D.G. Martin

Cultural Competency not just for journalists

Last week, as the story of African American protests over the absence of black nominees for Academy Awards was developing, Sam Fulwood explained what he learned reporting the 1992 Los Angeles riots that broke out after a jury found the police officers accused of beating Rodney King not guilty. Covering a newly created “race beat,” Fulwood reported the public reaction to the King story. Blacks and whites, he found, saw the story in dramatically different ways, with blacks sympathizing with King and whites finding ways to minimize any police misconduct. It is the same story over and over again, Fulwood said, with the O.J. Simpson, Clarence Thomas, and similar stories showing a hard-line divide that defines predictable differences in viewpoints. Fulwood was speaking to a group of journalists, students, and university officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of a Carolina Seminars series. The purpose of the series that featured Fulwood, according to its leader, UNC School of Media and Journalism Professor Ferrel Guillory, is “to suggest answers to questions raised by the rearrangements in journalism and by the redefined forms of racial separation. This seminar will explore the intersection of race and the media in the post-civil rights era, with a mindset that our exploration should lead to real practical results for the media, for journalism education and for North Carolina, the South...

Read More

Yard signs and State of the Union speeches: Wasted efforts?

They are a waste of time, don’t change anybody’s mind, and have little or no impact on the outcome of elections or the support of a politician. Does this comment describe the impact of political yard signs on elections or the effectiveness of speeches, such as President Obama’s State of the Union message last week? Or both? A study on yard signs in political campaigns, co-authored by High Point University professor Dr. Brandon Lenoir, “shows political lawn signs have little effect on votes in a political race and no effect on turnout,” according to a university release. Professor Lenoir said, “Millions of dollars are spent each election cycle on political lawn signs. We wanted to see if the signs are worth the paper they are printed on. Turns out, the conventional belief that lawn signs win elections isn’t supported.” He continued, “If more than a couple percentage points separate the two candidates, lawn signs will have no effect on the outcome of the election. Bottom line, campaign dollars are better spent elsewhere.” So, are the yard signs we see in our neighbors’ yards each election season just a waste of the candidate’s precious campaign funds? Some experienced campaigners might disagree, pointing out that widespread coverage of yard signs helps build the spirit and enthusiasm of campaign supporters, workers, and the candidate. And a good yard sign campaign can have...

Read More

Help me explain my love for homecooking eateries

My upcoming book about local, home cooking places near North Carolina’s Interstate highways has a title, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints.” And, it has a new challenge to meet before the publisher, UNC Press, releases it this fall. My editors want me to revise my introduction to follow some suggestions from a careful reader who said he wanted “to hear D.G.’s voice more in the introduction,” including “where has he been in life and where is he going that brings him back again and again to these down home spots.” I worry that following this good suggestion could turn the introduction into a personal memoir that takes away from the main purpose of the book, which is to focus on the restaurants, the families that run them, and the locals who are regular patrons. After you read what I have written below, let me know if you think I have focused too much on me. *** Where did I begin my interest in the joys of food and fellowship at local eateries? Maybe it was my North Mecklenburg High School football teammate Tommy Oehler who got me started when he introduced me to his dad, J.W., and the Mallard Creek Church barbecue that the Oehler family still helps manage every October north of Charlotte. There is no better example of...

Read More

European history lessons for North Carolinians

What does a new 800-page history of 20th Century Europe have to do with North Carolina politics of the 21st Century? First, a few words about the book itself, “Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century,” by UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Konrad Jarausch. The book describes what happened in Europe during the 100 years beginning in 1900, when France and England controlled much of the non-European world, and the empires of Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary ruled much of the European continent. It then takes its readers through two brutal and disastrous world wars. What followed...

Read More

New Bookwatch season—off to a great start

One thing about the New Year is for sure, and I am celebrating it. A new season of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch begins January 10. The first six programs of the new season include three that feature North Carolina writers who were honored recently in Raleigh at the Bouchercon 2015 World Mystery Convention: Kathy Reichs, Sarah Shaber, and Margaret Maron. Also featured are the writer of another mystery, Ron Rash, and two authors of important non-fiction works, William Leuchtenburg and Damon Tweedy. Charlotte author Kathy Reichs, whom Bouchercon recognized at its “American Guest of Honor,” may have been the...

Read More

This Season: How Do We Bring it all Together?

How do we put it all together at this time every year? Christmas. That is what I am thinking about. We are used to it of course. It almost seems natural. But it is not. We have just done it this way forever. We are on auto-pilot—usually not stopping to think about whether the things we do are “natural” or not. How would we respond if someone stopped us and asked us this question? “How is it that you treat this season so inconsistently that is seems almost schizophrenic?” We wouldn’t deny it, would we? We would have to...

Read More

Remembering our own Christmas ghosts

I am haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past. And they are good ghosts. Mostly. These ghosts are memories that come back each season. Some are wrapped around Santa Claus. Others are centered on the baby Jesus and the miracle of his birth. Some blend the two traditions. One of my favorites is about a basketball I wanted from Santa when I was a little boy. I also wanted him to bring a Charlie McCarthy-type ventriloquist dummy, but my mom said I could only ask for one of them. I still believed in Santa and chose the basketball. Then wandering around the attic, I saw a new basketball in the corner.  So, I thought, there is no real Santa and my parents bring those gifts.  So I told my mom that I had changed my mind and was asking Santa to bring me the dummy instead of the basketball. I was thinking I could get both. But on Christmas morning there was only a dummy and no basketball from Santa. “Don’t you remember?” my mom asked. “You said you wanted Santa to bring you the ventriloquist’s dummy, and that is just what he did.” Later in the day, when it was time for family gifts, my parents gave me the basketball I had seen in the attic. And I believed in Santa for one more year. Remembering our encounters...

Read More

Remembering the Pro and Anti Santa Church Factions

It is hard to make sense of Christmas if you try to explain it in one dimension. It is so many things these days. It is a religious holy day, of course–but so much more. Or so much less, depending on how you look at it. A time of magic and dreams come true for children. An orgy of shopping and spending. Festive parties, crowds of people from office or work–seeing each other in different ways. Or jammed into other people’s houses seeing if you can find a few of your friends among their friends. Standing. Eating Drinking. Talking....

Read More

Making friends with our presidents

The president of the United States today sends troops to fight in distant lands for long periods, enters into binding agreements with foreign powers, and takes other extraordinary actions, all without prior approval from Congress. Presidential candidates promise to reverse their predecessors’ agreements on the first day they take office. And they confidently promise to take other dramatic and costly actions unilaterally on that same first day. We have come to expect, even demand, such power plays from our presidents. So it is fair to ask what explains the enormous growth of presidential power from its lowly state in...

Read More

What book for the perfect gift this season?

Have you seen the TV ad with George Foreman? “People ask me all the time, George, how do I get my idea in front of companies?” Well, this time of year people ask me all the time, “DG, what is a good book for me to give this Christmas?” I don’t have one perfect answer. But I can suggest some recent North Carolina related books to consider. Memoirs: Three prominent North Carolina writers shared their life stories in recent books. In “Half of What I Say Is Meaningless,” former state poet laureate Joseph Bathanti tells how a working class...

Read More