What I’ve Been Up to..

Updates, Work


Hopefully, given that my last post announced the birth of my baby girl, anyone reading this blog can appreciate the reason I have no been diligent about updating! Maddie turned six months on Christmas Eve and at her doctor’s appointment a week later clocked in at 14lb. 7oz. and 26 inches long. It has been amazing to watch her grow and develop. My tiny little peanut has grown into an awesome, fun baby girl with so much personality. She will giggle up a storm for absolutely no reason. She’s learned how to army crawl to get what she wants (usually my cell phone!) and I’m sure crawling isn’t too far off. She loves standing holding onto things, whether it’s the side of the changing table or my hands. When we go to storytime at the library or music class, she watches with such wonder. I sincerely hope she never loses her amazement with the world and her joy in discovering new things. It is such a pleasure to watch her learn and grow.

Being a mommy has definitely given me a new perspective on the struggles of working mothers. As a freelancer, finding the time to get work done in between all the diaper changes, feedings and naptime battles has been a challenge. In a post on InPower Women, I wrote about how I didn’t have a maternity leave because FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act, doesn’t apply to freelancers.

In my postpartum period, I finished up a project that I started while pregnant. At 7.5 months pregnant, I produced three videos for the website BabyCenter.com touring the maternity ward, operating room and birth center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. It was a really awesome experience and definitely gave me an inside look at what I could expect for my own birth experience. I was really proud of how the videos turned out from an idea when I was suffering from morning sickness and spending way too much time on the BabyCenter website to finally seeing the videos posted online. But finding the time to finish the videos while taking care of Maddie was definitely a challenge!

I also somehow managed to read What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? and post a review on InPower Women to coincide with election day. I was pretty proud of that post, which talked about some of the reasons we haven’t had a woman president yet. Many people have high hopes for Hilary in 2016. Just throwing this out there, but Maddie will be eligible to run for president in 2048…

One of my main goals for 2014 is to get more of my writing published in more places (and get paid for it!). I’ve always been interested in writing about women and politics, but every time Maddie does something new, I think of another possible article to write about babies and parenting.

Here’s hoping for another big year!


Is it Finally Time for the Equal Rights Amendment?


official-blogger-2My latest post is up at InPowerWomen.com, but I’m pretty excited about how it turned out, so I’m going to add it here in its entirety. I’ve been posting over there about women, politics and media and was asked to contribute something for Women’s History Month. I hate to be the downer on the site, but considering how often Women’s History Month articles and events are very much about the successes of women, I thought it’d be beneficial to take a look at a time where things didn’t go so well.

Would love to hear your feedback, either here or on the InPower Women site.

The first Women’s History Week was observed in March of 1982. Just a few months later, one of the biggest disappointments of the women’s movement occurred as the Equal Rights Amendment expired when the ratification deadline came and went at the end of June. This Women’s History Month, after an election year where women’s issues were in the forefront and after the Violence Against Women Act finally passed after a long and hard fought battle, it seems appropriate to ask, do we still need an Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution?


The ERA was originated by the National Woman’s Party in 1923 to complement the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. The ERA was introduced in Congress officially in 1923 as the following:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.

The amendment was re-introduced and failed in every Congress until a reworded version finally passed both chambers in 1972. The final text reads:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

It was then turned over to states for ratification with a seven year deadline. After passage in Congress, the ERA needed to be ratified in 38 states. It only passed in 35. The deadline was extended until June 30, 1982, but ultimately failed to be ratified.


The ERA was supposed to fill the gap left by the so-called Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Though the 14th protected “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” it was adopted following the Civil War with racial discrimination in mind. And while numerous cases came before the Supreme Court seeking equal protection for women, women routinely lost up through the 1960s.

Women were told they had no constitutional right to practice law (Bradwell v. Illinois in 1873), vote (Minor v. Happersett in 1874), act as a bartender without her husband or father owning the establishment (Goesaert v. Cleary in 1948) or face a jury of her peers (Hoyt v. Florida in 1961), among others. Most of these decisions were rationalized that women were the “fairer or weaker sex” that needed protecting, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in 1979.

