Chuck Todd sucks

So when 48% of precincts are reporting in Illinois Senate race are showing Democrat Alex Giannoulias up 50% to 45% for Republican Mark Kirk, well Chuck Todd describes that as “Alex Giannoulias is hanging in there.”  How about saying he is leading, which is reporting would look like.

What if Juan Williams had been in a union?

This is a little follow up to the whole Juan Williams bigoted comments leading to his firing by NPR.

For those comic lovers out there, you may remember the comic series What if….?, so here is the real world version.  As the movie Waiting for Superman (see comic connection) is raising the issue of bad teachers who are protected by unions from firing.  The question has to be asked, what if Juan Williams was in a union at NPR?  Would NPR be able to just fire him like they did?  Would Williams had the ability to go to his union rep to challenge the firing?  Would he still be working at NPR, albeit under tighter guidelines of his employer?

Of course, if he were in a union, would Fox News ever taken him on as a commentator since their unbalanced and often very unfair ideology is decidedly anti-union.


Don’t much about geography

Well whoever was pulling the image clips for the Newshour tonight sure didn’t do their homework.  After reporting on the large snowfalls in the East, they mention the need for snow in Vancouver for the 2012 Olympics.  Nice segue, but it would have been better if they had used an image clip that was of Vancouver.

You may recognize the CN Tower and Rogers Centre (formerly known as the Skydome) in the image.  Those landmarks are located in Toronto, not in Vancouver.

Thanks for reinforcing that American’s don’t know our geography.


Apparently abortion isn’t controversial in America

A title like that probably has you thinking I should get one of those jackets that makes me hug myself…a strait-jacket.  But I have a reason to make such a claim and it is based on the actions of CBS.

Apparently Focus on the Family has purchased an ad time during the 2010 Superbowl called Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.  This ad, like its title is going to be pro-life.  It is hard to say what this ad will look like, will it be very overt in its pro-life message or more subtle?  The thing that is strange, is that CBS is running the ad that could be considered controversial, after all this Gallup poll finds that 51% of Americans identify as pro-life and 42% as pro-choice.  As I have written in the past, I feel that I am more pro-life because of my positions than many conservatives that are against abortions.

It goes without saying that the issue of abortion is one of the most contentious and controversial aspects of American life, or at least American politics, so CBS must be open to controversy when they allow some ads run during the Superbowl that they are airing.  The funny thing about history is that it can show some hypocrisy, you may remember that in 2004 Move On wanted to run an ad during the Superbowl, but their ad was deemed too controversial (so was another by PETA). Below is the ad that was to run, Child’s Play.

Note: I am surprised that Republicans haven’t tried to copy it or adopt the ad for their new found fiscal responsibility.

It is really too bad that people think the media is liberal because it only is if you don’t think about what really happens, or if you are Republican that gets off on crying victim.  The reality is that the vast majority of media is owned and run by corporations and they know that Republicans are more likely to loosen regulations on them then Democrats are (although there are plenty of corporate Democrats that are ready to kiss ass) and they pander to the Republicans and issues they support.

This hypocritical approach to ad buys for the Superbowl is just another in a long list of examples that show that the media isn’t too liberal.


What balance apparently looks like

Today, January 11, 2009, the panel on ABC’s This Week is George Will, Peggy Noonan, Newt Gingrich, and Thomas Friedman.

The count, three conversatives and maybe a moderate, I wouldn’t classify Friedman as a liberal or progressive.  Maybe we should bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

In defense, This Week has had weeks with a notable and respected liberals on the panel, but they are never consistently on the panel like George Will.

So remember when you hear about the “liberal media,” that it is likely a lie to feed the Republican claims of victimization, which is used to bully the all too often compliant corporate media into dismissing the true liberal and progressive point of views.


Dog in the White House

Does this really qualify as news?  This isn’t the supposed liberal media, this is the crappy fluff/human interest story media.

This is the coverage in Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and MS NBC on the Obama family getting a dog!

How about spending more time reporting on the employment numbers, and possible stimulus packages to help working Americans not the golden parchute crowd (read Wall Street bailout)?  That would be really valuable journalism.


One use for digital subchannels

I am a news junky with out the fix that cable provides.  So I watch the Sunday morning shows.  I was a bit worried that I would miss At Issue on KSTP this morning because of golf, the coverage of the British Open (yeah for live coverage!).  Golf just doesn’t excite me, and I would rather see this talk show so I can see how things are being framed in politics.

Well I lucked out today, because KSTP ran At Issue at its usual time on channel 5-2.  I think all stations that pick up sports coverage should use their sub-channels to keep their regularly schedule programming available to the viewers.  I remember being super frustrated trying to figure out the rescheduled broadcast of Babylon 5 that was bumped by the winter High School Tournaments that were broadcast on Chanel 9.


