How would you reform the media?

If you could reform the “media landscape,” what would it look like?

For Josh Silver, it would mean an end to corporate ownership of the media diverse and independent media ownership, newspaper owners who live in the city in which they publish, political coverage that focuses on issues, an open Internet, more public and community radio and TV and hundreds — thousands? — of small TV and radio stations springing up from your computer.

jsilver.jpgIt’s not a pie-in-the-sky vision, he insists. “In St. Petersburg, Florida, there’s a community-organization-owned daily newspaper that does a great job, has laid off relatively few reporters in the last decade and turns out some of the best local coverage in the county,” according to Silver, who heads Free Press, an organization that wants to reform the media and is hosting a conference in Minneapolis next month.

(Bob interjects: Last month the St. Petersburg Times eliminated its business section)

Considering “reform” of the media, however, inevitably invites a “what comes first” discussion. Did the media dumb down the people who consume it? Or did the people who consume the media dumb down the media? Nobody will be surprised that two semi-talented singers competing tonight on American Idol will garner more ratings than the coverage of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries, right?

“When you do turn on your cable news and you watch the shows covering the primaries, it’s all horse-race coverage,” Silver says. “You have very little debate and analysis on what the candidates actually stand for … There is such a lack of the kind of hard-hitting questions that shows like Hardball or Fox News pretend to throw at the candidates. The coverage is pretty pathetic. It’s kind of a rational decision to pick American Idol.”

Speakers at the National Conference for Media Reform (June 6-8) include: Bill Moyers, Dan Rather, former anchor of CBS News (question: Does the guy who invented ’48 Hours’ really have the authority to lecture on media reform?); North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan; FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein; Arianna Huffington of HuffingtonPost.com; Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, co-hosts of Democracy Now!; Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine; law professors Lawrence Lessig of Stanford and Tim Wu of Columbia; Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation; and media scholar Robert W. McChesney, co-founder of Free Press.

A small — and fairly liberal — list of what is actually a pretty substantial lineup.

“I do believe that conservatives are going to catch up with liberals on this notion of making a workable business model online. The debate in this country has swung so far to the right over the last 10, 20 years that even the notion of just a functioning education system or health care for every American has become some sort of radical, left-wing conspiracy — or at least certainly a very liberal idea — when, in fact, it’s not,” he says. “We’re talking about civil society, basic rights of every human being. We’re going to see a redefinition of what is left, and what is right. And what we’re going to find is those on the right, who are reasonable and what I would call real conservatives, they’re going to figure out how to make viable news outlets flourish online, too.”

Of particular interest to conference organizers is the increased use of video on the Web. They’ve come to the right place. Local efforts such as The Uptake, for example, have done some very impressive work (News Cut interview), and are providing stories the “legacy media” are not.

Audio segments of the interview with Josh Silver (mp3 ):

  • Fed up with “what is posing as journalism.”
  • Three areas of the media need reforming.
  • Political coverage may not be worth missing American Idol for.
  • Why shouldn’t reporters be cut if people aren’t buying newspapers?

  • Don’t news organizations need to be financially successfully to be journalistically successful?

  • What current efforts would you consider successful?
  • Are you bothered that the most successful Internet news sites have a political view?

    Now it’s your turn to discuss the situation. How would you reform the media?

    • Tyler Suter

      After only a year of solid public radio listening, which eventually led to public radio addiction, I am keen on this proposal for a sustainable “media landscape.” My only question is how are we going to slow down the media giants and/or convince them that local is where the practical outlet lies? Let’s face it, public radio is not quite as profitable as media mogaling (mogalship? is there even a word for mogal in this instance – whatever, point made).

    • GregS

      - Bill Moyers

      - Dan Rather

      - HuffingtonPost.com

      - Democracy Now!;

      - Naomi Klien

      - The Nation

      Oh dear, Oh dear, what can we do to reform the media? Oh my!!

      How about reforming journalism to place an emphasis on getting the fact right rather than the politics left.

      By the way, has The Nation come around to admitting Stalin was a bad guy?

    • Layton James

      I simply wish that when a politician says something that isn’t true, that the media would alert the public to the facts rather than expressing the truth as “another viewpoint.” Truth is not an opinion.

