MEDIA MASH: In These Times Gets New Leader, NAB Gets Hysterical

The Times Are Changing at In These Times

In These Times, the small, fiesty, lefty journal out of the heartland of Chicago, is about to get a new publisher -- and he's got some deep pockets. Bob Burnett, a founder of Cisco Systems, is taking the reigns at ITT and appears ready to support the magazine with a much-needed cash infusion. Beth Shulman, the current publisher and popular mother figure for many young staffers at ITT, is stepping aside.

The transition to Burnett had its genesis a while back, when Burnett and ITT editor Joel Bleifuss struck up an email correspondence. One thing led to another until Bleifuss asked Burnett if he would be publisher, and the rest is history.

Burnett is a Quaker, a self-described feminist and currently lives in Berkeley California, where he will stay despite the new post. However, according to inside sources, Burnett has pledged to spend 50 percent of his time working on the magazine. He has already penned a couple of articles for the magazine, including a diary of his time at the Democratic Convention in LA. Burnett comes across as thoughtful thinker who is comfortable working simultaneously inside the Democratic party and outside among progressives. He seems to bring a Californian tone -- or perhaps Quaker perspective -- to his values, urging greater understanding and communication between liberals and more left-leaning progressives. For example, he chided the demonstrators in LA for not engaging the Democratic delegates on globalization issues.

Burnett could shake things up a bit at ITT. He is apparently conscious and concerned about audience, and is aware that lefty magazines reach a very small number of potential allies. Rather than targeting the same membership base, Burnett may want to reach out to a group that demographer Paul Ray calls Cultural Creatives -- the tens of millions of highly educated, often upper-middle class Americans (60 percent of whom are women) who believe in social equity and protecting the globe. Today many Cultural Creatives do not feel connected to progressive politics, but if this demographic can be mobilized, they could play a key role in future social change efforts.

In his meetings with the ITT staff, Burnett has reportedly talked about Cultural Creatives, an unfamiliar topic in the Chicago headquarters. ITT is known more for its gritty, in-your-face approach to journalism and commentary, not a style destined to attract Cultural Creatives. Will Burnett seek to change that? Stay tuned.

Media & Democracy Movement Alive and Well in San Francisco

It's been a year of highly visible political protests, from Seattle to DC to LA to Prague. In every city where these demonstrations were held, Independent Media Centers -- energetic but rather "rough around the edges" -- became part of the protest story. Breaking news and commentary issued forth from their Web sites, their newspapers and their radio shows, always in support of the struggle against unfettered corporate globalization.

Over the week of September 17-24, the Indy Media model sprang up once again in San Francisco, but this time with a twist. Veteran media & democracy activists joined forces with newby IMC activists in a targeted attack on the National Association of Broadcasters' (NAB) radio division. Why protest the NAB? Because it lobbies hard to allow the kind of media monopolies exterted by companies like Clear Channel Communications, the radio colossus that now operates more than 900 stations nationwide. Not to mention that the NAB is trying to shut down micro-radio and keep the airwaves free only for huge commercial interests.

Several direct actions took place around NAB (which was having its annual meeting in San Fran), including a mini-lockdown at the Moscone Center and a colorful, noisy march down Market Street and up the trolley tracks to Union Square on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the NAB and SF police took the press credentials away from Steve Rhodes, the SF Bay Guardian's on-line editor, and Jenesse Miller, a reporter from the IMC, and then tossed them out of the convention in a wonderful show of support for the First Amendement. The Bay Guardian had put together a number of stories hostile to the NAB in its September 20 edition, and the NAB honchos apparently weren't pleased about it.

Activists traveled from all over to participate in the festivities: Makani Themba from Roanoke Virginia; Sam Husseni from D.C.; Peter Phillips seemingly healed from his auto accident down from Sonoma; Dan Merkle came from Seattle with some original IMCers; and DeeDee Halleck had been in town coordinating all week with champ organizer Andrea Buffa of Media Alliance. There was also a FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) contingent including Janine Jackson and Steve Rendall, who become a temporary hero after getting busted by the ever-obnoxious SF police (the cops proceeded to arrest three lawyers trying to get into the SF jail to see their clients).

The Masher caught a wiff of the cop paranoia that has spread through every demonstration city when he overheard, against a backdrop of peaceful marchers, an officer hysterically telling his compatriots that the windows at Urban Outfitter had been smashed. As anyone who's ever visited the shop knows, the glass at Urban Outfitters has always looked like smashed safety glass -- it's simply the design of the window. The Masher had to corral the men and women in blue who were sprinting off to the scene and tell them their hysterical partner had an overactive imagination.

During the march, the Masher quizzed two super media & democracy vets, Norman Solomon and Marty Lee (FAIR founders). Was this the first major march directly against a media entity? Solomon and Lee reminded the Masher that almost ten years ago, after the invasion of Iraq, FAIR organized a New York City march of thousands that went to each network headquarters, protesting their slanted coverage of that war. So while the NAB protests may not be the first, they also hopefully aren't the last.

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