The Voyages Of The Starship Indicator

Indicator in space

Neha Dharkar/NPR

For years NASA has been shifting away from a centralized model — where it does everything — to a decentralized model, where the functions of the space program are increasingly shared by the public and private sectors.

As space exploration becomes the domain of intergalactic entrepreneurs, a new space economy is emerging. One with commercial shuttle flights, space tourism (mainly for rich people at the moment), asteroid mining, and someday soon, possibly even commercially run space stations and even space hotels. But this final economic frontier brings with it some important economic questions. Who does space belong to? Who has the right to profit off it? And who’s responsible for it?

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A Brief Timeout For Some NPR Shoutouts

Singer Alberto Carrión performs Amanecer Borincano, his song about sunrise over Puerto Rico, at the point where Hurricane Maria made landfall one year ago.

Adrian Florido/NPR

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Adrian Florido/NPR

Even a public editor needs a week’s break.

The Ombudsman Office is here to provide a voice in the newsroom for NPR listeners and readers. As I recently reported to NPR’s board of directors, in the last year (November to November) that meant reading (and sharing with the newsroom, when appropriate) some 6,000 of your emails and countless tweets.

All but a handful of those emails raised concerns (or were outright complaints) and that’s what my column usually addresses. But, Thanksgiving gave me a moment to pause and think about all the NPR work for which I was thankful. A comprehensive list would be way too long, but in the spirit of the season here is some NPR work that recently caught my attention.

A Year In Puerto Rico

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, with devastating results. NPR sent Code Switch reporter Adrian Florido, a fluent Spanish speaker, to spend a year on the island reporting on the attempts at recovery. The move paid off; he has produced exemplary accountability journalism, most recently reporting on the “stunning admission” that the island’s emergency management agency still has not put together a “hurricane-specific response plan” for a future major storm. Some of the accompanying content has been in Spanish, an important public service. Florido’s assignment ends in December; you can read all the stories so far here.

Covering The Census

Do you care about the upcoming 2020 census? If you follow national correspondent Hansi Lo Wang on Twitter, you soon will. He’s another reporter who has been regularly breaking stories, in this case on an under-the-radar topic that nonetheless has enormous consequences for the country because of its impact on our political system. Much of the recent action has been in the courtroom, which doesn’t lend itself to radio reports, so it’s also worth seeking out his reporting elsewhere. Vickie Walton-James, NPR’s senior national editor, says NPR has spread the reporting on this subject across the newsmagazines, digital and social media, and member station talk show appearances.

Library Love

NPR’s annual Book Concierge was posted online earlier this week, featuring more than 300 books published in 2018 that were loved by critics and NPR staff members. One of the best parts? There’s a little button after each synopsis that links to copies in local libraries. The function, which was developed by the Visuals team in 2014 (on an idea from David Eads, a former employee), can be a bit wonky, I’ve found, but I’ve already used it to track down a couple books I’m looking forward to reading over the holidays.


Some news organizations are transparent about the ethical and journalistic standards that govern their work and, as Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan recently wrote, some aren’t. Happily for me, NPR is on the list of newsrooms that clearly and publicly state their policies. You have to know where to look to find the ethics code on but it’s there, buried under the About section at the bottom of the home page. Better yet, just bookmark it.

Next week, back to audience concerns; keep them coming.

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'Rookie,' Tavi Gevinson's Online Magazine And Cultural Touchstone, Is No More

Tavi Gevinson, who started the online magazine Rookie when she was 15, announced Friday that the site will shut down. Gevinson, who at 22 is now a writer and actress, is seen here in New York City in 2016.

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For seven years, the online magazine Rookie cultivated close relationships with its teenage readers, looking them straight in the eye. On Friday, its founder, Tavi Gevinson, announced the site will shutter.

Rookie published articles on such varied topics as making GIFs, navigating friendship, choosing birth control, and skateboarding films, as well as photo essays that strikingly captured the lives of girls and young women. It published reader-submitted collages on monthly themes, constructed out of printable collage kits.

