A Window and a Screen: Nature Through a Child’s Eyes

Our back yard slopes down and away from the house. It is a former river bed, and has been carved gently over time. Decades ago, the town of Easthampton rerouted the river, bending it dramatically away from our property. What remains behind my house is a little stream, a minor tributary, a ribbon of still water winding through a young forest and a think tangle of wetlands.

From our kitchen window, which faces southwest, we have seen wild turkeys wading through three feet of snow, young deer with their white spots shining in the morning light and rabbits that bolt almost as soon as you set eyes on them. We’ve had a mother bear and cubs walk alongside our house and down through the yard, and at night we often hear coyotes, the young cubs’ howls sound like screams. Squirrels leave husks from our walnut tree around the yard and moles twist long tunnels beneath the grass. Birds fill the morning thick with song. Sparrows, bluejays, and crows tumble through the air, chasing each other from branch to branch, while herons sail with slow grace through the trees and huge hawks circle above watching it all.

My wife and I lift our young son up onto the kitchen counter, where he kneels with his hands pressed against the window, looking out across our wild backyard. Sometimes he responds with bright glee bubbling up, pointing and babbling with excitement. Other times he just stares in quiet awe, studying the animals as they move across our yard and disappear into the shadowy forest. Holding him there, my hands on his knees, his small back pressed up against my chest, I feel his heart beat and his deep breaths expand and contract. Through his eyes I see the world anew and share in the wonder of those moments. Continue reading

Covert Consolidation Undercuts Supposed Growth in TV News

Two recent reports paint a rosy picture of local TV news. Stations are launching new programs, jobs are coming back and revenues are up. Bolstering these reports are stats from the Radio Television Digital News Association, which called 2010 a record year for local news.

I just wish that were the whole picture. However, neither of these reports fully grapples with the impact covert consolidation — in which a station signs away control of its newsroom to a competitor — is having on the media ecosystem. Continue reading

Why I’m Optimistic About The Future of Local Media

In a recent radio interview I was asked about my optimism regarding the local media movement – an umbrella under which I have been including vibrant local community TV and radio outlets and emerging nonprofit journalism websites and blogs as well as media literacy projects, digital justice coalitions and media reform groups. The interviewer pressed me to offer concrete examples of the impact these outlets were having (how were they shaping the national debate, moving key issues forward, changing the lives of local people and communities).

I had a few examples to offer, but in general, I noted that what we are seeing is the seeds of change – seeds, I argue, that need to be tended and nurtured. Our current media system did not emerge overnight, and while it seems like the media landscape is changing dramatically almost every day, the truth is that these changes have been happening for quite some time. I like to say that we are climbing mountains not turning corners. We have to be in it for the long haul, but it is better to be creating, participating, experimenting now, than to be simply standing still as the media landscape shifts around us. Continue reading

Media Policy is What We Make of It

My remarks at the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications:

Should government save journalism? No – it shouldn’t and it can’t. Does government have a vital role to play in the future of our media? Yes, absolutely.

But policy is what we make of it, so it is up to us to get involved.

Many people don’t realize that the Facebook page that helped spark the January 25th protest in Egypt, was not initially set up to organize a protest. The page was actually a commentary on free speech – it was posted to honor 28-year-old Khaled Said who was pulled out of an Internet cafe and beaten to death by Egyptian police because he was suspected of posting videos of police corruption on YouTube. I start here because I think sometimes we forget that media is a life and death issue. Continue reading

The Widening Gulf Between Local Communities and National Policy

Last night, Orion Magazine invited me to speak to their monthly “Green Drinks” event in Great Barrington, MA. This summer Orion published a piece by me on grassroots media and democracy and in my talk I wanted to explore one key theme, that I was only able to touch on briefly in the article itself. Recently I have been mulling over the ways in which technology has put more and more media in the hands of the people, while the media policies that shape everything we watch, read, and hear are putting more and more media control in the hands of corporations. What are the implications of this tension?

Here is what I said last night, but it just scratches the service or this much larger question: Continue reading

If You Love Journalism Set It Free – My SXSW Proposal

I’ve been growing increasingly interested in how journalism innovators at new and old publications and websites are finding innovative ways to tell important stories by getting beyond old distinctions that have forced journalism to define itself by platforms. For SXSW I have proposed a session that explores how we can create better news, engage our communities, and tell more powerful stories by setting ourselves free. And I’m thrilled about the journalists who have agreed to join me in this discussion.

I’d love your feedback. Who should I be talking to or talking about? Who is doing the best work in this area? How can we clarify these ideas further?

Here is what I submitted to SXSW: Continue reading

At the Intersection of Science, Language and Spying

I’ve had these three articles tucked away in my notebook for awhile now, hoping to construct a fairly long piece on the intersection of science and language and about the ways that our speech shapes the world around us. However, I’m fairly certain that I won’t have the time I need in the near term, so instead I have pulled out a few key quotes and offer them to you below.

In this case I’ll have to let juxtaposition stand in for analysis. If something in the intersection of these three pieces resonates for you, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Continue reading