Tag Archives: Rosette Royale

The full four-part series on domestic abuse: Gravity of Abuse

Photo by Kate Baldwin

“The gravity of abuse: The personal toll of domestic abuse,”  grew out of a three-month 2010 Seattle University fellowship to study family homelessness in Washington state. The fellowship was funded by the Gates Foundation. All quotes, thoughts and feelings of individuals stem from interviews, personal correspondence, police reports and court documents. Research for the series lasted 22 months.

Part I: The gravity of abuse

Part II: Neighborhood Watch

Park III: No contact

Part IV: Three strikes

The gravity of abuse: Part III: No contact

All photos by Kate Baldwinw

The third in our series on one family’s struggle to survive domestic violence. Read the first two in the series here.

By Rosette Royale, Street News Service

Safe house

What if no one showed up?

In early October 2009, Brandy Sweeney stood outside a grocery store in an unfamiliar neighborhood, her belongings gathered around her feet, her three-day-old son cradled in her arms. Someone was supposed to meet her there and drive her to a safe place, but the person hadn’t arrived. So she waited. Two minutes, three minutes, four. Continue reading

Part 1: The gravity of abuse: The complex personal toll of domestic abuse

Brandy and child. Photo by Kate Baldwin

By Rosette Royale, Contributing Writer

Anywhere. He could be anywhere.

Around the corner of the apartment building where they live. Across the street at the construction site where he works. At the nearby bar where he sometimes goes for a beer. She looks around, nervous. What if he sees her?

But she can’t wait. Not anymore. She tightens her grip on the baby stroller and heads off into the night.

She has a plan: make it three blocks, to the shelter for women and children. Borrow someone’s cell phone, call 911. She tried to dial the number back at the apartment, but he yanked the phone out of her hands and broke it to pieces.

She zooms the stroller down the sidewalk of South Othello Street, heading west toward Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, a busy intersection in a diverse, yet gentrifying, south Seattle neighborhood. On her right, an abandoned lot and taco truck, on her left, an unfinished luxury apartment complex. By this time of evening, heading on midnight, hardly a car drives by. The light rail station sits empty. She’s all alone.

Except for her son. Their son. Tomorrow he’ll turn seven months old. About 90 minutes ago, shortly after the yelling and screaming drew her neighbors into the hallway, the child cried while she splashed water on her face in the bathroom of Apartment 21. Now he sits in his stroller, bundled up in a blue, fuzzy snowsuit.
In a rush, she forgot to grab her own coat. Not that she minds. She barely feels the chilly spring air rushing over the red mark on her throat. Continue reading

Collect Calls: Talking about the cutthroat world of debt collection

By Rosette Royale, Contributing Writer

Working as a debt collector, journalist Fred Williams discovered the extreme tactics collection agencies use to cage the rights of those in arrears

Here’s a confession: In my younger days, I was an unrepentant shopaholic. I lived in Maine, working at Colby College, my alma mater, and twice a month I would drive 70 minutes in my brand-spanking new 1990 VW Golf to the outlet mall in Freeport. Ralph Lauren, Cole Haan, Wilson’s Leather, L.L. Bean. I tore a blue streak through those stores, rarely stopping to consider that my desire to look good was overshadowed by my ability to pay to look good. My favorite purchase from 20 years ago? A pair of tan suede-cordovan brown leather saddle Oxford shoes with brown metal eyelets. Cost: $195.

I don’t have a clue where those shoes are now, much less anything else I bought. But you know what I still have? Memories of the nauseated, heart-thumping sensation I got when a debt collector called. Because, with a salary of $18,500, purchasing a $65 raw silk tie adorned with ring-necked pheasants on a field of light purple fabric ain’t a wise idea. But I had VISA and American Express and others, so I reveled in my privileged membership and charged everything. And didn’t stop until my unpaid credit card bills, close to $5,000, went into collection, and the debt collectors came after me. Things got so bad, I wouldn’t even answer my work phone, for fear the ring heralded someone wanting the money I owed.

