Rory O'Connor

The Parkland Students Win an Important Journalism and Activism Award

At 3:18 PM on February 14, 2018, as the world now knows all too well, fourteen students and three staff members were killed and seventeen others were wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The count made the shooting one of the deadliest of the many school massacres we have all endured in the decades since Columbine. This time, however, the response was different: an activist movement for greater gun safety legislation emerged in its aftermath, eventually leading to the launch of the ‘Never Again’ movement and the nationwide March for Our Lives protests. Despite their own grief and trauma, writers and editors at the Eagle Eye, the Stoneman Douglas student newspaper, responded professionally and courageously, at once reporting on and participating in the growing movement for social change.

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Journalist Patrice O'Neill Wins Danny Award for Tireless Fight Against Hate Crime

A fresh burst of hate incidents and crimes was reported in the days following Donald Trump's election last year, fueled by inflamed passions roused by his campaign, with its “dog whistle” calls to bigots, newly empowered “Alt-Right,” and racist, xenophobic media arm summoning supremacists to “Make America White Again.” Not surprisingly, given the Islamophobia and antisemitism prevalent among many Trump supporters, bias crimes against Muslims and Jews – as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people -- accounted for much of the reported rise. 

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A for Activist: No Longer Journalism's Scarlet Letter

From Anderson Cooper to John Oliver, it's become fashionable of late—even in mainstream media circles—to laud those daring enough to combine journalism with activism. That's good news, but it wasn't always that way.

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WATCH: New Episode of Doc Series 'This Is Borderless' on the Refugees of Greece

June 20 is World Refugee Day. But for the people in this video, and millions of others like them all over the world, that day is every day. Watch below:

How Talk Radio and Fox News Brainwashed My Dad

Jen Senko is a filmmaker who watched in horror as her father slowly came to believe the extreme right-wing lies of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative media mavens. Now she’s making a documentary about it called The Brainwashing of My Dad.

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Failure to Pass Gun Legislation Casts Doubt on Immigration Bill's Success

Meet the new bill... Same as the old bill? 

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As News Increasingly Moves Online, Who Will Pay For Journalism?

Journalist blogger and professor Dan Kennedy has long been one of the go-to guys in the ever-burgeoning field of media criticism. He's an author as well -- and his new book The Wired City asks, and answers, an important question: Does the digital information revolution presage the end of news, or simply the end of newspapers?

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The World Is Going Digital -- Are We Doomed?

Call me irresponsible – oh hell, call me a cyber-utopian, throw in celebrant – but it’s undeniably true that I regard the admittedly messy, chaotic, confusing and upsetting digital information revolution as, on balance, a good thing, particularly when it comes to issues of democracy and power. After all, as noted in a recent book on the subject, one result of that revolution has been that “new methods of creating content and new channels to distribute it have become available to everyone and between everyone.” As networked technologies proliferate, they rapidly transform “our political, commercial and communications environments” – including “the very nature of our democracy itself.”

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Welcome to America, Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera -- one of the best cable news networks in the world -- has always had a tough time here in the U.S. It's been derided as a "terror network" and propaganda organ. It's been denounced by publicity-seeking politicians for airing messages from Al Qaeda. Its reporters have beenimprisoned in the Guantanamo gulag for years before being released after having never been tried or convicted of any terrorist ties. Others have been targeted by U.S. forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, shot at, had missiles fired at them, and even killed.

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2012 Reasons Why Progressives Should Love Right-Wing Media

Thanks so much, Roger Ailes – we couldn’t have done it without you! And all praise to George Will, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, et al – if not for you, and your legions of credulous friends and followers, we never could have re-elected Barack Obama…

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Have You Visited a Porn Site Recently? Do You Drink Michelob or Samuel Adams? Romney and Obama Want to Know

Attention American citizens! Have you visited a porn website recently? Do you have any gay friends? Is your home in foreclosure? Do you drink Michelob or Samuel Adams?

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Why Jose Antonio Vargas Is an American Hero

 I first met Jose Antonio Vargas in the fall of 2008, in the midst of the historic Obama campaign for the presidency. At the time, I was a fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I was researching the impact of the then-emerging social media on older legacy forms of journalism, such as newspapers.

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How and Why the Media Misses the Af-Pak Story

A unique husband and wife team, Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould have reported for decades on the issues and conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the spring of 1981 they received the first visas to enter Afghanistan granted to an American TV crew and produced an exclusive news story for the CBS Evening News. They also produced a documentary for PBS, returned in 1983 for ABC Nightline, and later worked under contract to Oliver Stone on a film version of their experience.

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Is the Future of Online Media to Go Offline?

I often go to media conferences – such as this week’s National Conference on Media Reform in Boston, where I’ll finally have an opportunity to speak out about hate speech in the media, after years of proposing such a panel – but few media chatfests are as valuable as the regular We Media gatherings. The annual affair features people and ideas shaping media, technology and society – and this year’s one-day event was as usual “filled with must-have intelligence, inspired ideas and brilliant people looking ahead to what’s next and what to do about it,” as conference organizers Andrew Nachison and Dale Peskin put it.