In 1971, things started to turn around. In Reed v. Reed, the court held unanimously that an Idaho law giving preferential treatment to men over women in estate administration appointments was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Other cases began to follow suit.


Whenever discussions about the need for the Equal Rights Amendment come up, my mind immediately goes to this clip from “The West Wing” of Republican Ainsley Hayes discussing her opposition. And Ainsley makes some good points about being protected by the 14th Amendment. There are also plenty of laws on the books like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which banned discrimination on the basis of sex. Most recently, the ban against women in combat roles, which the ERA would have ended, has been lifted by the military. There’s still more work to be done, but given all the steps in the right direction, do we still need an Equal Rights Amendment?

In my opinion, sort of. In our current climate, I find it’s more imperative than ever to make it clear that women are entitled to the same protection as men under the United States Constitution, for two very specific reasons. First, we hear about new laws on a regular basis seeking to place limits on the right to privacy granted to women under the Equal Protection Clause in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade. That right to privacy is being chiseled away in states that now require an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasounds in order to obtain a legally protected abortion. If this right can be taken away, should women be worried about all their other rights as well?

But more importantly, we need to make clear that the Constitution applies to us all because there are justices on the current Supreme Court who believe in interpreting the Constitution based on the original intent of the framers. And the original intent of the 14th Amendment was not to protect women. In an interview in 2011, Justice Antonin Scalia said this about equal protection in the Constitution:

“You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.”

Scalia suggests that legislation is sufficient to outlaw sexual discrimination. But with justices like him on the court, what are the chances a law like that would be upheld as constitutional? I don’t like those odds.

So, why do I say sort of? Well, because women aren’t the only group out there in need of constitutional protection. The current session of the Supreme Court will be hearing challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8. Does the Constitution grant equal protection on the basis of sexual orientation? It certainly wasn’t what the original drafters of the 14th Amendment had in mind. And yet, the same 14th Amendment that may not cover women or homosexuals, does cover corporations, according to numerous cases decided by the court. So, where exactly is the line drawn?

Instead of fighting for an Equal Right Amendment just for women, let’s close all the loopholes. Let’s establish once and for all that if you’re a human being born or naturalized in this country, you’re a citizen. And that citizenship comes with all the rights and privileges outlined in the Constitution.

What about you? Do you think there’s still a need for the Equal Rights Amendment?

Will a Record Number of Women in Congress Make a Difference?


Check out my latest post for InPower Women!

With the Inauguration in the rear view mirror, it’s officially time for the 113th Congress and President Obama to get back to work. Women were big winners in the November elections and the current Congress set a new record for female members when officially sworn in earlier this month. That’s the good news. The bad news is that new records means that female representation in Congress jumped from a high of 17% to a new high of 18%.

But it sounds more depressing than it really is, as these infographics from Mother Jones indicate. Some fast facts:

  • 1 in 3 newly elected members is a woman
  • 184 women ran for Congress in 2012 and nearly half were elected
  • The state of New Hampshire will be sending an entirely female delegation to Washington with a female Governor at home
  • Four states are sending their first female Senators; Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wisconsin

And let’s not forget that there are now 20 women serving in the Senate, up from 17 in the 112th Congress.

Read the rest at InPowerWomen.com!

Why I’m Terrible at Updating My Blog

Extracurricular, Updates, Work

It was a very busy and productive fall, but I haven’t been able to post any updates lately because of computer issues. Did you know WordPress has a mobile app? Did you also know that typing blog posts on your phone is very time consuming?

