Free the Media

March 7, 2009

The Media Whores

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie York @ 3:05 pm

corporatenews2

By Jamie York

We’ve all seen the pundits on local and national news programs, captivating us with their million-dollar smiles and their award-winning personalities. They are mostly white and mostly male and can be found on any television network, including the cable news channels. One thing they all have in common is that their news stories and commentaries could well have been written by the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, a public relations firm, or a Hollywood entertainment writer.

They are the media whores.

Just as MSNBC seems slightly more palatable than the “fair and balanced” Fox News, some of the media whores seem more professional and believable than others, but all are bad for journalism. They do not ask the tough, probing questions that try to get at some semblance of truth and hold a politician’s feet to the fire, no matter which party they represent; rather, their questions are shallow and mushy, completely lacking in political knowledge and context. Many times, their pale cheeks red, white and blue with patriotic pride, the media whores gush out in agreement with their sources. The effect of this is nauseating to the audience and the legitimacy of news suffers in the end.

Where are the stories that matter? Where are the stories that show us the devestating effects of globalization, malnutrition, hunger and disease? Where are the stories that show us the effects of homelessness, layoffs, factory closings, unemployment, poverty and high health care costs? Where are the stories that show us what other cultures are thinking and doing? Where are the stories that show us the reality of war, which includes tremendous human suffering, loss of limbs, blindness, decapitation and death? Where are the stories that show the world as it is and do not sugar-coat it or accept imposed government censorship?

Instead, we get Britney Spears. We get Michael Jackson. We get octo-mom Nadya Suleman amidst a U.S. financial meltdown. We get the feel-good chitter-chatter of Katie Couric. We get the lies of Bill O’Reilly and comedian Rush Limbaugh. We get a half-hour of network news each evening, with serious, professional, believable anchors. We get “video news releases,” propaganda pieces produced to look like news stories, yet designed to promote specific government policies and agendas. These segments are often aired on news programs without comment and without mentioning that they were produced by the White House or other government agencies.

We get Robert Novak, the columnist who on July 14, 2003, illegally revealed the identity of an active CIA operative, yet is still writing columns. We get Jeff Gannon — aka, pornographer James Guckert — a fake news reporter who obtained White House press credentials under a false name, sat in on dozens of White House press briefings, and asked softball questions that made the Republican administration look good.

We get “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” news coverage from our local “newscenter.” We get up-to-the-minute weather reports from our local “stormcenter”. We get all the latest sports scores. We get game shows, survivor shows, crime shows, sit-coms and soaps out the wazoo. We get commercial after commercial after commercial and now, even, the half-hour infomercial. We even get commercials that imitate news, complete with desk and anchorperson. So why didn’t we know how angry Osama bin Laden was about our military bases in Saudi Arabia? Why didn’t we know what President Bush knew long before Sept. 11 — that terrorists were planning to use commercial planes as bombs? Why was this information kept secret?  Perhaps so the airlines would not suffer financially because of people too scared to fly?

After Sept. 11 — as the Bush White House made its cartoonish war plans to “smoke evil-doers out of their holes” in Afghanistan — the media whores aided this war policy without reporting or acknowledging any alternative courses of action or without investigating the historical root causes of the World Trade Center attack. The media whores have become propagandists for U.S. war policy and largely do not tolerate dissenting opinions. They have become whores for a government that supports “good” terrorism (when the U.S. does it) and condemns “bad” terrorism (when other nations do it).

Before the “preemptive” war on Iraq, the media whores swallowed each government lie about Iraq being an imminent threat to the U.S., possessing weapons of mass destruction, and supporting Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. No serious debate. No discussion about the 1983 handshake and meeting between Reagan’s special envoy Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, which took place after Hussein had used chemical weapons. No raised eyebrows. No probing questions. Only the smiles and personalities of these government lapdogs. Only flashy propaganda graphics and entertainment.

But why call them media “whores”? Isn’t there a nicer term, a less offensive term? Well, sure, there are indeed nicer, less offensive terms that are used all the time in media criticism, but when television news anchors, commentators and correspondents sell the soul of ethical journalism for a salary, and thus deprive millions of citizens of the opportunity to see and hear independent news reporting, then “whore” is the most appropriate term under the circumstances. When media pundits suppress the facts about the causes and consequences of war, then “whore” is the most appropriate term. When paid media pundits would rather drool over the technology of the latest attack helicopter or “smart bomb” than to discuss civilian war casualties and GI deaths, then “whore” is an appropriate term for them.