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Hillary Clinton Talks Freedom as Protester Ray McGovern Is Bloodied

Are you as shocked as I am that even Donald Rumsfeld turns out to be a better supporter of free speech than Hillary Clinton? At least the lying SOB former Secretary of Defense didn’t stand by and do nothing as his critics were beaten, arrested and taken away in chains!

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Hate Spewing Shock Jocks Whine about Criticism in Wake of Shootings

“It is our right and our duty to criticize the people who have put the fate of our country in peril,” Rush Limbaugh said this week on his syndicated radio show.

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Persecution of Assange and Wikileaks Is an Attack on Free Speech

What do Richard Nixon, recent Nobel prize winner Liu Xiaobo and Julian Assange have in common?

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Independence Day and Independent Journalism

This Independence Day we need independent journalism more than ever – as the events leading up to and immediately following the recent resignation of General Stanley McChrystal demonstrate anew. Why was it left to an independent journalist, Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone, to tell us important facts about our military’s people, practices and policies in Afghanistan — facts that the mainstream media’s deeply dependent and addicted to access Pentagon and Afghanistan “beat” reporters never would and never will, facts crucial to any citizen wanting to make an informed democratic decision about our country’s ongoing presence in Afghanistan? The MSM reporters, it turns out, are more than happy to explain. They have, you must understand, an “unspoken agreement” with the people they cover on our behalf, an agreement NOT TO TELL the rest of us certain things.

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Strengthening Democracy Means Funding Independent Media

While it’s surely gratifying that a surprising number of non-profit media outfits, such as Pro Publica, the Texas Tribune and the Center for Independent Media, have not only cropped up but actually done yeoman-like work of late, admirably filling part of the gaping hole resulting from the endless rounds of cutbacks, buyouts and layoffs in the commercial media world, it’s also apparent that the amount of resources devoted to the public interest nevertheless pales when compared to what for-profit players are still pouring into more commercial endeavors.

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Shocking Admission on Killing Civilians by Top US General Almost Completely Ignored by Corporate Media

"We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat," says top American commander.

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Health Care Reform Needs Media Reform

American broadcasters, magazines, newspapers and other publishers take in more than four billion dollars a year in drug advertising. The drug money is a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal downward revenue spiral for media of all types. Last year was a horrible year for advertising spending in this country, which fell 12.3 percent. Spending in seven of the top ten leading ad categories fell compared with 2008. The only exceptions were in the industry categories of telecommunications, food and candy, and pharmaceuticals, which showed the largest increase of all.

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Racist Right-Wing Shock Jock Who Threatened the Lives of Judges Beats Jail Rap for Second Time

Internet shock jock and F.B.I. confidential informant Hal Turner beat the rap again when his second federal "Death-Threat Trial," ended in yet another mistrial.

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Corporate Media Are Using Industry Talking Points to Lie to Us About Nuclear Power

Nearly twenty years ago I co-wrote Nukespeak, a cultural history of the selling of nuclear technology for both peaceful and military purposes.

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How Right-Wing Cult Leader Sun Myung Moon Bought Washington

 “Moon looked on the media as almost the nervous system for a global empire. Moon was the brain, and the media are to be, or were to be, the communications vehicle for his body politic surrounding the globe.”

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Why Does America Leave It to NFL Owners to Tell Rush Limbaugh Where to Go?

Why was it left to the National Freakin' Football League -- hardly a bastion of liberal thought -- to call out bombastic shock jock Rush Limbaugh for his puerile racism and incessant bigotry? And why do NFL owners hold themselves to a higher standard thanthe rest of us?

Limbaugh made headlines again this week - an annoyingly regular occurrence -- when it was reported that he was part of a group attempting to buy a piece of his hometown football team, the St. Louis Rams. As is usual with All Things Rush, controversy erupted immediately.

This should have come as a surprise to no one, since the Rams play in a league where two-thirds of the players are black. Current and retired players, several owners, the head of the players union and of course professional gadflies like the omnipresent Reverend Sharpton all made it immediately and abundantly clear that Limbaugh's bid would be met with fierce opposition.

Soon National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly called out Limbaugh for making -- here's another surprise! -- "divisive comments," and it became obvious that El Rushbo was a dead man talking -at least as far as the NFL bid was concerned.

As Goodell told the New York Times, NFL owners are "held to a high standard," and "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the N.F.L. -- absolutely not."

Although he may actually have taken a principled stand, it's more likely that Goodell was simply recognizing reality. A successful ownership bid by Limbaugh & Co. was never really in the cards. For one thing, despite Rush's recent $400 million dollar contract extension, there might not have been enough money on the table to ensure a successful bid. But the real reason is that NFL owners were rightly worried that letting Limbaugh join their exclusive club would be akin to asking for a stink bomb to explode in their clubhouse.

After all, The Grand Poobah's previous NFL foray was a public relations fiasco. While he was employed by ESPN as a commentator, Limbaugh announced on air that Eagles star Donovan McNabb was consistently overrated by a news media anxious to see a black quarterback succeed. "They are polarizing comments that we don't think reflect accurately on the N.F.L. or our players," Goodell said. "I obviously do not believe that those comments are positive and they are divisive. That's a negative thing for us."

