Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Changing HuffingtonPost brand to just "HuffPost"

According to today's Wall Street Journal:

Huffington Post Shrinks Its Name to HuffPost, in a Step Back From Founder

Publication undergoes a rebranding and redesign following co-founder Arianna Huffington’s exit last year

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why don't we have public broadcasting like this in the US?

Weeks before the 2003 U.S./British invasion of Iraq, the BBC's Jeremy Paxman and skeptical British citizens literally cross-examined Prime Minister Tony Blair about evidence/reasons/legality behind the invasion -- an interview whose transcript and Blair's comments became part of Britain's official Iraq inquiry in 2011. (Here's another tough Paxman interview of Blair from 2001 . . . unrelated to Iraq. And here, Paxman interviews comedian/actor/activist Russell Brand in Oct. 2013.) 

In our country, pressure from politicians + lack of insulated funding = embarrassing timidity at so-called "public television"...as evidenced by PBS surgically removing Tina Fey's comedic swipes at Sarah Palin from a broadcast in November 2010.

Country by country comparisons (18 nations) of taxpayer spending on public broadcasting here (as of 2011).

DOES IT FOLLOW THAT big public/state/taxpayer-funding of broadcasting leads to state-controlled and propagandistic broadccasting? Not according to the World Press Freedom Index, which shows the countries with the biggest media subsidies seem to have the greatest press freedom. 

I couldn't find NPR or PBS on this list of journalists attacked by Trump.  
In Feb 2015 a mini-scandal blew up over corporate underwriting of U.S. public TV and I was interviewed on the topic by The Real News Network. 

Days before the U.S. election, Dutch public TV aired a strong doc, "Still Berning," on the possible legacy of the Bernie Sanders movement; it would have been deemed too biased or controversial for PBS.

New doc about NYT obituary writers

I'd like to see this new movie called Obit.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

USA invented the Internet. But it's now slow and under attack.

The Trump administration is reportedly ready to green light AT&T acquisition of Time Warner -- something that likely would have been blocked as an illegal vertical monopoly decades ago.

In the opening scene of the Outfoxed documentary, media scholar Robert McChesney explains how big media corporations (acting almost like gangsters) have made media policy behind closed doors, dividing the cake among themselves. If the FCC were doing its job, it might pose gentle but probing questions of gangsta Murdoch and "Murdochopoly," as Jon Stewart did in 2013. (Years ago, Murdoch famously said: "Monopoly is a terrible thing, until you have it.")

The USA, where the Internet was invented, lags behind other countries in Internet speed. Here's one ranking from 2015In 2009, big Internet providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T DID NOT APPLY for any of the billions in federal stimulus grants for expanding broadband infrastructure, according to the Wall St. Journal, because recipients of our tax money had to agree to respect Net Neutrality.

On HBO in June, "investigative comic" John Oliver offered a powerful commentary in support of Net Neutrality, generating so many comments to the FCC that it crashed the Commission's website. Months of public pressure sparked President Obama in November 2014 to speak clearly that his FCC should protect Net Neut. 

So, Net Neutrality was saved in 2015. But under threat from President-elect Trump, cheered on by his friends at Breitbart.com.

PS "Survey Shows Satire News Programs Inform People Better Than Actual News on Net Neutrality," reports Dan Van Winkle in summarizing a 2014 University of Delaware survey. Respondents said they learned more about Net Neutrality from John Oliver, Colbert and Jon Stewart's Daily Show than from newspapers, online news or TV news. 