    • Bob Collins

      But truth and facts aren’t the same thing. What one believes to be the truth is quite often an interpretation of facts.

    • bsimon

      I would reform the schools to develop a curriculum that helps students understand why news beyond which professional athlete is on the juice or which hollywood starlet is a blithering drunk is relevant to their lives. The media seems to be giving people what they want. So the real question is: why do people want crap? Solve the crap problem and the media will fix itself.

    • Bob Collins
    • Bob Collins

      But this fascination with Hollywood is hardly new. It’s been around since Hollywood’s heyday. But your comment, bsimon, is right on…. what begats what?

      I would argue that documentaries didn’t disappear from commercial TV because too many people were watching them.

      I’d also argue that it wasn’t corporate media that “ruined” programming so much as the explosion of choices on TV channels that divided the audience into small fractions, making it far more difficult to attract an advertising dollar.

      In other words, too MUCH media.

      Just a theory, tho.

    • Tyler Suter

      This is very true Mr. Collins, I would even so far as to say that what one believes to be true is always an interpretation fact. No one person’s perception of reality is reality.

    • GregS

      As long as the Supreme Court is chipping away at free speech (see the child porn ruling Monday), maybe it’s time to reconsider the availability of Michael Savage on the radio.

      The child porn ruling supported tightly written rules regarding speech where anti-social intent was well defined.

      The court is not chipping away, rather it is repairing gaping holes blasted in the constitution by irresponsible jurists of the 1960′s.

    • bsimon

      Once in a while, I click on the ‘popular stories’ link at google news, to see what the masses are checking out as news. Today is unusual, in that political news is the top story. But the rest of the list is still telling:

      http://news.google.com/?topic=po

      1) Primary Results

      2) American Idol

      3) Indiana Jones

      4) Dancing w/Stars

      5) netflix Roku

      6) Wii

      7) Ashlee Simpson

      8) excavating Manson ranch

      9) nanotube/cancer connection?

      10) Google Health Records

      5 stories – fully half – are about entertainment figures. 2 more are about entertainment devices (Roku & Wii). Three stories remain that might be considered legitimate news.

      These results are based on the stories people click on at google news. In other words, the users are self-selecting what is important to them. 7 of the top 10 stories people select for themselves are directly or indirectly related to Hollywood. That seems like a shockingly high amount.

    • Bob Collins

      //The child porn ruling supported tightly written rules regarding speech where anti-social intent was well defined.

      They weren’t THAT tightly written since it went to the Supreme Court. Look, nobody is going to feel sorry for anyone dabbling in child pornography. That is certainly not the point.

      On the other hand, a 5 year prison term for SAYING you have child porn to trade when you don’t?

      As the Appeals Court said, “Congress had written a law so broad that it covered even a braggart, an exaggerator or a liar, even someone who falsely advertises Walt Disney’s Snow White as child pornography.”

      You know, for all the people who support the 2nd Amendment in its most literal interpretation, including on the strength of the position of a comma, it’s interesting to me that none of them had anything to say about this comment from Scalia. “Offers to provide or requests to obtain child pornography are categorically excluded from the First Amendment.”

      Really? Where? I don’t see that mentioned in this Constitution that we’re supposed to interpret so literally. Judicial activism, indeed.

    • GregS

      The Supreme Court spoke specifically to the example you cited of “falsely advertises Walt Disney’s Snow White as child pornography.”

      Scalia wrote NYT

      But Justice Scalia dismissed the 11th Circuit’s finding, its reliance on what he considered far-fetched hypothetical situations and the notion that the statute under review would cause all sorts of fact-finding problems. Judges and juries are routinely called upon to assess difficult issues of fact and intent involving charges like conspiracy, incitement and solicitation, he wrote.

      We are in this boat because of judicial activism in the first place. It was the USSC who opened pandora’s box by overthrowing 200 years of judicial understanding on pornography.

      This ruling is nothing more than a common sense remedy to fix the damage to society, and children, done by a court that lost its bearings a half century ago.

    • c

      /On the other hand, a 5 year prison term for SAYING you have child porn to trade when you don’t?/

      I think that anyone who would even say this should be thrown in jail. Why would someone even ‘just happen to say’, “I have child porn”. I can’t imagine why you would even lie about having such a thing.