Day 2.2 at the National Conference for Media Reform

This is about the part of the conference after lunch on Saturday.

Media Policy in a New Congress and Administration

I was back in the same room for the two afternoon sessions.  Moderated by Ben Scott with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.

I don’t know about you but policy discussions can be rather dry and boring.  These gentlemen made it very entertaining and engaging without dumbing anything down.

The early part of the session was about Low Power FM (LPFM), and how this needs to be expanded to reach more communities.  Existing broadcasters claim interference issues, but the FCC has commissioned a study and the science says LPFM will not cause interference problems.  Rep. Doyle has a bill HR 2802 (text) that will accelerate LPFM’s expansion throughout the US.

Here are two quotes from the Commissioners from the December 11, 2007 Third Report and Order.

Copps on still holding the existing commercial broadcasters to their public interests obligations (pdf),

As important as LPFM is, however, let’s never allow ourselves to see it as a complete substitute
for full power service. Nor should we ever be lulled into a mind-set that says, “Well, let low power cover that stuff and let the full power stations continue on their happy way.” The American people still rely on full power stations for much of their news, information and entertainment. And those full power stations are on the air because they pledged to serve the public interest in return for being allowed to make what is still a very good living. The emergence and strengthening of LPFM does not affect our duty, in any shape, manner or form, to ensure that all broadcasters serve the core public interest goals of localism,
competition and diversity.

Adelstein on the local nature of LPFM stations and regulations that promote it (pdf).

In addition to these reforms, we preserve the non-commercial, local nature of LPFM stations by
prohibiting most sales of licenses and outright ban any transfer or assignment of construction permits. Preventing the creation of a market for the sale of LPFM licenses and construction permits will help protect the true local quality and community service orientation of LPFM stations that have made them thrive.

Perhaps more than any measure in this item, I am especially pleased that we have tightened
LPFM ownership rules. Simply put, we cannot allow what has happened to commercial radio to happen to LPFM. Accordingly, I strongly support the fact that we reinstate the restrictions on local LPFM ownership. In doing so, we explicitly recognize that “doing away with the locality restriction could threaten its predominantly local character, in particular the hallmark of the LPFM’s station’s local character, its local origination of programming.” And, equally important, we clarify that repetitious, automated programming does not meet our local origination requirement.

So contact your US Representatives and tell them you support HR 2802 and they should too!

Adelstein also talked about some other regulatory ideas that I think would be great.  That broadcasters must have on their web site, they all have web sites, what actions they are taking to meet their public service obligations.  Also identifying when things are being sponsored especially video news release, those PR  (public relations) pieces that are distributed to “news rooms” to present information in a news
style format.

On the issue of the transition to digital TV, the FCC commissioners are worried about the process the US is taking in this, which is not very thoughtful or coherent.  Copps said that the UK is taking 5 years, doing education in cities, then making a switch on one, just one station in a market/city and seeing if everything is going well.  Thanks to this experience, the US is going to have a test market in Wilmington NC.  Copps also learned from an engineer working on the new antenna on the Empire State building that TVs will have to re-scan on the transition date.  The FCC knew nothing about this, and I couldn’t figure out what it meant.  Does it mean my converter box will need to re-scan for available channels that day, a mild annoyance, but not unsurmountable, or something more troublesome.

Both commissioners addressed programming on the digital stations.  Since existing broadcast stations could have as many of 6 channels, what were they going to do with it?  The commercial broadcasters really have no plan.    As I scan through my TV here in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon at 2:55 PM I see what they mean.  Our local Public Television station has Chanel 2 and 17.  Channel 2.1 has an informercial like programming on its main channel for pledge drive, and Cleveland Orchestra on 2.2.  On 17.1 – weather, 17.2 MN channel which seems to be very culturally orientated, 17.3 their kids channel,  17.4 their create channel which has lots of cooking and crafts, seems like the programming is very sponsor driven, and 17.5 the channel that is always weather.  Meanwhile channel 4 has paid programming,  channel 5.1 ice skating, channel 5.2 local news rebroadcast, channel 9.1 and 9.2 (channel 9, 23, and 29 all run .1 as HD and .2 as standard defintion) has paid programming, channel 11. 1 is golf, 11.2 is a national weather feed, 23.1 and 23.2 is paid programming, 29.1 and 29.2 is Twins baseball, and 45.1 is paid programming.

So if the commercial broadcast stations can’t fill up one station with programming that isn’t paid, what do think will happen with the 4-6 stations they could utilize.

Owning our Own and Reaching the Masses

This session was hosted by Davey D and the panelists were “Grouchy” Greg Watkins of, Arianna Huffington of the and Lizz Winstead, co-creator, Air America Radio and The Daily Show.