Fingers crossed, I’ll be back on my computer soon, but until then, a promise. In the next few weeks I will:

1. Update about working with Google at the conventions. With pictures!
2. Update about the Google+ hangouts with ABC News on election day and tracking down voters from all 50 states!
3. Write about my trip to Vegas! Including a jaunt to the Grand Canyon!
4. Talk about volunteering with the New York Women in Communication on their awesome student conference.
5. Finally write about the election. There are 20 women in the Senate!!!
6. Updates on some exciting projects to come, including a big collaboration with my amazing husband.

Until then, some pictures!


The Google set at the RNC in Tampa


Chelsea Clinton touring the RNC Google space


One of the amazing tigers at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa (and one of the aforementioned projects)


The Google space at the DNC in Charlotte


The Bellagio Fountain in Vegas


Self-portrait at the Grand Canyon

More to come!

Heading to Tampa…

Updates, Work

In five hours, my wonderful husband, Paul, will be driving me to the airport to board a JetBlue flight to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. The big news that I mentioned in my last blog post is that I am working with Google and YouTube on their convention coverage! I’ve been working as a booker and associate producer, liaising with media partners and helping them book guests for their hangouts on air. I’ll be heading to Charlotte next week for the Democratic National Convention.

Hopefully, my experience with the RNC will be slightly different from my experience in 2004.

Some Blogging News!

Extracurricular, Work

With the summer slowdown, I haven’t been too great about adding new blog posts here, but I do have some blogging news!

First, I’ve started blogging over at InPower Women! Dana Theus, the founder of that site, stumbled upon my last two posts about women in the media and women in politics and asked if I’d be willing to cross post those two and continue to write for the site. My first blog post, The Reoccurring Theme of Entitlement, was posted last week and an updated and tweaked version of my Women as Candidates, Women as Symbols post is going up soon. And frankly, it’s a better version of the post, so if you haven’t read it here, wait and read it over there.

The other piece of blogging news is that I started a food blog! Check out Shana’s Recipe Box for my latest kitchen adventures. Basically, I was tired of always going searching for the recipes I’d tried and liked in the past. Plus, I take way too many photos of my dinner, so I figured it was time to put the two together. I’m not trying to be the next big thing in food blogs. The blog is mostly for me, but I hope other people enjoy it as well. It’s been fun so far, though I need to remind myself to actually blog and not just take pictures of my food.

I have some other big non-blogging related news, but I’m waiting for a few things to fall into place. Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to a pretty exciting end of the summer.

Changes Big and Small

School, Updates, Work

There have been a number of changes to this website and in my life lately. Some of the smaller changes are here on the site. First, you’ll notice the domain name changed. I decided it was time to spend the $18 and buy ShanaWestlake.com. I’ve also added a few things to the site, mostly under the work samples tab. You can now listen to my final from my Research for Media Activism, which was an audio podcast based on ethnographic research of the first meeting of the Move to Amend NYC affiliate. In addition, I’ve added a few of my favorite segments from ABC News to the professional work tab and within that, I’m slowly working on adding more information, including write-ups of the segments and slideshows.

So, that’s the small changes. Mostly housekeeping, cleaning things up.

The big changes, though, are pretty big. First off, I am officially 100% done with graduate school. Last week I graduated from The New School for Public Engagement with a Master’s of the Arts in Media Studies and a certificate in Media Management. When I first applied to The New School, it was because I felt like I could get an education that I could control. My undergraduate studies at NYU were very broad and very narrow all at once. The journalism major was only eight courses and most focused on hands-on skills, like putting together a news package or writing up an interview article. The rest of my time at NYU was a combination of required courses and electives, many of which added up to my three minors. In retrospect, I wish I had double-majored instead.

At the New School. I was really able to design my own curriculum and, in the end, it wasn’t the curriculum I expected it to be. Recently, a friend was struggling with her graduate school application and I sent along my statement of purpose for her to check out. Re-reading  that I realized that what I thought I was going to do with my graduate experience and what I did with my graduate school experience were very different. I applied very interested in globalization and ended up focusing a lot on politics. As you can see from my academic work, I wrote a lot about the intersection between media and politics. Somehow, I ended up writing three separate papers that looked at the work of James O’Keefe III from various angles. I tried to gain a better understanding of why the news media could become so obsessed with scandal while ignoring the bigger picture.

