I haven't worked out of an office since November 2019. This week I go back into one, at least for now, because attempting to forecast the contours of this pandemic in the US is a game for people better than me.
It feels slightly like the first day of school. I'm making sure my uniform is immaculate, that my bag is packed, that I know where to go and what time to be there and what's expected of me when I arrive, including the check-in at the testing station.
On Tuesday all the furniture from my previous apartment in Texas will arrive, which means that I will be spending the rest of this week contemplating my relationship to Stuff and Things. Moving really, really makes you interrogate your relationship with capitalism.
Years ago I wrote that minimalism is expensive. I still believe that, because I know from practice that opting into scarcity is possible when you are confident that you will always have the means, at any moment, to buy what you might need. It is a lifestyle based on a certainty and predictability unavailable to anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck, who is always doing the math, who is constantly aware of the balances on their checking account, to anyone who is one expensive emergency away from disaster. So much of how I have always had to think about money is a function of always having had to think about money.
This weekend the Media Twitter Discourse oscillated between yet another conversation about the expense of most graduate programs in journalism relative to the reality of most journalism salaries and the ethic of "if you want to succeed in investigative journalism, work nights and weekends for free". I didn't see anyone explicitly tie these conversations together. And yet.
One of the reasons I am so committed to the work of the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY is because it is engaged in dismantling the underpinnings of both of those conversations. The total cost of in-state tuition at Newmark-J is $16,635; out-of-state students and international students would pay just over twice that. At other programs in New York or California, tuition can exceed $100k. That is a wild sum.
Newmark-J provides partial or full scholarships to around 2/3rds of its incoming class annually, and perhaps the program I am both proudest of and wish did not have to exist is the one that ensures any student who takes an unpaid internship during their summer semester will receive a stipend of up to $4000 to pay for their work. [PS: If you want to donate to the J-School, please do]
Money is not something the journalism industry is particularly comfortable talking about (or even always good at reporting on, in many cases). But money (or the lack of it, or the curious allocation of it, or who has it and refuses to share it) is at the heart of so many of this industry's challenges, and that is true both despite and because of our discomfort.
(As an aside, my first full-time journalism salary was 26,000 GBP. That's what I was paid as a graduate trainee journalist at the Financial Times in London.)
"I still say Allahu akbar often. It simply means “God is greater” in Arabic. In the rare times that I would be called to lead prayer in my home when I was younger, I would stumble through all of the Arabic without confidence, except for the ending of the prayer, when I would easily and proudly shout Allahu akbar, the only Arabic that fit comfortably over my tongue. Now, it is associated with a call of terrorists before some vicious act is committed in the name of Allah. The perversion of it hasn’t pulled me away. I still say it in praise, even when it doesn’t fit a specific situation, or when something like Alhamdulillah (“Thank God”) might be a better fit. I like the translation, mostly. Even though I don’t pray, I still like the idea that there is a God and that they are greater. Than us, than this moment, than this wretched machinery that we’re fighting against and sometimes losing. It is the last lifeboat of Islam that I find myself clinging to as the protest tonight stretches long and hundreds more people stream into the terminal at JFK, until it is overflowing and spilling out of every edge of geography. I think of how foolish I was to once pray for a country’s mercy, and how thankful I am that those prayers were not answered. How, through this resistance, we might find a freedom where no mercy is required. We might find a humanity that is not asking to be seen, but demanding instead. How we all pray for the wrong things sometimes, but somehow, God is greater."
—from For Muslims In The US, There’s Before 9/11 And There’s After by Hanif Abdurraqib