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."  

Who are today's Upton Sinclairs?

Author Barbara Ehrenreich worked at low wage jobs (waitress, maid, Wal-Mart employee) for her book Nickel and Dimed to see if she could make ends meet.

Journalist Shane Bauer recently spent four months for Mother Jones working for minimum wage as a prison guard in a for-profit prison in Louisiana that neglected both prisoners and guards

Stephen Colbert accepted the challenge of experiencing difficult working conditions as a farm worker. Here he is doing farm labor (in upstate New York).

Students carry on Ida B. Wells legacy

Over the last 16 years, Northwestern University students (in journalism and law) and their professors  were instrumental in proving the innocence of many prisoners in Illinois, several of whom had been sentenced to death. Their investigative journalism was far from perfect, but it ultimately sparked the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois in 2011.

Lynching prompted the classic Billie Holiday song,"Strange Fruit," which she recorded independently in 1939 -- getting around the objections of Columbia, her record company: "Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees." It ultimately became her biggest selling record. Time magazine denounced the song as a "piece of musical propaganda." The song's lyrics were inspired by this photograph of a 1930 lynching in Indiana.

Re Legacy: I'm not aware of any high schools named after the many newspaper editors who ignored or apologized for racist lynchings. But Ida B. Wells has a high school named after her (school home page here) in San Francisco (just across the park from the famous "painted ladies" Victorian houses.)




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Early dissident newspapers NOT "user-friendly"

See crowded layout of William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist publication, The Liberator, here. Not exactly HuffingtonPost. No half-naked actors. Elizabeth Cady Stanton's/Susan B. Anthony's feminist publication, The Revolution, was almost as dense. Content was queen back then. Mainstream press weren't very reader-friendly either in that era.

Journalists re-fight old battles

Dissident publications throughout history exposed many social wrongs (like the labor weeklies in the 1830s spotlighting the problem of people being jailed simply for being in debt). Exposure led to reform -- debtors' prisons were abolished. But years or generations later, other journalists may have to return to the issue . . . as these investigative journalists for the big mainstream daily in Minneapolis did in 2011.
"It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found."
The Nation returned to the topic of debtors' prisons in 2014, and Izzy Award-winner John Carlos Frey reported on the same theme for public TV in 2015.

 I.F. Stone pointed out that some reforms don't happen except through the work of generations of journalists and democracy activists: 
“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing - for the sheer fun and joy of it - to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it.”

Student profiles of indy outlets

Jacobin . . . RookieMag . . .  Upworthy . . . The Young Turks website . . . Salon.com . . . The Inquisitive Mind . . . JeffGluck.com . . . DerekBodner.com


Friday, February 17, 2017

Internet Hoaxes

Question: Are younger educated people who were raised on the Internet LESS likely to be taken in by hoax emails such as Obama as "radical Muslim" than Jon Stewart's 80-year-old aunt? Or the hoax about clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger as racist

Last year, hoaxes (so-called "fake news") from pseudo-news sites were shared more widely than actual news, according to a Buzzfeed study.  And WTOE 5 is not a real TV station any more than the Denver Guardian is a real newspaper. Here's a doozy from a hugely-trafficked rightwing site called "Conservative Tribune." Hoaxer/alleged comic Paul Horner tells the Washington Post: "I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me." (NBC "Today" show interviewed me in 2013 about separating fact from fiction in media and Internet.)

Book sells big, thanks to indy bloggers


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is U.S. media system failing to inform

Typical of similar academic studies over the years, a study published in 2009 compared the level of public knowledge about current events in Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom and the United States. It found that the countries where TV/radio is dominated by public broadcasting -- Denmark and Finland -- were the best informed. Our country, dominated by corporate commercial media, was the least informed, especially among lower-income people. The U.K.'s public, with its mix of Murdoch-style tabloids and BBC, was in the middle. The study's authors suggest that differing media systems play a role in those results.

2003 study of public knowledge of facts related to the Iraq War found that misperceptions among U.S. residents (that evidence linked Iraq and al Qaeda; that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq; and that world public opinion favored the US invasion) were greatest among those whose primary info source was Fox News -- and least among those whose primary info source was public broadcasting. (A Pew poll taken in Aug. 2010 found that almost 1 in 5 Americans believed President Obama to be a Muslim; only 34% knew he is a Christian. 43% chose "don't know.")

Oh My News TV correspondent . . .

. . . tries to get answers in Dec 2013 from a former South Korean president who appointed a discredited director of the National Intelligence Service. Spy chief Won Sei-hoon faced legal charges that he'd meddled in the 2012 presidential election on behalf of the winning conservative candidate through a covert Internet effort to smear opposition candidates. The reporter asked the former president: Do you feel responsible as a person who appointed Won to this post? Soon after this TV report, the spy chief was convicted of graft. 

Nightmare in Tunisia for its dictator

Tunisia is a small, Mediterranean country in North Africa.  Back in 2007, Tunisian citizen-journalists had documented the tourism/shopping sprees of the dictator's wife aboard the presidential plane to Europe and global shopping/fashion capitals. (H/t Global Voices)


In 2010, the TuniLeaks website was set up to post (WikiLeaks-released) internal U.S. Embassy documents candidly exposing the corruption of Tunisia's dictatorship. Here's a heartfelt thank you to Chelsea Manning from a Tunisian.