Finally, after years of running from my past shopping sprees by changing phone numbers and addresses, I realized I had to pay those bills. So I worked, mailed in meager checks every month and, somehow, cleared up the debt. To not have to avoid a phone call — what joy. But I often wondered, listening to their messages, what it took to be a debt collector. How in the hell could someone be so mean on the phone? That’s why I wanted to speak to Fred Williams.

Not that Williams is mean. On the contrary, he’s affable and accommodating. He also worked as a debt collector. To do so, he left his journalism job in upstate New York and in 2008 spent three months calling people on the phone, asking them to pay off their debts. He did so honestly — he wasn’t undercover and never lied to customers — but he did have an objective: to see how debt collection works on the inside.

What he found led to his 2010 book, “Fighting Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices: Know your Rights and Protect Yourself from Threats, Lies, and Intimidation.” Along with providing an intriguing narrative about what a debt collector’s day looks like, Williams also offers sound financial advice, such as how to read a credit report and how to negotiate a debt settlement. Since the book’s publication, Williams has appeared on CNBC’s “On the Money” and ABC’s “Good Morning, America.”

Williams no longer works as a debt collector. He’s now an editor with a financial news service called SNL Financial, where, he said, “We get a lot of calls for Saturday Night Live.” And while most people wouldn’t consider debt a laughing matter, Williams spoke compellingly, and with humor, about deceitful debt collectors, the cutthroat work environment, the unhealthy ties between collection agencies and credit card companies, and what consumers can do to stop those abusive calls. He launched into it all before I even asked him a question.

“So I was a reporter at the Binghamton Press, and debt collection is a pretty big business around there, for whatever reason. And we’d hear from people who had been called by them, saying they’d been threatened that their house would be auctioned out from under them or they’d be put in jail for reneging on debts. So I got the impression these businesses were using pretty harsh tactics. And of course those are illegal tactics. But without really getting inside the industry, the companies would just say, ‘Well, there’s always some bad apples, and people don’t want to pay their debts, so they make complaints’ and ‘Well, once in a while, we’ll get someone who goes over the line, but we’ll terminate them.’ But the volume of the complaints that were coming in, and the way financial incentives were set up made me think that maybe it was more than that. That maybe the practices were really widespread. So, in order to really check that out, I finally had to leave the newsroom and take a job as a debt collector at one of the mainstream collection companies operating in the Buffalo area, to see what really went on.”

Rosette Royale: How was it to be a debt collector?

Fred Williams: It was not what I expected. Well, maybe some parts of it were. It was pretty easy to get the job. I went right in with my regular resume, my real name and 25 years of journalism experience. They asked me why I wanted to work there. I told them the truth, which was that I heard a lot about collection, and I wanted to see what it was really like for myself. Then there was a week of classroom training. Lots of young guys, a couple guys had a record, other guys hadn’t quite finished high school. The training was all on the up and up. It was about what the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says, what the rules are, what you can and can’t do. So that was kind of impressive. But the training kind of skewed toward pushing the line of what you can do. Continue reading

Lost in a moment: A traumatic brain injury on the job in Iraq turned journalist Bob Woodruff into an advocate for veterans experiencing homelessness

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explains the Viper fiber communications terminal to ABC’s Bob Woodruff onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 en route to Afghanistan, July 14, 2009. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley. Cleared for release by the Joint Staff Public Affairs

by Rosette Royale, Contributing Writer

In 2006, journalist Bob Woodruff went to cover the war in Iraq. But when he suffered a brain injury caused by an IED, he became part of a different story.

The Marines knew Taji, Iraq, was a bad area. The city, roughly 12 miles north of Baghdad, housed lots of insurgents. But the information didn’t stop the military convoy that rolled through the city on Jan. 29, 2006.