I was also able to pursue a media management certificate in conjunction with my Master’s. While I enjoyed almost all of my classes immensely, I think the media management courses were some of the most helpful. It’s very easy to say a manager is bad, but it’s hard to really define why. Media Management and Leadership helped explain why and how I could be a more successful manager in the future. Another favorite class was Media, Corporate Responsibility and the Law. In the class we discussed the legal ramifications of invasion of privacy and libel. I learned laws that govern the news media and I learned how to read court decisions, a useful skill.

Another advantage to my education at The New School is that I was required to take a certain number of production courses. Many of my classmates chose to take as many production courses as they could, learning to shoot and produce documentaries and short films. While I was interested in learning more production skills, I wasn’t particularly interested in narrative film or documentaries. I had done an internship with a documentary film company in the past and primarily learned that I didn’t want to be a documentary filmmaker. At least not right now. So, I chose to use my production credits on sound and images. My first class was Radio Narratives, which made a very strong impact on me. I’ve always loved audio and the aural experience. Radio Narratives took that appreciation to the next level and showed me how to make sound. I also took Visual Storytelling, where I learned more about photography and the craft of telling stories through images.

And beyond that I met an overwhelming number of smart and interesting people who are looking to do amazing and important things in the world. Graduate school was a wonderful experience and anyone who says it’s a waste of time has clearly never been. Graduate school, for me, was about more than the piece of paper. It truly was about expanding my mind and understanding the world in new and different ways. Will I be paying off my student loans for the next 30 or so years? Yes. Will having an MA make a practical difference in my career? Who knows. But I am proud of my accomplishment and, for now, that’s enough.

The other big announcement is that I am no longer working with ABC News Now. Since I started with the department, News Now has gone through a number of changes. New programs have come and gone. I worked on health, finance, politics, entertainment and more. I was there for the inauguration of President Obama, the Miracle on the Hudson and the 2010 Midterm Elections. I had the opportunity to book guests, write news copy, produce interviews and meet a ton of interesting and amazing people. But recent changes in the department have made my role there largely superfluous. I am very grateful for the experience, but it’s time to move on.

And in moving on, I’ve made the decision that it’s time to start telling my own stories. That being said, I am venturing out into the world of being an independent producer and writer, pitching audio and video segments and articles to anyone who will have me. I’ve also joined PRX and I plan on putting together podcasts, packages and explorations of topics that might, hopefully, end up on public radio. I also want to continue writing and producing segments on health and personal finance. I’ve done a lot of work on those topics in the past and I surprised myself by enjoying it a lot. I have ideas that I was never able to pursue with ABC News and I think it’s time to jump off the cliff and go at it on my own.

I am apprehensive about the change, but I’m also excited. I don’t know if this is going to become my life going forward; I still have hopes of finding gainful employment with an organization and program that I can be proud of. But I do know that I am at a crossroads in my career and the only way to take the next step is by showing everyone that I can. But I also know that I’m going to need as much help as I can get, so if you’re reading this and willing to offer a hand (or a job!), I’d appreciate it.

Stay tuned. There are bigger things coming.

End of the Year (and a Very Long Two Weeks!)

Extracurricular, Updates, Work

I have been ignoring the blog lately, but mostly because it has been a busy two weeks at work! Usually, Healthy Living has two to three people working on it daily. Last week, it was just Cara and I and this week, just me! So, it was a pretty busy week, but I accomplished quite a bit.

