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Last Friday, I went to San Xavier for the first time with a diverse group from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University including their newest graduate class, the current Humphrey Fellows and this years Murrow Fellows.

San Xavier is a cathedral built by Padre Kino among Tohono O’odham people in an area they named Wak. Today it’s open to the public and maintained by the non-profit group Patronato San Xavier, which also give tours of the building and grounds.

Our guide, Judith, first showed us a model of the structure and explained that the restoration process now underway is strictly allowed to maintain and preserve the existing buildings but not add or embellish anything. She led us through the courtyards and side rooms while telling us about the history of the Tohono O’odham, Padre Kino and the Franciscans who came later. The museum holds locally made baskets and art as well as books and vestments saved by the congregation during the years that the church’s future was uncertain. (I’ll post photos of the grounds and chapel next.)

After the tour, some people climbed the hill where early morning services are often held while others bought fresh frybread in the front plaza in front of San Xavier before we all boarded the bus and drove away.

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

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photo credit: terryballard

My ethics professor hosted a screening of The Most Dangerous Man in America, a documentary by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith. I’ll leave the issue of awards nominations to the entertainment professionals who know far more about the process than I do. Furthermore, the documentary does a fantastic job of telling Ellsberg’s story through family experiences, military service, a Pentagon career, and through the decision making process of leaking the Rand Corporation‘s report – over 7,000 pages on Vietnam – to The New York Times, and there’s lots of material written on the Supreme Court‘s 1971 decision New York Times Co. v. United States.

Map of Indochina including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

What I’d like to think about here are the various journeys – physical, emotional, and ethical, just to name a few – that led to the publication of top secret papers and, subsequently, historical decisions in both political policy and First Amendment law. No one in this story knew what was ahead or, once events started, how or where they would end.

Ellsberg’s journey from childhood to adulthood influenced his views on responsibility. Ellsberg also moved from military service to a career as a military analyst – a transition that took him behind the scenes of military decision making and into clearance “beyond top secret.” His trip to Vietnam was made in this capacity, where he saw for himself the conditions on the ground from troop movements and “non-existent patrols” to experiencing combat with both its effects on American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians. Ultimately, Ellsberg went from certainty to uncertainty. People he met along the way, from colleagues to followers of Gandhi, affected the way he saw the world and how he made decisions. Watching children pick through burning debris for a favorite doll in person during his trip in Vietnam gave him a different perspective by showing him things he couldn’t see from his desk in Santa Monica, California.

Once the Pentagon Papers were leaked to reporters, a whole new set of people faced new set of decisions. Reporters had to consider their responsibilities to their editors and the public as well as the risk to their sources. Editors had to consider their reporters, their publications, and the public. Lawyers for all involved had to weigh the pros and cons. In the end, The New York Times ran the story, and when they were ordered to stop, so did The Washington Post, then The Boston Globe – and then papers all across the country. The case worked its way all the way through the system until the Supreme Court’s Decision.

1972 population map of Vietnam from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

1972 population map of Vietnam from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

Watching this movie as a journalism student in the Cronkite School‘s First Amendment forum definitely added a personal angle to the experience. While situations like the Pentagon Papers may be once in a lifetime or only for a few, it’s very likely that I’ll encounter ethical situations, quite possibly with sources and sensitive material.

I’ll have to make my own decisions, and no matter how helpful a rule book or ethical code may be, in the end, I agree with my professor – no hypothetical situation will have all the information – so there’s no way to completely prepare for the real life situations that require handling on a case by case basis. In real life and real time, you may have to make tough decisions without all the information.

Every bit of preparation and guidance along the way will be helpful when a moment comes that I’m on the spot alone. My mother has compared it to learning CPR without knowing when you’ll use it, so that when an accident happens, you start with an idea of what to do, even if it has to be adapted to the situation in front of you – waiting to learn life skills till the accident’s already happened won’t give you much time to prepare.

Would I have made the same decisions that reporters like Neil Sheehan & Hedrick Smith made? Even with all the information available today, can I even answer that question without being there in that time and place?