Standing up in the back hatch of a light-armored tank, the lead vehicle in the convoy, TV journalist Bob Woodruff prepared to tape a segment for ABC. He and his cameraman wore body armor and protective helmets. Without warning, an improvised explosive device blew up near the tank.

There was a BANG. Everything shook. Then it all came to a standstill. And Woodruff, who had succeeded Peter Jennings as ABC World News Tonight co-host only weeks before, fell over in the tank.

Shrapnel tore a hole in Woodruff’s neck. Another piece sliced into the left hemisphere of his brain. Convulsions shook his body. Trying to stanch the flow of blood, a soldier pressed his hand over Woodruff’s neck. “Come back!” the Marines yelled at him. “Come back!”

Indeed, for a brief moment, Woodruff came back and opened his eyes. He asked a question. Then he slipped back into unconsciousness.

He and the cameraman underwent emergency surgery in a U.S. Air Force hospital near Balad, Iraq. From there, both were airlifted to a hospital in Germany. In serious condition, Woodruff was flown to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he stayed in a medically induced coma for more than a month. Finally awake, he required months of therapy for brain-related trauma. (The cameraman fully recovered.) Continue reading

Diamonds are the poor’s best friends

by Rosette Royale, Contributing Writer

Environmentalist Saleem Ali thinks there’s one surefire way to lift people out of poverty: encourage trade that balances need with greed

Corporations are evil. They ruin the environment, take advantage of the world’s poor and accrue profits that benefit a few, already wealthy souls.

In certain circles, such statements are gospel. There’s no use debating their veracity because, well, the proof is everywhere. But maybe, just maybe, what’s taken as proof is really unexamined bias. At least, Saleem Ali thinks so.

Ali, director of the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security and a professor at the University of Vermont, believes that many tree-hugging enviros bark up the wrong tree by vilifying corporations. Instead, he stresses that companies, properly monitored by governments, will increase the livelihoods of the poor. And for many poor people, prosperity is linked to wealthy societies’ desire for natural resources. He spells it all out in “Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and a Sustainable Future” (Yale University Press, $20).

Of course, putting this pro-business message out to people, one that heralds the connection between the wants of one group and the betterment of another, has garnered Ali fans and detractors. Forbes magazine proclaimed him “the alchemist” and National Geographic labeled him an “emerging explorer.” Some greens, according to Ali, haven’t been so supportive of his views.

In a recent phone conversation, Ali, a self-proclaimed realist, talked about how diamonds can save the poor, why the world would be better off if greens worked with corporations and how our current and impending environmental crises can create unity in a world too often divided along lines of us and them.

Rosette Royale: Your book’s called “Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and a Sustainable Future.” So how would you define a treasure of the earth?

Saleem Ali: Anything that we are harnessing from the planet, and it could be used positively or negatively. Even if we’re talking about food, we are dependent on the elements to nourish food. Hence we have minerals written on our cereal boxes. So when I talk about treasures, I’m essentially going back to the elements of the earth.

All plant life and animal life need minerals, so (the elements) have a very specific needs-based connection to our sustenance. But then they also provide for more luxury oriented wants, so to speak. The whole jewelry industry is about minerals, whether you’re talking about gold or diamonds or other kinds of precious gemstones. So there’s this huge spectrum between what we need and what we want, and the book tries to grapple with these and how understanding our relationship to minerals can make us a more efficient and equitable society.

R.R.: So let’s touch upon the topic of greed. Can you name a mineral that we both need and want?

S.A.: Well, carbon was the fundamental element for organic molecules and it’s also, in its purest form, the diamond. A diamond is something we want; we don’t need it physically. But the same element forms many other kinds of compounds, like coal, which we do need, given our current constraints of energy. So carbon’s an important one in that regard. Continue reading

One nation under lock and key

Lawyer and author Michelle Alexander says we need a social movement to change the criminal justice system

by Rosette Royale, Contributing Writer

Imagine you could arrest every single person in Houston, Texas, and toss them behind bars. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But maybe, in some sense, something similar has already happened. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 2.3 million people exist in prisons and jails. That’s how many people live in Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city.

