I am a 40-year-old American freelance news reporter and commentator with a history of involvement in left-wing activism, grassroots organizing and liberatory pedagogy.
My writing (about 75 published pieces to date) has appeared in The Athens News, Ohio University Post, Athens Messenger, Athens Agenda magazine and The InterActivist magazine (all in Athens, Ohio — my home from 1999 to 2009, and from 2016 to the present), as well as in the Santa Monica Mirror, Daily Utah Chronicle (Salt Lake City), Arbiter (Boise, Idaho), Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), the journal Democracy & Education, The Chronogram magazine (Kingston, New York), The Terminal Journal (Chicago, Illinois), the website Znet, the Psychology Today website, the Alternatives to School website, the Conscious Consumer Network website and the webzine Bettawreckonize (Akron, Ohio).
Meanwhile, my 23 years of activism and organizing have been covered by many of the above publications, as well as by The Los Angeles Times, Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), Akron-Beacon Journal, Pittsburgh City Paper, Record-Courier (Kent, Ohio), Pitt News, The New People (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Logan Daily (Logan, Ohio), Athens Insider, WOUB Radio and Television (Athens), WTTE Television (Columbus, Ohio), Fox8 Cleveland, Psychology Today and publications of Ohio Citizen Action (Cleveland) and the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network (Athens).
My passions for journalism and organizing emerged simultaneously and have frequently overlapped since.
- During my senior year of high school in 1996 I founded Free Head, an independent, public access magazine created in opposition to the censorship of school authorities.
- In 1998 I co-founded Free Student Press, an organization which, until 2005, educated high school students in southeast Ohio about their First Amendment press rights and basic journalism law while supporting those students in the development of their own publications. Working through FSP during the 1999/2000 school year, I advised independent student publishers immersed in a local free speech fight that ended in victory for the students and the resignation of their school’s principal.
- In 2003 I helped found The InterActivist, an Athens, Ohio-based non-profit monthly magazine that covers social justice issues and regional progressive organizing. From 2005 through late 2008, I served as the magazine’s editor-in-chief, training staff and coordinating overall production of the magazine. I organized The InterActivist to be democratically managed by its staff members in order to maximize their skill development. During my tenure I trained 80 staff members, the vast majority of them young progressive journalists and media activists. The InterActivist continued to be published until 2015.
During these years I also was heavily involved in the movements against the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and I helped organize feminist, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender, anti-racist, student power and worker rights campaigns at Ohio University and elsewhere around Athens. Part of my organizing activities involved writing numerous commentaries related to these campaigns, which were published by several of the print outlets listed above.
Such campaign-related journalism included my 2002 exposé of OU’s longstanding violations of the Clery Act, the primary federal law which mandates schools’ responsibilities for informing students and employees of campus crime statistics, reporting procedures, prevention programs and survivor support services. At the time of my Clery Act exposé, more rapes were being reported in OU’s residence halls than those of any other public university in the state of Ohio. I went on to help organize the campaign that not only forced OU into compliance with the Clery Act but also proved instrumental to the creation of OU’s campus women’s center and contributed to OU’s decision to grant domestic partnership benefits to gay and other unmarried OU employees.
In addition to my advocacy and opinion journalism, I have done a fair amount of straightforward news reporting. My 2007 Athens News cover story on the controversy surrounding Eramet Marietta was then the most in-depth look at the southeast Ohio metals refinery which, according to the Associated Press, posed greater potential health risks to surrounding residents than any other plant in the entire U.S. I covered an earlier labor dispute at Eramet for The InterActivist. Between 2004 and 2008, The InterActivist published my reporting on faculty and student organizing campaigns at Ohio University, as well as talks by visiting lecturers.
In 2009 I left Athens for Portland, Oregon, where I worked a brief stint as Communications Director for the Oregon Student Association, the largest member based advocacy group in the state of Oregon. Later that year I returned to my hometown in Pennsylvania and took a three-year hiatus from writing and political engagement before moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 2012 and finally returning to Athens, Ohio in 2016.
The launch of this website in early 2013 marked my return to writing. Since then I have been published by ZNet, The Athens News and The Ohio University Post. My writing has been referenced by the progressive Jewish Middle East news blog Mondoweiss and by student power writer, lecturer and organizer Patrick St. John.
A 2015 interview with me about an attempt to revitalize and expand Free Student Press — an effort lauded by such prominent authors, activists and educators as Noam Chomsky, Ira Shor, Bill Ayers, Dawson Barrett, and Peter Gray — has been published online by Psychology Today, Alternatives to School, the Conscious Consumer Network, and ZNet, and led to my appearance on the webcast “For the Love of Learning — Voices From the Alternative Education Movement”, hosted by Lainie Liberti. In 2015 I also directed and co-produced an hour long documentary and promotional film about Free Student Press.
