Journalism lost one of its brightest lights this weekend when the well- known and globally-honored Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, a mother of two and the most courageous chronicler of the Wars in Chechnya, was shot to death, KGB style with two bullets to the head in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow....She told an interviewer from the Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita: "....In the Russian media there's a lack of information regarding this subject, not like during the first war from 1994-96. In this information emptiness, actions of authorities are supported by a huge propaganda machine. This machine has been able to create a picture of the enemy...." She was herself tortured, condemned and discredited. She was often afraid. "I'm afraid a lot," she said... Danny Schechter, The Murder of Anna P: A Blow to Humanity, Buzzflash, 10-8-06
It’s obvious his bosses at MSNBC/NBC/GE never envisioned the increasingly bold Olbermann of recent months. It’s likely that Olbermann himself could not have foreseen his current role as the lone voice of those who feel assaulted by a cable news business dominated by the O’Reillys and Hannitys. So why do I fear for Olbermann? Because I know his bosses. In the runup to the Iraq war, I too worked for MSNBC....They feared independent journalism and serious dissent. They smeared Bush critics, with MSNBC’s editor-in-chief actually going on air – without evidence – to accuse Iraq WMD skeptic Scott Ritter of being a paid agent of Saddam Hussein. Olbermann has been gaining in audience ratings. That provides him some security. But perhaps not enough. Jeff Cohen, Is Olbermann on Thin Ice?, Common Dreams, 10-3-06
Hard Rain Journal 10-10-06: Global Free Press Update -- Tales of Violence, Intimidation & Censorship Perpetrated By Both Governments and Corporations
By Richard Power
Kim Jong-il is, by reliable reporting, a disturbed and dangerous human being. He is guilty of hideous crimes against his own people, including thought control and sexual slavery. And yes, although his delivery systems are still crude, he already has nuclear weapons. But in a very real way, if you are a US citizen, Katie Couric, Brian Williams and the other network and cable TV anchors are a greater threat to you and your children. And conversely, Keith Olberman, host of MSBNC's Countdown, has done more to protect you and your children than oh let's say former CIA Director George Tenet or former US Army General Tommy Franks, who were both awarded the Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush.
Why? Nuclear proliferation, like global warming, is at the top of the risk and threat chart. And at issue are not just the threats of nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, but also the robust programs of those nations that have already gone nuclear, i.e., Pakistan, India and of course Israel (which pretends it doesn't have such capability). Without hard information, and without adequate context and continuity for that information, you will not know how to prioritize such risks and threats or understand how gravely the Bush-Cheney regime has mismanaged efforts to mitigate them. The USA is suffering from what I have call informational malnutrition, i.e., what Anna Politkovskaya (murderd for investigating and reporting on torture) called an "information emptiness." The likes of Katie Couric and Brian Williams are propped up (by the producers and executives that lurk behind them) to distract and mollify you while you are spoon fed empty informational calories.
Therefore, media reform is a more important issue than even arms control or sustainability, because without media reform you will not be able to understand or participate in the difficult decisions that have to be made about either issue. (Remember, in many other countries, the limiting of press freedom is undertaken through violence and intimidation by governments, but in the USA, it is undertaken through the control of corporate culture.)
Two recent interviews on Air America Radio's weekend news magazines -- specifically, the 9-30-06 broadcast of Ring of Fire with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio and the 10-1-06 broadcast of Radio Nation with Laura Flanders -- offer some precious insights from former CBS anchor Dan Rather (now with HDNET) and media commentator and activist Jeff Cohen.
Here are some excerpts I have transcribed (I encourage you to download the podcast and listen to these interviews in their entirety):
Mike Papantonio, Ring of Fire: In separate interviews, both Helen Thomas and Bill Moyers told Bobby Kennedy and I that investigative journalism has seen its best day. Bill almost took it to the point of saying that investigative journalism is dead in America. What do you think about that?
Dan Rather: I don't agree. I have great respect for both of them. But I do not agree that it is dead. I think it is ailing, and it has been ailing for some little while, but I think with things such as the new show I am starting, Dan Rather Reports on HDNET, we intend to make investigative reports part of our core, part of our program ID if you will...I think it may be ailing to the extent that it is on life-support, but it is alive although not too well....to find owners who are prepared to commit to investigative reporting is increasingly rare. I think this is what happened to the old over-the-airwaves networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. While they still do some investigative reports..overall, and in the main, the drive to get the combination of demographics and ratings give the owners and operators great pause. Now perhaps the more important reason that they're given pause is that increasingly the major news outlets are eighty, eighty-five percent owned by huge international conglomerates that have a lot of interests that come in conflict with the best kind of investigative reporting...
Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and author of an important new book, Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media, worked as a pundit on all three cable news channels and as a producer on the Donahue Show on MSBNC, and as Laura Flanders put it in the preamble to her recent interview with him, "he came out finding that it was even worse than he thought..."
Jeff Cohen: Cable news and the Sunday morning shows are similar. They set the agenda. They determine who is a spokesperson and who isn't, and what are the parameters of the debate. So they are very important for the political class. I know it from the inside, how it happens, the points of view that are excluded. I describe it in the book. It is worse than we ever imagined...The people that rise to the top are the people who are least journalistic and most political. Political in the sense of making friends with the corporate owners and with the political powers that be in Washington, largely conservative over recent years. it is the people who know how to work the system. And they stay at the top by making sure that independent journalism doesn't happen.
Laura Flanders:So lay it out for us, you're there working for the Donahue program on MSNBC as the war in Iraq is beginning or is on the horizon, what happens?
Jeff Cohen: In the last couple of months of the Donahue Show, we were ordered by management every time we booked a guest who was anti-war we had to book two that were pro-war. If we booked two guests on the Left, we had to book three guests on the Right. In one meeting a producer said she was thinking of booking Michael Moore, and she was told she that for ideological balance she would have to have three right-wingers. I thought about having Noam Chomsky for a guest, but I thought our stage couldn't accomadate the twenty-eight right-wingers.
Here are some related news items from the last few weeks, including revelations about the neutering of the LA Times editorial department, the ethnic cleansing of PBS, the prostitution of the FCC, the global glut in assassinations of journalists, and the Thai junta's crackdown on community radio (I thought the rationale for the coup was corruption by elected officials? What does that have to do with local activists and citizen media?):
Journalism lost one of its brightest lights this weekend when the well- known and globally-honored Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, a mother of two and the most courageous chronicler of the Wars in Chechnya, was shot to death, KGB style with two bullets to the head in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow....Have we heard one really clear condemnation of these practices from our President who said he looked into Vladmir Putin's soul and found a soulmate. Killers are driven to embrace other killers. Leaders blind to their own crimes will not see others crimes. It's not surprising that our "pro-waterboarding" Busheviks have come to resemble their murderous Bolsheviks....She told an interviewer from the Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita: "....In the Russian media there's a lack of information regarding this subject, not like during the first war from 1994-96. In this information emptiness, actions of authorities are supported by a huge propaganda machine. This machine has been able to create a picture of the enemy....She was herself tortured, condemned and discredited. She was often afraid. "I'm afraid a lot," she said...
And the deaths of other journalists continue. AP reported this past weekend: "Two German journalists who had pitched a tent on the side of a road outside a northern Afghan village were killed by gunmen early Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan."
And from London comes word that a British soldier has testified at an inquest into the death of unembedded English TV reporter Terry Lloyd that he saw him killed in Iraq by a bullet fired into his head by a US soldier....In the name of all who died, to remember Terry Lloyd and honor the great Anna Politkovskaya, their work must be continued, their killers must be brought to justice. That is one challenge facing journalism today, despite the degraded state of our news media. Danny Schechter, The Murder of Anna P: A Blow to Humanity, Buzzflash, 10-8-06
The World Association of Newspapers says 2006 has become the deadliest year for journalists and media workers on record. So far 75 journalists have died this year. 26 of the deaths occurred in Iraq. 2006: Record Year For Journalist Deaths, Democracy Now!, 10-6-06
While Thailand's military-appointed prime minister seeks international approval and Bangkok's affluent citizens continue to praise last month's coup, a different reality is unfolding in the country's north and north-east provinces. One word sums it up: censorship. Media silenced by the junta are community and local radio stations in the poorer reaches of the country. The impact of this ban has even led some locals who run grassroots media in the provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen, close to the Thai-Laos border, to avoid talking about it openly, fearing the consequences....Programmes in local dialects that reached out to marginalised communities to raise awareness about migrant rights, labour rights, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS prevention have gone off air. ‘'All community radios have gone silent in the north,'' Pranom Somwong, an activist with an NGO championing the rights of migrant labour in the northern city of Chiang Mai, said in an interview.... Marwaan Macan-Markar, Coup Masters Ban Community Radio, Inter Press Service, 10-6-06
In media news, the Chicago-based Tribune Company has fired Los Angeles Times publisher Jeffrey Johnson just weeks after he refused to eliminate as many as 100 newsroom positions at the paper. The Tribune company wanted the Los Angeles Times to slash its reporting staff in an effort to save money. Both Johnson and Times Editor Dean Baquet refused....Calls have increased for local ownership of the Los Angeles Times. The Chicago-based Tribune company also owns 10 other papers including the Chicago Tribune, two dozen TV stations including KTLA in Los Angeles and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Meanwhile the advertising policies of the Los Angeles Times are also coming under scrutiny. Last week the group Free Press attempted to take out an advertisement in the paper to announce the FCC's public hearings in Los Angeles on the new media ownership rules. The Los Angeles Times originally said the ad would cost $25,000 then bumped the price up to over $100,000 because they claimed it was an advocacy advertisement. Craig Aaron of Free Press says the paper then offered a lower rate but only on certain conditions. Craig Aaron: "They said they would give us the $40,000 rate on this revised ad, as long as we removed the phrase, quote, “that would allow the largest media companies to get even bigger,” which is how we described the new rules being put forward by the FCC, and we deleted any mention of our own website. The Tribune Company just happens to be the primary mover behind the push to end the ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership."
