Books

The Wired City

book-cover“Kennedy’s book, ‘The Wired City,’ is a brisk, efficient primer on the (often good) things that are happening in journalism in an age when traditional newspaper circulation and advertising revenues are declining.” — David Shribman, The Boston Globe

My book on community news sites, “The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age,” was published by University of Massachusetts Press in June 2013. The major focus of “The Wired City” is the New Haven Independent, with significant sections as well on The Batavian, CT News Junkie, the Connecticut Mirror, Voice of San Diego and Baristanet.

For more information about “The Wired City,” please visit thewiredcity.org.

Here is a description of “The Wired City” from the UMass Press catalog:

In “The Wired City,” Dan Kennedy tells the story of the New Haven Independent, a nonprofit community website in Connecticut that is at the leading edge of reinventing local journalism. Through close attention to city government, schools and neighborhoods, and through an ongoing conversation with its readers, the Independent’s small staff of journalists has created a promising model of how to provide members of the public with the information they need in a self-governing society.

Although the Independent is the principal subject of “The Wired City,” Kennedy examines a number of other online news projects as well, including nonprofit organizations such as Voice of San Diego and the Connecticut Mirror and for-profit ventures such as The Batavian, Baristanet, and CT News Junkie. Where legacy media such as major city newspapers are cutting back on coverage, entrepreneurs are now moving in to fill at least some of the vacuum.

The Wired City” includes the perspectives of journalists, activists, and civic leaders who are actively re-envisioning how journalism can be meaningful in a hyperconnected age of abundant news sources. Kennedy provides deeper context by analyzing the decline of the newspaper industry in recent years and, in the case of those sites choosing such a path, the uneasy relationship between nonprofit status and the First Amendment.

At a time of pessimism over the future of journalism, “The Wired City” offers hope. What Kennedy documents is not the death of journalism but rather the uncertain and sometimes painful early stages of rebirth.

Little People

“‘Little People’ is extraordinary, a heartfelt yet not maudlin story of the achondroplasia — dwarfism — of Mr. Kennedy’s young daughter.” — Russ Smith, The Wall Street Journal

First published in 2003 by Rodale, “Little People” has been chosen as the 2010 summer-reading book at Middleborough (Mass.) High School. The text of “Little People” is freely available online, and a print-on-demand edition can be purchased as well. For details, please visit Little People the Book.

“Little People” received critical acclaim from the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and the Providence Journal, and was highlighted by National Public Radio, Salon and Child Magazine.

From the original book jacket

A week after her birth in 1992, Dan Kennedy’s  firstborn daughter, Rebecca, was diagnosed with achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism. Reassured by doctors that Becky would have normal intelligence and a normal life span, Dan and his wife, Barbara, quickly adjusted to the reality of her condition. Not so easy was grasping people’s attitudes toward those with physical differences.

In “Little People,” award-winning journalist Kennedy explores dwarfism from ancient times, when dwarfs held an honored position in some cultures, to more modern days, when they were featured in freak shows and treated as human guinea pigs by Nazi scientists. While sharing his own poignant experiences, Kennedy works in wonderful passages about dwarf subculture, including the fever pitch of the dating scene during the annual Little People of America get-together, and the caste system that exists among those with different varieties of the condition. Kennedy profiles individuals whose small stature has helped them to succeed, and others who have allowed themselves to be exploited and abused.

But the most controversial ground covered in the book is the author’s hard look at medical screening procedures, or designer genetics, that already make it possible for parents to eliminate differences ranging from dwarfism to Down syndrome, and could soon target genetic traits such as manic depression and homosexuality. While it is true that there has never been a better time for those who are outside the mainstream, whether one is wheelchair-bound, mentally challenged, or gay, it is also clear that most parents do not wish these differences for their own children.

Kennedy argues that there is a cultural value to preserving differences, and that eliminating them may harm society in unpredictable ways.

Photo copyright © 2004 by Barbara Kennedy. All rights reserved.