Posted on May 1, 2018
Above is the photo of a very proud, very excited woman, holding the most challenging and rewarding article she’s ever written (so far).
I’m going to talk about that article soon. But first, I think you all need some background.
In February 2014, I lost the ability to experience silence.
To put it less dramatically, I developed tinnitus. It’s a medical condition that produces a sound in your ears only you can hear- a ringing, a hissing, a buzzing, a murmuring.
For some people, it’s temporary. It’s the ringing in your ears after a night at a loud concert. For others, it’s permanent. It can occur after you catch a cold, or develop an ear infection. There are dozens of reasons why someone develops permanent, or chronic, tinnitus. I’m one of those people.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, about 50 million people in the United States experience tinnitus. 2 million suffer through “extreme and debilitating” cases. That’s akin to a roaring train, or a blaring fire alarm, trapped in your head.
Tinnitus can lead to depression and anxiety, or make mental health conditions worse if you already have them. Severe cases can lead to suicide.
When I first developed tinnitus, it was a struggle to adapt to my new normal. My life was a chaotic mess of anxiety, a common feeling for many people immediately after they develop the condition. The loss of silence is something so nebulous and strange, it was hard to process. Lots of sleepless nights, and worry, and wondering if it could get better.
My tinnitus didn’t get better, but I did. Four years later, I still have the condition, but I’ve learned to manage it and live a very happy, healthy life. My tinnitus is close to background noise now, but it’s never quite left my mind.
I’ve never been able to forget how alone I felt when I first developed it. I know there are other people who were in the same place I was four years ago.
That’s why, in September, I reached out to the American Tinnitus Association, a national non-profit that publishes a quarterly magazine, Tinnitus Today.
Eight months later, I’m incredibly happy and proud to present my article in their Spring 2018 edition, “Pursuing Dreams, Life, and Joy…Despite Tinnitus”. It’s on page 26. In case you want to read it. Hint, hint.
I wanted to tell my candid story, how tinnitus has affected my life, and how I’ve coped with it after four years. Writing this article brought back tough memories I had long buried, but it was absolutely worth it. I can’t thank the American Tinnitus Association enough for giving me a chance to tell my story.
And…that’s that. I’ve bared (part of) my soul, and I’m feeling happy and proud and nineteen different other things. It would mean the world to me if you read my article. Pass it on if you know someone with tinnitus.
As I’ve said before, if I make one person feel less alone, it was worth it.
Posted on January 8, 2018
2018 turned the tables on me. Instead of doing the interviewing, I was the one being interviewed!
Working with OPB was a fantastic experience. Everyone I spoke with- the producer Julie, the host Dave- was incredibly professional and accommodating. We had an interesting discussion that further solidified why I care so much about this topic. I’m incredibly grateful to OPB for inviting me on their show.
I continue to receive messages from folks in the business who share their stories and thoughts. As I mentioned in my interview, the response has truly been powerful. I’m in awe of the number of men and women who’ve dealt with some horrendous behavior, and are brave enough to come forward with their stories.
That photo at the top of this post was my view during the interview. I was in the sunny (snowy) state of South Carolina at the time, so we did a remote interview from ARP Studio, just outside of Charleston.
Comments? Questions? Blog post ideas? Head to the contact page and shoot me a message.
Posted on January 1, 2018
I’m on vacation right now, spending time with my family and watching as much college football as humanly possibly, and humanly advisable. But I wanted to take a moment to update everyone on some things, and talk about what’s in store for the new year.
Firstly…THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who’s read, shared and contacted me about my blog post on harassment in local news. I truly didn’t expect the post to reach so many people, both in and out of the industry. I’ve met so many brave, ambitious folks who shared their stories of harassment and discussed their view of the issue. The response has been incredible, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share my writing and speak my mind.
Vox republished my piece in their First Person section, with some slight edits. This is my first piece published on a major website.
On January 2nd, 12pm PT, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud will interview me about my blog post/Vox article. You can listen both online and on the radio.
And looking towards the future…you’ll see more blog posts in 2018! What kind? More of my longform writing, more articles, more food recommendations and book recommendations- lots of different topics. A veritable blog buffet, if you will.
Thank you again for reading and sharing. And Happy New Year!
Posted on November 29, 2017
In June, a man I’ve never met messaged me on my professional Facebook page and asked me to have his children.
I could fill this entire blog post with harassing comments and gross requests from people I’ve never met and never want to meet. I’ve had a man tell me my skin makes him want to waltz. One guy asked me if he could be my slave.