We had a lot of interesting guests join us the last two weeks. Keri Glassman came in and talked about how to get your fruit in the winter, which can be a challenge when things are out of season and more expensive. We also had Dr. Jacques Moritz talking about a new option for menopausal women. I’ve produced a lot of different segments about hormone replacement therapy, which can increase the likelihood of getting certain kinds of cancer, so learning about the possibilities of DHEA was really interesting. Gail Blanke joined us to talk about starting of the new year by clearing out the clutter and Logan Levkoff explained how to maintain a healthy relationship over the holidays.

We talked about a lot of really interesting studies this week. Ohio State University published a study about the connection between the mother-toddler bond and teen obesity. Dr. Keith Ayoob came in and explained it for us. And Dr. Shelby Harris joined us to discuss the implications of a study on sleep disorders in police officers. She also explained how to deal with shift work. As someone who has worked very odd shifts in the past, I paid attention to that one! And yesterday, we had Dr. Anne Chapas come in to discuss winter skin regimes and Phyllis Shapiro to talk about acupuncture.

One of the projects I enjoyed working on the most these past weeks wasn’t for Healthy Living at all. Last week, Dan Kloeffler and I were asked at the last minute to put together a video comparing the reactions of Callista Gingrich and Wendi Murdoch when their husbands were attack by protesters. The next day, Dan came up with the idea of compiling a bunch of different awkward campaign moments into a video. We tracked down videos of hecklers and protesters. Because staffing was a bit limited, it took a few days to get the video together and the piece edited, but take a look at the final product:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

One of the most interesting aspects of working on the video was working with an editor instead of editing it myself. Different people have different ways of editing. My goal when I sit down to edit is first and foremost to get my timeline laid out, so I can here how things flow and know how long it runs. Other people work as they go along, placing video to cover VOs and working on effects and transitions. I was hoping to get the piece a little tighter, but with limited resources and only a basic knowledge of Avid Newscutter myself, I couldn’t sit down and make the cuts myself. New Year’s Resolution #1: Get better with Avid. I also had to let Dan, who had pitched and written the piece, make the final decisions. If I had had my say, I probably would have left off the music bed. I felt the content spoke for itself. But I was overruled and I didn’t fight it. I pick my battles and this wasn’t one of them. I do think the piece came out well in the end, but it reflected Dan’s vision, not my own. And that’s fine.

Paul and I getting ready to eat with our Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the background

Outside of work, I spent the holidays with my wonderful new husband, Paul. We decided to spend Christmas together at home this year and had a wonderful meal on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m a big fan of cooking and I especially enjoy making overly elaborate meals. Saturday, we had smothered short ribs, which turned out delicious. Sunday, I tackled a turkey breast. I smothered it in butter and herbs and roasted it over carrots, onion and garlic. Another delicious meal that also produced delicious leftovers!

I’m not going to lie, I’m a big fan of opening presents and Paul and I have established a tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. I had told him that he had a choice between comfy, practical or sentimental for his Christmas Eve gift and he went for comfy. Lucky for me, he loved the flannel lined slippers I got him from L.L. Bean. I opened a beautiful pair of earrings that I’ll probably wear tonight to a New Year’s Eve party. He opened the rest of his gifts the next day; a new fleece lined hat and two key chains. He bought me a new journal to replace my old steno pads and the best gift of all, a Kindle Fire! I cannot say enough good things about the Kindle Fire. If you’re debating between the iPad and this, I say go for the Kindle. It’s lighter and smaller, so easier to hold and it feels a lot sturdier too. I have barely touched my computer since I’ve started using the Kindle, because I can do so much on it.

Tonight, we have a New Year’s Eve party at Paul’s step-mother’s house. We’re both looking forward to ringing in the new year, especially since one of the first things on our to-do list is our honeymoon! Paul and I will be leaving the week after next to fly to Ireland! We’re renting a car and driving around the island, before flying over to England and driving around and visiting folks there. I’ve been to both countries, but I’ve mostly stuck to the cities. I’m really excited to explore the countryside and get off the beaten path for a change. We know it’ll be a bit chilly, but we’ll have a lot of freedom in our itinerary, because we’re going during the low season. Since we won’t be fighting with millions of other tourists, we don’t need to plan all our hotels and activities ahead of time. Plus, I’ve found that the bed and breakfasts over there are much cheaper during this time of the year. We’re both really excited to take a break and to explore a new part of the world. And I’m excited to finally have my brand new passport under Shana Westlake!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and here’s to much joy and success in 2012!