      Yah, I say throw the scum in the hokey for 10 years.

    • Bob Collins

      //I think that anyone who would even say this should be thrown in jail.

      And that’s exactly the mindset that leads to a loss of civil rights. It’s the same mindset that dealt with warrantless searches by somehow rationalizing that “if you haven’t done anything wrong, why would you be concerned.”

      Your right to be told you have the right to an attorney was a case involving a rapist.

      When scum loses their rights, you usually do, too.

    • c

      When scum loses their rights, you usually do, too.

      Bob-

      for this instance, I am totally ok with losing that right.

    • Bob Collins

      // with losing that right

      Which right? Free speech?

    • c

      the ‘freedom’ of saying a statement such as ‘I have child porn on the internet’

      take it away. do we really need to be able to say that? what is the difference between that and saying

      “i have a glad bag full of coke”

      if someone is videotaping pornographic movies of children they should be thrown in prison.

    • Bob Collins

      But that’s the point “c.” Once right start being eroded, they erode for everyone. Your right to be told you have the right to an attorney was provided to you by a rapist. Your right to unfettered free speech was tested by a purveyor of child porn.

      I get it. Nobody gives a rip about perverts and rapists. Who would?

      but as soon as you start saying that people have rights except this person and that person…it become much, much easier to add to the list of exceptions because most of the time the people who aren’t in the list look the other way. And by the time they DO make the list, it’s too late.

      Some who goes online and offers to trade child porn they don’t have…doesn’t HAVE child porn. So what exactly is their crime? That they said something that’s not true? Do you REALLY want that to be a crime?

      Up until recently in Minnesota, if you served your prison sentence for, say, rape, you could be incarcerated for a crime that you’ve yet to commit. Even though you served your time, you could be held because you MIGHT offend again. And, to make it worse, the only way you could get out is if YOU proved you wouldn’t do it again. But, of course, how could you prove such a thing if you couldn’t get out?

      As distasteful as some might think it is, the only way all of our civil liberties can be protected is if we protect the civil liberties of all.

    • GregS

      But that’s the point “c.” Once right start being eroded, they erode for everyone. Your right to be told you have the right to an attorney was provided to you by a rapist. Your right to unfettered free speech was tested by a purveyor of child porn.

      There is a great book by the Nobel prize winning author J W Coatzee called Waiting for the Barbarians that flips the slippery slope argument on its head.

      Coatzee is a South African writer who explored the psychology of aparthied. In the book he challenged the irrational fear that any comprimise to liberty would lead to doom.

      The inverse to fear of the slippery slope is defending the furthest outpost. The ACLU uses this argument all the time. They insist that if we do not defend the extremes of liberty that all liberty is under siege.

      The argument is completely irrational and Coatzee suggests using it threatens liberty itself. Defending the furthest output simply antagonizes the barbarians.

      What an excellent analogy for speaking of child porn.

      The truth of our world is that we are always on the slipperly slope, what we need to do is become adept at standing on slipperly ground rather than cling desperatly to far flung fringes.

    • Bob Collins

      //The argument is completely irrational

      A debatable point if it weren’t for the fact that since 9/11 we have already lost some of our rights and protections. If it weren’t for the fact that, for example, you CAN be held for as long as the government wants without the ability to see a lawyer, well, then everything would be just ducky.

      Unless, of course, one defines irrational as the belief that you SHOULD be entitled to your freedom absent a specific charge of wrongdoing.

      I haven’t read Coatzee, but let me just go on record that I’ll cast my lot with Jefferson.

    • c

      Fetter this-

      Ok

      Lets make the scenerio of “freedom of speech” more real. Bob and Gregs lets say that instead of sons you have a daughter. Some person has a vendetta out on her. So they pay top dollar to some scum to lure her children or even herself into doing things she would NEVER normally do. The scum has it on video tape and it goes back to Vendetta Queen and she puts it all over the internet.

      The Vendetta Queen is merely practicing her “freedom of speech” according to you right?

      How do you stop the insanity?

    • Bob Collins

      Absolutely not. The woman who puts it “all over the Internet” has commited a crime. She’s not exercising her free speech rights.

