Tommy Collison

by Tommy Collison

Irish journalism student.

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A Small Blog

Let’s see…

I’m in Buenos Aires for another two days. It’s been a great fortnight, with good food, excellent company, and amazing surroundings. I added 10,000 words to the manuscript and got to see a little bit of South America, where I’ve never been before.

I had a much longer introspective written, but decided that nobody needed the word vomit and that it’s better saved in drafts. TL, DR: I think this is going to be an uncertain year – professionally, personally, and (more widely) politically. Trump, my college graduation, a change in visa status, job searching… But I’ll meet it as it comes. The odd years are always more fun than the even years anyway.

I fly back to the US on Saturday, and then drop up to Maine for a few days. I’ve never been, but I’m a fan of the cold and I have a good friend up there. Plus, it’s Stephen King territory, so the winter spookiness should be in

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2016 Book Recommendations

‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year: when people post their book recommendations. Here are some of the books I read this year with comments and recommendations. I’m copying the style of on Aaron Swartz’s excellent Review of Books, with books I particularly recommend in bold. The links go to Amazon, but they’re not affiliate links.

My Name Is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok

Best piece of fiction I read all year. The story follows a young Hasidic Jew who grapples his love for his religion and his love of art. First-person-child-narrators as a genre often fall flat, but this is done very well.

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers, by Simon Winchester

…And this is the best non-fiction I read this year. An eminently readable account of the past and present of the Pacific

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That time I took a capital V Vacation, and all that followed

I’m sitting here on the balcony of my hotel with a book and a Corona. The sun set about 20 minutes ago, one of those satisfyingly photogenic sunsets that I caught on camera yesterday and just sat and enjoyed today. The sound of the ocean in that photo has been my soundtrack for the last four days as I paused any and all responsibilities and took my first actual vacation in a couple of years.


Sure, I’ve had some time off during semesters, but this is the first time I’ve blocked off a few days in my calendar, said Sorry; I’m not going to get to you just now to my email inbox, and made decent headway through a pile of books that have been eying me for a few months.

I made a good stab at the books. I picked up THE NEXT DECADE: EMPIRE AND REPUBLIC IN A CHANGING WORLD, by George Friedman in the airport bookstore and finished it in two great gulps. The book was written in 2011 and he seems

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It’s all fun and games until some of those Olympians live in countries where homosexuality is illegal

When I worked at Washington Square News, I oversaw the group of writers who contributed to the paper’s opinion section.

One of my central aims was to have a wide variety of writers – nothing overt, but I liked when my two-page section had pieces from across a spectrum of human experience. I saw it as something of a duty of mine to expose readers of the paper to a variety of different viewpoints and experiences.

As a disabled person working in the media sphere, I also see it as something of a duty of mine to comment on disability and its representation. Last year, when the news site NYU Local published a profile of a disabled burlesque dancer, I called out what I –and others– saw as language deeply disrespectful toward people with disabilities.

All this to say – The Daily Beast published on Thursday a bizarre article about dating app use at the Olympics in Rio. For the article, the

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New York Times to cut back on metro coverage

Liz Spayd, writing in the New York Times about a new plan to revamp (and pull back on) local news coverage.

Top editors are also looking at how much space local news should take up in the daily newspaper. (The answer: less.) The modernized Metro section that emerges, he believes, will be one more suitable for the age in which The Times now finds itself.

What exactly does this mean for readers? Fewer stories about individual murders, assaults or routine crimes. Fewer stories about lawsuits and criminal cases, or about legislation wending through Albany. And it will mean fewer stories about fires in the Bronx.

I’m skeptical about this plan, but I think the worst thing the NYT could be doing right now is not experimenting. I’m curious to see how this goes, even if I have some misgivings about the notion that Albany (“corruption’s such an old song that we can sing along in harmony…”)

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Here’s What’s Next. Sort of.

There are two types of writing.

The first involves people commissioning you to write a thing. They tell you what it should be about and how may words it should be and when they need it by. Sometimes, they even pay you for it. Whether you want to write the thing or not is of secondary importance. You have column inches to fill, or rent to pay, or a deadline to meet, or all three. You write the thing for the same reason that a plumber fixes a pipe or a firefighter fights fires: it is your job. This has been most of my writing at college, as a student and journalist and editor.

The second type of writing is when you have an idea a story or an essay or a piece of art that doesn’t exist in the world yet, only between the ears of the artist. In my head, I always see Michelangelo standing in front of a block of marble, or Neil Gaiman sitting in front of a Microsoft Word document, the cursor

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Backup, Backup, Backup

This month marks three years in the US, and in that time I’ve become spoiled by my Spotify subscription and my mobile data plan. I’m going to be traveling a good bit for the remainder of the summer and the fall and assume I’ll have little to no cell coverage in that time.

Last week, I bought one of those old 80GB iPod Classics on eBay for $20. It fits my entire music library on it, which is a nice change in the age of streaming.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always focussed better when listening to music, and can do work anywhere I have a keyboard and access to headphones. I think me and this little thing are going to have adventures this year.


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Report from Middlebury

Saturdays are quiet at Middlebury – the folks who’ve come from Tasman Bay or Jerusalem or Shenzhen or Michigan who’ve never seen San Francisco usually clear out of campus and go exploring. Me? I enjoyed sleeping past 06:40.

IMG_0008 Basem, Amal, and I at the Arabic dinner from last week.

Yesterday, my class went to a Lebanese restaurant in Foster City and ate ourselves silly on the cheap. Tabbouleh, meat shawarma, baklava, and Turkish coffee. It was fun to spend time with the others outside the classroom. We talked, tried to translate the English songs on the radio into Arabic, and chatted about what we were all going to do when the program ended next week. Some of my favorite parts of the program have been spent talking to people over meals, and the most understated part of Middlebury is just how interesting everyone is. Their brochures don’t specify this particular benefit of the program

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Why It’s Important for Journalists to Speak the Language of the Region They Cover

Zeynep Tufekci, writing for The Huffington Post on the Wikileaks/Turkey email dump:

“We are talking about millions of women whose private, personal information has been dumped into the world, with nary an outcry. Their addresses are out there for every stalker, ex-partner, disapproving relative or random crazy to peruse as they wish. And let s remember that, every year in Turkey, hundreds of women are murdered, most often by current or ex-husbands or boyfriends, and thousands of women leave their homes or go into hiding, seeking safety.”

“WikiLeaks Put Women in Turkey in Danger, for No Reason”

This came to me via Jon Evans, who makes an excellent point that reporters who cover a region risk making these sorts of mistakes when they don’t speak the language of that region. The beginning of the 21st century, the creation of Twitter et al. and the proliferation of new, online-only media

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Work Ethics

CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Lin-Manuel Miranda hard at work. CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Recovering today from a Friday evening and night spend feeling totally lousy and sick. I don’t think it was anything in particular – more likely a culmination of a crazy 10 days where I wrote half a paper, presented a stanza of poetry in front of 100 people, took an exam, gave a 15-minute on the issue of conflict in Arabic filmmaking, and did 2-3 hours of homework each and every evening.

At the beginning of that stretch, Lin-Manual Miranda, the Hamilton wunderkind, tweeted that he was taking a vacation after leaving the show on July 9.

That the idea for the hip-hop musical came to Miranda while on vacation from his previous show is now part of the musical’s folklore. Miranda got the idea for Hamilton some time in 2008, and spent the intervening 7 years between then and the show’s 2015

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