This session wasn’t the most useful to me.  I was hoping to get more about getting people to read this blog.  Huffington said that we could submit blogs to her and her staff would review them for posting on her site.  So that would be a good way for me to get traffic.  Winstead talked about her new on-line show and that is pretty interesting.  I thought Grouch Greg was the most useful of the panelists for getting our message out.  He said know who your audience is and given them the content they want.  He also talked about using the technology (remember not just internet) that your community uses to get information out, text messaging is huge for his community.

On media reform in general there were some great points.  Winstead talked about for some people, some news is shocking, especially if it bursts their world view, and that these folks need baby steps to be brought around, and she uses humor to do that.  There was also the complaint about the lack of follow up questions in what pass for journalism, targeting Wolf Blitzer specifically for this omission.  The other point that was brought up was why are “journalist” asking questions, like “Why did Obama stay with his church after Rev. Wright made comments like he did?”  As Winstead put it, “wondering aloud should not be a profession you are paid for.”  They should be talking to Obama and getting that question answered.

Media Reform Begins with Me

The evening plenary session was a good time, it started at 8 PM and ran until 10:45 PM, like the Oscars it ran late.  There were many good speakers and the emcees were very fun.  Senator Byron Dorgan was very good, so was Michael Copps, and Naomi Klein.  Naomi Klein was my favorite because she talked about how if Obama gets elected that isn’t enough, we have to keep the pressure on as he will have corporate pressures trying to get him to compromise too much.  Basically hold his feet to the fire to have progressive change happen.

Post party at the Kitty Kat Club

I was feeling a bit bummed out on Friday because I didn’t really connect with anyone.  It is a very different feeling from my organization’s conference where I know hundreds of people well and really get out and socialize.  I did better on Saturday and had dinner with Bon of Washington, we had set next to each other for the morning workshops and across the aisle from each other in the afternoon sessions.  At the end of the afternoon sessions Bon and I connected with Papi from DC and we talked about going to the Kitty Kat Club after evening plenary session for the party.  I mentioned that not only did I know where it was, but I had a car, and I wasn’t going to drink (yes this made me a bit popular).    For the plenary session I sat with Bon and his roommate Dennis (through the conference web site) of Iowa.  The four of us went to the Kitty Kat Club for some further socializing.

It was really fun, I met a local reporter with Lavendar who also works with producing plays.  I connected him with Papi who is an award winning playwright.  At one point we left Papi and head down to Blarney to hear a live rock band and met some other conference attendees.  Papi was really appreciative, apparently he connects with people superficially that talk about staying connected, but then at the end of the night are driving away waving to him, not really connecting.  I am going to stay in contact with them, they were all nice guys.

Skipping Sunday

Sunday consisted of one workshop period and the send off session.  There was a good session, and the send off plenary looked good, but the almost 15 hour day of sessions, plus staying out until 2:30 AM, starting at 8 AM, made me a bit burnt out and I skipped the day.


Day 2.1 at the National Conference for Media Reform

Day 2

The day started, early at 8 AM, with a plenary session by Bill Moyers who is a hero to many in the media reform movement. You can see his whole 38 minute speech here.

Broadcast to Broadband: The Next Frontier of the Media Reform

After the opening session, while others were rushing to get their books signed by Bill Moyers in the exhibit hall, I was grabbing a front row seat in the large room for the morning breakouts. First up was From Broadcast to Broadband: The Next Frontier of the Media Reform, with Amy Goodman moderating and panelists, Robert McChesney, Tim Wu (it really is his website, the net neutrality FAQ link is the give away), and Malkia Cyril.

Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press with John Nichols, he has just stepped down as Chair of Free Press with Tim Wu the new Chair, author of many books, including the one that got me interested in this area, Rich Media, Poor Democracy, started the session. He touched on how the first amendment covered both free speech and a free press, but pointed out that free speech doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have a free press. He continued on this theme talking about how a quality journalism is necessary for an informed and self-governing democracy. He also warned of the hyper commercialism in the media which marinates the brain with advertisements every day of our life.

Tim Wu, Columbia Law Professor, new Chair of Free Press, and former evil doer who worked for companies that were looking at ways to control the general public’s access to content on the internet, was next up. I can’t recall if it was Goodman or McChesney that forced the mea culpa out of him, but he did cover his sordid past. During this past the clients of his company were:

  1. Corporations-who wanted to control employee access, block websites (ESPN-March Madness), and monitor employee access.
  2. Telecomms, the phone and cable companies-based on their old business models, cable wants to control content, and phone companies want to nickel and dime you for each little service.
  3. Foreign governments-limit internet access to stifle dissent and control information.