Nearly 60 percent of those locked up were nabbed for drug related crimes. Of the more than two million who are incarcerated, 38 percent are black; in 20 states, the number of black people behind bars far exceeds the number who aren’t. And these figures don’t include people on probation or parole. What, you might be inclined to ask, is going on here?

Michelle Alexander, a lawyer who directed the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project of Northern California, set out to get some answers to this question. What she found distressed her. Our country’s mass incarceration has come as a direct result of polices that target poor people of color, policies that have national precedent. The evidence to support her claims fills the pages of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” (The New Press, $27.95), a sobering look at how we’ve become the nation with more people incarcerated than any other.

In town to give a number of talks sponsored by the Bush School’s Diversity Speaker Series, Alexander, currently an Associate Law Professor at Ohio State University, sat down at Mount Zion Baptist Church to discuss what she’s learned. She spoke not only of how and why these inequities arose, but how, in an unexpected twist, her early belief in the criminal justice system may have contributed to the problem.

Rosette Royale: So you wrote a book called “The New Jim Crow.” First, let’s start with the old Jim Crow. What’s that?

Michelle Alexander: Well, the old Jim Crow is a system of rules, laws, policies and customs that served to lock a group of people defined by race into a permanent second-class status. Jim Crow laws authorized discrimination in virtually every aspect of social, political and economic life. Most people think of Jim Crow as separate schools for black children and white, but of course Jim Crow laws also authorized discrimination in access to employment, housing, education, all sorts of public benefits, all sorts of public accommodations. It created a race-based regime of social control. Continue reading

The unmitigated gall of cartoonist Ted Rall

In editorial cartoons and columns, he lambastes liberals and conservatives alike. His latest move? Calling for revolution. Now.

by: Rosette Royale, Street News Service

The funnies. Who doesn’t like the funnies? Probably the individuals who get skewered in them, the windbag-prone characters who suffer deflation at the hands of a talented cartoonist or illustrator. Chances are, many of the folks who find themselves in a Ted Rall cartoon wish they’d never gotten caught in his crosshairs.

An editorial cartoonist fond of characters with pointy noses and beady eyes, Rall knows how to lampoon society’s blowhards. Be they Democrat or Republican, progressive or conservative, CEOs or military commanders: In his hands, he highlights their foibles with a lacerating wit. Even Obama doesn’t get a break. And speaking of Obama…

Last year, Rall called for him to resign. Not in a cartoon, but in an editorial column. He’s also written cartoon blogs for the LA Times on the ongoing occupation in Afghanistan. All of which means he’s busy. But not busy enough that he didn’t find time to write a book: “The Anti-American Manifesto” (Seven Stories Press, $15.95) an unabashed call for another American revolution. The book is so tough, it might make a devout Buddhist give up meditation for confrontation.

But the thing is, when you meet Rall, he’s unexpectedly nice. On tour for his new book, we met at Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle before his reading We sat in the café where, in the span of roughly 25 minutes, Rall, a Pulitzer finalist for his cartoons, smiled as he let it fly: the Dems, the Republicans, the Tea Party, AIG, the Afghan National Police. He covered them all and then some, in the guise of saying: America, time to wake up!

Rosette Royale: You’re the author, most recently, of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” That’s a title. Continue reading