PPS In January 2011, I was asked to appear on a talk-radio show on a big city station to analyze Keith Oblermann's exit from MSNBC; when I suggested a link to the Comcast takeover and criticized Comcast's opposition to Net Neutrality, a producer asked me during a commercial break to stop the "Comcast-bashing" because "they're our biggest sponsor."  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mainstream media promote Breitbart's video hoaxes

The late Andrew Breitbart, a former assistant to Matt Drudge, ran BigGovernment.com and other websites (now found at Breitbart.com). In July 2010, the Obama White House forced U.S. Dept of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod to quit after BigGovernment posted a 100-second video excerpt purporting to show that, during a speech to the NAACP, Sherrod had boasted about discriminating against a white farmer while she was a federal employee in the Obama administration. Actually, as Breitbart later semi-corrected, Sherrod was describing events in the 1980s when she was Georgia field director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a nonprofit that had grown out of the civil rights movement to help Black farmers long discriminated against by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. More importantly, a fuller version of the speech (first aired by CNN) showed that Sherrod had told the story to illustrate how she had overcome her bias toward whites and ultimately helped the white farmer save his farm.

Ten months earlier, in 2009, other selectively-edited tapes distributed by Breitbart's website (featuring James O'Keefe and played repeatedly on Fox News and elsewhere) helped put the anti-poverty group ACORN out of business. Rachel Maddow dissected the distorted presentation that doomed ACORN. (Democratic operative John Podesta was on ACORN's advisory council and investigated the Breitbart's video charges against ACORN; it appears that the recent conspiracy theory about Podesta and Hillary trafficking underage girls out of a DC pizza parlor is partly fueled by the ACORN sex-trafficking hoax.) 

It wasn't just Fox News that promoted the misleading ACORN story. The Public Editor of the paper of record, the New York Times, went to absurd lengths to defend his paper's inaccurate coverage.

Drudge reports, you should hide

During the 2016 election season, Matt Drudge kept trying to fuel mainstream media coverage of Hillary Clinton's alleged ill health, and of her alleged secet lesbian relationship.

Perhaps Drudge should stick to aggregating content from others (often with revved-up headlines) rather than "report" -- as demonstrated by this 1999 "World Exclusive," which helped push a hoax into mainstream media.

Can openly biased or partisan journalists . . .

. . . engage in independent reporting and commentary -- as opposed to partisan propaganda? Here's some critical commentary from the conservative National Review Online within hours of John McCain selecting Sarah Palin as his running-mate in August 2008: 

          Ramesh Ponnuru: "Palin has been governor for about two minutes."
David Frum: "But question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?"

Shannen Coffin: "If John McCain has said that a year plus of statewide office (plus some small town politics) is good enough, why isn't state legislature and a couple of visits to the floor of the U.S. Senate?"

Jonah Goldberg: "Downside: She may not be ready for primetime. The heartbeat-from-the-presidency issue is a real one."
This isn't the drumbeat GOP cheer-leading one might get from a less independent source like Fox News at that crucial juncture.

More recently, NR devoted a whole issue (in Jan 2016) to opposing/exposing then-GOP-frontrunner Donald Trump.

Undercover video of animal abuse in factory farms . . .

. . . has prompted "food libel" or "food disparagement" laws in many states, aimed at protecting powerful agribusiness interests that apparently have something to hide. Here's a video report from U.C. Berkeley News 21 students.

HuffPost Citizen Journalist Impacts 2008 Presidential Election

Mayhill Fowler, a citizen journalist for HuffingtonPost's "Off the Bus" project, posted a report that launched the so-called "Bittergate" uproar that nearly derailed Obama's 2008 campaign. 

The Bittergate of 2012 campaign: "47%-gate." (The 47% bartender/recorder.) During the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton reportedly used a noise machine so journalists and others couldn't hear what was happening at her private, high-dollar fundraiser in Colorado.

In getting a later scoop, Fowler said she didn't hide that she was recording ex-President Clinton in June 2008 as he verbally trashed Vanity Fair reporter as "sleazy" and "dishonest" and "a scumbag, while greeting voters in public while on a campaign stop for his wife. BUT Clinton obviously did not know Fowler was a HuffPost "citizen journalist." Should she have ID'd herself? (She clearly got a more honest response from Clinton than if he'd known she was a journalist.)

Should public figures know nowadays that anything said in public -- especially rants (or racism) -- will be recorded and available forever? Exhibits A (and A-1) features a U.S. senator and B features a comedic actor.

