Friday, December 28, 2012

Not Just Another Acronym

Took another step in my goal of being the best damn writer-producer-professor prepared for a disaster.

Already had CERT training on both coasts, CPR training in three states, a Connecticut gun safety training certificate, and a California Dept. of Justice Handgun Safety Certificate.

Today, I received my card for the OSHA General Industry Safety and Health training I took a few weeks ago.

Now, I can rescue you, disarm your weapon, bring you back to life, and make sure the building we seek refuge in won't kill us.

So, there!!!

How many black sci fi chicks do you know who can do all that?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Unwrapping The Candidates
The Fayetteville Observer  Published: 09:24 PM, Thu Dec 20, 2012

Unwrapping The Candidates

It's rare for anyone to leave a Christmas present unopened. Yet that's exactly what happened Tuesday. 


Fayetteville City Manager Ted Voorhees presented two widely publicized opportunities to meet, question and converse with the two police chief finalists. But fewer than 100 people came to the meetings. That meant most Fayettevilleans missed two wonderful pre-Christmas gifts.

Malik Aziz, 44, a deputy police chief from Dallas, Texas, and Harold Medlock, 55, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg deputy chief.

I was a little skeptical about the timing. How much can one learn in an hour? It would take 15 minutes just for Voorhees and City Council folk to make speeches.

I was wrong. Voorhees spoke for two minutes. No politicians spoke. Audience members asked direct, short questions. Without hesitation, Aziz and Medlock answered every question tossed at them - even irrelevant inquiries about their personal lives (more about that later).

Their experience

Both deputy chiefs hold impressive histories of law enforcement covering several decades. Both are strong believers in community policing, with proof of participation on the tip of their tongues. Both have a can-do background and a we-can spirit.

Who am I to make such claims? I've been here just a few years. I'm still learning local politics. But I do know cops. I have relatives in law enforcement in Boston. I was a crime reporter for many years. And I worked crime scenes, mostly murders, with police officers when I was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department Crisis Response Team.

The team is a unique community policing organization, born of a need for someone who was not part of the crime-solving police unit to be on the scenes of murders, drive-bys or fatal accidents for the living victims. The CRT was made easier by the fact that we were volunteers, we had day jobs, and most violent crime happened at night - when we were all on call.

I've stood for hours in the street with a mom while police inside investigated how her son lost a game of Russian roulette. I've sat with officers as they worked unpaid double shifts because three children saw their mother slain in front of their eyes and, if we didn't find a relative by dawn, the kids would be split up and put in child-protective services. I once worked a dreadful scene in which two vans of high school graduates on their way to a party accidentally parked on a street owned by a notorious gang. Before the celebrants could exit the vehicles, seven were slaughtered.

Team members comfort, call relatives, cuddle infants, provide information, escort living victims through morgues to identify bodies. Once, we even helped hose down a walkway so the mother of a deceased youth would not have to step over blood going back into her home. We never knew what we would be asked to do. We never denied a request.

Fayetteville is so much smaller than Los Angeles that it may not need its own Crisis Response Team. But, community policing can be attuned to the particularities of any city. And these two men seemed knowledgeable and more than capable about how to achieve that, with, they stressed, the input and support of - you, guessed it, the community.

Did their homework

A sign of how quickly the two would respond quickly became evident. At the noon meeting, two of us voiced concerns about violence at one of the local universities. Somehow, in between a packed afternoon and before the 5 p.m. meeting, Aziz and Medlock had driven to and around the university, doing a quick exploration of how difficult or easy it was to gain entry.

In Wednesday's paper, reporter Andrew Barksdale gave a pretty detailed account of the two candidates' backgrounds and their answers to questions. I understand he will be writing more about these two personable, intelligent, oftentimes humorous men.

One local columnist did criticize Aziz for being more "reserved" than Medlock when answering a question from Councilman Keith Bates about their personal lives and his family life. Medlock said he had a wife of 30 years, Gloria. Aziz mentioned a 15-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son without providing their names or much detail.

