As Maria Konnikova picked up specks of cotton from the sidewalks of Dumas, Arkansas, she felt as though she’d been transported to the antebellum South. “I didn’t even understand what poverty looked like until I spent time there,” she says. “[There are] entire swaths of the country where almost nobody is living above subsistence levels.” But Samasource, an organization that lifts people out of poverty with digital literacy training, is trying to change that. In "Bringing the Rural Poor Into the Digital Economy," Konnikova chronicles the efforts of the organization to bring jobs to residents of the Arkansas Delta.
American higher education is in crisis, we are told, and at the heart are the millions that have enrolled in for-profit colleges, and who leave school with massive debt and grim job prospects compared to traditional students. In the summer of 2008, desperate to pay for his senior year at a top research university, Pacific Standard’s Michael Fitzgerald took a gig as a secret shopper for for-profit colleges. He spent the next few months vetting college recruiters until a bizarre case of mistaken identity ended the gig prematurely. The experience, described in "Confessions of a For-Profit College Inspector," has stayed with him ever since.
When science writer Rachel Nuwer encountered immersive journalism, she thought she’d be impervious to its charms. “I’m a journalist, so I thought I knew what to expect,” Nuwer says. “I couldn’t imagine feeling that impacted by something that [I know] is fake.” Yet she was nearly brought to tears during her first experience, as she writes in "Journalism's New Reality." It’s an experience she’d like to re-visit: “I want to explore the ethics of this form of storytelling, because you can’t re-create a scene exactly as it occurred,” she says of the malleability of memories. “It’s always going to be subjective.”
Aaron Turner is uniquely qualified to photograph life in the Arkansas Delta: He grew up just three hours north of Dumas, where educators like Terrence Davenport are struggling to help residents become digitally literate, as Maria Konnikova details in "Bringing the Rural Poor Into the Digital Economy." “He studied chemical engineering, but he chooses to live in the Arkansas Delta,” Turner says of Davenport. “He wanted to help the people that he grew up around.” This struck a chord with Turner, who hopes to one day return home as well. “Everyone I talked to in Dumas seemed to have this passion about living,” Turner says.
Sacked. Canned. Euphemisms come in handy when you can’t quite bring yourself to utter the most natural word for professional misfortune. In "On Pivoting: How We Talk About Labor," Elizabeth Greenspan explores a more recent coinage: pivot. Greenspan became interested in pivoting when a friend encouraged her to give it a shot—to view career roadblocks as nothing worse than an opportunity to re-focus. “It has nothing to do with failure sometimes,” she says. “You can do everything right in a job, but sometimes contracts still end. You still have to figure out a new way to keep food on the table.”
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