There’s an old local TV news saying. Every day, people invite you into their homes. You’re on their TV every day, delivering them information. They put their trust in you, they learn things from you, and after awhile, they get to know a part of you- the public part. You become a slice of their lives, and a part of their city.
Many times, it can be a wonderful thing. People say hi to you on the street and compliment your stories. An older woman might bring baked goods to your TV station. You know almost every neighborhood and every street in your town. It’s an amazing feeling.
And then, sometimes, it’s different. Sometimes, people believe they have a right to your body, whether you like it or not. They think they own a part of you, because you’re on TV in their town, and you’re a pretty girl in a pretty dress who’s there for their entertainment. It doesn’t matter what’s in your head, or how hard you worked on your story.
Harassment in the media is a problem- that’s clear. The recent news about Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer cements that reality. That’s another blog post for another time.
But there’s another problem running through local TV news that affects women daily.
Harassment from the people who watch the news.
It’s the guy who screams, “F**k Her Right in the P***y” behind your live report. Or the local woman who sends you racial slurs because she doesn’t like the way you look. Or the man who sends flowers to your station over and over again. This is a pervasive issue. For the hundreds of young women in local broadcast news, there are thousands of stories of harassment.
And some of those women shared their stories with me.
Imagine this. You’re a young woman in your first or second job. You’re hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from your family. Surviving on slim paychecks, living alone, and working odd hours. Usually, thanks to social media- it’s relatively easy to find out where you are at any given moment.
And, along with some guy who wants you to kick him in the balls, you’re dealing with people like this:
Outside harassment is so commonplace, it’s basically become part of the job. You’re a public figure in a small town, a woman always dressed up and made up. Your first creeper is a right of passage. A weirdos obsessed with your shoes is a hilarious screenshot. It’s something to laugh about at drinks with fellow reporters- unless it isn’t funny anymore.
It’s a reality for women. For men. It’s even worse for journalists of color and LGBTQIA journalists.
I’ve tried to understand why these people threaten and harass journalists. Is it power? Sex? They’re just inappropriate weirdos and creeps?
I don’t know. But I do know these people are harassers, and what they’re doing is inexcusable.
The wild and wonderful world of local news take its reporters everywhere- it’s amazing, and exhilarating, and many times, these young journalists do it alone.
It’s less amazing when you’re constantly worried about the man who pretends to offer reporters jobs before sexually harassing them. Or mentally preparing yourself when an older man approaches you while you’re reporting, and you can tell by the look in his eye that he’s going to say something lewd and offensive.
The kick in the chest doesn’t just come from harsh words or threats to safety. It’s the complete disregard for your intelligence and hard work. It’s that squirming feeling in your heart when you realize that many people consider women in TV news, first and foremost, eye candy.
As women, and as public figures, too many TV newsers are taught to be polite and friendly. It goes against years of conditioning and stereotype to flip the switch and be aggressive. Even now, when I deflect any kind of harassment, there’s still a little twinge of guilt that I have to brush away.
As I wrote this article, I read a lot of stories from women in the business. At the end of many of them, they asked: Next time this happens, what should I do differently?
Should they be more aggressive? Smile and try to be polite? Every question was filled with a vague sense of guilt and one damning thought: Am I overreacting?
And you know what? That’s happening to me right now, as I write this post.
Let’s go back to the guy who wanted me to have his children. When I responded to him, he got angry.
“There’s a thousand other half-cute journalism grads who’ll easily replace your milquetoast-ass tomorrow. So don’t flatter yourself. No one gives a shit about you.”
His rejection-fueled rage was pretty obvious, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me.
Because, for awhile, I thought he was right. Who would give a shit about some small-town news girl getting creeped on? We’re a dime-a-dozen, generally represented in popular media as vapid bimbos with half a brain.
I sat on this post for months. I started working on this in late spring, but every time I came close to publishing it, doubt started worming its way into my heart. A little voice, whispering at me:
And then, other women began stepping forward, in other industries. Allegations emerged.
And the more women I saw come forward to tell their story, the more people reacted. Other woman, echoing that feeling of helplessness. Of weakness. And I realized that these experiences, no matter how slight or different, absolutely do matter.
I’m tired of getting messages that make me feel ashamed, or have me looking behind my shoulder when I walk to my car at night. I’m tired of talking with other women in the business, feeling their fear and shame, hearing their stories like confessions.
