Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reading: Moyers and the corporate media "plantation"

For all my condescension about the inability of conservatives to handle humor, we who hold Brother Bill in high esteem will have to live with the fact that begins with a joke stolen from Emo Philips, and--worse--didn't tell it as well (because he rushed both the setup and the punch line).

Nevertheless, Moyers' take on the concentration of media ownership, and its inevitable hostility to the democratic responsibilities we still (rightly or wrongly) expect our news/information media to shoulder, is passionate and detailed--worth the read, as always.

There are several "best moments," but I'll tease you with this one:
By no stretch of the imagination can we say the dominant institutions of today's media are guardians of democracy. Despite the profusion of new information "platforms" on cable, on the Internet, on radio, blogs, podcasts, YouTube and MySpace, among others, the resources for solid original journalistic work, both investigative and interpretive, are contracting rather than expanding. I'm old fashioned in this, a hangover from my days as a cub reporter and later a publisher. I agree with Michael Schudson, one of our leading scholars of communication, who writes in the current Columbia Journalism Review that "while all media matter, some matter more than others, and for the sake of democracy, print still counts most, especially print that devotes resources to gathering news. Network TV matters, cable TV matters, but when it comes to original investigation and reporting, newspapers are overwhelmingly the most important media." But newspapers are purposely dumbing down, driven down - says Schudson - by "Wall Street, whose collective devotion to an informed citizenry is nil, and seems determined to eviscerate newspapers." Meanwhile, despite some initial promise following the shock of 9/11, television has returned to its tabloid ways, chasing celebrity and murders - preferably both at the same time - while wallowing in triviality, banality and a self-referential view.

(Emphasis added.) Of particular interest to p3 readers may be Moyers tracing the high hopes for democratic conversation proponents held for each of the 20th century's new media: radio, then television, then cable--all dashed as corporate and advertiser money and clout overwhelmed the popular democratic possibilities of the medium. And the internet is now in the cross hairs of the same antidemocratic forces.

The text and extended video clips of Moyer's speech will be on the Readings list on the sidebar.

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