An Unbiased News Organization?

During this election cycle I’ve been reading and watching the news a lot more than I ever have before. In particular my interest in Politics, US, and World news has been at the forefront of my attention. I’ve been getting information from a variety of sources including large mainstream organizations such as NYTimes, NPR, AP, CNN, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Al Jazeera; smaller more niche organizations such as Vox, Mic, and BuzzFeed; social sources including Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter; and even directly from the organizations and individuals that the news is about via email newsletters and their other marketing/news channels.

The fundamental problem I’ve picked up from practically all of these sources is bias. Almost everyone and every organization seem to have an opinion, an agenda even, that they want to report in addition to the facts – some more obvious than others. Sometimes the facts are even left out, or cherry picked in such a way that further supports their bias. Don’t get me wrong – people and organizations are entitled to their opinions and to sharing them. I do that all the time, mostly on social media. But when I’m trying to find information so that I can form my own solid opinion about something, it is incredibly frustrating, polarizing, time consuming, and even difficult. That’s because the inherent bias that plagues all of my information sources erodes any amount of trust that I can build with those sources. Everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. There is plenty of opinion out there, but not nearly enough unbiased fact-based reporting. Which leaves me with the task of needing to read and watch three to 10 articles, dozens to hundreds of social media posts, and copious Googling before I feel like I’ve heard enough “from all sides” to form my own opinion.

What would be interesting would be a news organization that is formed and run in such a way that it minimized or eliminated bias. I’m not sure exactly how this could happen but my guess is it would look something like this: It would need to be a non-profit so that reporting could not be influenced or motivated by a financial bottom line. Nobody could “own” the organization and stand to benefit financially from its success or what/how it reported. It would need to have bylaws that ensured the organization was managed by and employed a diverse group of people that reflect the population. Eg: all age groups, races, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, political ideologies, religions, industries, etc would need to be represented at all levels of the organization from the board of directors, to the managers, to the writers, to the reporters, to the interns. Each piece of content from tweets to headlines to photos to videos to text to quotes would need to be rigorously reviewed, edited, and approved for non-bias by a team of people representing “all sides”. A lexicon/style guide could be developed to help shape/enforce unbiased content. Content would not have to be purely fact based – it could include supporting/opposing points of view (such as opinion quotes) but these could only be included when they were properly balanced in number and strength – again this would have to be approved by the diverse team. Transparency would be key and the journalism process itself would be public. All authors/editors/reviewers of a piece of content would be listed in the meta information. The evolution of the content (the interviews, the drafts, the review notes, the edits, the approvals, and who was responsible for each) would all be publicly accessible like in Google docs. Perhaps even the audience could engage with and help create/edit the content like on Wikipedia, while it was reviewed and approved by the organization’s staff to ensure non-bias. Content could be a living document like Wikipedia – always changing and evolving to stay relevant, while older versions remain accessible. Commenting systems could be reimagined to promote intelligent and civil discussion rather than polarized debates. Content could be rated by the audience, giving a positive feedback loop to the the organization.

Unfortunately though I’m too busy for all this. Who wants to take it on?

A Future To Believe In

This year I’ve been the most politically active I’ve ever been. That’s because a man started a movement – a political revolution – that has resonated with me down to my core. His name is Bernie Sanders, and he is one of the most inspiring and genuine people I have ever come to know of. He is not only politically aligned with me as a progressive, but he deeply cares about the future of all of us and the planet. He is not corrupted by big money and special interests. He has been fighting his entire life for the greater good and has consistently been on the right side of history. His aim is to bring people together, not to divide them up.

He’s consumed me. Our campaign has consumed me. I’ve contributed financially 75 times, almost $2,000 in total. I’ve phone banked people all across the nation to talk to them about Bernie and his ideas. I’ve gone door to door in San Luis Obispo to make sure people know how and where to vote for Bernie. I have a yard sign in the front, I wear his shirt, and I have bumper stickers on my car, bike, and laptop. I post about him on social media almost daily and read all of his emails.

