Meet Michael De Los Santos, Activist, BBQ Lover, and Pundit Of the Week
Michael Santos is a a sports buff, politics junkie, and our very own pundit of the week.
As part of the "pundit of the week" blog, we spotlight one exceptional PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member. This week's question is for founding editor and Kentucky fan Chris Miles.
Check out last week's Q&A with Lindsay Funk.
About Michael: Michael authored a book on the journey he and his family experienced through the life and death of their infant son. He's passionate about sports, BBQ, and the life and works of MLK, Jr.
Caira Conner (CC): First things first, tell us about when and why you decided to join PolicyMic.
Michael De Los Santos (MDLS): In early June 2011, I was doing my own political blog and came across the PolicyMic Facebook page. I was trying to promote one of my blog posts and I posted a link on the wall. A PolicyMic editor read my blog and reached out to me about writing. I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical at first, but after a phone call and looking around the site I decided to take the plunge. I wanted to find a bigger audience for my writing and this turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made.
CC: You're a prolific writer on the intersection of politics and social justice. What issues are particularly significant to you? Have there been advantages to using PolicyMic as a platform for your voice on these topics?
MDLS: I am passionate about most issues that impact the ability of low-income families- anything from building wealth and assets to moving up the economic ladder. If I tried to narrow it down to one issue, it would probably be housing because housing impacts so much about our lives- where we work, where our kids are educated, how we access transportation, our ability to build assets, and what opportunities are available to us. Whether it is home ownership or quality, affordable rental housing, our homes are the center of our universe. I get frustrated with the constant suggestion that home ownership is the best answer, and that everyone should own a home at the expense of providing and educating people on the importance of affordable rental housing, which can be a better alternative for some families.
The advantage of using PolicyMic is having access to a wider audience. Not just to hear what I have to say as if I am an expert, but also for the engagement in discussion. These discussions force you to stay current, as well as know history and even help find common ground with people who may think differently. This helps me in my work for those times when I am dealing with people who have an opposite perspective.
CC: If you could change one thing about your user experience with PolicyMic, what would it be?
MDLS: I'm not sure I would change anything about my experience. People who know me well, know that I have an affinity for debating politics and that is what PolicyMic is all about. Even when I am not writing articles and am just reading the work of others and engaging with the community in the comment section, the experience is exactly what I am looking for. Of course, there are the times when it seems there's a comment that's not from a real person, or from someone not interested in meaningful conversation. I wish that didn't happen, but it seems that is the price to pay for an online format. From my experience it has not happened enough to push me away from the site, like it has on other sites. Whatever is happening behind the scenes to minimize this seems to be working!
CC: You've got your own online daily news site. (Looking to rival PolicyMic?) What's the ideal outcome that could result from your engagement with the PolicyMic community?
MDLS: (Haha!) In no way is my daily news site trying to rival PolicyMic. I would even hesitate to call it a true daily news site. It is a Twitter program I found a few years back that tracks all the articles and links that are posted by people I follow, and condenses them into a daily newspaper. For me, it is an easy way to get a digest of what the people I follow have been talking about without having to constantly be on Twitter, and it lets people know that I am paying attention to them.
It would be nice to have one of my pieces mentioned in traditional news media, but the fact is that I already have my ideal outcome. When you work in the non-profit, political advocacy field as I do, sometimes you find yourself preaching to the choir, or directly challenging someone whose practices you oppose. What you don't always get is the opportunity for quality engagement with people just like yourself with a different viewpoint that can sharpen both of your skills. I have that on PolicyMic. Pundits like John Giokaris provide me with that.
CC: Let's go offline. What do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-in'? And what does being a BBQ enthusiast entail?
MDLS: When I'm not PolicyMic-in' it up, I am usually still involved in politics and activism in some fashion. I serve on two non-profit boards that do work ranging from community organizing to researching the impact of politics in the South. In 2011, I was appointed by City Council to serve on the Housing Appeals board which hears housing code cases. Those are all topics that I am passionate about. I'm a big sports junkie as well and so watching or debating sports consumes a lot of time. I never finished my undergrad, and am taking some time to finish that up to keep a promise I made to my son when he passed away last year.
A BBQ enthusiast is anyone who is passionate about the art of BBQ, and no, that does not mean throwing some hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. Slow-cooking meats is a form of art that is never truly mastered. So for me, it is about making my own sauces and dry- rubs and having as many grills and smokers as my wife will allow. For Memorial Day, I throw an annual BBQ where about 50 people come to my house and I smoke up some baby back ribs and pork shoulders. This year I smoked 9 racks of ribs and 4 pork shoulders. There is nothing more relaxing than smoking pork shoulders for 12 hours! Low and slow is the way to go!
CC: Your turn. What's one question you have for a member of our staff?
MDLS: My question is for Chris Miles. I am a huge Kentucky Wildcat fan, and grew up in a house where my dad is a Kentucky fan, and my mom is a Louisville fan. (Talk about a divided household once a year). You have degrees from both institutions, how do you deal with that when it is time to tip off? I can't imagine any circumstances where I would cheer for Louisville, except if they were playing Duke.
Also, how did your time working at other media outlets like the Associated Press prepare you for what you are helping to build with PolicyMic?
Chris Miles: Kentucky basketball is the most practiced religion in the state of Kentucky. Like any religion, there are, of course, differing sects. In the case of Kentucky, [University of] Kentucky basketball is the dominant branch, followed by the rival University of Louisville.
I practice both. Why? Because I believe that the state of Kentucky is more than one team.
As a Kentuckian, it's amazing to have two of the greatest basketball teams in literally the world. Louisville and Kentucky could probs beat some NBA teams. For me they're like two children - I love each equally.
I originally worked for the Associated Press before coming over to PolicyMic. I had entered journalism when newspapers were still a thing. Many newspaper reporters would spend the day writing one or two stories, then calling it. AP reporters, though, would write 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 stories a day. As fast as possible. As flawless as possible. It's a fast-paced, hard-nosed job.
Then newspapers started to die and the newspaper reporter became the digital reporter. Digital reporting is fast-paced and hard-nosed, where reporters are writing as quickly and flawlessly, producing 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 stories a day. See where I'm going with this?
The AP flows seamlessly into the digital age. They were on the cutting-edge of journalism a few years ago. I guess I got an early education on the type of work I'd be doing at PolicyMic.
CC: Michael, you're an outstanding member of the PolicyMic community. Thank you for sharing your voice with us!
For more news on Michael, follow him on Twitter: @mjdlsantos