Free Press decided not to take out the ad. Tribune Company Fires LA Times Publisher, LA Times Urged Group to Edit Stop Big Media Ad
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS's flagship news program, touts its "signature style - low-key, evenhanded, inclusive of all perspectives"; Corporation for Public Broadcasting ombud Ken Bode called it "the mother ship of balance." But a new FAIR study finds that the NewsHour fails to provide either balance or diversity of perspectives - or a true public-minded alternative to its corporate competition.
To evaluate the NewsHour's evenhandedness and commitment to the public interest, Extra! studied its guestlist during the six-month period spanning October 2005 through March 2006.
Among the most prominent findings:
Public interest groups accounted for just 4 percent of total sources. General public - "person in the street," workers, students - accounted for only 14 percent, while current and former government and military officials totaled 50 percent of all sources.
Male sources outnumbered women by more than 4-to-1 (82 percent to 18 percent). Moreover, 72 percent of U.S. guests were white males, while just 6 percent were women of color. People of color made up only 15 percent of U.S. sources. African-Americans made up 9 percent, Latinos 2 percent, and Asian- Americans and people of Mideastern descent made up one percent each. Alberto Gonzales accounted for more than 30 percent of Latino sources, while Condoleeza Rice accounted for nearly 13 percent of African-American sources.
Among partisan sources, Republicans outnumbered Democrats on the NewsHour by 2-to-1 (66 percent vs. 33 percent). Only one representative of a third party appeared during the study period. Steve Rendall and Julie Hollar, Study: Lack of Balance, Diversity, Public at PBS NewsHour, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), 10-4-06
Michael Powell’s tenure at the Federal Communications Commission was marked by his blatant disregard for the public. Despite overwhelming opposition to his plans to gut longstanding media ownership rules, Powell faithfully served the interest of the corporate media lobby. Thus many of us weren't the least surprised to learn this week that the Powell Commission buried at least two taxpayer-funded studies that didn’t toe the official line that bigger media is better for us all.
The first study, completed in 2004 by the FCC's own researchers, found that on average locally owned broadcasters devoted 5.5 more minutes of local news per half-hour newscast than their consolidated counterparts. It concluded that network-owned and operated stations (belonging to the likes of Disney, General Electric, Viacom and News Corp) spent considerably less time covering the communities they're supposed to serve....The second study, which just came to light today, found that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 led to the drastic decline in the number of radio station owners while the actual number of commercial stations in the U.S. increased—a strong indicator that a handful of companies were hoarding local radio airwaves....This evidence would still be gathering dust at the agency were it not for whistle-blowers who secreted copies of the spiked reports to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Last week, she waved the findings before a wide-eyed Kevin Martin, Powell's successor as FCC chairman, during his Senate re-confirmation hearings. In a follow-up letter to Martin she asked whether it's in the normal "practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome." Timothy Karr, The FCC's Media Manipulation, 9-19-06
Some Related Posts
Hard Rain Journal 9-7-06: While ABC Catapults the Propaganda, Bush’s “Key Ally” Makes Peace with Al Qaeda
Hard Rain Journal 8-12-06: News Media Control on the Poorest Continent & in the Richest Nation
Hard Rain Journal 8-7-06: Coked Out? ABC Ignores 3 Blockbusters on War & Treason to Suggest Lamont, Not Lieberman, Would Be A "Disaster"
Hard Rain Journal 7-22-06 Weekend Edition: Updates on US Election Fraud and the Dan Rather Watch
Hard Rain Journal 7-13-06: Dan Rather Not -- Will Former CBS Anchor Join Moyers & Cronkite in Wilderness, & Speak Truth to Abuse of Media Power?
Hard Rain Journal 7-5-06: Al Qaeda Endorsed Bush-Cheney in 2004, But US Mainstream News Media Chose to Ignore It
Hard Rain Journal 6-29-06: What are the Global Implications of Neo-Totalitarianism in both US and China? Will The New York Times Fight for Freedom?
Hard Rain Journal 6-19-06: Coulter, Beck and The Death of The News
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net
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