Paul Loeb: The power of one lies in the many

by Rosette Royale, Street News Service

Sometimes unknown people do big things. Take Virginia Ramirez. Virginia lived near an elderly widow in a dilapidated house in San Antonio, TX. and, for years on end, Virginia saw the woman get sick each winter. The widow couldn’t afford to fix her home, so Virginia sought the aid of city agencies. The agencies provided little help and ultimately, the widow died of pneumonia. Enraged at the senseless death, Virginia went to a community organizing group, saying she wanted someone to do something. “What are you going to do about it?” a group member asked her in turn.
A 45-year-old mother with an eighth-grade education, Virginia felt there was little she could do. But after a little prodding, Virginia held a house meeting to discuss the issue. Nine neighbors showed up. Together, they researched why the widow had gotten little help and discovered that money earmarked to repair homes in their barrio – funds that could have helped the widow – had been diverted to a more affluent neighborhood. Virginia led a force of 60 neighbors to a city council meeting, to protest how they had been denied the funds. There, she spoke her truth. The city council gave them back the money. And, without even knowing it, Virginia had become a community activist.
Virginia said, “I never knew I had it in me.” She may not be alone. All over – in small towns, in crumbling cities, in the boonies – people who don’t think they have anything special inside may have some little spark that, given the right conditions, can grow into a roaring, steady flame. And if you need more examples of empowered people, Paul Rogat Loeb’s your man.

In books such as “Hope in Hard Times: America’s Peace Movement and the Reagan Era” and “The Impossible will Take a Little Time,” Loeb has sought ways to help ordinary people dust off their cynicism and disbelief in society – not to mention themselves – to see how they can become agents of change. Don’t think of it as a self-help strategy: It’s a call to social activism. And he calls to readers with stories of people like Virginia.

A wealth of these stories appear in “Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times” (St. Martin’s, $16.99), a reissue of a 1999 book that uses compassion to invoke the need for a return to social activism. As guides, Loeb mixes the tales of people like Nelson Mandela with Virginia Ramirez, to show how little steps have changed people’s lives.

The book’s reissue means that Loeb, whose writings also appear on The Huffington Post, has to hit the road to do a publicity tour. But before he took off for the East Coast, the Seattleite had a little chat about ordinary people and extraordinary change, touching on the lives of Rosa Parks, local fisherman Pete Knutson, Nelson Mandela and his own next-door neighbor.

Rosette Royale: In the intro to this book you start off by recounting an appearance you had on CNN with Rosa Parks. You mention how she’s often portrayed as this lone pioneer, but that’s actually not the case.

Paul Loeb:
She’s coming in from remote, I’m sitting in a studio in Atlanta, so I don’t actually meet her, but how can you not be totally excited? They say, basically, one day Rosa Parks started the Civil Rights movement, and I’m just kinda groaning. What they’re stripping away to me are three really key elements for change. The image is here’s this lone activist (who) acts completely on her own, acts in isolation — you know, she was tired and her feet hurt — and if you look, there’s a whole community around her: She was the secretary of the local NAACP chapter and the mentor to the youth section. The portrayal of Parks in isolation strips away this community who made it possible, after that day on the bus, for that whole boycott to occur. Continue reading

The last Republican

From the Nov. 13 edition of Street Roots

Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal looked deep into the heart of the Republican Party. What he found should make the GOP blush

Sometimes, you admire someone before you meet him. Such was the case with Max Blumenthal.

A little more than a year ago, I came across a YouTube video called “Generation Chickenhawk,” an eight-minute piece on the 2007 College Republican National Convention. In it, a whole cadre of young men and women, done up in business attire, wax philosophical about why the Iraq War is necessary (“We went there because al Qaeda is there.”) and why they hadn’t enlisted (“I can’t because of medical reasons.”), all the while, completely embarrassing themselves. It’s pretty hysterical. Until you realize how disturbing it is.

These rightwing lads and lasses were confessing their opinions to a young, almost Republican-looking man who was interviewing them on camera. Who, I wondered, was he? Turned out his name was Max Blumenthal. I decided to see what else he’d done. That search didn’t prove hard.

Basically, Blumenthal could be found just about everywhere a lefty might search out information: The Nation, NPR, Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Huffington Post, salon.com, alternet.org. He provided both print and video journalism for these and other media outlets, often focusing on the impact of the conservative movement on the Republican Party. Not only was his work damning, but pretty damn witty.

