The 10th annual Izzy Awards ceremony, organized by the Park Center for Independent Media, was held at Ithaca College on April 24. The Izzy Award judges presented four journalists with the award and said the reporters have accomplished an immense amount of success in political and environmental journalism.
“Each of this year’s Izzy winners has broken new ground in exposing corporate profiteering and the power of money over public policy,” the judges said in a statement.
The Park Center for Independent Media, based out of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, focuses on non-profit journalism. The center studies and examines how corporate-owned media outlets impact news coverage in comparison to independent outlets.
This year’s winners are Dahr Jamail, Sharon Lerner, Todd Miller, and Lee Fang. Fang and Lerner are investigate reporters for The Intercept. Jamail focuses on environmental journalism for Truthout. Miller recently published the book Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security.
All four of the honorees started the evening with a private question and answer session. A variety of topics were discussed during the meeting, including the winners’ career achievements, wisdom for students, and environmental protection.
The winners shared with the audience their journey in the media industry. Students in attendance asked for guidance on how to start a career in independent media.
“There’s this idea that there’s your career and it’s going to be this fixed thing,” Lerner said. “I know it will continue to evolve… it’s evolved with my interest, time, and current events.”
“We’re all on our own path of what interests us the most,” Jamail said to the crowd of mostly students. “Mine went to war reporting, to veterans’ issues… to climate change journalism, and who knows where it will go next!”
Junior Film, Photography & Visual Art, and Art History major Anna Gardner attended the ceremony, and she said she loves having the opportunity to talk directly with the award winners.
“I’ve come every year… It’s an opportunity to get a more personal side (of the journalists),” Garner said. “It is just something you don’t get from the actual award ceremony.”
Jeff Cohen’s Final Izzy Awards
This year’s ceremony also marked a farewell with the retirement of Jeff Cohen, the founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media, which was established in 2008.
Cohen spent much of the evening reflecting on his career in journalism and the growth he has seen in independent media.
“When you look at what’s happened in the last 20 years, thanks to the internet propelling independent outlets, they have grown to where there are several million people every day getting their news from independent, not corporate, and I would argue anti-corporate outlets,” Cohen said to the audience that packed into Klingenstein Lounge.
Cohen’s Biggest Concern
While discussing the internet, Cohen voiced his concern about proposed changes to net neutrality, a principle based on the idea that all internet service providers should provide equal access and speed to all websites.
“The biggest threat facing independent media is the ending net neutrality,” Cohen said. “That’s the biggest issue facing the freedom of the press issue facing our country today-- saving net neutrality.”
During his opening speech of the award ceremony, Cohen, who inaugurated the Izzy Awards in 2008, reflected on the awards’ accomplishments and discussed his future.
“This will be the last ceremony I preside over, as I will be retiring in 6 days,” Cohen said to an applauding crowd. “(I will be) retiring from this job, but not from life, not from journalism, not from social justice work—this has been one of the greatest jobs.”
In fact, nearly 200 of these bikes are expected to come to city streets in time for the Streets Alive Festival on April 21.
The City of Ithaca and Bike Walk Tompkins announced last month that LimeBike, a bike sharing service is riding into the area.
The GPS-enabled bikes are powered by a solar panel in the bike’s basket. Using an app, riders register with LimeBike and can locate a bike near them.
LimeBike will have one full-time employee in Ithaca who will oversee the Ithaca operation as well as five to seven part-time employees who will respond to complaints and perform maintenance.
“Bike Litter” in Dallas
While many politicians tout the positive benefits of bike sharing services, cities like Dallas received over 900 complaints about dock-less bikes. The major issue cities with similar programs face is “bike litter,” when bikes are left and locked in the middle of sidewalks or yards.
Dallas hosts five bike sharing companies, but LimeBike received the most grievances with over 580 complaints.
City of Dallas Councilwoman, Jennifer Gates said she supports a “vibrant and successful” bike sharing program, but she feels the challenges the city faces need to be addressed.
“I believe we need to move forward with an ordinance that includes a permitting process and also creates zones, locations or spaces the bikes can be dropped off,” Gates said.
Gates added she believes the city needs to be “nimble and flexible” when allowing new transportation options.
Avoiding “Bike Litter” in IthacaUnlike Dallas, which has multiple bike share companies, LimeBike will be the only one in Ithaca.
Bike Walk Tompkins interviewed 10 companies and chose LimeBike based on the proposal the company submitted.