It is not media objectivity — as some claim — that we need to be concerned about; it’s background and context.  Today’s mass media cover only the present and they do not travel back in time and show old film to establish background and context for the viewer.  For example, when George W. Bush says something outlandish that contradicts what he has previously said, the media do not pull up the old film to expose his new words as a contradiction or an outright lie.  They just show the new film and get pundit reactions to it.  In the world of the media whores, the past does not exist.  Thankfully, the Daily Show with John Stewart takes the time to dig up the old film and show the audience what it is missing from mainstream news.

Why should citizens have to wait for the Daily Show or an occasional call-in program on C-SPAN or wait for a documentary on WORLD LINK TV in order to become better informed? If our free press were really free, then the news providers would be practicing independent reporting. The airwaves belong to the public. Isn’t it time the public ensures that the airwaves are used for the public good by denying license renewals to broadcasters who act as pimps for the messages of the Military/Industrial complex?

We need a diverse, independent media — and we need it NOW.

June 27, 2009

Saving Ohio Libraries: the fight continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie York @ 5:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

By Jamie York (@mediagonebad)

On July 13, 2009, the Ohio General Assembly’s budget conference committee agreed on cutting $84.3 million from the Ohio Public Library Fund. While this amount is far less than the $227.3 million Gov. Strickland had wanted, this still should be seen as a setback — not a victory — for a free press in Ohio.

In other words, we should be thankful, but not happy. The budget shortfall will still result in layoffs, branch closures, and cutbacks in services at most public libraries throughout the state.  As I have said time and again, libraries are collections of media. While newspapers, magazines, book publishers, and so forth, are owned by corporate conglomerates with agendas of their own, the only agenda of a public library is knowledge.  As libraries are forced to cut back services — perhaps even internet access — we are all less free to find that knowledge and learn from it.  What good is knowledge if there is no way to find it?  What good are shelves full of books, radio tapings, music recordings, and the latest issue of the New York Times if the library is closed?

Thanks to the many thousands of people mobilized in response to Gov. Strickland’s proposed cuts, however, the legislators agreed upon the smaller amount. The impact of untold numbers of telephone calls and letters to our legislators cannot be overstated, nor can the impact of Twitter updates and Facebook postings.  And certainly, librarians and supporters across the state who marched in the streets to bring attention to the issue deserve the lion’s share of credit.  Yes, we can be thankful for the overwhelming support, but we should not celebrate the outcome or stop the fight.  We must continue to fight for Ohio libraries and libraries throughout the nation that are facing similar or worse cutbacks.  I will continue to fight for full library funding to be paid for by increased corporate taxes.

“The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.” — Carl Sagan

____________________________________

Below are my responses to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s budget cuts.  Free public libraries are perhaps the last bastion of real democracy in the United States and the governor’s budget cuts will be a devastating blow to these centerpieces of the community. This will result in layoffs, closures, cuts in services like internet access, reductions in hours, and so on. Most affected by these cuts will be the poor and under-served. Doesn’t it make more sense to raise taxes for the rich and super-rich who have had the benefit of tax loopholes for far too long. I pay my fair share of my earnings and corporations should too. Sorry about the bubbles in the video; my Puffer fish gets depressed without them! Below, as as way to provide a written record, you will find my homemade video to Gov. Strickland and a complete list of my Twitter updates under #saveohiolibraries.

See Save Ohio Libraries official website: http://saveohiolibraries.com/


LIBRARY TWEETS (From @mediagonebad)

Reading: Brave New World. Ohio Gov. Strickland wants to cut library funding by 50 percent. Librarians are marching too! #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland Maybe you better raise taxes on corporations, which benefit from too many loopholes. #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland Don’t cut services to the poor, unemployed & under-served who depend upon free library computers. #saveohiolibraries

Constituents of @Ted_Strickland will not tolerate more job losses, cuts in education & social services. Raise corp taxes. #saveohiolibraries

This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum. – Elbert Hubbard #saveohiolibraries

The walls of books around him formed a kind of insulation against the present world and its disasters – Ross MacDonald #saveohiolibraries

Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library. – Barbara Tuchman #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland Cutting library funding is akin to censorship because you deny access to poor & underserved VOTERS. #saveohiolibraries

Yes @Ted_Strickland Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn’t rip off. – Barbara Kingsolver #saveohiolibraries

@Ted_Strickland There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library – Andrew Carnegie #saveohiolibraries

