What does U.S. 1’s story about the McGraw-Hill heirs fighting over their mother and grandmother’s care have to do with U.S. 1’s other story about the classical music disc jockey having a show canceled?
Nothing, really, but in reading the online reactions to the stories I was struck by how easy it is to jump to quick conclusions, and how complex even simple stories can be.
The key word here is “reading.” That process doesn’t always happen in the way we commonly understand it either online or in print. As I have said before in this space, the new definition of reading is opening a document in your browser, looking at it briefly on your screen, and hitting “page down” once or twice. Do that for any document and you can honestly answer “yes” when someone asks if you have “read” the latest memo from HR or accounting.
Take it a step further: open the document in the browser, determine that some content might be of value, and then copy and paste the material into cyber-storage. Then, when asked if you read it, you can say “Oh, I read that thoroughly.”
Online most people posting comments fall into one of those two categories of “readers.” But the readers of the small item about Marvin Rosen and his show, “Classical Discoveries Goes Avant-Garde,” proved to be better readers than I would have expected, and the online debate was better for it.
The news that the student-run Princeton University campus radio station had removed Rosen from his two-hour midday time slot was greeted with lamentations from faithful listeners. “How can a DJ who has received so much recognition, including an ASCAP Radio Broadcast Award, get his show canceled? Marvin Rosen not only has a unique radio program, but he is the most widely recognized person in the New Music scene. To cancel his avant-garde program shows lack of respect.”
But wait, another reader argued, “let me get this straight: WPRB shortened the length of his show from seven hours to five? What exactly is the problem here?”
A similar point was made in an E-mail from Adoley Ammah-Tagoe, WPRB’s station manager. “WPRB management wants to assure our listeners that we have not chosen to ‘cancel’ any particular show. WPRB is a free-format station. There are no restrictions on what DJs broadcast. Marvin still has free rein over the content.”
Good point. Why can’t Rosen shoehorn his avant garde music into his remaining five hours?
Another online correspondent offered this argument: “I must assume that you might not know the distinction between the other music played on Wednesdays [from 6 to 11 a.m.] and avant-garde [played from 11 to 1 p.m.] — the most misunderstood and underplayed genre, that is avoided by most radio programmers or hidden in middle of night so stations might claim that ‘we play all kinds of music.’
“So for avant-garde music aficionados, it is big deal, and Stockhausen at 10 a.m. will be a sure way to make most other listeners switch to the sweet classical warhorses played by most NPR radio stations. This would be like playing rap music in a country and western show.” (The reference is to Karlheinz Stockhausen, described in a 2007 obituary as “the great German composer who envisioned music as a force of cosmic revolution.”)
Barbara Fox’s piece on the Curtis Webster/Lisa McGraw matter was not a small item. In fact it was the cover story in the January 30 issue. Some of the people posting online comments might have benefited from a closer reading of the original article. “It is very apparent to me that her son has wasted her money the entire time she was under his ‘care.’ He is obviously selfish and greedy, and she wants nothing to do with him, most likely because he did something to hurt her or terrify her. Leave her alone! She is done with you!”
But another reader noted Lisa Webster’s “statements” against her son Curtis were all made while she was under the roof of (and possibly under the influence of) relatives who had many reasons to benefit from a rift between her and her son. “The mean-spirited commenters here clearly have no knowledge of the situation or of the kind of person Curtis is, or of his mother’s pliable personality. Or worse, they have been planted by his haters. Why else would Lisa’s friends be urged not to weigh-in?”
I thought back to the divisions in my own family, when my father was in declining health and his five children had sometimes opposing views of what should be done.
To my thinking even if the extended family of Lisa Webster have the most noble reasons for reuniting with the elderly heiress, they nevertheless are guilty of some bad judgment: Cutting the woman off from certain family members and old friends; replacing longstanding financial advisers; changing the power of attorney; rewriting the terms of various foundations and financial agreements all look bad. If for no other reason than it looks bad, it might be best not to do it.
If you know someone on the edge of old age who wants a smooth transition to the next generation, you might gather them all around and have them read some of the Webster story, or the sidebar on the Hamilton family of modest means going through a similar ordeal. Have them read it. Read it thoroughly. Better yet, have them read it aloud.