Perhaps its best-known feature was the “Ask a Grown” column, which showed celebrities like Cyndi Lauper, Stephen Colbert, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus thoughtfully answering readers’ questions on how to deal with the hard stuff of life. “Is your life just way too confusing to even deal with right now?” Rookie asked. “Why not ask a non-terrible adult about it?”

The site ran an array of advice and personal essays under the rubric Live Through This (where a recent story is titled “You’re Not a Garbage Person: And Other Pep Talks”). Rookie was also a platform for writers including music critic Jessica Hopper and taste-making photographer Petra Collins, and it spawned a series of books.

Gevinson founded the site when she was just 15, after breaking into the fashion scene at age 11 with her blog Style Rookie.

In a six-page editor’s note, Gevinson, now a 22-year-old actor and writer, explained that the site is shutting down “because digital media has become an increasingly difficult business, and Rookie in its current form is no longer financially sustainable.” But closing the site was also her choice, she said, because she didn’t want to do the things that might sustain it, “like selling it to new owners, taking money from investors, or asking readers for donations or subscriptions.”

In the personal, self-searching style that was one of the site’s hallmarks, Gevinson detailed the anxious reckoning she undertook about the future of Rookie:

“Who would I be if this was not such a big part of my identity? What would it force me to confront—about youth, the passing of time, myself—if it were to end? What loss would I feel if it were to just go away? What kind of guilt, if it had been my choice? These are important questions to me, and I think that leaving them as hypotheticals would be a mistake. Another important question: What would it do to my brain to know what it’s like to not be responsible for a business, and/or synonymous with a brand? That’s another thing I would tell myself when I was really anxious and stressed: You’re just sad that you have to live on your own now and support yourself; that making work which people are meant to consume means having/being a brand; that you’re growing up and that capitalism exists.”

As the news of the magazine’s closure spread, many wrote to Gevinson on Twitter about what Rookie had meant to them.

“You and rookie have changed my life. I don’t even know how to express how thankful I am for rookie’s presence in my life,” wrote one.

You and rookie have changed my life. I don’t even know how to express how thankful I am for rookie’s presence in my life ❤️❤️❤️

— Hannah (@h_epenner) November 30, 2018

“Thank you so much for bringing us Rookie, Tavi. It will live on in all the artwork that I and hundreds of other girls are only brave enough to make because of you. Wishing you love and light in whatever you choose to do next,” wrote another.

“rookie was such a huge part of my growing up, feeling whole, and feeling understood,” tweeted one young woman. “i’ll miss it with the whole of my heart!!”

rookie was such a huge part of my growing up, feeling whole, and feeling understood. i’ll miss it with the whole of my heart!!

— maya (@mayalove) November 30, 2018

“I read Rookie all the way through my high school and college years,” tweeted one fan. “As a queer person about your age struggling to find myself, it was the best rollercoaster I could have asked for. Thank you for your dedication and best of luck in your future endeavours.”

“I cried reading this. Rookie has had a huge impact on who I am, on my life and my art, and I refer back to favourite articles all the time,Thank you so much for creating such an important, radical space when we all really needed it. Will adore Rookie forever,” tweeted another.

I cried reading this. Rookie has had a huge impact on who I am, on my life and my art, and I refer back to favourite articles all the time. Thank you so much for creating such an important, radical space when we all really needed it. Will adore Rookie forever ❤️

— herald grrl (@heraldgrrl) November 30, 2018

In her note, Gevinson sent the love right back to Rookie‘s readers, while giving herself permission to move on from the brand that has defined her.

“[T]hat next iteration of what Rookie stands for—the Rookie spirit, if you will—is already living on in you. You’ve made friends with each other. You’ve made your own zines, blogs, clubs, collectives, bands,” she writes. “You didn’t need Rookie or me to do any of that, but maybe we gave you an extra nod of encouragement. You felt bad one night and read an article on here and then you felt better. That was all 15-year-old me wanted. 21-year-old me wanted more. 22-year-old me has enough.”

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