Pardoning the Past, Looking Towards the Future

Charles Weems and Clarence Norris, two of the Scottsboro Boys, read a newspaper in their Alabama jail cell.

Charles Weems and Clarence Norris, two of the Scottsboro Boys, read a newspaper in their Alabama jail cell.

At the start of this year, I wrote about Alan Turing, and the effort to get the renowned scientist and mathematician an official pardon from the the British government. Now, as the year is coming to an end, that pardon has been given: on December 23, 2013, the Queen of England officially absolved Turing of his crimes, just under sixty years after his death.

Similarly, back in November, the last three of the Scottsboro Boys who had yet to be exonerated were granted a posthumous pardon. (The Scottsboro Boys were a group of black teenagers who were falsely accused and convicted of rape in 1931. The unfairness of their case and the trials that convicted them helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement.)

Though the stories obviously have many differences, they both show modern authorities attempting to rectify the injustices of the past with symbolic gestures. As well intentioned as they are though, this hardly seems like enough. Though there is some satisfaction to the fact that official records will no longer indicate these people as guilty of crimes they didn’t commit, their lives were still ruined by the charges unfairly brought against them.

So what value then is there in trying to correct the mistakes of the past? The past is past, and nothing can change it. But in granting these pardons, in admitting that mistakes were made, and offering some justice–if only symbolically–after the fact, we can hope that we are making a promise to the future. A promise that such injustices will not occur again, a promise that we can and will do better, or at least try.

At Morgan Reynolds Publishing, we spend a lot time thinking about history, about the past, about the thousands of events that have occurred throughout time that have led us to where we are today. Whether it’s the story of young men unfairly accused of a crime because of the color of their skin, or of a genius mathematician who pioneered computer science, or the way the spread of a disease affected civilization, or even the way a fashion designer overcame poverty to clothe a president, everything that has happened has the led the world to where it is today, for good and ill. By studying it, by trying to understand, we aim to understand the world around us, and hopefully–hopefully–have a greater grasp on where we are going and who we are. So that we can do better. Or at least try.

We don’t grant official pardons, but we do try to always present the truth, or as much of the truth as can be known. We believe that the facts should speak for themselves, that the truth offers its own condemnations, and its own pardons.

Thanks for reading along with us. We are looking forward to the new year, and hope you’ll keep reading.

-Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

Evan Williams and Medium

Twitter-CEO-Evan-Williams-002It’s always tough to follow up a great success, and that is certainly true for technology visionaries.  Evan Williams, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, is currently working on  a new web project, called Medium. Recently, he spoke to NPR about the site, which will be a new publishing platform. Describing it, Williams said: “Medium is very simple. It’s a website that lets people read and write things.” Specifically, Williams is interested in providing a forum for ideas that get more in depth than the quick, 140 character thoughts that define Twitter.

It’s not a bad notion, but at this point it’s hard to guess if Medium will be a success, let alone the have the culture re-defining impact of Twitter. (To be fair, I am certainly no expert about what will and won’t work in terms of new ventures. And Twitter certainly didn’t seem like that great an idea when it was first introduced, but it has become an integral part of modern culture in a number of ways.) Aside from informing readers of an article’s length next to its title (in terms how many minutes it will take to read), and from the admittedly good idea of grouping articles by topic instead of by author (as most blogging services do), its hard to see why Williams thinks Medium will have any real impact. (One more note: Medium is still in its beta phase. So what you see if you glance at the site now is probably not exactly how Medium will be.)

Skepticism aside, Williams’ belief that Medium can be the next big thing suggests that there is an interest in answering the question of what the future of reading and communicating will be. We in the publishing industry know full well that things are changing, and printed books are quickly being left behind as the dominant medium for expressing thought. (Speaking of which, check out our ebooks!) And sites like Medium and Longreads suggest that there is a desire for written ideas on the internet beyond the quick, pithy comments found on social media (though those can certainly be fun, and in some cases, valuable).

