SOLOMON: When Corporate Media Cover "Independent Media"

During the recent protests in Washington against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the leading cable news network became fascinated with "independent media." Journalism free of huge economic interests -- what a concept!"Modern-day demonstrators say you just can't trust folks like us, the so-called corporate media," a CNN anchor explained, introducing a report that aired repeatedly over a two-day period. Correspondent Brooks Jackson took it from there. "They call themselves the independent media," he said, and that means working without ties to the large corporations of the media world."Global corporate media? Gee, that would be us," Jackson deadpanned, "CNN, owned by Time Warner, soon to be merged with America Online. They don't like us very much. They want to tell their story their way."Naturally, CNN proceeded to tell their story CNN's way. The report allowed the "independent journalists" just a few tightly snipped words in edgewise. But at least one incisive remark made it through the network's editing gauntlet: "We believe that objectivity is, in fact, a myth -- that everyone has a bias, everyone has an agenda -- and that corporations like major news corporations have a corporate bias."Well, getting even a few seconds to make that point on CNN amounted to a bit of a breakthrough, although the correspondent's narration was intent on maintaining a bemused tone. Meanwhile, as usual, self-satire on CNN's part appeared to be inadvertent.Midway through the report, one of the independent journalists complained that on television, "Usually the corporate folks get the last word." Sure enough, a minute later CNN's Jackson got the last word, reading the end of the script as he noted "some unintended irony -- a protest against globalism covering itself on the World Wide Web."It was the kind of quip that goes over big in network studios, a smirky tag line with insight more apparent than real. In this case, the correspondent provided an easy cliche -- obscuring the vast distinction between international solidarity and corporate globalization.Gathering in the nation's capital to take action on behalf of human rights, economic justice, labor rights and environmental protection, thousands of protesters understood from the outset that mainstream news was unlikely to illuminate the key issues. Efforts by independent journalists have made alternative coverage available at www.indymedia.org and other websites.These days, news stories about "independent media" often emphasize the use of digital technology. But the most important successes are human rather than technical. No matter how modern the streaming audio and video, it wouldn't matter much if people across the country and around the planet weren't eager to find out what anti-corporate demonstrators are doing and why they're doing it.Within the appreciable constraints of corporate journalism, the mass media's coverage of the protests against the IMF and World Bank included some valuable reporting. For instance, Time magazine's April 24 edition had a short trenchant piece headlined "The IMF: Dr. Death?" Such content exists in mainstream media today because -- for years and decades -- activists as well as small (and yes, independent) media persisted in challenging the power of corporate globalizers while large media outlets could hardly have seemed to care less.

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