First "viral video": George Holliday records 1991 LA police beating of Rodney King

Early "citizen journalist" George Holliday records "world's most famous home video." Here's a brief excerpt

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Snowden coverage: If U.S. media were state-controlled, would it look any different?

My June 2013 piece on some of the mainstream media reaction to Snowden and his revelations about NSA surveillance on millions of people not suspected of any crime. NY Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin commented: "I'd arrest him [Snowden] and I'd almost arrest Glenn Greenwald." Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Greenwald, "Why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" (start 1:30)

     At 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents Association Dinner, top journalists (including then-NBC White House correspondent David Gregory) were literally dancing with a top source, the controversial Bush aide Karl Rove. These are social/charitable events where journalists and newsmakers are expected to have some fun, but is it symbolic of too much elite media/government coziness? 

On the issue of "objective" vs "advocacy" journalism, here's a list of top works of journalism worth studying.

Corporate mediaspeak vs independent mediaspeak

Writes Arlana S: the chairman of Times Mirror Mark A. Willes was quoted as saying, “We’re trying to find a way to reach out to literally every segment we can in our markets. Anytime you can give either your readers or advertisers, or both, more alternatives, we think you can grow your business.’ This perfectly demonstrates the stark difference in how mainstream media looks at their readerships and what they are providing to society, in comparison to the indys. Corporate media conglomerates like Mr. Willes use words like product, business, and market, whereas the independents and alternatives are more inclined to use words like readership, community and support.

Indy NASCAR journalist . . .

. . . posts YouTube viral video of the "battle" down pit road. (H/t Dustin A)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Early You Tube Stars Earned Real Income

What the Buck? Here's Michael Buckley's "My You Tube Story." According to a Dec 2008 NY Times report, "You Tube Videos Pull In Real Money," Buckley earned over $100k in the previous year from his YouTube video-commentaries or rants about celebs. 

Since she was about 14, my now-20-year-old daughter's main source of daily news was, for years, Philly D (of "The Philip DeFranco Show"), who offers his take on current events and celeb news. (Should I have been monitoring my daughter's online activities better?)

Cory Williams and his smpFilms hit the big-time with "Hey Little Sparta" (aka "The Mean Kitty Song" -- over 86 million views). He told the NYT in 2008 that he was earning over $200k per year, partly from (ugh!) product placements in his videos. 

The rise of The Young Turks (TYT)

The Young Turks is a web TV phenom,  and YouTube played a major role in its success; here's a Turksvideo on media censorship. (Cenk Uygur is sometimes "Mad as Hell"; it's the title of a doc on Cenk and TYT. Here's the original "Mad as Hell" excerpt from the 1976 movie Network.) A 2014 London daily profiled Cenk. And the doc "All Governments Lie" featured Cenk and TYT. Yours truly was interviewed by TYT about media coverage of candidate Bernie Sanders. 

Brave New Films' "McCain's Mansions" played a role in the 2008 election campaign, thanks in part to YouTube. Ditto for this citizen journalism video about the then-dictator of Tunisia.

AOL's Journalistic Values

Soon after AOL announced its merger with HuffingtonPost in February, 2011 Business Insider (followed by the Boston Globe) published leaked AOL documents offering a glimpse into that company's journalistic approach -- not one that Arianna Huffington would endorse. Indeed, it's an approach that violates journalistic ethics. (H/t to former indy media student Leah T, for posting the Insider's summary of AOL's guidelines.)

Activists trying to save Net Neutrality . . .

. . . and the Internet as we've known it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Web censorship in China

After Yahoo provided info to China's government that led to 10-year prison sentences for two Chinese dissidents beginning in 2003 and 2005, the families of the victims (Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao) sued Yahoo. As a result, Yahoo announced in 2008 that it had established a fund for people persecuted or jailed in China for posting political views online. Too little, too late?