In this new Internet age, in which privacy is violated with a keystroke, what the columnist criticized as reserved, I took as a protective reticence against providing any information about his teenage daughter. One can assume Aziz has arrested one or two bad guys in his 20 years with the Dallas police. Should he be criticized for not wanting to spell out her name, school, future goals, etc., in the news media?

The Bates question itself seemed inappropriate. Does not having children mean that Medlock would not appreciate family values? Does not discussing your children in an Internet world, where sexual predators lie in wait behind computer screens, imply that Aziz doesn't have family values?

To me, one of the signs that either man will be great at the job is the relationship that developed during the brief time they spent together on Tuesday. The noon meeting was the first time they had spoken together and were hearing each other's opinions. By the 5 p.m. meeting, they were using each other's first names, complimenting each other, and remarking about the similarity in their approaches. They generously laughed at each other's punchlines, even though they had heard them at noon.

The problem now? Which gift to return. "Aziz & Medlock" may sound like the newest TNT cop drama duo. But, unfortunately, we don't get to keep both of them.

Skye Dent is is a member of the Observer's Community Advisory Board, which meets regularly with the editorial board to discuss local issues and contributes op-ed columns. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, a screenwriter and a journalism professor.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Do Newspaper Presidential Endorsements Count?

Do Newspaper Presidential Endorsement Count?
By Skye Dent
Newspapers.  Popular opinion would have you believe they‘re on their way to extinction.  If you’re under 30, you don’t read em.  30 to 60?  You’re working so many jobs, where’s the time?.  60 and up, your Social Security Check won’t stretch that far.
Yes, media literary has been incorporated into many middle school standards.  But, by the end of high school, many of these students are  I-Card carrying members of The Text Generation, a parallel universe where nouns and punctuation are as optional as bras were in the Sixties.
So, if Americans are not reading newspapers, do they even care about those more thoughtful pieces about Presidential candidates that include both information, provide opinions, and suggest who you should vote for in ways that range from pungent to provocative.
You know what I’m talking about.  Editorials endorsements.   
In recent weeks leading up to this week’s election, you’ve seen them on commercials, one-sheets advertisements,  fliers invading your mailbox like pesky mosquitoes.
We can tell by TV commercial ads that the candidate who got the particular endorsement thinks his voters are swayed more by celebrities than journalists.  The commercial starts.  Surging towards you is something akin to the intro legend to every Star Wars movie.   “Tampa Bay Times endorses President Obama.  Steady economic  progress. Sure-footed foreign policy.”  “The Orlando Sentinel backs Governor Romney.  Able, Tested Leader.”  
Clearly, the campaigns of both President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney believe that newspaper political endorsements count. 
Even if you don’t read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Raleigh News and Observer, the Des Moine Register or the Fayetteville Observer, you know who they endorsed.
Well, kinda sorta.  Actually, the Fayetteville Observer(founded in 1816) historically gives opinions on issues, but not candidates.  On  any level.   Coming 13 years ago from a paper that did make endorsements, The Cape Cod Times, the FayOb’s editorial chief Tim White said he saw no reason to change history.
“It’s not a written policy,” White says, “It’s something that’s been handed down generation to generation.” 
I researched the subject and found that  an exception was made for Zebulon Baird Vance, a former Confederate military officer in the Civil War who won the North Carolina gubernatorial election in 1862 running on a platform promoting individual rights and local self-government.
White was unfamiliar with Vance, simply saying “When the ownership of the company says no, we’ve never endorse, that’s good enough for me.”
“Given the fact that many newspapers are getting out of the endorsement business and most research shows that endorsements have less effectiveness than ever, I don’t see us getting into it at this time.”
White believes that the times have finally caught up with The Observer.  With so much media being thrown at citizens by TV, Cable, Radio, and The Internet, he believes that the impact and influence of a newspaper editorial is severely diminished and, in many cases unwanted.
