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“Newspapers B&W (4)” by NS Newsflash is licensed under CC BY 2.0

(This is the text of a speech delivered at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism on January 26, 2019 while accepting the Media Changemaker award.)

I had intended, at first, to give a speech on communication. You won’t hear it today, but trust me: it’s a good speech. Communication and conversation are two subjects on which I’m very passionate. I’ve dedicated my life in recent years to improving both, because our conversational skills, in general, are in decline.

But I filed away that speech last night, and wrote a new one about journalism. After all, journalism is why I’m an…


Racism is the idea that one racial group is inferior or superior to another, and has the social power to carry out and benefit from systemic discrimination. This applies to most, if not all, institutions in this country, including public media. Anti-Blackness and white supremacy shape both the institutional policies and practices of society and shape the cultural beliefs and values that support racist policies and practices.

White supremacy is the political and socio-economic system that allows white people both at a collective and individual level to enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not.


Public radio has been in the headlines a lot lately and for the most part, it’s not for positive reasons. It’s because staff members are speaking up about racism, abuse of power, unequal treatment.

Let’s be perfectly honest with each other because I want to have a productive conversation. Just about anyone in public radio can get a job elsewhere making more money. I find it fascinating that most managers, when surveyed, wrongly say that the main reason their employees work there is their paycheck. Across dozens of industries, and thousands of employees, we know that’s not true.

The factors…


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Sometimes you like to go to a restaurant and laugh with a group of friends. Sometimes you’d rather sit at home in sweats, watching movies. Sometimes you’re so caught up in a conversation at work that you’re late to your next meeting. Sometimes you duck down a hallway in order to avoid running into a chatty co-worker. You’ll go to a bar, but probably won’t stay until one a.m. You have fun at a holiday party, but you’re exhausted when you get home.

Sound familiar? Congratulations, you are an ambivert.

It has become very trendy, these days, for people to…


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An image posted on social media by students at the University of North Dakota

If someone has said something racist, that is not good. If they dressed in blackface or in a KKK costume at some point, that was a racist act. Yet, past racism does not necessarily mean someone is still a racist. What’s more, racism is not the same as discrimination, a distinction that seems to have gotten lost in the mix recently.

Don’t get me wrong: racism is never okay. Under no circumstances is anything I say here intended to excuse, condone, or downplay racist statements, racist jokes, racist costumes, or anything that starts with “racist” instead of “anti-racist.” Racism is…


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(This is the text of a speech delivered at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism on January 26, 2019 while accepting the Media Changemaker award.)

I had intended, at first, to give a speech on communication. You won’t hear it today, but trust me: it’s a good speech. Communication and conversation are two subjects on which I’m very passionate. I’ve dedicated my life in recent years to improving both, because our conversational skills, in general, are in decline.

But I filed away that speech last night, and wrote a new one about journalism. After all, journalism is why I’m an…


Let’s talk about the tragic confrontation last week between a group of Catholic high school boys and an elder Omaha man. I understand the visceral outrage felt by so many as they watched a young kid smirk and harass an honored war veteran. I also understand the impulse to protect youth, to allow children to make mistakes.

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Not long after the video went viral, people began threatening the kids with violence, trying to find their personal information and publish it, and expressing a wish for the kids to be expelled or worse. One man tweeted: “A not-so-modest proposal. The school…


A NOTE — I didn’t have a set budget for my trip (it was a business trip for me), but plenty of people do. I will recommend things based on what’s ideal for comfort and enjoyment, and you should tailor your trip to your own needs.

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The Superliner

CHOOSE YOUR ROUTE: Where do you want to go? The trains pull into some smaller, quirkier towns that might deserve a visit. You can spend a day in Lafayette, Louisiana and then hop on board another train. Intermediary stops are a beautiful benefit of train travel and wholly different from planes. …


My trip on the Lakeshore Limited from Chicago to Boston is short (only about 21 hours) and quiet. This train doesn’t have real dining car service, so everyone just stops by and picks up food when they feel like it. There are no warm conversations across cotton tablecloths.

Last year, I interviewed UC Berkeley assistant professor Juliana Schroeder for my upcoming book and she told me, “There are norms in place that you don’t talk on the train. It pervades even outside of the quiet car. They think no one wants to talk because no one is talking. …


The conversation over breakfast is so good that we stay at the table for three hours. When the sun rose this morning, we will pulling into St. Paul, Minnesota.

I have now met the Mississippi at both its beginning and end. We crossed 135 feet above it when we were in Louisiana. Now, it’s a frozen, brilliant white expanse separating Wisconsin from Minnesota.

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Celeste Headlee

Writer, journalist, anchor, reporter. All views are my own. celesteheadlee.com, https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062669001/we-need-to-talk/

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