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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The importance of context

From an article in the May 24, 2014 issue of The Economist about how racial minorities in the United States live in places where they breathe dirtier air:

[…]The study does not address why [race matters more than income in determining whether someone will live exposed to dirtier air]. A possible explanation is that many Americans prefer to live among people who look like themselves. For example, well-off urban blacks may be choosing to live in traditionally black neighbourhoods, despite the worse air and the fact that they could afford to live elsewhere.

A slight re-write of the paragraph above:

[…]The study does not address why [race matters more than income in determining whether someone will live exposed to dirtier air]. A possible explanation is that people prefer to live where they will be treated like fellow human beings. For example, well-off urban blacks may be choosing to live in traditionally black neighbourhoods, despite the worse air and the fact that they could afford to live elsewhere.

The latter paragraph tells a different story; a story readers of The Economist need to hear.

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What is a newspaper?

“The special characteristics of the newspaper [as it developed in the 19th century] were: (1) publication at regular intervals; (2) production by an editorial team; (3) division into separate departments and fields; (4) reporting that went outside the regional and social horizon of its readers; (5) a rise in topicality, which in Germany meant that the proportion of news less than a day old rose from 11 percent in 1856 to 95 percent in 1906; (6) increasingly industrial production, based on the latest technology, which required considerable capital investment for a mass circulation press; and (7) a fluctuating market that depended on daily decisions by customers at the newsstand, except in the case of subscribers.”

–Jürgen Osterhammel (trans. by Patrick Camiller), The Transformation of the World : A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University, 2014), pg. 30.

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Ray Taliaferro

When I was in junior high school in the early ’80s, I had terrible insomnia. I used to lay awake at night and listen to the Giants game on KNBR, then listen to the Giants post-game show and the news. If I was still awake (it would be midnight by this point), I would turn the dial to KGO and listen to Ray Taliaferro until I finally dozed off.

I grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb of San Francisco and considered myself to be a Reagan Republican, but I loved to listen to a guy from the City who eloquently and forcefully disagreed with what I had been brought up to believe. He didn’t change my mind, but he helped me understand what other people were thinking and what other ways there were to look at the world.

Taliaferro used to say that the KGO signal reached well into Oregon, Washington, and Nevada, and he would sometimes get calls from small towns hundreds of miles away. I wonder now how many other people in little towns across the West would lay awake at night, in those days before the Internet, listening to Ray Taliaferro spin their mental kaleidoscopes.

All this comes to mind because I have been getting over a cold, which has made it hard to get to sleep at night; so I’ve moved my transistor radio next to my bed and listened to KBOO as I laid awake sniffling. Two nights ago, it was the poetry of Richard Brautigan. Last night, it was reggae Christmas carols. If I can’t sleep tonight, it will be punk music, selected by the awesome Erin Yanke. I love KBOO.

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Newspaper control

Newspapers have a much greater importance in America than they do in Europe. You must not conclude, however, that the press is more free in the New World than in the Old. With us it is the government that watches over and controls the newspapers; in the United States, the religious sects and political parties tyrannize over the editors, who, it must be said, rather cultivate this servitude and even take advantage of it.

— French composer Jacques Offenbach, 1876. Had he been alive to visit the United States 50 years later…well, he would have been a marvel for being so very old; but, aside from that, he could have added “department stores” and “car dealers” to his list of tyrants.

(Offenbach, by the way, was the composer of the “Can Can”.)

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