“With so many people getting their information from the internet,” says White, “I don’t think it would matter even if we did endorse. I’m not sure how much of a positive force it would have on the election.”
Newspapers, say some, should print…news.  Let us make up our own minds.
Although Orage Quarles III, the publisher of the Raleigh News & Observer certainly wants every individual to decide for his or herself, his position on endorsements is totally opposite to that of White’s.
“Newspapers,” Quarles says, “ are really  well -suited to provide endorsements because we have the ability to vet candidates, the ability to do research.”
“And most of all,  we have the ability to sit down face-to-face with candidates and understand their point of views.  For these reasons,  when we make an endorsement, it’s based on our belief that this is the best candidate for the position.”
My opinion merges the two.  Yes, we are swamped by news and information from newspapers, other news sources, and the media.  Not only more, but at a faster pace.
At 8:20 a.m. last week, I dashed to get coffee from my local BP, hoping to get back in time for the 8:30 a.m. announcement of the jobs growth.
 I walked in the door at 8:31.  Already the announcement of the 171,000 October jobs gain was being  sliced, diced, and interpreted by a CNN batch of experts.
Never the less, In my mind, being barraged by news and information 24/7 is exactly the reason why we need newspaper editorial endorsements.  They’re written by people who are trained to write and analyze the news.  To editorial boards, media literary is an inherent way of life, not a required grade school class.
So what if the internet era has pitched newspaper circulation into steady declined in the last decade. Naysayers point out that from almost 47 million per day in 2004 to barely 40 million in 2011, according to the Newspaper Association of America.  I say circulation has gone down only by seven million in the last seven years.  Seven million people who do care about newspapers have to say.
Add that to the huge numbers of people who read newspaper articles taken for free and given away for free by internet aggregators like Google.  And families like mine (I buy the hard copy.  Give it to my mom when I’m finished.  She gives it to my uncle Frankie when she’s finished.  And by late afternoon, I can hear him reading sections out on the porch to anyone who wants to listen.  Call it the first internet.)
In addition, traditional newspapers who have faced their fears and explored the new technology have found ways to monetize the internet.
“Print readership may be going down, but digital readership is going up. “ Quarles says.  “And the combination of the two has resulted in our total readership being  at an all-time high.  That’s why we feel very comfortable with letting people know where we stand politically.”
But, even with that, we’re told readers won’t read the editorials.  The space could be used for something readers want.  Readers will put their money someplace else.  It’s a marketing decision.  Money is tight.
To which I say, if you’re going to make all of your journalism decision based on monetary goals, you’re in the wrong business.  Newspapers were given freedom of the press so as to “inform the public so that it may govern.”  The public.  That’s you.
We’ve already seen situations in which wrongs are hidden for decades because journalists did not have the resources or money to investigate.  If the news media starts abdicating its one First Amendment right drafted to protect our right to free speech, religion, petition and assembly, how long will it be before we lose all five.  
That’s my opinion.  I invite all of you to voice your opinion. 
But, still, according to Bloomberg News, the New York Times ‘ endorsement of President Obama last Sunday was the most clicked on item on the paper’s website, in spite of Hurricane Sandy. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Skye's Column "Conventional Wisdom", Fayetteville Observer

  The Fayetteville Observer
"Conventional Wisdom"
Skye Dent

Published: 12:10 AM, Thu Sep 06, 2012

Having watched most of the Republican National Convention on TV, I pretty much felt I was getting everything important without having to be there.

Yes, the commentators annoyed me by continuously pushing for feedback from an opposing side on everything. By now, you would have thought on-air journalists would know that context matters more to Americans than controversy.

But I forgive TV journalists for baring their teeth. Every other series normally airing during prime time features sharp-toothed vampires.