@Ted_Strickland A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library – Shelby Foote #saveohiolibraries

Librarian is a service occupation. Gas station attendant of the mind – Richard Powers #saveohiolibraries

I have a real soft spot in my heart for librarians and people who care about books. Ann Richards, former Gov. of Texas #saveohiolibraries

It’s an essential fight librarians are making. It’s a fight for our country’s founding values – Jim Hightower #saveohiolibraries

My alma mater was books, a good library – Malcolm X #saveohiolibraries

@Ted_Strickland The free access to information is not a privilege, but a necessity for any free society – Ed Asner #saveohiolibraries

Getting my library card was like citizenship; it was like American citizenship – Oprah Winfrey #saveohiolibraries

The public library is a great equalizer – Musician Keith Richards #saveohiolibraries

When I was young, we couldn’t afford much. But, my library card was my key to the world – Actor John Goodman #saveohiolibraries

The library (in the migrant community) I grew up in was my only link to the outside world – Playwright Luis Valdez #saveohiolibraries

As a teenager, I got a book on how to write jokes at the library and that, in turn, launched my comedy career -Drew Carey #saveohiolibraries

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation – Walter Cronkite #saveohiolibraries

Saturday morning in Ohio Gov. Strickland’s world. Feel like going to the library today? Better hurry; it may be closing. #saveohiolibraries

Blog: The Library is now closed. http://bit.ly/KFD9r

To @Ted_Strickland A library is democracy’s centerpiece. Voters know this – and you should too. #saveohiolibraries

To @Ted_Strickland A library, as John Goodman says, is a “key to the world.” Yes, voters know. http://bit.ly/uCjYI #saveohiolibraries

Tweeple, time is running out to #saveohiolibraries http://bit.ly/kjTrC If you believe that libraries are majestic places, then act now.

Yellow Springs News http://bit.ly/dqqNC Howl at the waxing crescent moon later, reporters and editors, and help #saveohiolibraries

I would not have a master’s degree if it were not for the summer reading program at the Chillicothe Public Library. #saveohiolibraries

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world… – Sidney Sheldon #saveohiolibraries

To @Ted_Strickland A library is an information provider, a collection of media, a vital part of a FREE PRESS. #saveohiolibraries

To @Ted_Strickland A library is a place to gather knowledge and information – the foundation of citizenship. #saveohiolibraries

Much of our “free press” is owned by huge corporations w/their own agendas. The only agenda of a library is knowledge. #saveohiolibraries

A library is a collection of media where one may freely seek knowledge (albeit under the purview of the Patriot Act) #saveohiolibraries

If you do not have equal access to information, then do you really have a free press? A 1st Amendment? #saveohiolibraries

@Ted_Strickland Without equal access to information, do we really have a free press? Libraries ARE access. #saveohiolibraries

Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness= #singlepayer Freedom of speech/press= #saveohiolibraries Seems our elected officials letting us down

To @Ted_Strickland Remember the people, the kids, waitresses, clerks, drivers & laborers who rely on library services #saveohiolibraries

It’s true that poor get poorer & rich get richer. Ohio governor’s budget proposal is proof. Change we need is #saveohiolibraries

Good writers must first become good readers. Find a good book at your public library. But hurry, it may close. #saveohiolibraries

Governor #FAIL Ohio gov @Ted_Strickland wants to cut library funding 50%, forcing cutbacks, closures. Please #saveohiolibraries

Ray Pryor, Ohio 85th, says “I assure you that we are doing all we can” to #saveohiolibraries (That means keep the pressure on)

petition @Ted_Strickland to Raise revenues in a fair & progressive manner. http://act.ly/3k RT to sign #Ohio #Budget #saveohiolibraries

I live in rural southern Ohio and contacted @Ted_Strickland to #saveohiolibraries You can too! http://bit.ly/OqmFI

If the State of Ohio does not #saveohiolibraries with full funding, it is saying it does not care much about a free press.

Good Morning @Ted_Strickland Wakie, wakie! It’s time to #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland a free press does not exist if information is unavailable. Keep Ohio libraries fully funded! #saveohiolibraries

Chillicothe Gazette: Chillicothe, Ross library brings in the most mail to #saveohiolibraries http://bit.ly/4Wh3h

It’s 4th and goal if you want to #saveohiolibraries Score a TD by calling your state reps. Or send a video to http://bit.ly/cl3sa

Hey @10TV Check out the video activism to #saveohiolibraries at http://bit.ly/IdPhI Libraries are ESSENTIAL to free speech.