And when I got tired of the man asking me to have his children, I went to my station about it. Not all stations are supportive when women come forward with their concerns, but mine was. They supported me whole-heartedly. I got in contact with our local police, who also supported me and assured me that it wasn’t a foolish move to report the message.
That experience was one of the two bright spots in this whole mess. The other?
The women I spoke with.
Despite this barrage of threats, sexual requests and invasions of privacy, the woman journalists I spoke with still press forward in their passion. Journalism is already an emotionally and mentally taxing business- to also deal with external threats and still create compelling stories is a testament to the strength of women working in the business.
If you’re a journalist who feels threatened by a harassing message or personal interaction, tell your news director and contact police.
NOTE: I would like to thank all of the women who shared their stories with me. This post wouldn’t be a reality without them.
NOTE II: Harassment is a reality for journalists, no matter what gender you identify as. However, I’m writing from my perspective as a woman, and chose to keep my focus on events close to my own experiences.
© 2017 Ellen Meny
Posted on October 16, 2017
And, I love all things Halloween and horror. Whether it’s paranormal pondering or true crime terror, I’m there. For my contribution to this spectacular month, I’m bringing you my five favorite petrifying podcasts.
Gather ’round the campfire. Hug that blanket tighter around your neck. It’s time for some scary stories…and with Spooked, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home!
Dingy bars, lost in time. Mysterious creatures on the US border. A forlorn ghost holed up in a house. Spooked features people from around the world, recounting their ghostly encounters and paranormal experiences. The storytelling is fantastic, the audio quality is crisp, and narrator Glynn Washington is perhaps my favorite narrator I’ve ever encountered in a podcast.
What really seals the deal for me? I’m pretty tough to scare- but this podcast had me checking under the bed before I went to sleep…
Imagine you and your two best friends, sitting in your apartment, talking about social issues, true crime, and the drama of your lives. That’s My Favorite Murder in a nutshell!
It’s described as a “true crime comedy podcast” and hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, two witty women obsessed with crime and mystery. Each week, the ladies discuss their…favorite murders, and the stories behind them. Choice quotes include, “Stay sexy. Don’t get murdered”, and “Toxic masculinity ruins the party again!”.
Special props to Karen and Georgia’s openness about their mental health, and encouraging the destigmatization of mental illness.
Dirty John is a lot of things- a terrifying look inside domestic abuse, a cautionary tale of who you can trust, a deep-dive into local journalism. But at the heart of it, it’s a story that makes the listener well-aware that monsters can take human form.
LA Times Christopher Goffard introduces you to the dramatic story of Debra Newell and John Meehan. Newell thought she met the man of her dreams- it turns out, John was more of a nightmare.
Dirty John features six articles you can read after or before you listen to each episode. They’re not required reading, but they enhance the story even further.
What do a six foot seven politician, an obsessive radio-man and a lunatic actor all have in common? A love for all things criminal, paranormal and generally odd.
Last Podcast on the Left is both incredibly informative and hilarious. Each episode, the boys of LPOTL tackle a different topic in the world of the bizarre. From the Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton, to Scientology, to Norwegian Black Metal- each episode is chock-full of information meticulously collected by the three hosts; Ben, Marcus, and Henry.
This podcast is extremely NSFW. Save your listening for in the home, on your earbuds, or in the car. And don’t go through any drive thrus if you choose the last option.
Nosleep is a website where horror writers share their short stories of the macabre and maladjusted. Many of the stories are ripe for narration- and thus, the existence of the NoSleep Podcast.
David Cummings and his merry band of talented narrators aurally illustrate stories that scare, disturb, and, once in awhile, delight. Tales of disappeared cross-continental flights, evil spirits summoned from beyond, a man desperately in need of a plumber.
This is a priced podcast- $20 for a season and hours of content. There are lots of free episodes, but I would recommend taking the plunge and buying a full season.
And hey, if you listen back far enough- you might hear a story written by yours truly…
Plenty of creepy content to get you through Halloween, and beyond- because I think a little scare does a body good anytime of the year. Happy haunting, and enjoy listening!
Posted on September 20, 2017
UPDATE 10/14/18 This man is still harassing women in local news. If you have any information on him- numbers, emails, screenshots- please send them my way. Thanks. He may go by a different name now.
I got a phone call last Thursday I wasn’t too surprised to receive.
It was a serial harasser who targets female journalists.
My phone buzzed, the word “Unknown” flashing up on the screen. I hesitated before picking up- who answers an Unknown call?
“Hi, Ellen,” the man said. “This is Chris from NBC. I found your reel online.”