So, where comes the sun, now that it's the Democrats' turn? For me, it was a three-hour drive to Charlotte. I wanted to watch the convention in the privacy of my own home. But when you have ink in your blood and rare national events like the conventions or the SuperBowl are in your home state, you gotta go.

That's where the dreaded "C" word comes in. No, I refuse to diss Clint. He's one of my favorite filmmakers.
He's shot films in my Boston hometown. And the last time I saw him, he spent about 15 minutes talking with me about one of my two favorite novelists, Dennis Lehane. He's allowed a senior moment.

We're talking about Compromise. In my case, that meant driving to Charlotte for some pre-DNC meetings inside and hanging outside at the protest with my homeboys - police officers and journalists.

The protest was a bust. Twenty times as many spectators as protesters.

But conventions always hold wonderful surprises. Mine came because I couldn't take the heat. I went into the Caviar Nightclub for some air conditioning and stumbled upon famed musician Gerald Albright rehearsing.

Finally, my stupid iPhone came in handy. I got permission to shoot some footage while he played and even obtained a semi-commitment to score my short film.

My second planned event was equally rewarding. I was one of a fortunate 50 invited to The Charlotte Observer for a brunch hosted by UNC's School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Hodding Carter, a political commentator and President Carter's State Department spokesman, spoke with the folksy wit of Grandpa Walton and the relentless intelligence of Star Trek's Data.

His key point? The South is going through a fundamental change. The economically vital South is not static in its population base and thus has vast streams of people not tied to the past. "It was not a small thing that three Southern states voted for Obama," Carter said, "but revolutionary."

Peter Coclanis, an economic historian and the director of the Global Research Institute, was more pessimistic. He softened the blow with an intro joke, describing an economic historian as one "who loves numbers, but lacks sufficient charm, grace and wit to become an accountant." .

His main point was that the forces that created the Sunbelt South economy between the 1940s and 1980s had been largely spent.  The decline of light industry in the 90s and the new millennium shoved many once prosperous places in NC into forlorn, if, not hopeless basket cases “beset by every imaginable social pathology”

Kareem Crayton was next, a law professor whose research focuses on voter ID laws and voting rights. If one makes this a racially divided election, he said, the Democrats will always lose. The decreased availability of early voting will have a negative impact, he said, especially in the South, which used this tool effectively to get the vote out.

Jacqueline Hall, founder of the Southern Oral History Project, reminded us that the civil rights movement was about economic issues, not just legal segregation. And while many of the overt segregation issues were resolved, the economic discrepancies remained. "The distinction between the good civil rights that succeeded and the bad war on poverty that failed is often misunderstood."

Deliberate propaganda, she said, has stirred up and renewed feelings of resentment and stereotypes, redefining concepts such as affirmative action as "a wedge issue created to bring white workers into the Republican Party by creating the belief that it was a zero sum game."

This made me sit up. I had heard some professors describe Caucasian students as being part of the new minority that deserved greater financial aid. Was that a real or wedge issue?

Gene Nichol, a civil rights, constitutional and poverty law attorney, sure did know his numbers.

"Today we have more poor people and more politicians untroubled by it," he said. Over 15 percent of us live in poverty, some 47 million, and the highest raw numbers in our nation's history. Thirty percent of Latinos live in poverty. Over 25 percent of our kids. Forty percent of our children of color.

"We have more poor people in the South and less commitment to doing something about it," he concluded.

Being one of the newly unemployed, I started to wonder which figure I might soon be a part of.
Jesse White, former co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, wrapped up the session by pointing out what he called the fallacy of globalization. "Over the last 30 years, globalization has ripped the covers off the bed of Southern society.

"By investing well in post secondary education but poorly in K-12, we've created a bifurcated society in which jobs have disappeared, leaving the bottom third of our population high and dry," he said.

These were all subjects and ideas that are being discussed at the convention, just not in front of the cameras. But the numbers were not just numbers. They reflected an equally diminishing lack of humanity deliberately being ignored by our politicians and the populace.