The overall premise to this work was that the internet was broken because people had the gall to do whatever they wanted with no outside control of what they were viewing, how dare they!

Wu is working on a new book looking at the history of communication in the US and how policy gets formed. He described the media being like the Terminator in T2, it would get blown up from time to time, but would eventually pull itself together into a scary monster. The question is can we as a society prevent this cycle from repeating, kind of like how we want families to break the cycle of domestic violence.

Cyril, tied the ideas that McChesney and Wu presented to social justice. Talking about how will the new internet policy look, will it be equitable and just, will those members of society that are marginalized have the same access, like non-citizens and prisoners to the media.

In the questions and answer period, Wu mentioned that AT&T was broken up by Reagan, not exactly the anti-trust crusader, but pointed out that AT&T was that big and scary that even Reagan thought they need to be dismantled.

Wu further talked about how the Constitution was designed to check the power the king, or president, not the abuse of private power.

Media and the War: An Unembedded View

In a conference whose registrant list was dominated by progressive activists, this was the biggest session of the day. The room expanded from 6 to 8 combined break out rooms and it was still standing room only. The session started late and to get our 90 minutes, ended late too.

Norman Solomon moderated the session, with Phil Donahue, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Sonali Kolhatkar, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood as the panelists.

Before the session, I was able to get this picture with Naomi Klein, who attended the University of Toronto at the same time I did.

So the session started off with Rev. Yearwood, who is president of the Hip Hop Caucus and former office with the Air Force Reserve. He was the most passionate of the panelists, and definitely got the crowd fired up. He talked about how we in the media reform movement must take the information that we are privileged to have to the greater society, it is our duty. That we must communicate with communities in ways that are culturally competent, to incorporate their communication styles to get the word out. And that we need to reach to the younger blue collar members of society, those between 18-30 years of age that have not attended college and may not be tuned into some of the assumed communication networks that we normally think of.

Naomi Klein was up next. She talked about the media’s absence of coverage. She talked about the lack of press of the Winter Soldier hearings this year, Democracy Now being an exception. She talked about how the coverage in Iraq is being willfully disappeared-no mention about the disaster of the situation, and how dangerous it is for journalists and that danger isn’t widely reported in the media.

Klein further went on to talk about how privatized warfare and homeland security industry is now more than $200 billion a year and we haven’t discussed how or why we pay for it. Also the media doesn’t discuss the economic connections that some of their experts have, like George Schultz is always listed as former Secretary of State, not as a former Betchel board member who stands to profit from their contracts.

Phil Donahue was next, he talked about his new film Body of War briefly, and focused on issue of free speech and the tactics of war promoters. He talked about the how war resisters, those who challenged the premise for an illegal invasion and questioned the unending occupation, are said to not believe in America. Like some jingoistic macho war stance is what is need to be a true American. He pointed out that our questioning of the leaders is proving that not only do we believe in America, but that we also are honoring those who have lost there lives in service to America by exercising our free speech rights.

Amy Goodman followed on this by focusing on the fact that the public airways are our, the public’s airwaves, not some corporations.

Sonali Kolhatkar talked about Afghanistan which has largely been forgotten in the press and in America’s consciousness. She talked about how the run up to the attack on Afghanistan was sold as a war of liberation, helping brown people, which makes it easier to sell to the American public.

Because of the lack of coverage we don’t learn things like violence is up 50% in the last year (not sure if nationwide or by region), that soldiers are dying at a higher rate than in Iraq, or that NATO has killed more civilians than the Taliban.

During questions and answers:

Kolhatkar also talked about how NPR didn’t run an interview of Malalai Joya, an Afghan lawmaker, who is  labeled by some as the bravest woman in Afghanistan, because her accent was too strong.  Goodman who has had Joya on Democracy Now wondered if they ever applied that standard to Henry Kissinger.

Klein talked about the horrible coverage, including the NY Times, about what is going on in Latin America, especially referencing the discredited laptop that ties FARC to Venezuela.  Yet, this is what has since been reported, but not picked up on the topic.  In fact Hugo Chavez has called for FARC to lay down arms and release hostages, as Mark Weisbrot of CEPR has just reported (highly recommended), and this isn’t the first time Chavez has called for an end to the hostilities, but you wouldn’t know that from US media coverage.  While the policies in left of center governments in Latin America aren’t perfect, they are better than what most of the world has for governance and economic self-determination.  But yet, the media coverage often vilifies or misrepresents the reality on the ground.

Donahue talked about the shock that we would face if the media improved, it would be like a woman who married a drunk and didn’t realize it until the night he came home sober.

Rev. Yearwood got things exciting later with an verbal lashing at a Fox News cameraman, blaming Fox News and the media in general for selling us this illegal war.

Then we had lunch.  The rest of the day will be in a second post.


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.