      That’s different from my point; much different. If you SAY you have child porn — but don’t — in order to obtain some child porn, then it seems to me the point at which you OBTAIN the child porn is the point at which you’ve committed a crime. And obviously that person should be prosecuted.

    • GregS

      A debatable point if it weren’t for the fact that since 9/11 we have already lost some of our rights and protections. If it weren’t for the fact that, for example, you CAN be held for as long as the government wants without the ability to see a lawyer, well, then everything would be just ducky.

      We have lost nothing, but gained a great deal.

      There is always a tension between the right to be left alone and protected by government.

      Normally, society likes to plant a stake in the ground well to the left of privacy, but when 3,000 people die on a clear blue day in September, society tends to draw back a bit.

      This is a perfectly natural process that the nation has been through numerious times.

      We have always held combatants without charge, without trial and without sentence. That is the nature of war.

    • GregS

      That’s different from my point; much different. If you SAY you have child porn — but don’t — in order to obtain some child porn, then it seems to me the point at which you OBTAIN the child porn is the point at which you’ve committed a crime. And obviously that person should be prosecuted.

      Really?

      Are you suggesting if someone plots with an undercover cop posing as a hitman to murder their spouse, the authorities have to allow that person to hire a real hitman and murder their spouse before they can act?

      The crime is conspiracy and intent, even though the conspiracy was accomplished under false pretext, the intent to violate the law…and a child is still clear.

    • c

      Bob-

      The person who ‘said’ they ‘had’ child porn most likely DID have it. In this day and age of all the technology I am sure there are many ways to cover your tracks, lose all evidence especially if you are computer savvy.

      I believe that prosecuting anyone who says that they have child porn is one way to stop the internet porn insanity.

      I think that this is going to make people accountable for their actions. Even the wealthy.

    • Bob Collins

      //The person who ‘said’ they ‘had’ child porn most likely DID have it.

      But in this country, we generally don’t convict people on probability, and, besides, that’s not the element of the case in question. If he/she DID have it, then there’s a law to deal with that. But if the person DIDN’T have it and said he did, making that a crime is a new twist.

      //re you suggesting if someone plots with an undercover cop posing as a hitman to murder their spouse, the authorities have to allow that person to hire a real hitman and murder their spouse before they can act?

      Since you’re in law enforcement, Greg, I assume you know that THAT is conspiracy. A crime has already been committed. What we’ve seen in the child porn case is a broadening of the effort to say that saying you have child porn is equivalent to having it. And as I’ve said multiple times now, I’m not particularly concerned about the fate of perverts. I am concerned about the way we conveniently look the other way as certain rights are chipped away.

      BTW, I notice the people who are all atwitter over our right to buy incandescent light bulbs have nothing to say on the subject. Figures. One of those rights is actually IN the constitution; one isn’t.

    • Bob Collins

      //Normally, society likes to plant a stake in the ground well to the left of privacy, but when 3,000 people die on a clear blue day in September, society tends to draw back a bit.

      That’s the same logic we used, of course, to imprison thousands of people because of their descent.

      I’m pretty sure the Constitution was meant to survive those periods when we’re scared and stupid.

    • GregS

      That’s the same logic we used, of course, to imprison thousands of people because of their descent.

      War does that, but then that is why we have a Supreme Court and a constitution. If citizens feel they are losing their rights, they should approach the court for redress.

      It is the job of the court to balance the rights of the individual against the rights of society.

    • GregS

      What we’ve seen in the child porn case is a broadening of the effort to say that saying you have child porn is equivalent to having it.

      I am not sure what’s new here.

      If I walk into a bank and tell the teller I have a gun even though I do not have a gun, I am still guilty of aggravated robbery.

      The law does not even distinguish a real gun from a toy gun.

    • GregS

      This is from Illinois but the legal principle is relevant.