But will sites like these ever fully replace books? We certainly hope not, nor we do think so. But there is no question that right now more is being written than ever before, and more importantly, there are more than ways than ever to get that writing to an audience. How that fact will change how we approach writing and reading, and how we define good and bad, remains to be seen. Medium may not end up a world changer like Twitter, but it may well end up helping some new ideas and authors reach receptive audiences. And maybe, for today, that’s enough.

– Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

To learn more about Evan Williams and the founding of Twitter, please check out Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams (ISBN# 978-1-59935179-7) by Chris Smith & Marci McGrath from your local library, or order it from Morgan Reynolds Publishing.

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Updates on Past Topics

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Time passes, and things happen. Here’s some updates on past blog and book topics that continue to make news around the world:

-A recent report in the New York Times depicts Nelson Mandela, the  former leader of South Africa and anti-apartheid figurehead struggling with his health, surrounded by family and friends who wish the aging activist would be granted some peace and quiet in what may well be his final days. As a symbol of the fight against oppression in South Africa, Mandela remains significant though he’s retired. Now, as he potentially nears the end of his life, it seems as though a new struggle will be fought over his legacy.

-On this day (May 28)  in 1936, Alan Turing invented his famous Turing Machine, a device that helps in understanding and explaining computer functions. This invention was vital in the development of the computer and computer science, and to honor Turing’s accomplishment, every year the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) gives out the A.M. Turing Award to scientists who make major advances in the world of computing. This year, the award was given to MIT professors Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali, who did work in the fields of cryptography and complexity theory. Some of their work focuses on increasing security in various online interactions, such as internet purchases and cloud computing. These issues are far beyond anything Turing could have imagined for computers when he invented his machine, but the bestowal of the award with his name on it affirms his vital role in the advancement of this technology that has come to define the century.

Harper Lee has returned to the headlines: the author of To Kill a Mockingbird has sued the son-in-law of her former literary agent, alleging that he took advantage of her age and failing health to convince her to sign over rights to the book, and that he has cheated her out of proceeds for many years. The case has not yet been decided; hopefully it will not be a sad final chapter for the author of one of America’s most beloved novels.

-More news from North Korea. Kim Jong-un has apparently not taken to heart the request of his friend Dennis Rodman, and will not be releasing American citizen Kenneth Bae, sentenced to 15 years in prison for vaguely defined crimes against the North Korean state. Bae just began serving his sentence, in a “special prison” that is largely a mystery to outsiders. North Korea also reignited tensions and fears about nuclear threats when the country fired four short range missiles into Sea of Japan. Though the launches were only tests, and no one was hurt, the missiles refocused attention on the small country, and its repeated promises to build nuclear weapons. Or perhaps the launch was just some stealth advertising for the country’s new ski resort

Reportedly, director Steven Spielberg’s next project will be a film adaptation of American Sniper, the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Kyle was killed in February, while trying to help another soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder at a gun range. Kyle is one of the many soldiers documented in The Military Experience. Special Operations: Snipers from Morgan Reynolds Publishing.

These are just a few of things happening in the world. They remind us that just because the book is over, the story is not at an end, and that to fully understand what is happening in the world right now, we must have an understanding of the past.

To learn more about Champion of Freedom: Nelson Mandela, Profiles in Mathematics: Alan TuringReal Courage: The Story of Harper LeeThe Military Experience. Special Operations: Snipers, or our Ebook exclusive, Modern American Conflicts: The Korean War, please visit morganreynolds.com.

-Josh Barrer,

Associate Editor

 

 

 

 

Warren Buffett Buys Local Newspaper, or Buffett Periodical Purchase Promotes Buffet of Positivity

In a bit of news particularly relevant to us at Morgan Reynolds, it was recently announced that

Warren Buffett plays the ukulele, because who's gonna tell him he can't?

Warren Buffett plays the ukulele, because who’s gonna tell him he can’t?

our local newspaper, the Greensboro News & Record, was purchased by Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway.

The News & Record has been owned by Virginia based Landmark Communications since the 1960’s. Normally, a purchase by a major conglomerate would inspire trepidation, but word of the newspaper’s sale has been met with many positive reactions. Former News & Record editor John Robinson wrote in favor of the sale on his blog, and reactions from readers on other articles and blogs seem to share that position.