Yes @Ted_Strickland most folks know they have to pay taxes for services but rich can’t get handouts while we beg to #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland Citizens ARE the government. We decide; you implement. Full funding to #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland I believe in a free press. You should too. #saveohiolibraries

“The library connects us with the insight and knowledge of the greatest minds that ever were.” – Carl Sagan #saveohiolibraries

Our awareness of our culture & our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries -Sagan #saveohiolibraries

The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is the delivery room for the birth of ideas – Norman Cousins #saveohiolibraries

“A library contains the diary of the human race.” – George M. Dawson #saveohiolibraries

“The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.” – Kurt Vonnegut #saveohiolibraries

I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library – The Great Gatsby #saveohiolibraries

Good moooorrrrrrrning @Ted_Strickland Today is a great day to #saveohiolibraries and support a free press. It’s the right thing to do.

Ever wonder why we don’t have money to #saveohiolibraries?The est. cost of 2 wars since 2001 is 875 billion and rising. http://costofwar.com

Happy July 4th @Ted_Strickland The #saveohiolibraries facebook group has 50,000 supporters. Do you want to join?

Libraries-are-collections-of-media. Gov. Strickland’s proposed cuts would force closures, thereby limiting FREE SPEECH #saveohiolibraries

She ate the last piece of #moonfruit, grabbed her coffee and called her state rep. “I’m calling to #saveohiolibraries,” she said.

Hey @Ted_Strickland it’s Monday and time to #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland the #saveohiolibraries Facebook group is now up to 52,000. Stand up for a free press!

Yes @Ted_Strickland a free press! Libraries are not just shelves, but collections of media — the words, pictures and sounds of humankind!

“They want us to give up another chunk of our tribal land” – Sitting Bull. We’re still in the same fight. Amazing! #saveohiolibraries

I @Ted_Strickland dream of throngs of librarians on my lawn, never-ending calls, emails, letters and tweets. I should #saveohiolibraries

Hey @Ted_Strickland Did you ever read Fahrenheit 451 where firemen start fires to burn books? $$ cuts can do the same #saveohiolibraries

Searching your library for #moonfruit? Better hurry before the bright sparks in OH govt. cut the funding #saveohiolibraries

“Whether the knife falls on the melon or the melon on the knife, the melon suffers” Having surg. on 7/8. Keep fighting to #saveohiolibraries

How much do we spend on all libraries as compared to what we spend on war? A pittance, my friends, a pittance. #saveohiolibraries

The current definitive answer to almost any question can be found within the four walls of most libraries – Arthur Ashe #saveohiolibraries

Those who would cut Ohio’s library funding 50% are the south end of a northbound horse. ✂ the ☁! and #saveohiolibraries

In Fahrenheit 451 @Ted_Strickland firemen go on calls to burn books. Funding cuts have the same effect. #saveohiolibraries

To @Ted_Strickland There is simmering anger from voters & we need a Robin Hood to #saveohiolibraries Your conservative agenda won’t work

A librarian is a community hero @Ted_Strickland This action figure shushes those who won’t #saveohiolibraries. http://www.mcphee.com/laf/

Happy Friday! @Ted_Strickland The #saveohiolibraries FB group has nearly 55,000 members! Lots of voters care!

RT @DispatchAlerts: Governor, legislators agree on budget terms http://tinyurl.com/l3cgp4 /RT #saveohiolibraries

Dear @Ted_Strickland We did it! The #saveohiolibraries FB group hit 55,000 today, a nice-sized city! http://bit.ly/cjk1a


June 20, 2009

Twitter, #iranelection and the pitfalls of Groupthink

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie York @ 8:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

By Jamie York (@mediagonebad)

While I wholeheartedly support genuine movements for freedom and democracy anywhere in the world, I find it interesting that so many Americans have jumped on the #iranelection bandwagon without taking the time to learn about Iran, its culture, its mullahs (supreme leaders), its wars, and its history with the United States.

Groupthink is a decision-making process that occurs when an idea is put forth and becomes publicly accepted without proof. Groupthink is like an intellectual snowball effect carried from person to person with little, if any, firsthand knowledge or scientific scrutiny.  The effect of Groupthink is that it makes the quest for historical truth that much harder when people already accept a given idea as the truth. Ordinarily, one would gather information from first-hand sources, then form an opinion and subject it to examination and reexamination. Groupthink forgoes this process and leads directly to an opinion.