In response to demands from China's government, Google agreed in June 2010 to quit automatically switching its users in China to Google's uncensored Hong Kong search site. But there's a tab users can click to be switched. Should Chinese citizens feel safe when hitting that tab?

Web censorship in the USA

In 2008, the media reform group Free Press highlighted media and telecom corporations who'd recently been caught censoring web or cellphone traffic.

Inner City Press was delisted by Google News not long after its founder/leader asked anembarrassing question of Google at the United Nations.

Trump's tweet on Net Neutrality. Any more accurate than his tweet on global warming??

Another needless death . . .

in a U.S. prison -- and why are mentally ill people imprisoned and not treated for their illness.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"The Internet is my religion," says cofounder of Brave New Films

Intensely personal 2011 speech from Brave New Films' Jim Gilliam (who was raised a conservative Christian evangelical) discussing how the Internet offered him salvation and literally saved his life.

Editorial cartoonist Tom Tomorrow

The chaining and corporatization of alternative weeklies can undermine alternative cartoonists like "Tom Tomorrow"/Dan Perkins.

A victory for bloggers access to courtrooms

In March 2012, a Massachusetts court ruled that bloggers deserve the same privileges in covering courts and trials as traditional media.

Can pay walls save newspapers?

No, said Arianna Huffington, as she testifies on "The Future of Journalism & Newspapers" before the U.S. Senate in May 2009 (at 59:02). (A former indy media student complained about Boston Globe's paywall around the Globe's editorial.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Crowd-funding/ pre-funding of journalism and documentaries

A fascinating experimented called BeaconReader.com, which lasted three years until it closed up shop in October 2016, pre-funded freelance writers and indy media by seeking donations from the public for specific articles or topics. The platform reportedly raised several million dollars in total for journalists.

Kickstarter.com is "a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers..." A key aspect of Kickstarter and some other funding platforms is "All or Nothing funding."
On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.
Here's a documentary movie project that I was a part of, which used Kickstarter successfully.

Before Kickstarter was launched, the Robert Greenwald documentary on war-profiteering (Iraq for Sale) was PRE-funded mostly by small donors -- an example of grassroots financing of a work that had real impact.

Media start-ups can be flukes . . .

. . . such as  Icanhas.cheezburger.com 

Students' historic papers focused on . . .

. . . The People's Friend / L'Ami du Peuple / Jean Paul Marat . . . Freedom's Journal . . . The Revolution . . . Woman's Journal . . . The Woman Rebel . . . Pacifica Radio . . . The Realist and one of its famous posters . . . Ramparts . . . Come Out! . . . Ms. magazine and Gloria Steinem's 1990 tell-all article about the problem of ad revenue: "Sex, Lies & Advertising"

Author Kurt Vonnegut said that Krassner's intent with "F**k Communism" poster was to show "how preposterous it was for so many people to be responding to both words with such cockamamie Pavlovian fear and alarm." (H/t Isabella)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

2011/2012: Cops vs journalists covering Occupy Wall Street movement

HARASSMENT OF JOURNALISTS COVERING OCCUPY: A citizen journalist with a video camera taped himself apparently getting shot by police rubber bullet while covering a seemingly peaceful moment during Occupy Oakland (CA) protests.  At Occupy Nashville, a reporter for the long-established weekly Nashville Scene was arrested for violating a curfew imposed by Tennessee's governor (a night judge questioned whether that's legal), was threatened with a "resisting arrest" charge, and was ultimately charged with "public intoxication." Nashville's big daily reported on the dubious arrest.

Between Sept 2011 and Sept 2012, more than 90 journalists (both independent and mainstream) were arrested while covering Occupy protests in the U.S. Removing journalists and citizen journalists from the scene seemed to be a strategy because acts of police brutality -- when recorded by citizen journalists and ubiquitous cameras & cell phones -- led to more sympathy and activists for the movement: for example, in NY City and at University of California, Davis. Like in the 1960s, the federal government built a large surveillance apparatus to spy on Occupy activists. 