Of course, it wasn’t always so for Buffett. When he acquired his first newspaper, the Buffalo Evening News, in 1977, he was met with resistance. Rival publishers in Buffalo tried to depict Buffett as a cold out of towner, swooping in to destroy local businesses and put people out of work. They also sued over Buffett’s plans to offer special promotions on his paper. For a time, this worked, but Buffett ultimately won out, and has helped keep the Evening News (which eventually changed its name to the Buffalo News) a profitable and healthy business.

Since then, Buffett has bought–through Berkshire Hathaway–27 more daily newspapers. He’s also grown more famous, in part for his remarkably down to Earth investment strategy: largely, Buffett supports businesses that produce tangible products with clear benefits. Though newspapers are only a small part of the Berkshire Hathaway empire, Buffett’s confidence in their value is a major boon. And given how many daily newspapers are struggling to survive or closing their doors, Buffett’s purchase feels less like a corporate buyout and more like the  arrival of a generous benefactor.

There is some worry, of course. Though Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway typically have not interfered with the running of the businesses they acquire, some fear Berkshire Hathaway may try to impose some new policies; many, for example, believe the News & Record website will no longer be free to access. Others worry that Berkshire Hathaway might try to cut costs by combining the News & Record with the neighboring city paper the Winston-Salem Journal, another Berkshire Hathaway acquisition.

Whether or not any of that happens remains to be seen. For the moment, we’ll be watching the local news closely, and hoping for the best.

To learn more about Warren Buffett, and his remarkable rise from genial Midwesterner to one of the country’s wealthiest people, check out Business Leaders: Warren Buffett by Anne Janette Johnson (ISBN #978-1-59935-080-6) from your local library, or purchase it from Morgan Reynolds Publishing. Then check out the Business Leaders series, featuring biographies on Steve Jobs,  Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons, and many more.

Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

“Ideally, we should like to define a good book as one which ‘permits, invites, or compels’ good reading.” – C.S. Lewis

Tomorrow, Booklist will be publishing reviews for three of our books in its bi-monthly magazine:

Earl Warren by Leslie Wolf Branscomb (Supreme Court Justices Series)

Michael Bloomberg by Sandra Shichtman (Political Profiles Series)

Founders of Faiths by Joan Price (World Religions Series)

As an introduction to “review day”, we’d like to take a second to thank our readers.

When we get letters in the mail, receive calls in the office, or find blog posts saying how informative our books are, that means a lot to us, as we strive to publish the highest quality of books for students to dive into in order to broaden their minds and hopefully learn something new.

In fact, check out Edi Campbell’s blog about Vera Wang from the Profiles in Fashion Series.

***************************************************************************************

But we also love it when we get rave reviews, so as a teaser, here is one of the three from Booklist:

Earl Warren

Also, check out the Profiles in Fashion Series, awarded Booklist’s Top 10 Series Nonfiction in 2011.


 

 

 

 

So thanks, everyone! We promise to keep the books coming if you promise to keep reading them!

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

“Every thing must have a beginning … and that beginning must be linked to something that went before.” -Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

When John Riley and Anita Richardson founded Morgan Reynolds almost twenty years ago, their hope was to produce nonfiction books that would both supplement middle school and high school curricula and spark the interest of young adult readers.

According to Readfaster.com, “Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even as little as fifteen minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.”

Even Dr. Seuss knew what kind of opportunities reading could present, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

But the publishing industry is changing.

If there is one thing for certain, it is that change, no matter what industry you are in, will always be a constant. For publishing, never has that been more true. Economic ups and downs, advancements in technology, and changes in what teens, the most fickle of readers, are interested in are just some of the things publishers have to consider.

As a small independent publishing company, we want to use this blog to share who we are, what we publish, what our philosophy is, what events we will be attending, and how we are adapting to the constant changes in the publishing world.

We will be posting things that pertain to our company and our industry. So stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

*Be sure to take a look at our Mary Shelley biography, Strange Creatures: The Story of Mary Shelley


Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,