Those investigative skills, that wit: They’re all on display in his first book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party” (Nation Books, $25), an enlightening — and, at times, terrifying — narrative recounting of how the Religious Right’s emphasis on creating a theocracy based on a Christian G-O-D did a number on the G.O.P. The cast of characters is huge and their scandals legion. It reads like fiction. Too bad it’s fact.

So when Blumenthal gave a talk in Seattle recently, I knew I wanted to meet him. And the stars, they aligned: We wound up having brunch earlier that day, in Belltown. And over omelets — I had veggie sausage and Swiss, he had veggie sausage and broccoli — we took a rightwing tour of Biblical proportions, with stops in the Swiss Alps, the White House, Kiambu, Kenya and, of course, Wasilla, Alaska.

Rosette Royale: “Republican Gomorrah:” You know, Gomorrah’s a Biblical town that’s linked to Sodom and, essentially, things didn’t go so well. So why choose Gomorrah as part of the title?

Max Blumenthal: And I managed to look into Gomorrah and not turn into a pillar of salt.

It’s a reference to the Republican experiment — from the Gingrich Revolution in ’94 to the end of the Bush era — and during that time, a Gomorrah-like sea of scandals exploded into the open, ranging from the bizarre sexual escapades of rightwing, supposed family-values Republicans from Ted Haggard [the evangelical preacher caught having sex with a male escort while using meth] to Larry Craig [the former Idaho Republican senator arrested for lewd conduct in an airport bathroom] to David Vitter (the Louisiana Republican senator who frequented a high-end prostitute called the “D.C. Madam”), to lesser known figures who did even more bizarre acts, to the wanton criminality of Tom DeLay, “The Hammer,” who (was charged with money laundering and violating campaign finance laws and) was the majority leader of Congress. And these scandals, to me, while they’re entertaining, they suggest a lot of hypocrisy. I wanted to go beyond that and show how they reflected an essential sensibility of the Christian Right, and how bringing that movement into that party brought the party down.

R. R.: When did this movement begin? You mention Newt Gingrich.

M. B.: The movement had been building capacity in the 1960s, and my narrative sort of starts in the Civil Rights struggle, and Jerry Falwell was inveighing against Martin Luther King from the pulpit: He’s attacking King for being political and saying preachers shouldn’t be. Falwell was primarily concerned with his private Christian schools being integrated and King was a threat to that. The irony of attacking King as political can’t be lost —  I don’t know how long I can go with the answer. Continue reading

Where the grass is always greener with Rick Steves

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I’ve been to paradise,” a line from an ’80s pop song goes, “but I’ve never been to me.” In a strange way, travel guru Rick Steves has been to a paradise, too, but he’s found that the best places to visit, the ones where you learn the most about yourself, are those where you connect with the locals.

Steves should know. For decades, he’s been bopping around the globe — Spain, Italy, France, Turkey — having adventures that have led him outside the bubble of resort hotels and into a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit. And while most people know him through his PBS show, “Rick Steves: Europe through the Back Door,” his globetrotting isn’t merely Euro-centric. He’s not afraid to step foot in non-touristy, non-Western locales, such as El Salvador or Nicaragua. He ventures to these destinations — the ones that travel companies rarely recommend — because he believes that within the travel experience, there exists a chance to become politically engaged with the world. It’s a notion reflected on his blog, “Travel as a Political Act.”

His political side extends past the borders of international travel. An unrepentant social activist, Steves, who was born in Edmonds, Wash., has worked to bring attention to homelessness and is an outspoken proponent of marijuana reform. All of which means he’s a busy man with a lot of opinions, Steves, in between travels, spoke about what travel can offer, his observations of some Iranian girls, the rise of the megalopolis, his very first trip and the first time he got high.

Rosette Royale: First question, really basic: Why do people travel?

Rick Steves: Well, the famous quote is: “Living on this planet and not traveling is like having a great book and never turning the page.” Travel carbonates your life; it challenges truths you were raised thinking were God-given; it lets you empathize better with people’s struggles; and it lets you know there are other ways of thinking, so you’re less self-assured in the way you look at life. And I find that humbling and exciting.