At one point in the film, Ellsberg says, “The people there were more than pictures for me and they were more than numbers.” I think that ultimately, that’s what it may always come down to. Numbers are predictable, understandable, logical. There’s a clarity and neatness – at least before the fixing begins – that makes working with them simple. People? Not so much.

If you’ve ever been on the spot, what helped you make decisions along the way?

photo credit: Jeb Ro

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United Arab Emirates map

Here’s the announcement – after a little bit of background information on the United Arab Emirates and, in particular, the emirate of Dubai.

Dubai has been in the news a bit this fall – like the rest of the world, the country’s finances are less ideal than they have been in the past. Recent coverage in US media includes Wall Street Journal‘s Dubai: A High Rise, Then a Steep Fall on Dec 4 and the New York Times‘ photo essay Dubai’s Improbably Tale.

This Monday, the BBC reported more mixed news, with Abu Dhabi gives Dubai $10bn to help pay debts and Gulf News had this article: Dubai issues new legal framework to deal with Dubai World disputes. All this may be especially relevant to Phoenix, given the relationship between the two cities.

Dubai map

As far as regular and background information, one of the best sites is Gulf News. More coverage can often be found through Al Jazeera English and the BBC’s regional coverage.

To finish the background information, you can’t talk about Dubai without talking about the construction

So, why all the information about Dubai? Well, when I posted this October entry, I had just heard about an opportunity – I was in a hopeful mood, and now that it’s finalized, I can make a bit of an announcement…

Dubai trip classmatesI’ll be taking a trip over winter break through ASU Study Abroad. The program is called A Tale of Two Cities – Dubai and Phoenix. It’s led by Jamil AlShraiky who specializes in healthcare design industry at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. As for the troup, we’re an interdisciplinary bunch including students from design, healthcare, and journalism programs. The blog is already up here.

Yes, I’m REALLY excited, and yes, I’ll be writing about it. How much will be posted live from on-site will depend on internet access, which has been described as “really good dial-up…we’re sure it will work if your computers are right.” But there will definitely be somethings as the trip unfolds, as well as (probably tons of) pictures by mid-January when we get back.

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“Pictures of pictures” is my attempt at a catchy name for photos of artwork. In other words, any image I’m taking a picture of – a painting, a sculpture, a document, stained glass – sometimes even another photo. One reason to do this is to remember the information, though usually it’s to remember the image itself. This is probably the one I plan the least – often, I don’t realize what I’ve done till afterward. Plus, it’s not quite as clear cut a category as, say, people, or planes. At the time, I’m thinking, “Oh, wow – I want to see this again!” or “That is so cool, I want to remember it!” Some trips generate crazy amounts of “pix of pix” or POP photos; other trips, just a handful or none at all. Museums are great for this, and also graffiti, billboards, and even advertisements.

Surprisingly, I’ve already turned up a number of pictures from Phoenix, partly due to my summer photography class and partly to researching historical neighborhoods for class. There was even enough for a whole post just on Rosita’s. Many of the remaining POP photos fell into two categories – ones I’d taken for my summer photography class and ones I’d taken for class assignments in the journalism program.

Photography class

First, playing with a borrowed DSLR at night. I took an awesome online photography class from Karen Russell. I needed a DSLR to take the class, difficult on a student budget. In a deeply generous move that made taking the class possible, I was loaned a Canon Rebel. The experience was amazing. I learned so much from the class, the camera, and the combination. There’s a whole new photographic world out there I knew nothing about which now fascinates me! This is a downtown building, Trinity Cathedral, which lights up nearly every evening for at least a few hours. I wanted to try to capture the windows.

Another lesson of photography class (which also bled neatly into journalism) was to notice the details. That lesson had me taking a few pictures like these before I knew our first photo assignment for our media class.

From Abstracts
From Abstracts

Now, for me, photography’s a learning experience, one I’ve far from mastered! But that’s the thing about learning – it’s a journey itself, and for this case, the picture to remember it by are built right in.

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