And the surveillance of social movements continues into the present

"THE MAYOR'S AFRAID OF YOU TUBE": In October 2011, hours after New York City authorities made a last-minute decision NOT to clear protesters from the original Occupy Wall Street site in Lower Manhattan, filmmaker Michael Moore said this to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell (begin 2:54 for context): 
"One cop down there actually today. I asked...'Why don't you think the eviction happened?' And he said, 'Cause the Mayor's afraid of You Tube.'...The power of the new media, the media that's in the hands of the people -- that those in charge are afraid of what could possibly go out."

Harassment of Indy Media at 2008 Republican Convention

Since the 1960s when the FBI and local police engaged in violence and continuous harassment against "underground weeklies," repression against dissenting U.S. outlets has decreased. But it never ended. Case in point: the 2008 Republican Convention in Minnesota. Three years later, the journalists' suit against the police was settled, with $100,000 in compensation being paid by the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the Secret Service. The settlement included an agreement by the St. Paul police to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the 1st Amendment rights of the press and public, including proper procedures for dealing with journalists covering demonstrations.

Journalists harassed at Standing Rock by N.Dakota law enforcement

Charges against Amy Goodman for the crime of journalism were dismissed, but . . . 

Excerpt from a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report:
[Jenni] Monet, who contributes to outlets including Yes! Magazine and the PBS NewsHour website, wrote about her experiences in an article for the Oneida Nation owned Indian Country Media Network. In the piece, she said that despite showing police her media pass and walking away when instructed to do so, she was arrested, strip searched, and held in jail for 25 hours before being charged.
Jihan Hafiz, an award-winning Egyptian-Samoan journalist who also faces charges, told CPJ that she thought reporting in North Dakota would be "a walk in the park." Hafiz, who has covered conflict in the Middle East and police brutality in Brazil for outlets including The Real News Network and Al-Jazeera America, said she was surprised by what she described as heavy-handed police tactics . . .
Hafiz, who published an account and video footage of the mass arrests on October 22 in  The Intercept, said she told officers she was a journalist and pleaded with them not to arrest her. "We were subjected to strip searches, which is humiliating. People who looked native or were not white were targeted and told to spread body parts or jump up and down," Hafiz told CPJ.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Two stars of 1960s "radical media"

"DR. HIP": Syndicated widely to "underground weeklies," Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld dispensed blunt and humorous advice about sex (and drugs). That legacy is carried on by Dan Savage's "Savage Love" column in today's alternative weeklies. Savage started the "It Gets Better" project.

RAMPARTS: One of the most explosive indy magazines of the 1960s, Ramparts published photos of the impact of U.S. napalm (a chemical weapon that eats away human flesh) on Vietnamese civilians in its Jan. 1967 issue. Martin Luther King, Jr. credited those photos with being the spark that got him to break his silence and speak out loudly against the Vietnam War a few months later.  Besides its investigative scoops and vivid writing, Ramparts was known for its cover art, shown here and HERE.

Indy outlet breaks sexist Marine Facebook scandal

The indy outlet The War Horse, collaborating with the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, broke this story. (H//t Isabella)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Movies about I.F. Stone . . .

. . . include the 90-minute feature documentary All Governments Lie (Disclosure -- I co-produced it), an educational movie on his legacy (Disclosure -- I helped produce it) , and an original black and white doc from 40 years ago (which helped change my life).

Citizen Abbott

Publisher of the earth-shaking Chicago DefenderRobert S. Abbott.

Margaret Sanger, flawed hero

Sanger's first publication was called 
Woman Rebel. Her later, less "red and flaming" publication was called Birth Control Review, shown here and here. She is proof that heroes, including heroes of indy media, are often flawed. This article from Women's E-News discusses her flirtation with eugenics-oriented arguments in support of birth control in the early 1920s.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dinner with Amy

In the early 1900s, the socialist Appeal to Reason newspaper offered yachts, fruit farms and motorcycles as premiums to bring in subscriptions and revenue. Democracy Now! offers "Dinner and a Show with Amy Goodman."