Why do people choose the media as a profession?

A look at current American culture, the relationship between the media, the public, and ‘master manipulators’ in our new administration

By Karen Hendricks


So, why do people choose the media as a profession?

It’s a passion for writing and communicating, a love of words whether written or spoken, the thrill of discovering a great story, a sense of honor while being entrusted to tell those stories, shining a light on injustices or wrongs, a way to connect people with vital or interesting information, providing a platform for voices that might otherwise go unheard, and much more. A lot of us are “word nerds.” Simply put, we have the gift of communicating. Explaining, assessing situations, hearing both sides (or more) of a story, and presenting the facts as we’ve gathered them to inform the public; along with quotes/soundbites of those involved to add detail, emotion, and credibility.

For the vast majority of us, it’s certainly not for the money.

And it’s certainly not to be bashed by the American public; ridiculed or threatened by government officials. Yes, we the media should be held to high standards, but not viciously attacked.

Thankfully the U.S. Constitution guarantees us, the American public, the right to free speech as well as the right to a free press (media).

According to the National Constitution Center’s website, the First Amendment “guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.  It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.  It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.  It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.”

Here is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The press (media) functions as a “fourth estate,” in addition to the three branches of government with checks and balances, by monitoring and holding government accountable in order to inform the American people. The media’s role is to ask the tough questions, be persistent, curious, skeptical, with access to public officials. It’s an integral part of our democracy.

The dangerous aspect of “the media” today, is that we are seeing so-called media outlets on the far right and far left sides of the political spectrum not adhereing to sound journalistic principles. And there is an element of the population that’s buying their brand of “news.”

Over the past week, there have been numerous troubling news stories focused on strained relations between the new administration and the media: numerous false statements made by President Trump and/or his staff to the press, gag orders issued to several government agencies (EPA, NPS, Ag), and perhaps the most chilling story—chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s statements labeling the media as “the opposition party.”

How does the First Amendment support the media as part of our democracy?

According to Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute:

“Several Court holdings do firmly point to the conclusion that the press clause does not confer on the press the power to compel government to furnish information or to give the press access to information that the public generally does not have.34 Nor in many respects is the press entitled to treatment different in kind than the treatment any other member of the public may be subjected to.35 “Generally applicable laws do not offend the First Amendment simply because their enforcement against the press has incidental effects.”36 Yet, it does seem clear that to some extent the press, because of the role it plays in keeping the public informed and in the dissemination of news and information, is entitled to particular if not special deference that others are not similarly entitled to, that its role constitutionally entitles it to governmental “sensitivity,” to use Justice Stewart’s word.37 What difference such[p.1028]a recognized “sensitivity” might make in deciding cases is difficult to say.”

There have been three landmark Supreme Court cases that have upheld the media’s right to disseminate information including The New York Times v. United States in 1971 which allowed the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Our President would have us believe that the term “main stream media” (which some far-right websites refer to as MSM) is derogatory. Many credible news sources cite the President making this reference when he is actually trying to discredit their reports, is upset with their coverage, and/or is threatening them.

When he says he’s “declaring war on the media,” what kind of power does he really have? According to an article in Newsweek, the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings will ensure the media’s role continues in our democracy. However, with a vacancy and two elderly members on the Supreme Court, some experts are worried. According to the article:

“What now is frightening—for a free press and other freedoms we hold dear—is that the president is positioned to create a court that can interpret the Constitution in ways that undermine our liberty—even those that we thought to be inviolable,” writes Hatcher. (Andrea Hatcher, associate professor and chair of the department of politics at the University of the South)

How did we get to this point?

The media: Yes, there are issues with the media, its coverage, its bias in some cases. Many journalist friends have expressed opinions on social media over the past few days with which I agree: that media organizations need to get “back to basics” by enforcing the hallmarks of good journalism–researching, writing, presenting all sides of an issue, striving to be non-biased, and fact-checking. There are other issues such as corporate ownership. Interesting sidenote: During the election process, a study by NPR actually found that the media was more than favorable to Trump, actually biased TOWARDS him (all sources, including this one, cited below).

The public: It is shocking how many Americans, as “consumers” of news, do not know the difference between non-news sources (whether you classify them as fake news, opinion-based blogs, or otherwise) and legitimate news sources containing all the hallmarks of good journalism. I hate to call people uneducated. But I think we truly need to educate American consumers as to their choices in consuming news just as we educate them on their choices at the grocery store. If you only consume junk food, guess what happens to you physically? Similarly, if you are feeding your brain only with junk news… you are not mentally grounded in reality. Some Americans seem conditioned to only seek out “fake news” which is often “opinion reporting” with which they agree, further perpetuating rumors, half-truths, and lies.

The government: During the campaign, there were warning signs that media relations with a Trump presidency would be difficult. Trump often taunted the media during his campaign rallies, inciting crowds to jeer at reporters. He labeled various outlets of the “mainstream media” as “fake news,” further straining relations and further confusing the public, while inciting his loyal supporters against the media. Just this morning, Nicole Wallace of NBC News summed up the new administration’s first week in office as “chaos rules at the White House.’ During the week, there were numerous skirmishes between the administration and the press. For example, when David Muir of ABC News pressed the President on why he is fixated on inauguration crowd size, the President attacked him personally:

“No, I think you’re demeaning by talking the way you’re talking. I think you’re demeaning. And that’s why I think a lot of people turned on you and turned on a lot of other people. And that’s why you have a 17 percent approval rating, which is pretty bad.” Muir, unflappable, continued pressing other topics as the interview continued.

