How Radio Taught Me to Write Short in Print

ImageHere’s how I write a 2,500-word article: I write it to 4,000 words, then cut it back.

Know how I write a 1,500-word article? The same way.

I keep ending up at 4,000, so the shorter the assignment, the more kittens I have to drown. So I was thrilled to see Roy Peter Clark—whose “Fifty Writing Tools” greased my transition from academic researcher to journalistic storyteller 10 years ago—has published a book called How to Write Short. (more…)

May 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

Resources for “The Lines Between Us”

2If you attended my April 23 talk about “The Lines Between Us” at American University, or if you just want to learn more about the series, here are some resources… (more…)

April 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

Whose Heart is Baltimore Breaking, Really?

There’s a piece about crime in Baltimore over on Medium that’s gone viral.

It’s understandable why this article has emerged right now. In Federal Hill, robbers recently held up and pistol-whipped employees at a popular tavern. A Baltimore Sun editor was held up on a Canton street by a brick-wielding mugger who fractured the man’s skull and knocked out his teeth. In a home facing Patterson Park, burglars beat and stabbed a woman to death in her home. (She had chased one of the burglars out of her house in the early morning just last summer.)

The author of the Medium piece, Tracey Halvorsen, lives half a block from Patterson Park. She is scared. (more…)

February 7, 2014 at 2:49 pm 189 comments

Leave Black Friday Alone

Credit: flickr/tshein

Credit: flickr/tshein

It’s Thanksgiving, and the Internet is aflame with virtue. I’m not talking about the obligatory litanies of gratitude, written by people who are going to cut me off on the highway later today as I’m driving to my parents’ house.

I’m talking about the people showing off their astounding capacity to not “consume” for one day and the even more sanctimonious people telling me to keep it (“it” being my wallet) in my pants tomorrow. (more…)

November 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

Lou Reed

I want to tell you about Lou Reed by telling you what it’s like to step into one of his songs. (more…)

November 1, 2013 at 9:53 am 1 comment

The Lines Between Us

TLBU_HomeAfter 50 episodes, several public events, dozens of data maps, lots of listener feedback, videos, illustrations, and more, “The Lines Between Us” has come to an end. (more…)

October 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

How Baltimore Got to Be the Way It Is

ImageIt’s alive! After over a year of planning and fundraising, WYPR has finally launched a year-long weekly examination of inequality in the Baltimore region. 

Take a look at The Lines Between Us.

January 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Misuse of Technology

Misuse of Technology

I’ve been thinking a lot about how more creativity comes from misusing a technology than from using it as intended. It’s what’s behind my ongoing suite of guitar improvisations (

This picture is of the 20-year-old delay pedal that I use in the improvisations. Every time I improvise, I try and find a new way to misuse it.

January 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

Train Station

Hard to believe this song is 13 years old now. I wrote it when I was living in Washington, D.C., and listening to a lot of Ray Davis’s Bluegrass Country on WAMU. (This is before the 2000 election debacle happened and WAMU decided to take Bluegrass Country off the air and replace it with a couple extra hours of All Things Considered. WTF WAMU.) (more…)

February 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

When Is An Artist More Than An Artist?

Art is art when it transforms us on the inside. But some artists can also transform how we see what’s on the outside.

The Art of Social Critique: Painting Mirrors of Social Life, a new collection of writing edited by my friend and colleague Shawn Bingham, looks at how artists shape the way we know society, and the way society often tries to put artists “back in their place” when their critiques begin to resonate.

My chapter looks at The Wire. (more…)

January 19, 2012 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts

- A much prettier website with my journalistic highlights is at
- Disappearing Ink released its first album, "There Is No Time and Nothing's Been," in December 2014. It's available on iTunes.
- After almost five years at WYPR, I'm back to freelancing. Editors can reach me at
- The Art of Social Critique: Painting Mirrors of Social Life includes my chapter "New Possibilities and Old Limitations of Political Art in The Wire."
- You can still buy my 2004 self-titled EP.