Fact: There has been no vote recount in Iran and the winner of the election is still in dispute. This is really all we can be certain about right now, so I cannot make a valid determination about what is happening in Iran in regard to the election results; rather, this is a quick-and-dirty examination of the process through which unconfirmed information received worldwide attention and force-fed public opinion.

There is some suspicion — although this idea does not get through in the massive tweets — that the George W. Bush’s CIA had a hand in supporting Mousavi, who now claims election fraud and victory over Ahmadinejad, even though no proof has been offered that either candidate won the election.  The Supreme leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, the mullah who has the real power in Iran, quickly declared Ahmadinejad the winner, then Mousavi supporters claimed the election was rigged and demanded a new election.  State forces, controlled by Khamenei, then attacked a group of Mousavi supporters and #iranelection became the top trending topic on Twitter.

Twitter, a real-time microblogging site where users publish 140-character tweets that can be read anywhere in the world where someone has an internet connection, including on cell phones, can spread information rapidly.  Users can attach links and photos and state a brief opinion. The hashtag #iranelection takes the Twitter users to a page where all of the tweets using that hashtag can be found.  I left the page untouched and unrefreshed for just a few minutes and had a backlog of more that 1,000 tweets.  It would be impossible for one person to keep up with this amount of information, but it gives you an idea how rapidly information — true or not — can be disseminated via Twitter, as well as Facebook and YouTube.

Youtube videos from Iran are often uploaded from cell phone cameras.  The videos show various scenes, usually with some kind of action or violence. Sometimes there is Farsi being spoken in the background, but many have no commentary, so the viewer is left to decide what the scene depicts without actually having been there to witness it. Comments are then made about about the video and some people post links to the video on Twitter and Facebook.  Once there, the videos receive additional commentary, then are reposted and retweeted countless times. Some are even broadcast via CNN, although, to CNN’s credit, they do say that the information is unconfirmed.  Citizen journalism is a powerful tool, but the content must still be judged critically and confirmed.

According to Time Magazine (June 29, 2009), “it is impossible for an outsider, in Iran for 10 days, to sift through the governmental opacity, the contradictory demonstrations, and predict what comes next.”  Yet, by reading a few Tweets and turning our icons green, we jump on the Groupthink bandwagon in cheering for Mousavi and “freedom.”  But, when pressed, no one seems to know of any reforms Mousavi has advocated.  No one seems to know what kind of president he would be or how he would treat his opposition. While Mousavi was Prime Minister, thousands of political prisoners were executed and hundreds of striking workers were jailed or beaten.  Has he changed?  Will he continue to assert Iran’s right to build a nuclear power reactor in spite of warnings from the United States and Israel?  Will he assume more state power now in the hands of the religious mullahs?  No one has these answers, but one thing is certain in the wake of the violence: the mullahs will go to great lengths to preserve their power.

April 18, 2009

Why newspapers are relevant

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie York @ 11:29 pm
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By Jamie York

It seems that every new day brings another newspaper failure.   So many people are getting their news from television and online sources that newspapers cannot compete. So they reduce the size of the paper, create online content, lay off and furlough employees — anything to start operating in the black.

In the mid-1970s I was a student at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colo. Every day at the bus stop I would pick up a copy of the Rocky Mountain News (RMN).  Its tabloid format was perfect for spreading out on a table in the student lounge; I even had room on the table for my coffee cup and a snack.  The Denver Post, however, was a full-size paper that you had to open up and hold to read, which was more convenient for reading in a doctor’s office or sitting on the toilet.

I would often read the RMN from back to front, paying particular attention to stories buried on the inside. I found that the RMN had the Denver Post beat for the sheer diversity of the news.  I found more national and international news in the RMN than I did in the Post and the features were always well-written and well-edited.  I was particularly sad when the RMN went under in 2009 and I felt as though a piece of myself went under as well.

What is that attachment to newspapers?  Why are readers sad when a paper goes belly up?  After all, we pay for the paper, either through subscription or newsstand purchase. Advertising revenue is what keeps papers afloat and subscription and newsstand prices greatly undercut the true cost of the paper.  I don’t know the figures, but my 50 cents would likely be $10 a day or more without advertising revenue figured in. How many readers would be willing to spend so much on a newspaper that will just be recycled at the end of the day? Probably none.