I put on my headphones as I left the seminar, hoping my impromptu taping of Gerald Albright might lift my spirits. But, for the first time in my life, I felt my hopes for the future... also diminishing.

(Skye Dent is a TV and film writer, educator, journalist and a member of the Fayetteville Observer's Community Advisory Board.)

Fayetteville Observer: Conventional Wisdom

Skye's Fayetteville Observer "Conventional Wisdom" Column

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Grateful Group of Writers Gives Thanks to Bill and Camille Cosby

For Immediate Release  September 2, 2012

Los Angeles - The sudden ending to what’s affectionately known throughout the entertainment community as The Cosby Writing Program has resulted in an outpouring of gratitude tinged with despair for the loss of a program that, during its 18-year-history, trained and placed hundreds of writers of color behind the cameras of some of America’s most well-known and respected television series.

Weary of seeing so many negative images of minorities in film and television, Bill and Camille Cosby established the program in 1993, explained program executive director Doreene Hamilton.

“It was a unique program in that it contains equal parts of writing instruction as well as historical knowledge of the role of blacks in the development of America,” Hamilton said.

Although the entertainment community knows the program as The Cosby Writers Program, its official name is The Guy A. Hanks and Marvin Miller Screenwriting Program. The Cosbys chose that name to honor Camille’s father, Guy Hanks, and Bill’s longtime friend and prolific producer, Marvin H.Miller.

“To lose the fellowship is a tremendous blow” said Richard Wesley, the chair of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate screenwriting program as well as the writer of the hit films Let’s Do It Again and Uptown Saturday Night that starred both Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier.

“Just knowing that the program was in existence was a tremendous boost to every young aspiring filmmaker or TV writer who I came into contact with,” Wesley said.

“The Cosby Program was like a farm system for African American writers. Producers and executives would look to the program when looking for writers.” said David Wyatt, co-chair of the WGA west Black Writers Committee and a writer who worked on “Cosby”, “Eve”, “Sister, Sister” and many other series.

“Being part of the The Cosby Program was a blast -- undoubtedly one of my best professional experiences. It was great to be part of a coterie of writers not only connected by our history, but by our desire to make a difference.,” said Sylvia Franklin, a former staff writer on NBC’s “Medical Investigation”.

Peter Saji, a Cosby Writing Program alum who is a co-producer on the hit series Cougar Town, voiced concerns for the next generation of black writers.

"A lot of black people don't have the connections to secure writers' assistant jobs, and the Cosby Program was a great way for them to break into the industry, “ Saji said. “The biggest disappointment for me is that now when aspiring writers of color ask me how to get started, I'm not sure what to tell them."

Wesley agreed, saying “The progress in Hollywood has not been sufficient that we can afford to lose an institution like the Cosby Fellowship.”

Even writers who were not a part of the program, based at the USC School of Cinema, credit it with their success.

“I don’t think I, a black science fiction TV writer, would have been as accepted in Hollywood if not for inroads made by Cosby program writers,” said Skye Dent, a former writer for Star Trek Voyager and The Burning Zone who has been teaching writing in the University of North Carolina system.

“This may be the end of this particular chapter,” said Franklin, “ but for all of us who were part of it, we've only begun to tell our stories."

The WGA-West and the WGA Committee of Black Writers (CBW) will hold a 7 p.m., September 24, 2012 celebration commemoration at the WGA building, 7,000 West Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048. Guests include Cosby Program alumni, CBW members, invited WGA members and entertainment industry leaders.