In 2016 I converted an empty step van into a fully licensed mobile kitchen and returned to Athens, Ohio to launch Hot Potato Food Truck, which I own and operate.
In 2017 I wrote about Ohio University’s historic mass arrest of antiracist student protesters that February and the unconstitutional policies OU administrators subsequently enacted to suppress campus protest at the beginning of the Trump era. I also co-founded the Athens Tenant Union.
In 2018 I wrote about issues of mobile vending and local economic development in Athens. I founded the Athens Mobile Vending Association and was elected its president. I also helped found the Southeast Ohio chapter 0f Democratic Socialists of America.
In 2019 I wrote about the Confederate flag as a device for mainstreaming white supremacy, and I ran for mayor of Athens as an independent democratic socialist.
My 2019 mayoral campaign primarily sought to increase voter turnout among Ohio University students and working class renters to mobilize a constituency to support a crack down on predatory landlords in a city where approximately 80% of residents are renters. I also sought to end city government support for Ohio University’s unconstitutional speech restrictions, including the February 2017 wrongful arrests of the Baker 70 — the second largest mass arrest of student activists in the university’s 215-year history.
My opponent in the 2019 mayoral race was incumbent mayor Steve Patterson. He publicly denied the city’s slum housing crisis and was openly supported by the city’s most notorious slumlords, including John Wharton and Demetrios Prokos, respectively voted “worst” and “second worst” landlord in Athensevery single year the Athens News polled its readers. About half of his campaign money came from a fundraising event held in the mansion of another major landlord, Alan McMillan.
Patterson also was widely supported by local business owners. And in one of the “bluest” cities in Ohio, the Democrat Patterson was supported by 15-year chair of the Athens County Republican Party Pete Couladis. Patterson bragged to The Post that Republicans didn’t run against him because he was already the mayor they want.
Even more importantly, Patterson spent five months of the eight-month mayoral campaign season lying to the public about both the number of city rental housing inspectors and the number of annual rental housing inspections. Specifically, Patterson claimed twice the number of actual rental housing inspectors were responsible for performing just half the number of actual annual rental housing inspections, thereby creating the false impression that the city office of Code Enforcement was actually capable of doing its job. These self-promotional false claims mirrored an earlier controversy in which a professional ethics committee censured Patterson for crediting himself with authoring two non-existent publications when he applied for tenure as an Ohio University professor of psychology.
Unfortunately, the Athens News’s editor repeatedly refused to fact check these false claims that his paper first published on March 6, despite me providing him with multiple city records refuting the mayor’s claims on the morning of March 7. Instead, despite my repeated appeals, the Athens News twice more uncritically published the mayor’s false claims before finally pressing Patterson to concede his false number of rental housing inspectors at the end of a lengthy August 28 article devoted to more general housing issues.
Unfortunately, although I significantly out-spent Patterson, my efforts to increase voter turnout were unsuccessful. Total turnout was just 18%, and homeowners voted at approximately 10 times the rate of renters. Thus my opponent achieved a landslide victory with the support of just 13% of registered voters and substantially fewer eligible voters.
Nevertheless, my campaign’s anti-slumlord efforts, which were supported by socialist candidate for City Council Ellie Hamrick and progressive candidate for City Council Chris Monday (who also lost their races after receiving roughly the same number of votes as me), pressured Athens City Council into passing its most pro-tenant legislation in decades, substantially increasing penalties for landlords who repeatedly violate the city housing code.
But sadly, Athens media’s 2019 refusal to hold mayor Patterson accountable for his false claims about rental housing regulation in a city where 80% of residents are renters was reminiscent of Athens media’s 2002 and 2005 refusals to hold Ohio University administrators accountable for violating federal law to hide information about campus sexual assault in a city where 80% of residents also are students, and during a time period when more rapes were being reported in OU’s residence halls than at those of any other public postsecondary school in Ohio.
Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2019 election, the Athens News also falsely (and inexplicably) reported that voter turnout was NOT unusually low, even though student journalists at both The Post and New Political both managed to correctly report the exact opposite under the not-so-subtle headlines “Voter turnout plummets to lowest point in recent years during 2019 election” (The Post) and “Athens County voter turnout was low compared previous years” (New Political). Despite those articles and evidence I presented to the Athens News, the paper did not retract its false report.
Thus despite significant improvements in the quality of my hometown’s journalism over the past two decades, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I keep trying to do my part.
In 2020, so far I have written about COVID-19, housing issues and racist policing. I became a founding member of Athenians for Housing Justice, United Tenants of Athens County, and Athens County Cop Watch, and I contributed to https://athenscountypolicingdata.org.