During the week, his administration, specifically chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon formerly of Breitbart News, further eroded the public’s perception and confidence in the media. To quote the New York Times:

Mr. Bannon is one of the strongest forces in an administration with competing power centers. A savvy manipulator of the press, and a proud provocateur, he was among the few advisers in Mr. Trump’s circle who were said to have urged Sean Spicer, the new press secretary, to give a confrontational, emotional statement to a shocked West Wing briefing room on Saturday, when the White House disputed news reports about the size of the inauguration crowd.

This evolved, after a report in the New York Times:

“President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.”

Going back to a New York Times report in November, a chronicle of Bannon’s statements includes:

“‘Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty,’ he wrote about Republican leaders in a 2014 email exchange with a Breitbart News editor. ”

Aside: Isn’t it ironic that the very law that guarantees us a free press also allows far-right and far-left “fake news” websites to also function, spreading rumor and hate, and undermining true media outlets?

Do we want our nation to be based upon a culture of hate, distrust, and threats to free speech?

Where do we go from here?

It’s up to each one of us to be on guard and watchful—watchful of the media, so that we not only make good sound choices when it comes to our news consumption but holding the media accountable if we read/hear something that doesn’t represent sound journalistic principles; watchful of the government ensuring they are providing clear communications to the American people and the press as protected under the First Amendment; and watchful of each other, taking leadership roles in listening, talking, and trying to understand (I did not say accept—but understand) others’ points of view in an attempt to heal our nation.

According to an article by Poynter Institute quoting New York Times columnist Frank Rich, “American culture will continue to be exploited by master manipulators from either political party ‘if Americans don’t start to take it back.’”




Trump’s First Week: ‘Chaos Rules at this White House,’ Says One Analyst, NBC News, Jan 27, 2017

Trump Strategist Stephen Bannon Says Media Should ‘Keep its Mouth Shut,’ New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017

With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift, New York Times, Jan. 21, 2017

Kellyanne Conway: WH Spokesman Gave ‘Alternative Facts’ on Inauguration Crowd, NBC News, Jan. 22, 2017

Transcript: ABC News Anchor David Muir Interviews President Trump, ABC News, Jan. 25, 2017

Donald Trump’s Threat to Press Freedom: Why it Matters, Newsweek, Nov. 12, 2016

Stephen Bannon and Breitbart News, in their Words, New York Times, Nov. 14, 2016

National Park Service Regrets Harsh Retweets about Trump, USA Today, Jan. 21, 2017

President Trump Institutes Media Blackout at EPA, Boston Globe (Associated Press), Jan. 24, 2016

Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute

The Constitution Center, Clauses of the First Amendment

15 Tips for a Saner News Experience, Poynter Institute

Don’t Let Trump Get Away with ‘Alternative Facts,’ Columbia Journalism Review, opinion, Jan. 23, 2017

Fake News is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing: What the Conservative Media Machine Does is Much More Dangerous, The Nation, Dec. 22, 2016

How Lying Affects Your Brain, Shape Magazine

NPR and the Word ‘Liar’: Intent is Key, NPR, Jan. 25, 2017

Fake or Real? How to Self-Check the News and Get the Facts, NPR, Dec. 5, 2016

Fight Fake News: Know Who is Reputable, image.

Study: Election Coverage Skewed by “Journalistic Bias,” NPR, July 12, 2016


Introducing the Ice Man


Ernie DiMartino

By Karen Hendricks

Despite the cold temperatures, a handful of outdoor winter festivals thrive, mainly due to the warm, welcoming central Pennsylvania communities in which they’re hosted. Organizers say warm community hospitality is the key to shaking off the winter blues during Chambersburg’s IceFest, January 26-29, or the Lititz Fire & Ice Festival, February 17-20. Both celebrations feature fantastic ice sculptures lining downtown districts, free or low-cost admission and a festive spirit woven throughout community-wide events.

Click here to read my latest story for Susquehanna Style magazine, Frozen Fever: Ice Festivals Bring Warmth to Winter in Central PA (January 2017).

And meet the talented man who is carving out a name for himself, “Ice Man” Ernie DiMartino:

“Our major tool is the chainsaw—modified to make it faster or more powerful, plus die grinders, disc sanders, and ice chisels,” says Ernie DiMartino, owner of DiMartino Ice, who provides the creative talents behind both festivals’ ice sculptures.

The majority of one-block sculptures are created and stored at his Pittsburgh-area facility in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. He begins carving Chambersburg’s sculptures in September.

DiMartino’s team includes about 10 sculptors including two nephews and his stepson, but whom he says are all “like family.”

Ice-carving became a part of the family-owned ice business about 25 years ago when a neighbor, trained as a chef, taught DiMartino his skills in order to diversify the business. Today, DiMartino Ice provides sculptures for 13 annual festivals concentrated in the winter months.