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When I heard he was coming to speak in Santa Maria, I jumped on the opportunity. I waited for over three hours in the hot sun for him to arrive. Safe to say I was feeling the sunburn! He spoke for about an hour – his usual stump speech about income inequality, race and gender issues, making college tuition free, universal healthcare, and providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. I found myself finishing his sentences for him and knowing what was coming next, but I loved every bit of it. For the first time in my life, I was moved by someone speaking to me from a podium. I was so impressed and inspired by the vigor in his voice, the power of his ideas, and the momentum of the movement he sparked.




But what was the most impactful for me was how he talked about the future – how he knows that it is going to be brighter and more just for all of us and not just a few. At the rally standing right in front of me, there was a middle aged latino father with his daughter. I snapped this photograph of them:


Bernie Sanders and our movement gives me hope for this young girl – that she will have more opportunity than her father did. That she will be able to go to college if she works hard in school. That she will be able to go to the doctor when she is sick. That she will inherit a planet that is healthy and in harmony with humans. That she will be treated equally as a human being. That she too will have a future to believe in. I can’t wait to see where our revolution goes next. So here’s to the future, one vote at a time! #FeelTheBern

Halloween 2015

This year’s Halloween party at The Establishment was a ton of fun. I think I pulled every muscle in my body from the dancing. I dressed as a ‘Jungle Boy’ by ripping up a brown shirt, rubbing some compost over my face, and wrapping myself in some Upham ivy. Here is the Upham crew getting ready:

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Tortuga to the East – Part 1

This Summer I was fortunate to spend an entire month road-tripping across the country and back with some of my best friends. The goals were few:

  • Bring Tessa (Bosu) to Boston where she would be enrolling in grad school
  • Stop in Chicago to deliver Rick a FarmBot and shoot video for the Kickstarter
  • See ‘Big Ag’ in action in the Midwest, and shoot video of it for the Kickstarter
  • “See America”
  • Have a good, adventurous time

I think all of the above was accomplished. Below, and in more posts to come, are select photos from the journey and small stories/captions to accompany. While looking through, it is best practice to listen to the soundtrack of the trip. We basically had ~10 albums downloaded onto our phones that we listened to on repeat. They are:

  • An Awesome Wave, by Alt-J
  • Songs of Music, by Proxima Parada
  • Alligator Man, by Red Willows
  • Awake, by Tycho
  • Spreadin’ Honey, by The California Honeydrops
  • One, by The Beatles
  • Currents, by Tame Impala
  • Magnifique, by Ratatat
  • Boys & Girls, by Alabama Shakes
  • The Suburbs, by Arcade Fire
  • Settle, by Disclosure

The first leg of the journey included Bosu, Cherie, and I in La Tortuga; and Gabe and Cameron in another car. We piled in early in the morning, grabbed some breakfast at Sally Loo’s, and headed off towards our first destination: Zion National Park in Utah.

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En route to Zion, we stopped for a hot second in Vegas to try and find some boba. However, the strip is so hectic, especially with La Tortuga, that we never ended up finding it! -__- Instead, we just took photos with our favorite (not!) golden Trump tower rising from the desert, and then continued on.

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After driving all day through the desert and sweating like mad in the air condition-less Tortuga, we got into Zion a few hours after sundown. There we met up with Gabe and Cameron at the campsite and made delicious well-deserved calzones in Cameron’s dutch oven. The next morning we prepared for the day’s activities.

Metapod Gabe in his cocoon.

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We ate a simple but yummy breakfast of hot quinoa, chocolate chips, bananas, nuts, and cinnamon.


Cameron has a technique (which we all made fun of him for) of using a small square of a sponge to clean his dishes, and then trashing the small square. I guess he has a good point – that sponges can get pretty gross if not properly cleaned while camping. My technique? Just lick everything clean and call it good ;p


Gabe’s technique is to eat everything out of packaging, therefore not needing to use utensils and plate-ware at all! At one point, Gabe even ate pizza (yes, pizza!) out of a squeeze tube from Clif Bar Company. Ha!

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Here we are taking the tram system in Zion and laughing at the ridiculous PSA’s to not feed the squirrels and other wildlife.


And then we started on our first hike to Angel’s Landing – the classic hike of beautiful Zion!

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The red rocks of Utah are the most spectacular element of the landscape in my opinion. When contrasted with greenery and blue sky, it is striking how red the rocks can be!


The views from the top!

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Back at camp for lunch.

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To be continued in Part 2!