What news stories have the editors given us today? Part of the attachment to newspapers is the randomness, the surprise that awaits us as we turn each page.  On the front page of the paper, there may be a quick index to the sections, but nothing to tell me what story I might find on page 32.  There is nothing to click on and be transported instantly to that particular story. Every turn of the page is a surprise.  I did not even know I would find a story about a new labor strike until I turned the page and found that the story impacted my life in some way.  “Oh, I know people in that union,” I may have thought.  So I read the story.  I then contacted a friend and found out more information.  An editor of a different paper may have decided not to run this story.  The best papers print a diversity of stories simply because they are news. The editors believe in the public’s right to know and do not omit stories just because management or a prominent advertiser may disagree with it politically.

What will happen to news without newspapers, I wonder?  Will the newspaper wire services, which still provide stories to all news outlets, still exist?  If not, where will the news come from?  Who will write it?  Will they strive for impartiality or will they let the politics of their employer dictate what they write?

My Rocky Mountain News is gone and I am sad.  I am sad not only because of the personal loss I feel, but also because of the loss that we should all feel — the loss of news diversity.  Somehow the void will be filled, but it will not be the same.  As you read the packaged news on your Kindle, picking from a list which story you want to read, take a few moments to think about what you have given up for the sake of convenience.   Your Kindle gives you content — and room for your coffee cup — but fifty cents or a dollar for a newspaper would have given you a surprise on every page. You would have learned something that you did not even realize you wanted to know about. And you can’t put a price on knowledge.

March 29, 2009

Twittering Media

*** TOPICAL TWEETS ***

by Jamie York (@mediagonebad)

Cable News

When I see military aficionado Wolf Blitzer on CNN, I turn to MSNBC.

When I see military aficionado Chris Matthews on MSNBC, I turn to Democracy Now!

O’Reilly and Limbaugh are toads. Ignore them. Let them be toads, hopping & eating bugs. Don’t pick them up and let them pee on your hand.

Dear Fox News: You think big national media ask the right questions? Really? They sure didn’t in lead-up to Iraq occupation.

Dear Fox News: Why do you hate anything that resembles democracy? Repeat after me: “Media diversity is a good thing.”

Dear Fox News: Big corporate media have failed us time and again. It is refreshing to see smaller, less self-serving media asking questions.

C’mon President Obama, stand up to the cronyism, to the good ‘ol boys (including Coultergeist) on Fox News. This is the change we need.

Ethics

Biggest problem is separating news from advertising and entertainment, for example ads with fake news anchors.

Note to Journalists: Be independent; be skeptical of what politicians, generals and analysts say; provide background, history and context.

Media ethics: be grounded, not star-struck or enthralled by savvy opinion-brokers; be independent and let the chips fall where they may.

Nothing wrong with having a point of view. We all have them. Personal bias finds its way into news.

Media & Public Relations

Public relations and news are so entwined that anyone who has the bucks can hire a PR firm and use the media to create a desired reality.

Remember the branding/selling of the Iraq war? Mushroom cloud. Chemical and biological weapons. Grave danger.

Remember the lead-up to Iraq war? PR “sold” the war through repetition by journalists.

Nothing wrong with citizen journalists, but fact-checking is a concern for all journalists.

Corporations enjoy a lofty position in the media. Citizens don’t. Citizen voices get drowned out by big-spending advertisers and agencies.

The airwaves belong to the public. Deny license renewals to broadcasters who act as shills for the military/industrial/media complex.

For open government 2.0, why not stream everything? Every panel, every House & Senate committee, every hearing. Get it all out there!

Branding

Financial crisis-speak. Nothing else like it. Where has the money gone? To the “war on terror,” to the corporate contractors in Iraq.

Toxic assets. We hear this term a lot lately. Is it something we are all supposed to know about? I must have missed this in economics class.

Branding the economic crisis: Blame it on AIG, on bonuses, on Obama. Just don’t blame it on the greedy Wall Street capitalists/gamblers.

Can PR change public opinion regarding A.I.G. ? PR campaign would try to shift blame for the payouts from execs to govt. officials.

Social Media

Analyzing both old and new media, trying to make TV – the most powerful educational force ever – more responsive to citizens.

Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a magazine or on Twitter.

10TV in Columbus, Ohio, is great example for SM communication between staff and the public.

Independent Journalism

The Free Radio Act, HR1147, would permit more licensing of low-power FM radio stations. LPFM will promote democracy & stimulate economy.

We have to get our news from a variety of sources. In the end, much political news writing IS opinion.

