You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Eat that metaphor!


Two conversations today shifted my feelings about a couple of the metaphors we use a lot to talk about media and journalism:

First, the media “ecosystem,” a term some of my colleagues love and that I have resisted, with support from fellow fellow David Weinberger, including in his presentation at our March event. I felt “ecosystem” sounded too neat, too organic, too rational, to represent the messy forces at work in the media environment. In a discussion yesterday I was convinced that other people don’t get that from the word, that they think of ecosystems that can be out of balance, polluted, on the verge of collapse. So, with the idea that the multiple media ecosystems include dangerous jungles, toxic Superfund sites and great barren deserts, I’m cautiously giving the word a chance.

The second opening I’m considering is for the vegetable metaphors: usually “eat-your-spinach journalism” or “the broccoli on your plate.” This came up a lot in LA, and like Adrian Monck, I didn’t like it much. I found the implication that the challenge is to “sugar-coat the broccoli” (a disgusting image) or as Ethan more appetizingly says “make broccoli au gratin,” adding just enough cheese sauce (cheese may be cheap processed America, as in gratuitous of pictures of distressed children, the expensive artisanal (Abomination! Word Press just tried to tell me the correct spelling of that word is ‘artisinal’ the end is near) goat cheese of powerful storytelling).

Now I’ve decided the problem is not the metaphor itself, but with the implied attitude toward broccoli and other healthy vegetables, that even those of us who know we need to eat them would eat mostly potato chips and chocolate cake if we could. I think we need to give both broccoli and people more credit. Like the healthy school food movement, we need to have a positive attitude, making sure the people who prepare and serve the broccoli are passionate about vegetables and eager to share their love with others, not trying to force the kids to eat soggy overcooked frozen broccoli because it’s their duty. And we need to include the education part, where kids learn what spinach looks like growing, how to cook it so it tastes good. It’s repeatedly worked in school cafeterias. So maybe we should be looking for the Alice Waters of journalism? Oh could someone please also write the equivalent of Fast Food Nation about the media to shake people up about what’s in their journalistic lunch bag?

Photo: Broccoli
Uploaded on April 19, 2005
by Tzatziki

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image. AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

Be Sociable, Share!
Can VRM save Public Broadcasting?
Telling the FCC what I think

Comments are closed.