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)