We need many voices in the chorus of democracy!

Democracy is a chorus of independent voices and an informed electorate.

National News Council

Do we need a national news council to point out where media fails and succeeds, where ethical standards are followed or ignored?

I think we start with a respected group like AEJMC and build from there, adding old & new media & ad reps. Incentive=recognition

Perhaps the organizing group – AEJMC or SPJ – could take apps from ppl interested in serving a year. Huge undertaking, yes.

March 7, 2009

What is low-power radio? — Why you should care.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie York @ 3:02 pm

By Jamie York

Sadly, we have become a nation where all the news, information and music we get is controlled by a handful of giant monopoly media corporations.  The owners want to give us advertising, crime shows, sports, sitcoms and game shows on television, not substantive news.  Not U.S. news that shows the reality of how our homeless, our unemployed, our low-paid laborers, our service workers, and our migrant farm workers are really living. Not in-depth international news that helps us understand how the citizens of other cultures and nations are really living.  No, the first we hear of conflicts is when there has been an infrequent  terrorist attack or someone, somewhere infringes upon U.S. business interests.

From corporate FM and AM radio, we often get formatted cookie-cutter music and news headlines, but nothing more unless it is conservative-dominated talk-radio shows or sports.  Very little news from our local communities and neighborhoods is on the radio anymore.  There might be a local weather forecast, a national and local news story update, sports scores, and maybe a headline about an accident or death.

And satellite radio equally sucks, but it doesn’t have to.  It sucks right now because it is totally market-driven for private profit, not community-driven and not need-driven.  Satellite radio has the same compartmentalized format music designed to capture the interest of specific audiences and does not venture beyond this.  There is no local content and our neighborhoods and communities are not part of satellite radio, so the news is nothing more than the usual suspects — Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and a host of talk-radio entertainers.  I am all for new technologies and open internet, but these technologies  must address the needs of all citizens and diverse socio-economic groups in a very real way.  Remember, more than half of U.S. citizens do not even vote and the reason for this is that they are systematically disenfranchised by the media.

We all get plenty of sensationalized news —  like OJ, Princess Di, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, and octo-mom Nadya Suleman — that actually dominate all other national and international news for weeks and months.  We all receive a constant barrage of content repetition and sameness from the media, which makes it very easy to manipulate public opinion.  For example, when the the media leave out anti-war views and marginalize protesters as unpatriotic “wackos,” “fringe groups” and “anarchists,” it is easy for the media to to fall in line with the views of military contractors, oil companies and government officials without fairly representing other views.  It is easy for them to launch a PR campaign to discredit the Dixie Chicks for speaking out; it is easy for Clear Channel to get a few country music fans all riled up over an issue of free expression and have the TV cameras there to show the record-burning.  Many people, including the so-called “NASCAR dads” that they think they have so much control over, were against Bush’s Iraq war at the beginning, but when you are told over and over that you are supposed to think a certain way, then that is the way you will begin thinking. But the airwaves belong to the public and we have every right to take them back and use them in ways that improve our lives.  Beware though, because they want to begin carving up and controlling the internet, which is probably all we have left of the dream of democracy.

Low-power FM stations, which are regulated by the FCC, can help democratize radio and return us to the days of radio diversity.  With low-power FM, community groups, churches and others would be able to provide content to listeners in a limited area — from about one to five miles. There would be more local stations to choose from for local news, community information, local music, event coverage, call-ins, and so on — content that the corporate cookie-cutters do not provide.

One bill now before Congress is the Free Radio Act, HR1147, which would permit more licensing of low-power FM radio stations.  It would bring thousands of new stations into communities all over the country, thereby helping to stimulate the economy. Sign a letter to your congressperson at Free Press.

Restoring “public interest” mandate to local news

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jamie York @ 1:34 pm

By Jamie York

Local television news stations are doing a disservice to the democratic process in the United States by failing to act in the “public interest,” which governs their license to use the people’s airwaves.

By leading off nearly every newscast with an act of violence or a murder, they give viewers the false impression that violence and murder are commonplace in our cities and towns. The media adage, “if it bleeds, it leads,” has become the accepted practice of local television stations all over the country, but even if stories of violence and murder do attract more viewers and increase advertising revenue, this is a bad way to cover local news and it compromises the democratic process.

Nationwide, 750 local news stations have at least 80 million viewers in 211 metropolitan markets, so if these news stations are not acting in the public interest, then 80 million people are being disenfranchised from the democratic process as citizens and voters.