My reporter reel was on Youtube with my email and phone number. I asked him which station he was with, and where he was located. He told me New York City, at their national station.
The man sounded like he was in his late 20s, early 30s- a little awkward, a little nervous.
It did not sound like the voice of an NBC job recruiter. And generally, job offers don’t come from Unknown numbers.
At that point, I knew it was him.
I told him I was busy and I’d call him back tomorrow- but I needed his number. Oddly enough, his phone wasn’t working properly- he would call me.
He hasn’t called.
Here’s the thing. “Chris” isn’t really Chris. He’s also Tom. And Mike. And Jason.
He says he’s from NBC. CBS. GMA.
Because those are all names and networks used by a man who calls female journalists and harasses them. And most likely, it’s all one man.
I first heard about “Chris” after seeing several posts on a Facebook group:
I’ve seen dozens of these stories- same setup, same structure. As I searched through posts and asked around, I found warnings about him going back to 2015.
Three years of making women feel simultaneously violated and stupid- which I’m sure is what he wants. For someone to commit to harassing women for three years straight in this very specific manner is some next-level dedication.
While phone calls are his normal method, it looks like “Chris” sometimes emails people- and some women heard from him through both mediums.
I want to make something very clear:
This man is most likely using an alias. There are a lot of Chris Burke’s out there, and there’s nothing to suggest he’s any one of them. Please don’t harass them. As time goes on, he’ll probably switch to a different name.
Now armed with his email address, I reached out.
He never responded to my email, but he did call me once more. When I started asking too many questions- where was he located; what was his name- he hung up.
And that’s where I am. Struggling to connect a name and a face to a man who spends years harassing women. Right now, an email and a voice is all I have.
If you’re a woman in TV and have a reel out there- heads up.
For more about harassment in local news, you can read my full piece, “Eye Candy: The Harassment in Local News You Don’t See”.
(NOTE: I did not record our phone conversation. While Oregon is a “one-party consent” state, I have no idea where Chris is located. It may be in a “two-party consent” state, meaning he could push legal action on me if I recorded him without his knowledge.)
Posted on August 30, 2017
Last summer, I stood in front of the biggest fire I’ve ever seen in my life and talked about it on live television. And then I ate a handful of mixed nuts meant for farm animals.
It was a hot July evening in Oregon, but a late summer wind stirred the thick heat. I was at KVAL News, the television station I work for. It’s a little building perched up on a steep hill in the south of Eugene. The evening news shows were underway, and I was planning to slip away from the newsroom soon to enjoy the summer night- which in Oregon means sitting on a patio for 3 hours and drinking beer.
Summer is not only beer season in Oregon- it’s also fire season. The hot, dry snap of a Pacific Northwest summer mixed with blustery wind is the perfect cocktail for a stray, fiery spark from machinery; or for a forgotten cigarette butt left in the woods, to erupt into something catastrophic.
So it wasn’t a shock when we heard some chatter on our police and fire radio scanner that there was a fire out in Junction City, about 20 miles away.
Our newsroom has the luxury of an amazing view- one of the positives to being up on one of the highest hills in South Eugene. As I walked into the newsroom, I noticed people craning their necks, looking out windows. A few opened the front door, peering up at the sky. Someone aimed our station tower camera in the direction of Junction City.
A massive plume of smoke pooled into the sky, miles away, curling and billowing in the late day sun. It looked like a huge, fluffy cloud rising up from the earth.
Bounds Hay Company, a huge hay exporting company in Junction City, was on fire– and I was tapped to go.
I zipped up an oversized caution vest that made me look like I was wearing an orange plastic bag, and then tore out of the parking lot. It was a 30 minute drive, but I followed the smoke to my destination- a yawning field of fire, lighting up the charcoal remains of a building in smoldering flames. Up close, it was vomiting thick, black smoke into the sky.
I turned onto the road that ran parallel to the farm and found myself facing a fire truck barricade yards down the road. I spotted a few other cars parked on a field nearby and veered onto a bumpy dirt farm road.
People gawked at the fire from the field I parked in. I stood next to them, gawking through my camera lens and almost knee-deep in dry, itchy grass. I was still relatively far away- aka, the correct, safe distance someone should be away from a massive factory on fire.
Obviously, I needed to get closer.
I noticed a firefighter sitting in his dusty car out on the road. He rolled down his window as I stepped up to the truck.
“How close can I get?” I asked. My camera was in one hand, tripod in the other- purse slung over one shoulder. I looked like a pack mule.
