Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Many of you know that I have been concerned about Big Media's troubling influence on our democracy for many years. Since I think about this problem obsessively anyway, I've launched a blog about this issue, to see who else chimes in, what we can learn, and discuss how we can popularize this very important, but under-appreciated, topic.
NewsHacker.net asks America, "WHOSE news are you watching?" I want Americans to ask themselves this question regularly and understand its implications for our personal freedoms and the balanced operation of democracy. Big Media's power is already so consolidated and threatening to our democracy that there is a growing national movement seeking Media Reform. If America is to remain a free and open society, we need to regain public oversight of the news publishing process. Americans need equal and unfettered access to the broad spectrum of news coverage and opinion that is available. Given a variety of sources, citizens can distill the factual information needed to make political and policy decisions that serve society, rather than serve only corporations and the wealthy. Big Media, on the other hand, wants to keep you watching only what they want to show you.
Why is this so important? Big Media companies play a crucial role in shaping public perceptions about the health and general welfare of our society. They influence our views about the even-handedness of government policies, the honesty and effectiveness of our governmental representatives, and much more, by selecting which news stories they cover and how they cover them. These companies have huge financial interests and political connections that they protect -- and that the public seldom hears mentioned. As you might expect, they systematically ignore stories that impair or attack their key interests. When such a story can't be totally ignored due to public interest in other reports about it, they downplay its importance, ask skeptical questions, and question the motives of the sources. As a result, the news they report about important national and international issues can be as distorted as reflections in a fun house mirror.
Big Media's un-questioning coverage of the White House's campaign to justify the Iraq War failed America politically in a profound way. Their coverage of the war itself, with few exceptions, has been cowardly. The Bush Administration's extraordinary attacks on our constitutional and privacy rights, cloaked in the mantle fighting terrorism, have hardly raised an eyebrow in Big Media news coverage, even though these regressive actions have galvanized many of our best-known human rights, civil rights, and social justice organizations in calling for their repeal. These failures weren't accidental, they were systemic.
How can we correct this discouraging situation quickest? By blogging about the need for change!
The Blogosphere has quickly become the leading online domain where thought leadership on journalism, politics, and social issues is being expressed without muting or filtering by Big Media gatekeepers. Big Media news organizations already know this. Editors and reporters consider blogs the "not quite ready for Prime Time news." In their intra-mural competition to break audience-grabbing news stories first, they research the blogosphere constantly for stories and topics that large and increasing numbers of people are discussing. Therefore, blogging about important political and social issues, and encouraging others you know to do so, helps make certain Big Media news outlets must cover the issues you care about.
Therefore, I urge Americans to become "citizen journalists" -- to watch, hear, and read news from a variety of sources and blog about their insights and questions. Is a misleading corporate "video news release" being aired as legitimate news in your area? Blog it! Did a story or editorial about an issue make you think about it in a new way? Blog it! Is there an under-reported story you feel should get more attention? Blog it!
If large numbers of fair-minded people do this, the blogosphere will be a powerful social force supporting high-quality investigative journalism, network neutrality, universal high speed Internet access, and high profile, broad-based coverage of stories the oligarchs would rather not see covered at all. Won't that be wonderfully ironic?
I encourage you to join me in this experiment.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Dear Friends and Colleagues,