MS in journalism. May 21, 2014.

Master’s project: I spent several months reporting on the way digital maps are changing the way people think about and interact with New York City. Check out my three-part series here.

With the ‘Castle’ Under Siege, a Bold New Plan

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Principal Santiago Taveras came to DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx this fall with a big mission: save the school before it simply ceases to exist.

This is personal to Taveras, a towering presence who everybody — students, faculty, and staff alike — calls “Santi.” He grew up in the Bronx, though wound up going to nearby Kennedy High School, instead. “That one was co-ed,” he jokingly explained to a student one day after school. “There weren’t any girls here when I would’ve gone.”

For years now, many top education officials have tried to carve up DeWitt Clinton’s stately building on Mosholu Parkway, nicknamed “the Castle on the Parkway,” into several smaller schools–a fate met by most other big, comprehensive high schools in New York City. Some proposals recommended the school be closed outright.

Taveras’ entrance onto the scene took the school off the chopping block when he arrived on campus as its new principal. Senior Department of Education officials know Taveras well. He is one of them, having moved up through the ranks from classroom teacher all the way to the cabinet of former chancellor Joel Klein. Taveras helped created the new data-based policies and programs that have changed the way schools are evaluated by administrators, teachers, students, and families alike.

Taveras has already witnessed progress in his short time there. Attendance rates are up and more students are passing core classes. He organized the school’s first dances and pep rallies in years, sparking a resurgence of pride in the school among both students and teachers. And he’s spent the year mapping a blueprint for reform–a proposal for five small learning communities, which he hopes will shore up a sense of community at the school battered over the years by a reputation for poor academics and frequent outbursts of violence.

With a reprieve from immediate closure, DeWitt Clinton now faces an even more daunting threat, one that may be far more difficult to combat. The city’s controversial School Progress Report, a Bloomberg-era initiative whose development and rollout Taveras personally oversaw, has listed DeWitt Clinton as an ‘F’ school the past three years — making it next to impossible to attract new students. In fact, its enrollment has collapsed by a couple hundred students each year, followed by cuts to faculty, staff, and programs to compensate for the reduced budget.

The school’s once-storied reputation is now the prime force working against it.

Read the full story, which I reported over the course of this semester with Alex Neason, at School Stories. (Photo by Alex Neason.)

“This song was never a labor of love, but rather something engineered to be loved, like the Scarlett Johansson cell phone character from Her. Even though you know it’s wrong, you’re going to love it back.”
— I’ve possibly taken Square Zeros' weekly In Defense Of column further than it’s ever gone before, writing today in support of Nicki Minaj’s insanely-catchy “Starships.” Even Derek Hawkins, who runs the excellent site and podcast, warned me I might be going too far. I offer no apologies.

In my final enterprise piece for Uptown Radio, I talked to residents of the Rockaways, who say more still needs to be done to keep them safe from another storm like Sandy, and architects, who are coming up with new defenses to do just that.

Let’s make some radio.

Kurt Vonnegut and Columbia’s own Marty Goldensohn made a radio series of interviews with dead people. Using “controlled death experiences,” Vonnegut would travel to heaven to conduct interviews. It aired on WNYC in the late ’90s.

This is the original pitch letter. It is amazing.

Analysts told me Amazon is getting ready to launch its grocery delivery system, Fresh, here in New York. What does that mean for supermarkets and customers? My latest for Uptown Radio.

WNYC: Google Glass Behind the Wheel? Lawmakers Say No

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WNYC picked up a version of a piece I first reported for Uptown Radio a few weeks back. It aired during today’s broadcast of Morning Edition.

Dave Letterman is retiring and I did a pretty weird day story about it. I think you’ll dig it.

Google Glass and other wearable technologies aren’t commonplace yet, but lawmakers are already trying to ban Google Glass behind the wheel.

I gave opinion writing a try in my Covering Education seminar: Op-ed: Letter grades hide real school data.

What does the proposed Comcast / Time Warner Cable deal mean for you? My latest for Uptown Radio.

“As teachers of journalism students from around the world, we recognize that Egyptian civil society is in a time of debate and transition, but such times are precisely when the mission of independent journalism is most relevant. Journalism is not terrorism. Neither is dissent whether printed or online.”
The faculty of the Columbia Journalism School. Really proud to see some of my own professors — Bruce Shapiro, John Dinges, and Lynnell Hancock, each of them brilliant — have signed this powerful letter supporting imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalists.

Uptown RadioI watched all 13 new episodes of “House of Cards,” then asked a Vulture writer if I’m even allowed to talk about the show on the radio.