What Are We Doing Again?

Issue #12

Here at Threshold HQ we've been talking a lot about what it is we're doing. Or, how to talk about what we're doing.

I feel like I've had a pretty strong vision for this show for quite a while now -- a year or so? -- but putting that vision into clear, concise words is another matter. Now that I've got my hands fully in the dough of the first series, kneading and flipping it daily, I feel like I'm circling closer to the language that feels right. But it's still kind of clunky and awkward, as that mix of bird and bread metaphors indicates. I'm hoping that writing to you about it this week will help me de-clunkify it a bit. It takes a village.

Quick sidebar: the "we" I'm referring to is Zöe Rom, Nick Mott and I. Nick and Zöe are interning with me while pursuing graduate studies in the journalism program here at CU Boulder. They're proving to be incredibly valuable contributors to this whole endeavor, as well as excellent company. Sometimes life puts amazing people in your path. This is one of those times, and I'm grateful for it.

OK, so here's our most recent attempt to describe the show:

On Threshold, we're going to examine ourselves -- humans -- by looking at our relationships with everything else -- plants, animals, places. All that stuff we call "the natural world."

I like this slightly goofy paragraph because it feels true. This is in fact what I want to do on the show. What does our relationship with coal, or black soldier flies*, or bison tell us about ourselves -- as individuals, or communities, or nations? I like the way this description doesn't assume the human/nature divide that's built into our language; how it pokes at that divide by calling attention to it. And I like how it puts the emphasis on relationship, on our interactions with the world. This sets us up to think about ourselves not only as world-changers but also as creatures who are changed by the world. It's relationship, it goes both ways.

But there are obviously some problems with this description. It's convoluted. Lots of dashes, lots of sub-clauses. I read it, and say it, thinking, "there has to be a better way to say this." But I haven't found it yet.

Want to give it a whirl? I'd love to hear your thoughts. (As long as you're not offended if I don't adopt them.)

One thing that gives me some comfort here is this paragraph from the This American Life website:

One of our problems from the start has been that when we try to describe This American Life in a sentence or two, it just sounds awful. For instance: each week we choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. That doesn't sound like something we'd want to listen to on the radio, and it's our show.

I'm not trying to make Threshold difficult to describe just so I can be like my idols, but since it is kind of hard to describe, it's nice to know my idols have had the same problem.

To close: a moment of clarity. Team Threshold has decided on a tagline. I'm really digging it, actually.


Drum roll please...

stories of life on earth


If you'd like to send me your thoughts on how to make that description better, you can just reply to this message. Thank you!

~ Amy

* Yup, I said black soldier flies.