Margaret Barthel

Margaret Barthel is a producer-reporter at WAMU-88.5 and a former producer at AtlanticLIVE.
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    Employers Are Still Avoiding Former Inmates

    Dozens of states and D.C. have restricted when companies can ask about job applicants’ criminal records—but many aren’t following the rules.

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    Getting Out the Vote From the County Jail

    In many states, people held without a felony conviction are eligible to vote—but confusion, fear, and a long list of logistical complications often stand in their way.

  • Kristoffer Tripplaar / The Atlantic

    What Teachers Are Striking For

    “You know that when teachers band together on their own, it’s gotta be bad.”

  • Kristoffer Tripplaar / The Atlantic

    The Conservative Divide on Criminal Justice Reform

    The producer of The Atlantic’s latest event on criminal justice reform discusses how it brought Washington’s conservatives together on the issue.

  • Why My Dad Reads Jane Austen

    Elinor Dashwood sits sewing in an 1899 illustration
    Elinor, in an 1899 illustration (Chris Hammond)

    If you took Elinor Dashwood, the heroine of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and turned her into a male software engineer in his sixties, you’d get my dad. Seriously: He’s kind, smart, moral, sometimes stoic in the extreme. He can be reserved, even about things that he enjoys, which is the only explanation I have for why I’ve never talked to him about our shared enthusiasm for Jane Austen. She has the distinction of being one of two novelists (the other is J.R.R. Tolkien) that break up his almost-entirely-nonfiction reading diet, but I’ve never asked him why. It’s possible that we were too busy marathoning the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice on the couch together.

    A few days ago, we talked about what he loves about Austen, and what it’s like to be a male reader in a very female-dominated fandom. I had to start with why his yellowing paperback copy of Sense and Sensibility appears on his nightstand every few years next to his usual science and history books:  

    Jane Austen writes of a world that has a very clear system of rules and morals, which she believes in. There’s a certainty about how things are supposed to work that is kind of comforting in a way. And the other thing is that she has such a wonderfully clear and lucid style. Some 19th-century writing is hard to read, but her sentence structures are both elegant and straightforward in kind of the same way that Mozart’s music is.

  • Finding Self-Reliance in May Sarton’s ‘Dead Center’

    Bob Strong / Reuters

    I’ve never thought hard about why I love May Sarton’s “Dead Center”—I’ve never seriously studied Letters from Maine, the collection in which it appears, or Sarton herself. But “Dead Center” is one of those poems that I’m drawn to in the somber, reflective moments, often after a tough day, when I’m seeking a sense of equilibrium, and maybe a little bleakness to match my mood. Here’s a taste:

    Temperature zero, the road an icy glare,
    The field, once ermine soft, now hard and bright.
    Even my cat’s paws find no footing there.
    And I sit watching barren winter sunlight
    Travel the empty house. I sit and stare.

    It’s a poem about being in the cold, which is probably where my attraction to it starts. I’ve always loved cold winter days and how they challenge the senses: the sharpness of inhaling and exhaling in frigid air, the unrelenting glitter of sun on snow, the heightened awareness of where my body is and what parts of it are exposed and how very much alive I am, despite the thermostat. I hear echoes of this same experience in “Dead Center”: it’s a reminder that the body is a miracle, resilient in adverse conditions, physical or emotional. Continuing on:

    This is dead center. I am the one
    Who holds it in myself, the one who sees
    And can contain ocean and sky and sun
    And keep myself alive in the deep freeze
    With a warm uncontaminated vision.

    I think it’s Sarton’s parsing of what “dead center” is—a celebration of the blood that keeps on pumping, through loss and cold and “leaps into the dark, lovers unkind,” alongside an acknowledgement of mortality (“Temperature zero, and death on my mind”)—that brings me back to these stanzas over and over again. There’s a certain comfort in thinking about self-reliance as a matter of flesh and blood and breath.

    It is all in myself, hope and despair.
    The heartbeat never stops. The veins are filled
    And my warm blood in the cold winter air
    Will not be frozen or be winter-killed.
    Poetry comes back with the starving deer.

  • bibiphoto / Shutterstock / Zak Bickel / The …

    How to Stop Cheating in College

    Can new technologies help counter today's ever-evolving strategies for cheating—and discourage students from doing it in the first place?

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    Where All the Frat Houses Are Coed

    Some argue that gender integration in Greek life is the key to enhancing equity and eliminating sexual violence on campus. Wesleyan University has put this idea into practice.

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    Black Men Need More Education Than White Men to Get Jobs

    A new report shows yet another way African Americans face systematic disadvantage on the job market.

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    If Colleges Can't Handle Protests, Who Can?

    After students at a few schools rejected their commencement speakers, they were widely mocked. What will this mean for campus communities—and a disillusioned class of 2014?

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    Getty's Crusade to Turn Photographed Women From 'Dead-Eyed' Props Into People

    The story of why the photo service developed a special collection showcasing stronger, more realistic-looking women

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    I Wasn't a Fan of Sheryl Sandberg—Until I Couldn't Find a Job

    In college, I had the luxury of developing a sophisticated critique of her call to "lean in." After a few months of unemployment, I found it was just what I needed to hear.