Learning to Listen in New Ways

(This is part two of two posts on music and parenting – see part one here.)

One of my earliest memories is sitting cross legged on a plywood dance floor, under a big white tent at some music festival, clapping as my uncle played banjo up on stage. This weekend I relived that moment through the eyes of my two year-old son as he sat on the grass clapping along to a band playing under a big white tent at the Greenriver Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The similarities were striking, but there was a fundamental difference.

When I sat at the edge of the stage, looking up at my uncle strumming on that banjo, I thought for sure he was playing just for me. When my son sat in the grass this past weekend, the music actually was really just for him, in a sense. That’s because we were at the “Meltdown Stage,” which featured an entire line-up of two days worth of music just for kids. While lots of festivals have kids areas, no other festival I know of has a full stage set aside for kids.

This signals two things to me: 1) We live in a wonderful area, with a great kids music scene driven mainly by Bill Childs whose weekend radio show, “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child,” provides a welcome antidote to Saturday morning cartoons, and 2) These days, kids music is much more than lullaby CDs and campfire sing-alongs. Continue reading


In Search of Kids’ Hip Hop

It’s cliché to say that parenting changes the way you look at the world around you, but I had no idea how fundamentally it would change the way I listened to the music around me. (This is part one of two posts on music and parenting.)

Our house has always been filled with music – CD’s spinning, iTunes pumping, Pandora streaming. This is probably why, when my two-year old son get’s up in the morning he usually runs over to our stereo and shouts “Moooo-zik!” He knows how to turn on the receiver, eject the CD player and how to turn the volume up. Luckily he seems to be adopting a musical palate as broad as his parents. He’s as happy boogying to bluegrass as he is bopping to hip hop.

However, listening to our music collection through his ears, has made we newly conscious of the lyrics in the songs we play. I’m not just talking about the colorful language, but about the stories our music tells, the lives it chronicles, and the lessons it teaches. The majority of the music we own is fairly innocuous, but some of it has sent me reaching for the volume knob or the power button. Continue reading

An American Hybrid Journalism

*Note: This is a longer version of the post that originally appeared over at SaveTheNews.org.

Last week, Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Journalism Needs Government Help.” As Bollinger argues, evidence is mounting that there simply is not enough private capital from traditional revenue sources such as advertising, subscriptions and philanthropy to pay for the full extent of quality journalism our communities need. Slowly but surely, people are conceding that there is a role for carefully crafted public policy that will foster a new age of innovative, diverse, local and hard-hitting reporting.

Critics paint opinions like Bollinger’s as advocating for another “government hand out” or “giving up on the free market.” Nowhere in Bollinger’s essay, or in reports from the Knight Commission, USC Annenberg School of Journalism, Columbia University, the FTC, and the FCC, does anyone argue for replacing the commercial media sector with a government-funded monolith. Continue reading

Looking for a Fight, On the Web

In an earlier post, I outlined how the mainstream media turned healthcare reform and the climate summit this into a fight – stripping it of nuance and sensationalizing every aspect of the conversations. This resulted in:

  • Less real clarity or understanding about the bill or about the economic and environmental issues at the heart of climate change;
  • Less trust in our political system; and
  • Less engagement from people for whom these issues impact on a daily basis.

The social web is often held up as an alternative to mainstream media, one that is breaking the old systems and building new modes of producing and consuming the news. So I thought it worthwhile to explore how this issue – the incessant fight narrative – plays out on Twitter and Facebook. Continue reading

Looking for a Fight

I’ve been on vacation for the past week and only sporadically checking in on social networks and news sites to see what is going on in the world. Yesterday Twitter was filled with references, quips, and questions about Shirley Sherrod. After trolling through a wide array of tweets I still had no idea what the story was about. After searching Google News, I still only got partial insights and mostly reflections on a story I had already missed. This is what Matt Thompson has so expertly called the crisis of context that we are facing in so much of our media right now.

However, what I did get from those early tweets and news clips, was the sense of a fight unfolding. The narrative was clear and people’s passionate and angry tweets, full of opinion, only amplified that. Whatever the facts of the case, this story was about a battle playing out. The war metaphor has taken such a strong hold of our culture and our news media, that I worry sometimes we have lost the ability to tell other stories about American politics and as such we are losing other ways of understanding the issues and people around us. Continue reading

Everything Old is New Again

I have spent a good deal of time recently looking at two new trends in journalism – the tendency toward journalism collaborations, and the increased emphasis on community engagement. Obviously, neither of these ideas is “new” in the sense that they’ve never been tried, but the rate at which they are being adopted is a clear sign of some fundamental shifts in the way reporting is done.

Recently, however, a few bits of information came my way and reminded me that everything old is new again. Continue reading

On Poetry and Separation

Recently, I feel like every conversation with family and friends begins with, “Well, you sure are traveling a lot.”

Whenever I pick up a bag – any bag around the house – my twenty month old son waves at me and says “bye da-da.”

I’ve been on the road roughly three times a month for the last three months. On a rare afternoon at home I heard an NPR story about our new poet laureate, W.S. Merwin. Merwin writes incredible poetry imbued with a profound connection to land and landscape. He is overtly political and deeply personal. But as the interview was winding down, the host asked Merwin to read a older poem I wasn’t familiar with.
Continue reading