A sound-bite of air time

Earlier this week I spoke about the Transition movement as a guest on Southern California's leading National Public Radio affiliate.  It was a big opportunity that came to us completely out of the blue.  The show is archived (the producer tells me "in perpetuity"), so you can listen to it here.

In preparation for the show, the host described her audience to me as "fairly mainstream."  She said it would be the first time most of her listeners had ever heard about the Transition movement.

The host's introduction is quite remarkable.  She reveals her personal journey, starting with a disclaimer that she never considered herself to be "radical" or "a hippie."  But as she became aware of issues like global warming, peak oil, and environmental devastation, she began to make changes in her lifestyle.  She describes driving less, growing a few vegetables, and thinking differently about consumerism.  I think that her candid statement gives validity to the journey many listeners might be on as well.

As the show moves into my portion, the topic changes fairly definitely to economics.  The host had directed me there, and you'll hear me speak at length about the LETSystem (Local Economic Trading System) that we're setting up in my area of Los Angeles.

Why didn't you talk more about Transition?

Yeah, my thoughts exactly.  Economics is important, and our economic system must Transition too.  But I agree, economics isn't the whole of Transition.  I can just hear it now:  "Transition Los Angeles -- oh, that's that radical economy thing."  We'll get identified with it when the reality is, it's only a corner of all that we do.

It seems like it is going to take a whole body of work, a whole bevy of media bits, to add up to conveying the totality of Transition.  We simply don't seem to be getting media opportunities to talk about the totality of what we're doing.

It is curious that media reporters tend to do this focusing-in thing.  I yearn to gain a media spot where I could talk candidly about the breadth and panorama of Transition, but they insist on honing in on some one quirky detail.  This isn't the first time I've seen this phenomenon. 

One time it was our local community garden -- which we regard as a teaching garden for Transition reskilling and transforming neighborhood attitudes about front-yard food -- that they portrayed as a novelty interest story, a cute little garden growing veggies for the needy. 

Another time it was our neighborhood fruit harvesting program, which paves the way for a new attitude about community redistribution of locally grown food, but which played on Los Angeles television as a light-hearted outing with laughing children climbing a tree.  It made us sound like a church group, and our comments about Transition and food security were completely cut. 

Our solar cooker building classes have hooked media interest; these tend to draw a large crowd and plenty of children.  I regard the solar session as a joyful, fun thing, but it is so unique and fringe that it always runs the risk of shifting over from hands-on-craftsmanship into some grotesque form of "watch the wierdo." 

Sure, these are very visual events, and their details carry plenty of "personal interest story."  But color doesn't seem to be what media are after, either.  The one time we got a reporter who wanted to do a panorama of the Transition movement, despite all our bright and colorful local stories the result was a dismal, bleak portrayal of the downside potential of the post-petroleum era.  Even our delightful garden-in-bloom photographs were distorted into stark black-and-white Hiroshima-type silhouettes when they appeared in print.  I think the reporter herself had hit her "End of Suburbia moment," right in the middle of writing about us.

It seems like the panorama and magnitude of Transition is perhaps too big for media to grapple with.  It doesn't fit well into a sound-bite.  Maybe they think it is too big for their listeners to handle.  Or maybe the very existence of a growing movement examining all sectors of human endeavor, and expecting (even planning for) sweeping, transformative change in all of those sectors, confirms that life as we currently know it might be in for some very big changes. 

Nope, that's far too big for media to tell the public.  Better keep it small and fluffy and quirky.


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