He looked at the fire, considering it. “We’re worried there could be some explosions, so…I’d recommend staying here.”
“Am I allowed to get closer?”
He gave me a look that suggested I wasn’t that bright. “I wouldn’t advise it.”
I did get closer, because his suggested assessment of me was potentially correct. A reporter from another station and I walked further into the field- the flames getting brighter; the shimmering air getting hotter- until we found a fire chief who assured us we weren’t going to be caught in an explosion anytime soon. Whew.
Miraculously, and thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire- but there was more than a million dollars in damage done to the property, with about one-thousand tons of hay burned up to a crisp.
Thankfully, the fire chief understood our reporterly desire to get closer to the fire. He was going to let us follow him…even closer to the fire.
A photographer I work with, Emily, met us before we left with the fire chief. We jumped into our news car and followed the chief down the long strip of road hugging the farm. I remember passing right by the massive wall of flames, feeling the car window get hot under my hand.
We turned a corner and suddenly we were off the road- wheels bumping on the hard dirt and tall grass. As we followed the chief’s big pickup truck, my eyes were wide.
We followed him into a field bordering the fire, jerking the wheel to avoid divots in the dirt that could mean bad news for our news car. The fire reared up on the horizon like a sunset, and the chief pulled his car to a stop about 200 feet away from the wall of flames.
We reached our destination.
I stepped out of the car, grass crunching under my feet. The sky was dark and a cool breeze picked up on the air, but the ambient heat of the fire kept us warm.
I thought I would be terrified standing next to a massive fire that could potentially light up the field I was standing on, but I was weirdly calm. The chief assured us it was safe, and I trusted him.
After hours of action and uncertainty, we were at a lull- this was our camp for now, the place we would go live from for the 11pm news. In the sudden stillness, the fire a dull roar behind me, I suddenly realized something…I was starving.
I hadn’t eaten anything in 12 hours, and for someone who is constantly eating, that is an impressive fasting period.
I asked Emily if she had any snacks. She frowned and thought for a moment, slowly shaking her head- and then, her face brightened.
“I think I have something!” She set down her camera gear and went to the car, rooting around in the backseat as my blood sugar continued to drop. I would’ve literally eaten the grass at that moment if I didn’t think it would’ve made me sick.
She ran back over, a big Ziploc bag of mixed nuts in her hand. At that moment, she looked like an angel sent from heaven.
I grabbed a handful and munched on them happily. Sweet, sweet sustenance. As we set up for our liveshot, chatting about nothing, I asked Emily if she kept the mixed nuts for emergencies.
“Oh,” she said, “I was actually on a story and I met a farmer. He gave them to me. He said he ordered the nuts for his pigs, but ended up not wanting to give the nuts to them. So I got them.”
I regarded the mixed nuts in my hand for a moment, unsure of how I should feel about eating mixed nuts originally meant for pigs. I wanted to be disgusted, but…they were so good, and I was so hungry.
“He said they’re fine for humans,” she added, probably noticing the sudden alarm plastered on my face.
While I appreciated the reassurance, at that point? I honestly didn’t care. Emily and I had tromped around in fields all day under the flickering eye of an ever-looming fire. I was dead tired, sunburned, and smelled like smoke. At that moment, those weird pig mixed nuts were a 5-course meal.
I grabbed another handful from the bag.
This is the first part of my new post series, “Things I Ate on Breaking News”. I’ll look back at some of the most impactful stories I’ve covered, and how I remember them through food.
Posted on May 16, 2017
I don’t know how else to say this, so I’ll start with a comfortable phrase.
Time flies, doesn’t it?
It’s been about two years since I last posted on my blog, but that doesn’t mean I ever forgot about it. Rather, it’s been on my mind quite often- but every time I sat down to write a post, I found myself straying away, or losing interest. Sometimes, I was a little worried about what people would think of me- was I still good enough?
In college, my blog primarily featured my journalism- now, life is a little different. I’m a broadcast journalist. My work is featured on KVAL News in Eugene, Oregon. I report, I anchor newscasts and I have my own food show. Yes, I am incredibly lucky- I’m paid to eat and talk about food once a week!
I suppose what I’m trying to say is this: I’m hoping to revive this blog, but it will be a little different than before. I’m still trying to figure out what that entails- whether that’s snapshots of my life, my fiction writing, or something more.
Two years is a long time, as quickly as it seemed to pass. People change; things change; blogs change! But as scary as change can be, it can ignite new ideas and open up new paths.
Let’s see where those paths lead.