Fifth article for WIRED

I published 3 articles within 8 days! But there are two extra weeks you should count at the beginning when I was working on them and didn’t publish anything.

One was about air pollution in a mostly Black neighborhood in Maryland. Oh yeah, I mentioned that here before. It’s the one I did the GIS analysis for.

Click here to read it. I was super excited to write this story because I felt I was being very noble in helping people who very rarely get their voices heard in the national media. [You see, my motives are not exactly altruistic, rather self-flattery.] I wanted to do a story that brings out the fact that we don’t seem to care if we place all the polluting factories where Black or other minority children will get sick with asthma or other diseases.

wired article 5 image

For this article, I also got artwork credit. I made the smoke coming out of the smokestacks in Blender. I think I will always be a little pleased to think that I got to make some real actual published and credited 3D art. It took me hours of plodding through a “quick smoke” tutorial, and 16 rounds of edits and modifications to the smoke before I was done with it. But the art department was very happy.

After the article got published, two of the people I interviewed emailed back to say they liked it a lot; the third did not. S/he pointed out something I wrote at the very beginning as being very offensive, and declared that s/he didn’t read past that point, and s/he’s always disappointed by journalists!

Years ago, an email like that would have sent me into a tailspin. I would have been both incredibly angry at the person; and also beating myself up for having done something that could cause such offense. Perhaps I might have thought: I will never bother to help you again! You just enjoy yourself with the polluting factories! Clearly, you don’t want my help! All followed by a grim determination to do something so good, that the offended party would hear of it and realize they had totally misunderstood!

I felt all that this time, too – obviously, I’m writing a whole blog post about it. But the feelings were more subdued. I wasn’t in utter despair at myself; I was more annoyed like at a mosquito bite.

I checked back through my notes, and decided I hadn’t done anything wrong, I had written the truth. But .. and here was another truth … I could very well have worded things in a way that would have satisfied the truth to the other person. That I neglected to do so was of course not maliciously done or anything. But that neglect came at the cost of something incredibly important to that person.

So something that does feel like a personal disappointment is: I usually pride myself on being sensitive to other people’s wishes. It is a personal disappointment to know that I am so far removed from the atmosphere and life of the person who wrote me so as to not notice or take care of something important to them. I dismissed their anger with a roll of my eyes, and cheapened their offense by likening it to a mosquito bite.

So despite the noble smirks I was giving myself, and the GIS fact-checking, and my Blender3D artwork, I feel pretty flat about this article.

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