R.R.: Do you think it’s the same to travel across town or across the state, as opposed to going to another country?

R.S.: Well, in a sense, traveling is meeting people. So you can travel around the world and not meet people and you haven’t done much traveling. Or you can travel across town and talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise, and you could argue that that’s valuable travel. I just really like the people aspect of travel.

R.R.: I guess it’s a Western perception that you think, “Well, you need money to travel.” So, do you?

R.S.: Well, you need money to go far away. And you need time. Time is often something that’s underestimated. Americans tend to have more money than time, so I think it’s real important that Americans find a way to get more time and use their time smartly, as well as their money. But yeah, to travel to Europe, to Mexico: Unfortunately it’s quite expensive. You can travel domestically pretty cheaply. You can hitchhike to California and travel for the cost of your hamburgers and fries. Continue reading

It’s a great day for street papers

Thing 1: The New York Times reports on the growing interest in street papers nationwide, including Street Roots, Real Change in Seattle and Street Sense in Washington, D.C. Street Roots vendor Kevin Bynum and Managing Editor Joanne Zuhl are both quoted in the article, which ran in today’s business section.

The story focuses on the economic aspects of running street papers and the opportunities they provide for vendors, whose numbers are swelling across the country. But it’s also important to recognize the role street papers play in informing the community, which brings us to…

Thing 2: The Society of Professional Journalists has honored Rosette Royale of Real Change with an excellence in journalism award for a feature he wrote last year on a man who jumped to his death from Seattle’s Aurora Bridge.

Rosette did more than seven months of research for the three-part series, “The Man Who Stood on the Bridge.” He talked to Street Roots about the story last July.

SPJ’s national Sigma Delta Chi awards had over 900 nominees in 53 different categories. Rosette’s story won for best feature writing in a paper with a circulation under 100,000. The story is missing from Real Change’s website at the moment, but we’ll try to get a link up soon. (Update: The Seattle P-I has posted a PDF file of the series, which you can download here.)

Congratulations, Rosette and Real Change!

Posted by Mara Grunbaum

Rosette Royale talks Real Change

To write this series, Real Change (Street Roots sister paper in Seattle) staff reporter Rosette Royale obtained close to 600 pages of documents from the Department of Corrections (DOC) through multiple public disclosure requests. Supporting documentation was also obtained through numerous websites. Interviews were conducted with more than 20 individuals, including family, friends, former prisoners, mental-health professionals, and DOC personnel.

Any quotes attributed to Bret derive from DOC documents where he was directly quoted by others, department forms written in his own hand, or letters he’d mailed. Thoughts attributed to him stem from descriptions others made of him, whether in interviews or as part of DOC documents.

Descriptions of Longview and Kelso, WA, the Lewis and Clark Bridge, the home of Nancy and Clinton Erckenbrack come from a one-day visit the reporter made to southwestern Washington. Descriptions of Twin Rivers come from two separate visits to the prison made this past spring and summer. Descriptions of the Capitol Hill hotel he lived in upon his release are based upon numerous firsthand visits.

Descriptions of the Aurora Bridge and surrounding areas are based upon multiple firsthand visits the reporter made to the site. Measurements of the bridge either come from various websites or were ascertained through measurements conducted by the reporter himself. Other descriptions of Bret or his environs are based upon the memories of those who knew him.

The narrative of the last moments on the bridge stems from interviews, a police report of the incident, and a “Computer Assisted Dispatch,” a transcript of law enforcement communication in relation to the incident.

The series got its genesis from a police incident report printed in the Street Watch column of Real Change last autumn. The entire reporting process lasted more than seven months.

The man Who Stood on the Bridge (Part 1: All around him, bridges)

The Man Who Stood on the Bridge (Part 2: Waiting, on the inside)

The Man Who Stood on the Bridge (Part 3: Home, it’s better than prison)