“There’s a greater demand for interactive carving today—for example, a snowman with a space for visitors to put their faces where the snowman’s face would be. Or Cinderella’s horse and carriage which we created last year in Chambersburg, with people able to sit in the carriage,” DiMartino says. “Sponsors love it and people love it because they post the pictures on social media and share the fun.”

DiMartino says visiting Chambersburg and Lititz every winter is like going home. “I feel and the rest of team feel a part of those communities; we are very well received; we eat together as a family with festival organizers, for example. It’s nothing we ever asked for; it just evolved. In Lititz, Dawn Rissmiller opens her home to us. In Chambersburg, Café Italiano opens the restaurant to cook breakfast for us. Some of my guys are chefs–they jump in and help cook breakfast. We return for lunch and dinner too because they’re like family.”

“I never go on vacation,” DiMartino says with a laugh. “I’m always trying to find time for vacation; I think I’d like to go to Chambersburg or Lititz in the summer.”

Ernie DiMartino

Ernie DiMartino

Ice-Cold Facts:

  • One block of sculpture ice weighs 265 pounds.
  • It takes the sculptors one hour of labor for every block of ice carved.
  • It takes four refrigerated trucks to haul the sculptures from Jeannette to each festival.
  • Largest sculpture DiMartino ever built: Chambersburg’s ice slide created from 75 blocks of ice, measuring 40 feet long.
  • Highest sculpture DiMartino ever built: An 18-foot high Eiffel Tower for First Night State College.


Culinary Travels: Christine’s Cafe, Gettysburg

Farmer's Benedict

Farmer’s Benedict: featuring house-made Bacon Jam

By Karen Hendricks

For Chef/Owner Keith Lowman of Christine’s Café, Gettysburg, life has been a journey across America. That 35-year journey is reflected in his cooking, infusing his menu with America’s favorite and iconic regional flavors.

He describes the menu at Christine’s Café as “American fusion,” bringing culinary creativity to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “American fusion is a combination or fusion of ethnicities combined into one workable dish,” Lowman explains. “Kind of like the way our country is, a melting pot…Having a sense of adventure about new flavors is what American fusion is all about.”

Learn how his journeys shaped the menu at Christine’s Cafe, Gettysburg, PA in my latest restaurant review for Celebrate Gettysburg magazine: Christine’s Cafe: A Melting Pot of American Fusion.

And enjoy a few behind-the-scenes snapshots, below. (Click on any photo to arrow through the highlights.)


Footnotes from the Foothills

On the Foothills Artists' Tour: Hobbit House Pottery

On the Foothills Artists’ Tour: Hobbit House Pottery

By Karen Hendricks

“Over the river and through the wood,” begins the beloved holiday poem about Thanksgiving travels. It could also apply to the adventuresome Adams County tour known as the Foothills Artists’ Studio Tour, always held the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year’s 10th annual tour, Nov. 19-20, links the homes and studios of about 10 artists dotting the picturesque landscape of western Adams County.

In the shadow of South Mountain— the northernmost Appalachian Mountains—the tour is more of an experience than an artist tour, mixing all genres of art with historic homes, unique studios, winding back roads, countryside vistas, conversations, and Continue reading

A Slice of Americana

The perfect summer dinner alfresco

The perfect summer dinner alfresco

By Karen Hendricks

Favorite recipes are crafted with the perfect blend of ingredients, often including a special or secret ingredient. Likewise, favorite dining experiences rely on the perfect mix of location, ambiance, and culinary flavors.

Beech Springs Farm’s Farm-to-Table Dinner Series have struck gold with a winning formula that combines a beautiful Adams County, Pennsylvania location, an enjoyable ambiance set by local musicians and warm hosts, and farm fresh dishes prepared by talented local and regional chefs. Continue reading

Embracing “Nerd” Status


By Karen Hendricks

The term “nerd” is thought to have evolved from the 1950  Dr. Seuss book, “If I Ran the Zoo.” Today, “Merriam-Webster” defines “nerd” as “an unstylish, socially inept person; one who is slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.”

However, a group of eight Gettysburg teenagers are not only embracing their nerd status, but also promoting it via a successful downtown shop, Nerd Herd Gifts & Games.

Click here for my latest freelance writing piece, “The Nerd Herd: Downtown Gettysburg Shop Takes Fun & Games to a New Level,” published in the Sept/Oct issue of Celebrate Gettysburg magazine. And go behind-the-scenes with photos I snapped during the writing of the story, below. What a great group of kids–check out their unique shop the next time you’re in downtown Gettysburg, PA! Continue reading

Instagram for Artists

Social media is intertwined with our daily lives, personally and professionally. For freelancers or those of us who are self-employed, social media is a fantastic way to share the stories behind our work, to network with others, and promote our work to a wider audience.

The rise of Instagram and its beautiful, visual platform, presents the perfect opportunity for artists of all types to promote their works. It’s visual storytelling at its best. That’s why I’ve created a two-part class “Instagram for Artists” offered through the Adams County Arts Council, Gettysburg, PA.


Continue reading