Pacifica Foundation's increasing censorship of its radio stations has led it to no good end. Distinctive for its vigorous advocacy of freedom and democracy at home and abroad, Pacifica began foundering when it brandished the implements of censorship.
The formula for American media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simple. Rarely do American journalists explore the ample reasons to believe that the United States is part of the oft-decried cycle of violence.
The costs of new high-tech products -- and related offerings such as online service, broadband connections, cable television and satellite TV -- all add up. Americans are indebted to new media technologies -- but also, increasingly, in debt.
Eager to oust Slobodan Milosevic from power, the U.S. government has funneled millions of dollars to media projects in Yugoslavia. What if other nations tried to help level the playing field for candidates here in the U.S.? Ralph Nader could use a ten million dollar cash infusion...
At the National Association of Broadcasters convention in late September, I look forward to being among those who will speak at nearby independent forums -- and will protest in the streets of San Francisco to confront the dire centralization of media ownership.
After many months of controversy over her anti-gay statements to millions of radio listeners, Dr. Laura ascended the airwaves to an even higher and mightier pulpit. Much to the chagrin of gay-rights supporters, her crusade has reached televisionland.
The lobbying goals of media corporations extend into areas that might surprise you. According to the Center for Public Integrity, "Federal Communications Commission employees were taken on 1,460 all-expenses-paid trips sponsored by media corporations and associations since 1995, costing a total of $1.5 million."
It's always dangerous when politicians claim to be doing God's will. So, as the novelty fades from Al Gore's selection of Joseph Lieberman, journalists should ask some probing questions about the ticket's conspicuous piety.
Once again, it's the season of the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Both events have been underwritten by generous corporate patrons; both cities are notorious for police misconduct. Hospitality and brutality -- the contrasts could hardly be more extreme.
Big-name journalists are fond of rosy windows on the world. Overall, the powerful politicians they cover have similar vantage points. And when large numbers of them get together, the upbeat -- and facile -- rhetoric is thick.
George Orwell has been dead for half a century, but Orwellian language lives on. Instead of scrutinizing the facile rhetoric of U.S. politics, reporters are inclined to solemnly relay it, while adding some of their own.
"In recent years, several dozen companies have bought major-league naming rights. Teams now play in Bank One Ballpark (Phoenix), Network Associates Coliseum (Oakland) and Continental Airlines Arena (New Jersey). But a public-interest group is urging sportswriters to resist a free-enterprise wave of the future."
"There's a slick new term surfing its way into the mass media. 'E-government.' Many citizens would be glad to see the Internet streamline their dealings with federal agencies. But we're now hearing claims that go way beyond matters of efficiency -- to conflate convenience and democracy."
"George W. Bush and Al Gore are among the most boring political leaders in the country. And that's saying something. But every four years, when summer begins, the national media curtain rises on an overheated stage of presidential politics. The political show must go on -- no matter how phony it may be."
The virtual Ten Commandments of Dot-Comity are now widespread: You shall not take the name of the Lord your Market in vain ... You shall not fail to make a killing ... Remember the stock exchange and keep it holy ...
After the Love Bug virus struck millions of computers, many news outlets attributed the magnitude of the damage to "software monoculture" -- too many people relying on the same exact programs. But what about media monoculture?
"None of the presidential candidates is closer to Wall Street, or more indebted to it, than Bill Bradley. And yet, 'the politics of ambiguity' generates so much fog on the media landscape that quite a few people view him as a progressive alternative."
Solomon writes: "Columbus Day is a national holiday. But it's also a good time to confront the true story of the heroic explorer who "discovered" America. This bloody history might make modern readers tremble -- if they had access to it instead of just mythology."
Solomon writes: "For months now, media outlets have been flooding us with intense debates over President Clinton's sexual conduct. But news coverage still fails to consider the Clinton scandals in the context of what he has long been preaching about welfare recipients and other low-income Americans."
We may resent the Lord of Microsoft and the lesser gods, but the media culture of worship seems almost overpowering. An ultramodern theology now glorifies the quest for vast wealth and technological power. A decade ago, advertising critic Leslie Savan noted the emergence this trend as what she called "secular fiscalism." Television commercials were starting to tout the accumulation of capital "as an expression of inner spiritual growth."
Solomon writes, "Let's seal a time capsule that could convey something to future generations about America's news media in 1996. A time capsule is a big responsibility. The people who might open this one, in 50 or 100 years, deserve facts that can provide some insight into the media of our era. Let's skip the lowbrow stuff on television and radio -- concentrating, instead, on sizable U.S. newspapers and wire services. With the help of a Nexis database search, from the first day of 1996 until mid-December, we can shed some light on the priorities of our higher-quality news outlets."
Just when you thought gangsta rap music, Geraldo, and Jenny Jones were devouring the soul of American civilization, here comes a savior -- the ever-virtuous William Bennett. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Bennett, a former secretary of education and drug czar, once aspired to be president. That requires getting elected. Guardians of national virtue are self-appointed. When you see Bennett in the media -- he's hard to miss these days -- promoting the Republican agenda or his book on morality, or leading his new campaign against trashy TV talk shows, you'd be well-advised to remember his occupation: politician.
Everyone loves opinion polls, especially during election years. Newspapers, magazines and television constantly run them, using the results to point out what Americans are thinking and how they are going to vote. But how accurate are such polls? Not very, says Norman Solomon. The numbers can be deceiving, and results can be askewed by the simple wording of a question. The more we trust polls, the more likely they are to mislead us.
All across the country, hundreds of public radio stations are now paying close attention to the conflict between KPFA and Pacifica. Can a public radio station truly function with the significant democratic participation of listeners? Or must a few unaccountable people be in a position to dictate basic policies?
Solomon writes: "For many years, across the United States, huge quantities of tax breaks and subsidies have been going to corporations. Sometimes called 'corporate welfare,' this pattern of legalized ripoffs has been widespread -- yet little of the story seems to emerge in major news outlets. Overall, the coverage is sporadic at best. In mass media, the broader picture has been missing -- until the last few weeks."
Solomon writes: "Many national media outlets are in a state of high moral outrage about Jerry Springer, the current emperor of daytime trash television. Some critics are charging that his program -- a daily presentation of violence, bleeped-out profanity and verbal abuse -- is all too real. Or, at the same time, not real enough. By indignantly accusing the show of fakery, critics indicate that they would prefer authentic sleaziness."
Solomon writes, "If media institutions are willing to bite the bullet and admit mistakes, then we don't have much to worry about. The problem is that mainstream media like to debunk the hoaxes that aren't very important."
Madeleine Albright may have charmed Jesse Helms on her way to Senate confirmation as secretary of state, but she was merely flirting with a powerful lawmaker. Her real political love affair is with the national press corps. Her old friends on the media mound are pleased to lob slow-pitch questions at Albright -- and then lavish praise on her ability to hit them out of the park. But it's not too tough to awe journalists who are eager to be impressed.
It is time for us to announce the winners of the P.U.-litzer Prize for 1995. Competition was intense for the fourth annual P.U.-litzers, which recognize some of the stinkiest media performances of the past year. And now, the envelopes please.