Robert Hennelly's "Stuck Nation" asks can the United States Change Course on Our History of Choosing Profits Over People? – wbgo.org
Award-winning print and broadcast journalist Robert (Bob) Hennelly has been covering news stories in New Jersey and New York City before he got a drivers license. Now he’s out with his first book Stuck Nation: Can the United States change course on our history of choosing profits over people?
Hennelly is the City Hall reporter for the Chief Leader and a regular contributor to the WBGO Journal, Inside NJ and Salon, and has also started his own show on WBAI.
Bob spoke to WBGO Journal host and News Director Doug Doyle about the book that details how the U.S. is struggling with a deeply troubled capitalist system and offers solutions.
“This started as an exercise of being of a certain age and reflecting on the body of my work and then seeing a certain connection between the stories I’ve worked on for WBGO, WNYC, any number of outlets over the years and then realizing that we were at a particular turning point. I notice that the country was indeed stuck in a profound way and that by telling these stories and linking to them together and in reporting like places like WBGO, I might be able to give us a guide of where we’ve been and more importantly where we need to go.”
The connections Hennelly mentioned are detailed in the more than 150 pages of Stuck Nation.
“As a person that’s been covering labor, I feel like we’re at an inflection point that is new, so I’m 66, and right now we’re in a situation coming out of this pandemic, paid an awful price, particularly for essential workers, where now the balance of power towards labor. For most of my adult life, the balance was toward capital and big corporations. Now it’s moving to toward something we now call The Great Resignation where across the country people are quitting their jobs , people are redefining their relationship with work whether in the private and public sector, and I think it’s because there’s been a very heavy price paid by the essential workforce. I was trying to show that historically the problem with our country, it has great promise but we have this propensity for disappearing the inconvenience, for airbrushing our history. So while it’s true that this country of upward mobility, it got less and less so in my lifetime. What ended up happening is people working longer and longer for fewer hours for less wages, and so we saw people being pressured increasingly. I do feel that I’ve been able to present a comprehensive history of labor in the context of the United States. You could hand this to someone and they’d get a sense of the challenges that we’ve had.”
Through his many years of reporting for WBGO and other outlets, Hennelly has been passionate and curious about the underlying questions to a vast number of issues.
“I think it came from starting very early. I was working in journalism when I was 17. My first job was covering planning board meetings, but I found that the way to be a good reporter was you couldn’t just accept at face value what it was that you were seeing. When you didn’t understand something, which happens often, you had to have the humility to go and ask questions. After a while it kind of came like a pathology, that’s kind of the way I roll. I get to a certain point and I just feel like there’s a dangling thread and those threads have made how I’ve put together my life is following those threads. Over time, you get to really enjoy the practice of listening to people tell you their stories and incredibly over decades, there’s a kind of interconnection between all of the stories. By having this passionate energy, everyday is new.”
You can see the entire interview with Bob Hennelly here.