Day 1 at the National Conference for Media Reform

Some highlights of the first day of the conference.

Conference opens with a general session

From 10 AM to noon we had the kick off and opening keynote session.  Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, really got the crowd going to end the kick off.  He quoted from Scott McClellan’s new book about the complicit Washington media press corp in the run up to the Iraq invasion.

For the keynote portion, it really was just one seamless session, Adrienne Maree Brown of the Ruckus Society connected the media reform movement to community activism.  She was quite good, but not as entertaining or fiery as Josh Silver.

Lawerence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford University, was next and his presentation was very compelling.  The computer presentation was very well timed to his speech and went without a hitch.  I started to glaze over just a little with the back and forth language on media, government and dependency.  I really like his talk about intellectual property law and the Sonny Bono amendment.

I can’t remember if Robert McChesney showed up before Lessig or after.  He was pretty brief, but I look forward to hearing him tomorrow.

To close out the opening was my Representative in Congress, Keith Ellison.  I have only heard him speak, and briefly at that, before at the Blue State Ball.  Today, he spoke for about 30 minutes.  I am pretty proud to have him represent me in Congress.  He is a good speaker, and he gets the issues that we are at the conference for.

Workshop period 1

After lunch, the first session I attended was Media and Elections: Uncovering 2008.  The session was moderated by Santita Jackson and she was really good.  For some reason, not explained, Katrina vanden Heuvel was not on the panel.  That left John Nichols, David Sirota, and Robert “Biko” Baker on the panel.

Nichols started and it sounded like a sermon at first.  Of the three panelist, he was my favorite.  Biko was really good, but didn’t seem as a good a fit for this topic.  It seemed like his focus was more about the disenfranchised, which is very worthy topic, and it is somewhat tangentially connected as those less likely to vote, often do not have their issues addressed.

Sirota whose rating I have liked, had some good points, but much of it seemed to be more generally about the media, and not quite as much about the media and elections.  I know he just had his book released, and I am sure writing it has really focused his mind on the thesis of it, and how that relates to this conference, but it seemed like there was a lot of promotion of it and a little bit of his syndicated column.  I will probably still read his book at some point, but that turned me off a little.

Some of my favorite parts of this session:

Nichols, “Do you think he will ask her?”  in comparing the campaign coverage of the last two weeks, not focusing on the issue, but equating will Obama ask Clinton to be his veep to high school kids getting ready for prom.

Also from Nichols, learning that Jesse Jackson’s campaigns embarrassed the media into getting black reporters on the campaign trail.

Finally from Nichols, describing the lack of access of all the candidates to debates, specifically mentioning Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Ralph Nader.  He brought up the fact that in last France election that final debate included 9 candidates, including a mail carrier and bank clerk.  Apparently it hasn’t destroyed the French Republic.

Media and Democracy Reform

This session was moderated by Malia Lazu of The Gathering Project.  She did a real good job moderating and had a lot of energy.

Susannah Goodman of Common Cause was the first panelist to speak.  Her focus was about access to voting, congratulating host state Minnesota for same day registration, against the voter ID law in Indiana.  With states with more restrictive registration timelines, making sure that people get registered in time.  1-866-OUR-VOTE to report irregularities in the voting process, and the rights of voters.

Solange Bitol Hansen of Public Campaign was next.  She talked about public financing of elections.  She explained the benefits of it, and where it is already working.

Rob Richie of Fair Vote was next.  He covered structural changes to the election process.  Instant run-off voting, the interstate compact on the national popular vote, and proportional allocation of elections.  For the proportional allocation, gave the example of New York in the 1930s where the city council wasn’t elected by wards or districts, but ranked at large voting.  Richie also talked about a constitutional right to vote and how we currently don’t have one.

Finally we had David Cobb of Liberty Tree Foundation.  They put the panel in the right order, because Cobb had the most energy.  He was talking about a revolution to make elections fair and open to all.  He talked historical movements to access the vote and how they had to fight and take that right.

There was also a Q&A time and it was pretty good.

Regional Caucus

This was a chance for small groups of people, my group had 13 plus a facilitator, to talk about media issues in our community and nationally.  It was an interesting process, and it was fun to interact with other folks who are interested in this issue locally, my group was all Twin City area people.  We had a celebrity in our midst, Coleen Rowley was in our group.

Overall summary

A good day, lots of good speakers and high energy from conference attendees.  The conference is definitely dominated by liberals and progressives, which makes me feel at home.  However, I worry this is a bunch of preaching to the choir moments.  It does make one think twice about the idea that we have a “liberal media” in our society today.

Tomorrow – Saturday

While the program looks really good, especially the bookends, it is going to be a long day.  8 AM to 10 PM, with Bill Moyers opening the day at 8 PM and a group of great names closing it from 8 PM to 10 PM.



1 Comment

  1. Susan said,

    June 9, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    To see the day when the national popular vote will elect the president, and voters not in “battleground states” will get attention, support the National Popular Vote bill.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).
    The bill would make every vote politically relevant in a presidential election. It would make every vote equal.

    The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 18 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring this legislation into effect. To be involved in the National Popular Vote bill effort . . .

    You can check the status of the bill in your state at

    If it’s still in play in your state, let your legislator(s) know what you think. If you need help to identify and/or contact your state representatives, senators, and/or governor about National Popular Vote, you can search by your zip code using online sites such as

    Sign up to get email updates –

    Help get the word out and show your support.
    Tell a friend-
    Distribute literature at political, civic, or other meeting, convention, or conference.
    Post on discussion groups.
    Write letters to editors, OpEds, and/or blog.
    Please include a link to the National Popular Vote web site by including something like “See

    Up-to-date information and materials are at

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