A Little Long, But Worth It

School, Updates, Work

Working at News Now means a certain amount of flexibility on our segments. Though we do air on digital cable, most of our content is distributed on the web and that means that we don’t have to hit an exact time length with our segment. I usually aim for five minutes with my segments. Five minutes can be not enough time at all or excruciatingly long, depending on the guest. I lucked out today, because I had Dr. Chris Magovern on talking about deep vein thrombosis.

DVT is something I had pitched to my senior producer a while back. The holidays are one of the biggest travel seasons of the year and all that sitting in a car or on a plane could lead to some serious complications. In fact, a colleague of mine had to talk his father out of driving all the way from Pittsburgh to NYC to pick him up for the holidays. One of his fears was that he’d charge through the hours long trip here and then do the same thing on the way back, putting himself at risk for DVT.

I’m also planning a trip overseas for January, so the threat of DVT has been on my mind. It really shouldn’t be, since I have very few of the risk factors; I don’t know of any clotting disorders in my family history, I’ve never smoked and I eat fairly well and exercise regularly. But I recall one plane ride a few years back where I developed a throbbing pain in my thigh, where DVTs usually occur. I retrospect, it was probably nothing more than a Charlie horse, but, boy, did it hurt!

Today’s segment was pretty straightforward, but it did have a couple of different elements. Luckily, we have a great crew, both on the floor and in the control room. Dr. Magovern had brought props, which the stage crew helped set up and then our director, David, worked with the camera guy to get nice tight shots of each prop so we could talk through them. Our duet all-star, Revi, was ready on the switch as Dr. Magovern moved through different treatment options, changing the graphics as needed. I enjoy segments like these, where all of us are actively involved.

As I mentioned, I usually aim for a five minutes on the nose for these segments. The anchor I was working with, Dan Kloeffler, is an rock star when it comes to hitting marks. There are few things more satisfying in the control than telling a talent one minute and being done and out in one minute. But we have the flexibility, so when we got four minutes in and we still hadn’t gone though the treatments, I knew it was time to stop calling out times and just tell Dan to wrap when Dr. Magovern finished. As you can see below, what we ended up with was a thoroughly interesting and informative six minutes of content without any awkwardness of Dan cutting the good doctor off. I’m pretty pleased with the final result.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The rest of the day was spent looking for guests for the rest of the week. I think we have a pretty good line up so far. Keri Glassman is going to be with us on Wednesday talking about getting your fruit fix during the winter. Fruit is supposed to be such a significant part of your diet, but it can be pricey to buy certain types during the colder parts of the year. On Thursday, we have Dr. Moritz for his usual segment. That topic is TBD, but I hope we find something interesting. Both of us hate doing those we-already-kind-of-knew-this-but-it’s-good-to-confirm-again studies. I’ll have to keep an eye out for something good. And Friday, Dr. Logan Levkoff is coming in to talk holiday stress on your relationship. I wonder how many relationships end at this time of the year…

In other news, my second to last semester is officially done. I say officially, because even though I had turned in and been graded on my final project, I was still waiting on the final grade. I am proud to say I’ve gotten an A in Visual Storytelling. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the class. I really wish we had done a lot more photography than we did. It was listed as a production class and we only touched our cameras three or four times over the course of four months.  Either way though, I am proudly sporting a 3.9 GPA with one semester of graduate school to go. On one hand, the end can’t come soon enough, but on the other, I know I’m going to get antsy later on when I’m no longer actively learning. Last time I left school, I ended up reading a lot of random non-fiction. (And I highly recommend Scurvy!)