According to “mayhem index” studies — the percentage of local news devoted to crime, disasters, war and terrorism — conducted from 1994 to 1997 by Rocky Mountain Media Watch, about 50 percent of the on-air time on local news programs consist of violent topics. The most notable side effects of this nightly exposure to violence can include viewer alienation, viewer ignorance and viewer cynicism, as well as copy-cat crimes and racial stereotyping.

As stories of crime and violence are reported, night after night, all sense of proportion becomes lost. For the viewer, the cumulative effect of this repetition is that it seems like violent crime is occurring on every street corner when studies show that violent crime has been decreasing over the past 25 years. Disproportionate media coverage then fuels the legislative process by influencing public opinion, the police, the courts, and lawmakers, who then hire more police, enact tougher laws and longer minimum sentences — and even allow the use of the death penalty — all under the guise of “crime prevention.”

The media could act more responsibly by focusing on the historical socioeconomic causes of crime — poverty, illiteracy, mental illness, alcoholism and drug abuse. More police, tougher laws, more prisons — even the threat of death — will not prevent crime because society never gets a chance to even learn about, let alone address, the socioeconomic causes of crime. So, instead of improving the quality of education for children, we invest in more prisons. Instead of treating drug abuse as a medical problem, we jail drug users. Instead of building hospitals to treat and rehabilitate the mentally ill, we send them to prison where they rarely get proper supervision and treatment for their illnesses.

Domestic violence, robberies, rapes, assaults and murders occur every day, but making these crimes the primary focus of local news is a blatant attempt to sensationalize — and thus “sell” — the news. This type of reporting wrongly teaches viewers that the police and courts, rather than the larger community, should have a freer hand in combatting crime and that the ills of society are caused by individual acts, not by the degradation of the socioeconomic system that produces these individuals. Of course, discussing the ills of our socioeconomic system is a forbidden subject throughout the mass media, as any realistic discussion of this topic would have to mention the societal dangers of concentrated media ownership.

Television is a powerful medium and repetition is a powerful tool. By leading off each newscast with a blood story, the viewer, over a period of time, begins to accept the premise that crime is the number one political issue, so he or she votes accordingly. On the other hand, omission is also a powerful tool. If the viewer does not learn from the media that the historical causes of crime can be traced to socioeconomic roots, this will never become a factor in his or her thinking. Nor will the concepts of community policing and community-based sentencing.

According to the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC may grant the use of a particular frequency to a broadcaster for a limited, renewable term providing that the broadcaster serve “the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” It is understood that broadcasting is a privilege tied to an assurance that the public interest will be served in order to enhance the democratic process by providing a full spectrum of viewpoints, to broaden political discourse during elections by providing free airtime for all ballot-qualified candidates, and to generally serve the information needs of the larger community. The public interest is supposed to be served as if the local community owned the station and had simply picked the best person to manage it.

Over the years, many people have wanted to narrowly define the public interest standard as protection against a possible information monopoly, which, they argued, would be one negative result of concentrated media ownership. Others, however, have wanted to broaden the standard by arguing that competition in the marketplace is in the public interest, as are corporate mergers that combine their resources and offer better technology and more programming to the consumer. Today, the public interest standard is so vague that broadcasters can claim that whatever programs people watch, whatever programs draw ratings and advertising revenue, is in the public interest.

In 1998, Rocky Mountain Media Watch petitioned the FCC to deny the re-licensing of four Denver television stations, arguing that the stations’ local news programs are harming the citizens of Colorado, primarily by “excessive coverage of violent topics and trivial events, and, consequently, inadequate news coverage of a wide range of stories and vital social issues.”

The airwaves belong to the people, not the media corporations. Those of us who want to do something to improve local news coverage can write to our local station managers and let them know what our needs are as viewers and consumers; we can write to the FCC regarding the re-licensing of our local stations; we can back political candidates who support a progressive, democratic agenda; and, most importantly, we can spread this message to friends, family, and co-workers.
For correspondence to the FCC, write to:

Secretary of the Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-204B
Washington, DC 20554

For correspondence to the networks, write to:

NBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Phone: 212-664-4444
Fax: 212-664-5705

ABC News
47 W. 66 St., New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-456-7777
D.C. Bureau phone: 202-222-7777
General e-mail: netaudr@abc.com

CBS News
524 W. 57 St., New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-975-4321
Fax: 212-975-1893
D.C. Bureau phone: 202-457-4321

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