“What better time for a program such as One Maryland One Book?”
Not so long ago, the mass media had a dominant role in shaping public opinion and acted as a common lens for viewing important events. Newspapers, weekly news magazine and network television newscasts drew huge audiences. Journalists such as Walter Cronkite and James Reston had an outsized impact on American society.
Fewer people are reading newspapers, buying newsweeklies, and watching the network news. We live in an era of personalized news, in which anyone–and everyone–can cull information and opinion from countless options on the Internet. Readers and viewers are taking advantage of this newfound power, leaving The Baltimore Sun and other mass media scrambling to reinvent themselves, with a stronger online presence and blogs such as Read Street.
Meanwhile, public discourse has become a cacophony of competing interests. We rarely have conversations any more; we just shout our views to each other.
What better time for a program such as One Maryland One Book?
By carefully selecting a book that will resonate with Marylanders, the program can create a much-needed forum for talking about serious issues of race and identity. Everyone–young and old, city and country, black and white–can bring their views to schools and libraries across the state for a civilized conversation. We don’t all need to agree; just having the discussion is important.
I didn’t participate in One Maryland One Book last year, but I’m looking forward to the 2009 program. Having read James McBride’s The Color of Water, and participated in the committee that helped select his Song Yet Sung, I expect a lot of lively conversations.
McBride’s background allows him to see race, identity and related issues through a many-sided prism–an approach that welcomes all to join the discussion and is perfect for our scattershot times.
Dave Rosenthal is an assistant managing editor and Sunday editor–as well as a blogger for Read Street–at the Baltimore Sun.
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