Hector Chang, active transportation and bike walk coordinator at Bike Walk Tompkins, said the amount of “bike litter” in cities can be attributed to a surplus in bikes.
“In places like Dallas specifically, they don’t have rule or regulations… you have competition that have serious ‘cash to burn,’ and they want to make sure a bike is always next to you,” Chang said. “If the [competing] companies aren’t everywhere, they might lose out to their competitor.”
The City of Ithaca is also drafting a “memorandum of understanding” with LimeBike about the role the service will play to curb bike litter.
“We wanted to make it clear the city has no responsibility for it,” said Ithaca’s Director of Engineering Tim Logue, who drafted the memorandum. “So we’re not in charge of bikes that are parked poorly, bikes that are lost, or bikes that are vandalized.”
Logue also said the city will not respond to complaints about bikes, instead it will forward complaints to LimeBike.
“Most people ultimately call the city for problems, we expect people probably will, but we wanted to be clear with LimeBike that we will turn-around and call them… They seem very comfortable with that.”
Logue said the City of Ithaca is happy to have a transportation service coming to the community, at no cost to the city.
“People have another convenient way to get around the city. People may not be immediately next to a bus stop, but a bike-share bike might be the perfect solution to that.”
For City of Ithaca Alderpersons Ducson Nguyen and Joseph Murtagh, both representing the second ward, the idea to start a podcast about local politics was a no-brainer.
“As representatives on the Common Council, I think we’re both always looking for ways to reach out to our constituents, and this seemed like a good one,” Murtagh said
“The Ithacast” is still in its infancy stages, having only two episodes recorded as of March 2. The podcast was the idea of Nguyen who listens to podcasts quite often.
“I did a search for other municipal podcasts, and the ones I found were all just recordings of city council meetings, which sound kind of boring,” he said. “I thought it would be better if we actually talked about policy in a way that would be accessible to our constituents.”
Coming Up with Topics
Murtagh and Nguyen both are still figuring out how they want to format their podcast and the topics they want to cover.
“I think we really want to address a broad topic of issues on this podcast, everything from housing, to the police, to historic preservation, to dredging, to roads and infrastructure—those are things that affect everybody,” Murtagh said.
Nguyen initially thought the podcast would just be the two Common Council members discussing the upcoming agenda, but that changed.
“I remember when I pitched it to Seph, I said: ‘15 minutes—tops! It’s just the two of us, we’ll talk about the upcoming agenda, and whatever issue was on our mind at the time,’” Nguyen said.
The first episode featured Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, and much of the podcast covered Ithaca’s housing crisis. The taping lasted two hours, but Nguyen said there was nothing worth cutting out.
“Our first conversation was with the mayor about housing, and we really got into the weeds about many deep policy issues,” he said. “Many people enjoyed the insights they got.”
The Production Process
On the evening Tuesday, Feb. 27, three microphones were set up in dining room of Nguyen’s Northside home.
He and his wife Amber welcomed everyone warmly into their home. A small selection of beer and other drinks were offered (or served), to help create the casual atmosphere that they want to translate into the podcast.
The second podcast featured Brian McCraken, the City’s historical preservation planner. The discussion focused on historical landmarks in Ithaca and the recent vote against designating the Chacona Block as a local historical landmark. McCraken said he thinks the podcast helps break-down and explain complicated issues like historical preservation for citizens.
“The conversational format of the series creates an approachable platform for citizens to learn more about topic(s) and the positions of their elected officials,” he said. “Too often conversations about preservation are narrowly focused, but the podcast allowed me to discuss the topic more broadly and, for some issues, in more detail.”
The two do not have plans for their next guest yet, but they like talking to employees of the City.
“City Hall is a pretty small place, we both know a lot of the people who are involved with the city staff,” Murtagh said. “I think it’s just a question of figuring out what is the ‘hot topic’ right now, what people talking about.”
“People I talk to all the time listen to podcasts,” Murtagh said, and that seems to be the case with the first podcast.
The first podcast, titled “None of us are experts here,” has over 2,200 views on Facebook. It can also be found on the podcast’s website. Nguyen is happy with the feedback he has received.
“They really appreciated our conversation,” he said.
Neither Nguyen nor Murtagh had a typical listener pictured in their minds, they both just hope to engage residents.
“I think we’re just trying to communicate the policy as best we can,” Murtagh said. “Any resident in the city that’s interested in the issues that confront the city I imagine as the audience. It really is a broad audience we’re going to target.”