Given the overwhelming likelihood that Limbaugh would fail to pass muster as an NFL owner - something he surely anticipated -- the uninitiated might well wonder why he even entered into the futile exercise in the first place Well, wonder no more It's long been apparent that Limbaugh likes nothing more than to drive the mainstream media agenda -- something he is quite adept at. As he told NBC's Jamie Gangel on the Today show, "I know how to yank their chain. I know how to send them into insanity. I know how to make them spend the next two days talking about me."

Limbaugh said he anticipated the media frenzy over his bid to buy the Rams. "They're just gonna go nuts," he said. "This is the kind of stuff they've been trying to make sure doesn't happen with me. All this stuff is the mainstreaming of Rush Limbaugh from off this far-right fringe they've tried to put me. I just keep tiptoeing into the mainstream. And it just irritates them."

Most of my critics don't even listen to me; they are clueless," Limbaugh continued. "They just go to Web sites that report what I say out of context. I'm amazed at the Democrats and the media who do not know what's going on in my world. I know what's going on in theirs. I study 'em. I watch 'em every day."

Here's one member of the media who has studied and listened to Limbaugh for years- in fact I wrote an entire book about him and his fellow hate talkers, detailing the evil things they say for profit. Consider, for example, this instant replay of Limbaugh's most vicious racist hits over the years, as compiled recently by Nation sports editor Dave Zirin:

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Network News Chiefs Offer Rosy Scenarios for the Future of TV Ratings

Remember that catchy pop tune from twenty years ago, courtesy of Timbuk 3? You know, the one with the catchy chorus: "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades?"

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What Is Patrick Fitzgerald Trying to Hide from the Public?

Okay, so he's one of the "sexiest men alive" -- but what does Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago and Special Counsel in the CIA leak case, have against us poor, unsexy journalists? It's bad enough that Fitzie won't answer my questions: ("Rory. I just wanted to get back to you and let you know that I am going to decline to be interviewed. Thank you. Pat") It's worse that he was responsible for the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days behind bars. Now comes word that Fitzgerald, who must have too much time on his hands now that Scooter Libby has been freed and Rod Blagojevich indicted, spent much of the last year and a half going after another journalist, Peter Lance, in an attempt to kill a new edition of Lance's investigative book Triple Cross by threatening to sue both the author and his publisher for libel.

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What About the Journalists Who Sold Torture?

Ever wake up in a funk, just spoiling for a fight?

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Facebook and Twitter Are Reshaping Journalism As We Know It

Editor's Note: This article combines two interviews by Rory O' Connor with the CEO of Facebook and the Co-Founder of Twitter.

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John McCain Sows the Seeds of Hatred

John McCain was right in August when he called John Lewis one of the "wisest people" he knew.

So when Representative Lewis -- a Georgia Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement - recently denounced the McCain/Palin campaign for its use of divisive rhetoric and said the negative tone of the Republican presidential campaign reminded him of the hateful atmosphere that segregationist Governor George Wallace fostered in Alabama in the 1960s, he was calling it like it is.

I have been writing, speaking and blogging extensively of late about the hate speech epidemic in America, which has been mostly playing out on the airwaves of shock jock talk radio. Knowing the tenor of the times, I was unsurprised when the tone of the presidential campaign veered into similar territory. The truth is that Lewis simply called it like it is when he said McCain and running mate Sarah Palin were ''sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.'' Rather than rejecting his remarks as ''shocking and beyond the pale,'' McCain should have listened to Lewis, who is one of three people the Arizona Senator said he would "rely heavily on" if elected president.

Lewis was also right that the fear and loathing being expressed on the campaign trail in 2008 is frighteningly similar to that of the dark days of 1968. Those of us who were around at the time remember well what happened then, shortly after the hate speaking began. As Lewis noted, ''George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.''

Instead of being viewed through the partisan prism of the heated presidential campaign, Lewis' statement should instead serve, as he said as "a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior." So when McCain and Palin supporters shout ''traitor,'' ''terrorist,'' ''treason,'' ''liar'' and even ''off with his head'' at campaign stops in reference to Barack Obama - and when reporters are threatened and castigated with racist remarks - it's time for all truly patriotic Americans to stand up and speak out. Instead, McCain denounced Lewis' remarks as "shocking and beyond the pale." But it has really been his campaign - and his running mate Sarah "Beyond the" Palin -- who have stepped over the line of acceptable political discourse by floating absurd charges such as the laughable one that Obama has been as ''palling around with terrorists.'' After all, terrorists present a mortal threat to this country - and we all know what happens to them when they're finally caught…

So it doesn't take a genius, or a lot of imagination, to think of what could happen next. Remember the recent shooting at the Unitarian-Universalist church in Knoxville? Remember the 1968 shooting at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis?? And the subsequent one at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles??? I certainly do! That's why I believe the wise man John Lewis when he points out that the McCain/Palin ticket is "playing with fire." And as the late political analyst Robert Nesta Markey once aptly remarked, "Catch a fire - you're gonna get burned!"

So please, John McCain: You're better than that! Stop the hate speech before it's too late. If not, I fear the fire next time may consume us all for decades to come…

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