Fascinating photo (released by Ben Ali's office) of dictator Ben Ali visiting the hospital bed of the desperate young man who set himself on fire in protest in Dec. 2010 -- the young man didn't live long enough to learn that his act led to the overthrow of Ben Ali after sustained, Internet-fueled nonviolent protests. 

Amid the protests, Tunisian rapper El General put out this widely-circulated music video against Ben Ali that urged people to join the protest. It led to his arrest for a few days. Soon after, the dictator fled. The song went on to become an anthem in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.

Despite upheaval, Tunisia has been the model of democracy and compromise in the wake of the Arab Spring, as suggested this article from 2016, and this new documentary.

U.S. jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie performs his classic jazz tune "Night in Tunisia," first recorded in 1944.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Video and blogging for human rights

Launched in 1992 with the help of musician Peter Gabriel, the nonprofit Witness.org began distributing video cameras in hopes of minimizing human rights abuses. Now they help and train people in the safe use of cell phones and cameras to record abuses. Their slogan: "See it. Film it. Change it."


The Israeli human rights group, B'Tzelem, provides cameras to Palestinians so they can record Israeli settlers who harass Palestinians, including incidents of intimidation in and around the Palestinian city of Hebron, which rightwing Israeli religious settlers believe God has bequeathed to Jews.

Vancouver Film School students created an inspiring video, "Iran, A Nation of Bloggers," and put it online months before the tech-fueled protests over Iran's disputed 2009 election.

"Get lost, you A**-hole," says the president. Caught on video.

In 2008, then-President of France Nicolas Sarkozy was caught on video calling a disgruntled citizen an "idiot" or "dumbass" or "a**hole" (depending on translation). French politicians were having difficulty tolerating the scrutiny of online coverage (including online video) -- especially compared to deferential coverage they're accustomed to from traditional media.

A former U.S. president (then governor of Texas) caught on video

Mexico's "Yo Soy 132" Student Movement and the 2012 Election

This Internet-driven movement didn't alter the outcome of Mexico's July 2012 presidential election -- since the candidate being "imposed" by the two major TV networks ended up winning.  But the student activists of Yo Soy 132 had impact; they set up an historic presidential debate that was carried online (TV-promoted frontrunner, Enrique Pena Nieto, was the only candidate who didn't show up).  It was this video on You Tube that launched the movement, after a campus protest had embarrassed Pena Nieto.

Global Voices Online

Global Voices is a community of hundreds of writers, bloggers, experts and translators around the world who post reports from blogs and citizen media, emphasizing "voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media." For example, this 2014 Vlog post on Latin American subway musicians & performers. Or, a win for activists in Brazil. A win for the language rights of indigenous people in Mexico. 


This 2011 post features short videos from a competition on gender equality in the Ukraine.

This 2010 post features a public protest by a brave professor and blogger in China, offering himself as a slave.

Egyptian bloggers & "Facebookers" led pro-democracy uprising

With the Mubarak dictatorship in control of all major media in Egypt, brave Egyptian "citizen journalists" risked imprisonment and torture to blog or tweet about human rights abuses. Here's renowned Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas interviewed on BBC in January 2010. Over the years, Abbas was harassed, censored and assaulted by authorities -- and was briefly detained in Feb 2011 during the uprising.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous covered the 18-day uprising in 2011 for Democracy Now!, and he was the central character in an HBO documentary about the Egyptian revolution. For his work in Egypt, he was awarded (on IC campus in April 2012) the Izzy Award for outstanding achievement in independent media.  (Here's a paperback "Tweets from Tahrir.")

Nick Fustor wrote an important blog post on social media activism today and Facebook.

In June, 2010, Khaled Said was beaten to death by police in public for the crime of Internet use and, apparently, exposing police corruption. His martyrdom inspired protests and Internet organizing that led to the uprising six months later that ended the Mubarak dictatorship. Middle East-based Google exec and activist Wael Ghonim set up the galvanizing "We Are All Khaled Said" Facebook page in Arabic.  (Here's an English FB version of "We Are All Khaled Said.")

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Upworthy.com

Upworthy.com promotes social/political issues virally -- often using visuals or video like this animation on advertising/media impact on girls. A site satirizing Upworthy.  

Two journalists held City of Chicago accountable for police killing of civilian

Two journalists and a lawyer in Chicago broke open the case of the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald -- first the autopsy and then dashcam video footage that was seen all over the world.  Brandon Smith, whose suit forced release of the video, was barred (lack of credentials) from the news conference about the video and criminal charges against the policeman.  

Glenn Greenwald helped raise some funding for Smith and Jamie Kalven's investigative Invisible Institute -- and other journalists who do police accountability reporting. Greenwald interviewed Smith:


GREENWALD: One of the things that I’ve always wondered about in reading about the work you did in this case is there are obviously a lot of big media outlets in Chicago like The Chicago Tribune and a bunch of network affiliates and other reasonably well founded media outlets. Why did it fall on you to pursue this case on the courts? . . . 