#  #  #

A Partial List of Cosby Program Alumni Credits


Janine Sherman Barrois: Criminal Minds
Meg De Loach: Reed Between the Lines; Family Matter, Creator of Eve;


Michael Ajakwe, Jr: Unsung, Love That Girl, Brothers Garcia, Sister, Sister, Martin, Entertainment Tonight, Talk Soup

Pat Charles: Bones; Sons of Anarchy

Ayanna Floyd: Private Practice

Peter Saji: Cougar Town

Anthony Sparks: Undercovers, Lincoln Heights, The District


Brandon Broussard: House of Payne

Talicia Raggs: NYC 22; Saving Grace

Valencia Parker: Reed Between the Lines; My Wife and Kids

Elyce Strong: Lincoln Heights

Judy Dent: Love That Girl; Eve

Bonita Alfred: Girlfriends

Sonya Steel: ER

Lakeshia Walker: Dirty Sexy Money

Greg Storm: Night Stalker

Lamar Sally: Rodney, Deal with HBO

Terri Brown: House of Payne; The Parkers, Built to Last

Chuck Cummings: Homeboys in Outer Space

Theo Tavers: House of Lies

Clayvon Harris: Farscape; For Your Love; Star Trek – Voyager; Soul Food; Living Single

Sylvia Franklin: Medical Investigations


Dee Rees: Pariah

Sherry Compton Carjacked

Lichelli Lazar-Lea: The Truth About Angels

Zelie Dember-Slack: The Sweetest Heir

Hanelle Culpepper (Director) Murder on the 13th Floor, Deadly Sibling Rivalry


Kemp Powers

Peter Saji

CJ Johnson

Faythallegra Coleman

Kirkland Morris

Ron Covington & Tonis Thomas

Lorey Hayes: “Haiti’s Children Of God,” “Massinissa and the Tragedy of the House of Thunder” “Power Play”

Levy Lee Simon: Kennedy Center/ACTF Lorraine Hansberry Award 1999 – “The Bow-Wow Club,” Audelco Award-1997 “The Guest at Central Park”

Kimba Henderson: “The Reckoning”

Chuck Cummings: “Reflection Day”

Michael Ajakwe, Jr: “Happy Anniversary Punk”, “Company Policy”

Angela Smith: Divorce Court – Supervising Producer Kai Bowe: Americas Next Top Model – Story Editor

Tiffany Williams: Whale Wars – Associate Producer Kristen Carter: I Used To Be Fat – Writer

Shawnelle Gibbs: Top Chef; Project Runway – Story ProducerShawnee Gibbs: Starting Over – Associate Producer

Shirley Neal: Park Hill Entertainment: Prince Behind the Symbol; Isaiah Washington’s Passport to Sierra Leone; The Down Low Exposed. Africa Channel.

Michael Ajakwe, Jr: 1st annual Los Angeles Web Series Festival

Sonya Steel: “Celeste Bright”

Paul Mays & Terrance Hill: “RX” Kristen Carter: “Sellout”

Theo Tavers: “Knife Party at Niko’s”


Tiffany Williams: Creative Executive – Tony Krantz/Flame Ventures

Jacqueline Lyanga: Director of the American Film Institute, Film Festival

Peter Murray: Licensing Coordinator

Shirley Neal: Executive VP of Programming and Production – Africa Channel

Kai Bowe: Development Executive – Africa Channel

Jocelyn Coleman: VP of Creative Affairs and PR Specialist – Tri Destined Studios

Daniella Masterson: Public Relations Specialist – Masterson PR

Monday, April 30, 2012

Permanent Beta I am, I am

Ok, this is entirely not fair.  I've always been a permanent beta kind of gal.  I just didn't have a cool name for it.  Then Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha come up with permanent beta.  And just because the co-founded this little web site called Linked In, they get all the credit. Hmmm. (smile) 

Well, just remember, I was the creator of the term "The Text Generation."

Actually, I came on line to update my page.  But, Google is trying to make me go to Google Chrome by saying my page won't work until I fall in line, get with the program, drink the cool goog aid.

So, I'll go to my Mac and work around the rules.  After all, I'm a NYU Tisch grad with violet nails to prove it.  I oughta be able to outsmart this thing....or not.