be both delivering foreign aid and covertly trying to influence regime change at the same time,” Taylor says. He notes that Russia removed USAID amid suspicion that it was supporting opposing powers. “USAID oversees billions of dollars in foreign aid,” he writes. “That sounds innocent enough, but the agency’s work has often been viewed with suspicion.” So while the program may not have been strictly illegal, the look of it may be all the worse.


Cuban News Agency
Meanwhile, in Cuba, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) has branded the ZunZuneo affair a “scandal” and a “Cyber War.” The outlet also takes a hard stance on the legality issue, writing in their lede, “The United States illegally spent over one and a half million dollars in a so-called ZunZuneo social network aimed at promoting a regime change in Cuba.” Notably, Cuba’s government has not commented, meaning that ACN is one of the only major Cuban bodies to weigh in at all.


Russia Today has been in the news mostly for its anchors with opinions recently, but that won’t stop the Russian-owned network from throwing some tonal shade at the U.S. While most of the report is just regurgitated from the AP, there are certain word choices, from the headline (“Exposed: How US created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to take down Castro”) on down (“To try and hide their tracks”), that raise an eyebrow when reading.


Finally, the Brits include some analysis with their news report from BBC News Havana’s Sarah Rainsford. The analysis mostly focuses on explaining why the service was messaging-based. “Cubans were only permitted to own mobile phones in 2008, but now they are very common,” Rainsford said. “In this void – telephone messaging has emerged as a common form of organisation for Cuba’s small dissident community – who send photos and post to Twitter via their mobile phones.”

Graphic Credit: Kevin O’Keeffe

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Resigns

After a weeklong controversy about a previous donation to an anti-LGBT cause, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has resigned his position.

In a blog post on the Firefox creators’ website, Mozilla said they hadn’t been true to themselves in their response to the controversy. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started,” the post said. “We’re sorry. We must do better.”

Eich found himself in a firestorm after sources dug up a donation he made to the Prop 8 campaign in California, supporting the measure that would later pass and dismantle marriage equality in the state. The news quickly caught fire with LGBT advocates, some of whom called for Eich’s removal. According to the post, Eich stepped down of his own accord.

“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech,” the post said, reflecting on the “hard” bridging between standing up for both. “Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality.”

Eich previously said he would never resign over the controversy, calling it a “personal” donation that shouldn’t matter in his role.

“I don’t want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we’ve been going,” he told The Guardian.

Dating site OkCupid made news earlier this week by staging their private form of protest. Users who accessed the site from Firefox were greeted by a message asking them if they would instead access the site through another browser, like Google Chrome, Safari or, hilariously, “Internet Exploder.” Eich called OkCupid’s move “rash.”

In their post, Mozilla pledged to move forward with lessons learned. “We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission,” the post read. “We are stronger with you involved.”

Read some Twitter reactions to the news below.

Graphic Credit: Kevin O’Keeffe

Starbucks Barista Draws Satanic Foam Symbols in Coffee

Usually, the most artistic Starbucks employees are permitted to be is in coming up with misspellings of names. But one Baton Rouge barista brought his creative A-game this past weekend when he drew some foam art in a woman’s coffee.

Normally, such artistic presentation would be a lovely treat. But as first reported in The Daily Advertiser, devout Catholic teacher Megan Pinion wasn’t too pleased to see a Satanic symbol and the mark of the devil atop her coffees – especially on the Sabbath.

Pinion ordered two coffees from the Mall of Louisiana location. One featured a pentagram, while the other was topped by the number “666.” The teacher explained in a post on the chain’s Facebook page that she was upset that the barista couldn’t keep his beliefs to himself, adding that she “unfortunately can’t give the young man’s name who served it, because I was so appalled that I could not bring myself to look at him.”

The chain apologized via social media, according to spokesman Tom Kuhn, even adding that they couldn’t even figure out what substance the Satanic star and evil number were written in. “It looks kind of caramel-ish in the photos,” Kuhn speculated.

There could be a cottage industry for foam art, though. Even Pinion’s opinion of the symbols was that they were “beautiful” despite being potential signs for summoning the devil. Perhaps the unnamed barista will take his talents on the road, designing religious-themed foams for people in all walks of life? Reports of seeing Jesus and the Virgin Mary in food are always wildly popular, after all.

Photo Credit: Starbucks’ Facebook page