      Armed robbery and aggravated robbery may be committed in various ways. 720 ILCS 5/18–2(a), 18–5 (West 2002). However, as relevant here, the crimes are extremely similar. Each requires, first, a robbery, i.e., a taking of property “from the person or presence of another by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force” (720 ILCS 5/18–1(a) (West 2002)). See 720 ILCS 5/18–2(a), 18–5(a) (West 2002). Beyond that, “[t]he elements of the offenses differ in that armed robbery requires that a defendant ‘carr[y] on or about his or her person or [be] otherwise armed with a firearm,’ while aggravated robbery requires that a defendant ‘indicat[e] verbally or by his or her actions to the victim that he or she is presently armed with a firearm.’ ” People v. McDonald, 321 Ill. App. 3d 470, 472-73 (2001), quoting 720 ILCS 5/18–2(a)(2) (West Supp. 1999) and 720 ILCS 5/18–5(a) (West1998). Thus, a defendant commits armed robbery by committing robbery while actually armed with a firearm; on the other hand, a defendant commits aggravated robbery by committing robbery while merely indicating that he or she is armed with a firearm, whether he or she is actually armed or not. See 720 ILCS 5/18–2(a)(2), 18–5(a) (West 2002).

      The same prinicple applies to a child pornographer, they may not have the goods but thier intent in suggesting they do is to commit a crime.

    • c

      //If I walk into a bank and tell the teller I have a gun even though I do not have a gun, I am still guilty of aggravated robbery.//

      -tell ‘em greggs-

      (good one)

    • Bob Collins

      If you say you have child porn, and it turns out to be a 21 year old in a bathing suit, theoretically you’ve committed a crime, since the court is saying you do not actually have to HAVE child porn.

      In a business arrangement, there already is an area of law — fraud — which addresses that.

      Regarding the bank robbery analogy, you’ve robbed a bank whether you have a gun or not. But in the case referred to here, neither the court, nor the pervert challenged the fact that he HAD child pornography on his computer when he was arrested.

      Those were NOT issues in this case.

      Theoretically, it seems to me, you could have a copy of Penthouse — which is protected speech — and SAY it’s child porn and now it’s NOT protected speech.

      Same people. Same picture. One is a crime. One is not.

    • GregS

      If you say you have child porn, and it turns out to be a 21 year old in a bathing suit, theoretically you’ve committed a crime, since the court is saying you do not actually have to HAVE child porn.

      If you look closely at the decision, seven of the justices were saying “it is up to the police, prosecutor and jury to decide intent.

      The law does this all the time.

      Let’s say some idiot buys an issue of Penthouse containing a picture of a very young woman and tries to pawn off copies of the photo as being pictures of a 15 year old.

      The justice system should be able to arrest, arraign and try such behavior.

      Even though the picture is of a mature person, the act of distributing the photo is still furthering a criminal enterprize – child porn.

      The act in itself may not harm a child because the subject is not a child, but it harms society by building the criminal network and criminal connections the law is written to inhibit.

      At any step along the way, the process can simply let the guy go…but it should also be able to apply common sense and human reason to curb dangerous behavior.

    • c

      /At any step along the way, the process can simply let the guy go…but it should also be able to apply common sense and human reason to curb dangerous behavior./

      I have no tolerance for pornography whether it is adult or child. Both can be mentally destructive. What I strongly believe is important about what Greggs said was the statement, “apply common sense and human reason to CURB DANGEROUS BEHAVIOR”

      This draws the line. We need to draw a line I believe in this catagory otherwise you are leaving a loophole for a crime to be commited and the perpetrator getting away with it.

    • GregS

      My concern c, is that we become so enthusiastic in our defense of the furthest outposts of free speech that we throw away concerns for a safe and normal life.

      The ACLU has gone so far out on that limb as to support NAMBLA’s free-speech of lmaintaining a network that is nothing more than a criminal enterprise.

      In those extreme circumstances, and only in those extreme circumstances, we need to FAIL-SAFE.

      I simply do not buy the argument that we must live in the extreme of either defending the furthest outposts of risk losing free speech.

    • Bob Collins

      //we throw away concerns for a safe and normal life.

      One in every 100 people in the U.S. is either in jail or prison. It’s a number that has NEVER been higher.

      We lead the world in both the number and percentage of people in prison.

      One fairly trembles at the thought of what the view is for the utopian world of those who think the further crackdown on individuals in the interest of “safety.” It appears it involves expanding the definition of crime and trying to get the incarcerated population even higher.