Posted at 11:08 AM on January 26, 2007
by Jeff Horwich
...So went the conversation at our gathering last night at the Guthrie. Heckuva crowd, too -- I think we topped 25 for the first time, with lots of new faces, and churned up two really active discussions.
First we hit on some environmental topics. Among other things, we spent some time on the perception of "going green." So most of the public accepts that climate change is real. So what? How do you market the idea to the mass of Americans in a way that actually changes behavior? There was a rough line between those who believe we can still win the battle through convincing everyone to do their part. Then there are those more cynical among us who'd imagine the government has force the question: not just on us, but on the other folks who we know really don't care.
In Hour II of the gathering, I sent us in a totally different direction: marriage. (Our next show tapes Feb. 15, the day after Valentines Day.) All I had to do was say the word, and we were off to the races. It's fair to say we had some healthy skepticism about marriage in our group: "If you have the loving relationship, who needs the functional entanglements (money, decision-making, etc.) that come with institutionalizing it?" We worked a bit to define what "marriage" actually means -- is it primarily a legal concept, or does "marriage" in way exist even without being sanctioned with a ceremony? While these concepts matter for all couples, they figure deeply in the same-sex marriage debate -- which, as the clock ran down, is where we left things: Can't the "marriage is just a formality" argument be twisted and applied in opposition to gay marriage?
On both fronts, leave your comments and let the discussion continue here. No matter what, it looks like we've got some rich choices for topics for our next show. Thanks everyone!
Posted at 11:30 AM on January 26, 2007
by Andrew Haeg
In a lot of ways, we're trying to demolish the "fourth wall" of media by bringing our audience into the newsgathering/production process.
On Monday, we invited between 15 and 20 Muslims from around the Twin Cities to MPR to discuss their hopes and concerns, what we're missing, what stories we ought to do, etc. Several of us from the newsroom participated.
There was the predictable but needed "Muslims are misunderstood ... we're not all terrorists" talk ... and some very on-point discussion of the word "Islamist" (what does that even mean? We don't say Jewish-ist or Christian-ist). One of our attendees said she hoped more Muslims would be included as regular sources for stories that have nothing to do with Muslims (I don't want to be contacted because I'm a Muslim attorney ... but instead because I'm a good attorney.)
What intrigued me was how at home our Muslim guests seemed. I did not sense any degree, really, of alienation or estrangement. Now this was just an hour-and-a-half conversation ... and we have yet to explore many deeper threads of conversation.
But, for people who are the focal point for so much fear and loathing, living in a once lily-white state, their tone and demeanor did not bely so much frustration or anger ... as a desire to let people know that they like it here, and that they want to be treated like regular old Minnesotans.
It was a great opportunity for our newsroom to get past the obvious story lines, and start thinking about other angles for approaching this community that will reflect its complexity, and the challenges Muslims face integrating with a skeptical, fearful culture.