SMITH:  . . . It’s not so much like a really obvious failure it’s more of like, just a general trusting on their part of government and process. You know, I was a newspaper reporter for five years in Ohio and I got into the same groove of trusting my sources and like getting into a relationship with my sources. And so when they say, “Oh, the investigation is ongoing, to release a video would mean to screw up our investigation,” then I’m sorry to say that I was one of those reporters that just didn’t say boo to that. And over the years I’ve kind of developed this independent mindset that I think is really important in our work and I wish more people had it. 

Tavi Gevinson: blogger at 11, editor-in-chief at 15

This interview was recorded when fashion blogger Tavi was 15, and had founded Rookie. At age 16, she appeared on Colbert Report.

By age 17, she was costarring in a Hollywood movie ("Enough Said"). In 2014, at age 18, she became a Broadway actress in "This Is Our Youth," starring opposite Michael Cera.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Battle over WikiLeaks

In Dec. 2010, blogger Glenn Greenwald (a WikiLeaks supporter) explained journalistic independence to a CNN correspondent. WikiLeaks website is here. This leaked video (with nearly 16 million YouTube views) shows the killing of employees of the Reuters news agency and wounding of children by a US attack helicopter in Iraq.


In August 2012, I visited the Ecuadoran embassy in London after WikiLeaks' founder had taken refuge inside; I was there days after the British government threatened to invade the embassy, a serious breach of international law.

Following in WikiLeaks footsteps is a new U.S.-based group, ExposeFacts.org.  (Full disclosure: I am an advisor).

On the 2016 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, the United States has fallen to 41st out of 180 countries -- largely because of "the government's war on whistleblowers who leak information about its surveillance activities, spying and foreign operation . . ."

The man who inspired Edward Snowden to become a whistleblower was a previously brave NSA officer named Thomas Drake, who suffered consequences of a prosecution and now survives by working in an Apple store.

Local online watchdog outlets try to fill gaps

As dailies have shrunk, local online nonprofit news sites have sprouted, such as the well-funded VoiceofSanDiego.org ("Nonprofit News Powered by Members") and the professionally-staffed MinnPost.com ("a thoughtful approach to news"). and Buffalo's hard-hitting Investigative Post, which published this powerful investigative piece about the hunt for lead in Buffalo's drinking water. Nationwide, local watchdog outlets are trying to figure out how to survive, reported Jodi Enda in a 2012 piece for American Journalism Review.

Nonprofit investigative outlet ProPublica . . .

. . .  probes important issues from the pharmaceutical industry to hate crimes.  ProPublica won its 3rd Pulitzer last year for a fascinating feature, "An Unbelievable Story of Rape."  Another Propublica piece by Justin Elliott during the height of the Edward Snowden controversy questioned the evidence-free claim that NSA mass surveillance of all of us has thwarted 54 terror plots.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Are some journalists too cozy with their official sources?

In 2003, a CNN executive actually boasted about having given the Pentagon an advisory role on who his on-air experts would be during the Iraq war. . . 

At 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents Association Dinner, top journalists (including then-NBC White House correspondent David Gregory) were literally dancing with a top source, 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 coziness? . . .

Whether dealing with political leaders or celebrity athletes, the quest to gain access to famous newsmakers can undermine independent journalism, according to indy TV host Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, one of the most successful independent web TV outlets.

Two of the country's top political journalists take a fun ride in candidate Trump's helicopter at the 2015 Iowa State Fair. Who could question their independence, objectivity or diligence?

"Independent Media in a Time of War" featuring Amy Goodman

A group of volunteer citizen-journalists (Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center) produced a short documentary centered around an April 2003 speech by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!  At the time, many in mainstream media were cheering what they believed was a short, successful and nearly-completed invasion of Iraq; President Bush's approval rating was sky high.

Impolite question sparks big controversy

A student in the Spring 2009 indy media class, Chris Lisee, blogged about the impact that a single off-key journalist can have.

Inside Climate News . . .

. . . is a nonprofit news outlet that exposed how Exxon learned about the greenhouse effect in the late 1970s and 1980s through the pioneering research of its own scientists, and then hid that research and proceeded to fund denialism for decades. ICN correspondent Neela Banerjee explains how ICN got the story. ICN's publisher gave his version.
Author Bill McKibben got himself arrested to bring publicity to the journalistic exposes about Exxon.

Viral video impacts 2008 prez election

This 2008 video short "McCain's Mansions" from Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films (with more than 600,000 views) percolated up through the media food chain into the mainstream, where it exploded.  It impacted the campaign, as shown by this self-promotional video, "The Making of McCain's Mansions."


Trailer for "War on Whistleblowers: Free Press & the National Security State" -- a BNF feature doc critical of Obama administration

Jack Black on the mission of rock 'n' roll (and indy media)

In the movie School of Rock, a substitute teacher (played by Jack Black) explains the mission of rock 'n' roll to his 5th grade students: stickin' it to the man. Do independent media share a similar mission?  (The School of Rock kids in the original cast had a 10-year reunion with Jack Black in 2013.)