Sad news for indy film community

The director of Restrepo–a war documentary about Afghanistan that Buzzsaw Magazine showed during its militarization week– and one of the photojournalists working with him, died while working in Libya, Democracy Now! reported.

This short post serves to remind us of those journalists who fight hard to get tough stories and in many cases, are not shielded physically from the same kind of laws that shield them legally and historically in the U.S.

The Role of Public Media

Right-wing politicians in Washington are trying to rob NPR and PBS of their funding in hopes to save the country a few million dollars–a price tag that has not costed the U.S. taxpayers nearly as much money as, for example, the War in Afghanistan or Bush Era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Interestingly enough, this call to de-fund NPR and PBS extends beyond the need to cut such a small part of the nation’s budget. The attack has been couched in explicit dialogue about the “liberal” and “biased” reporting from these stations despite the studies done by FAIR that speak otherwise–studies that show publicly funded media just as elitist as its mainstream, private counterparts!

What does this mean for the American public? It means we might need to improve our understanding of publicly funded media before we decide to wipe it off from the face of news gathering altogether. It reminds me of the health care debate–we got rid of the public option when a few people were able to convince us it was not perfect in its blueprint form. So, we ended up gutting the health care bill that now continues to legitimize the dominant role of the health care insurance industry. Let’s not continue to legitimize the mainstream corporate news industry, either!

I was in Germany last semester and learned about their dual media system, which is divided into two parts: the private system and “öffentlich-rechtlich” media (public right’s media). This allows the German taxpayers to fund half of their media system and have access to both kinds of media systems. While German media conglomerates have continued to fight this legal framework, it has at least provided the country with more solid ground by offering a more balanced media system.

Perhaps using Germany’s model as an example we could mold for the U.S.–creating a system that puts more limits and regulations on big media and provides more public funding for various kinds of not-for-profit/non-corporate/public media outlets–would provide a greater role for journalists by giving us a wider spectrum of analysis, commentary and newsgathering to choose from!

If only, if only….

Geographic Disparities: Broadband Style

An article from Daily Finance discussing the poor infrastructure of America’s broadband reminds me of a great piece IC student Adam Polaski did for one of our independent, social justice-focused publications, Buzzsaw Magazine.

He discusses in-depth the digital divide in the United States, including how rural and urban communities are often left out of the internet discussion. Furthermore, his piece suggests that these communities in rural and urban America could be revitalized if they were able to have greater and faster access to broadband internet.

I think it’s a great piece and further proof of the need to maintain net neutrality, which has so much support from the public (including the Christian Coalition)!

Without the ability to maintain equitable access to various online sources of information, how can the U.S. expect to move forward with an engaged group of citizens? The globalization of technology means that everyone requires internet literacy and accessibility in order to have equal opportunities in securing jobs, building strong communities, actively participating in political and social issues, and much more!

The disparities in geographic location extend beyond the poor/wealthy divide in the U.S. on an international level, as well. Those who think the internet is distributed evenly among the world’s 200+ nations are living in a utopian fantasy.

Hopefully, both independent and mainstream journalists can come together to continue to produce stories exposing the reality of internet use and net neutrality laws across the U.S. and the world. Otherwise, if the debate flounders, so might our democratic access to the web as we know it!

Watching your Words

We discussed extensively in my independent media class that former president Bill Clinton wasn’t media savvy enough when he made some controversial remarks about a reporter after it was posted on Huffington Post’s Off the Bus series.

But is Obama doing much better? He, too, might forget sometimes that a microphone is always around.

An article from USA Today notes that Obama asked donors “do they think we’re stupid?” in reference to the Republicans’ budget proposals that cut funding to programs like Planned Parenthood. Obama thought the media was out of the room, but a CBS reporter still had a microphone on and was taking notes.

While Obama’s comments were not malicious, and in all likelihood will probably not taint his character or reputation as president, the report itself proves that cameras and microphones are always running, and even a guy like Obama, who utilized multimedia in his successful 2008 campaign, might forget how pervasive this kind of technology really is.

Of course, I am sure that this comment will be manipulated by several mainstream outlets to demonize Obama as an immature or rude person. However, while I have many issues with the Commander-in-Chief, I would argue that  he is, indeed, correct in pointing out the flawed logic of holding a breast cancer-screening provider like Planned Parenthood accountable for the Wall Street-orchestrated collapse

quick post: sheer debt

One of this year’s Izzy Award winners, TruthDig’s Robert Sheer, wrote a great article that was picked up on CommonDreams about the false debate on debt and how we continue to relieve huge banks and corporations of their responsibilities in orchestrating an economic downturn. Check it out!

The Impossibility of Objectivity

There’s the famous Howard Zinn quote that “you can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

Let’s be honest, you can’t be neutral on any train, who cares where it’s going and at what speed? The fact of the matter is, you helped build that train and part of it was build for you.

People often cite their feelings of apathy or neutrality, or in the field of journalism, their “objectivity” in order to demonstrate their “lack of bias.”

Neutrality or objectivity–the attempt to perceive both sides “evenly”–is in and of itself a particular position. Claiming to be objective or neutral about something assumes you can somehow disassociate from the particular historical, political and social systems in which we are raised. It is these very constructs that constitute our thinking and influence our decisions.

This entire concept of objectivity reminds me of a great article my friend Shaun Poust wrote for Buzzsaw last year. It satirizes in its final format the notion of objectivity — once again, an impossible claim.

This isn’t to say that transparency, accuracy, fairness and intellectual merit aren’t worth noting here. Good, comprehensive journalism must not exclude important information, multiple narratives and perspectives or ask difficult questions to anyone involved.

However, to use objectivity as a standard in journalism only sets up false understandings of how we operate as humans. This is what fascinates me about people who constantly note the “liberal” bias in the media, or even the lack of objectivity by Fox.

That’s not what most of us who criticize mainstream media have a problem with–we recognize the tendencies to favor candidates, political parties, platforms, policy positions, etc. What’s frustrating is the intentional exclusion or convenient absence/silencing of particular groups of people, sides of storys and information itself.

Derailing from factual, thorough, clear and articulate reporting that provides the audience in a democracy with all of the resources they need to build dialogue and make decisions is unacceptable. Objectivity is not the answer. Seeking the truth with the ability to self-critique and ask lots of questions seems more fitting.

Leading Questions, “Gotcha Journalism,” and Media Complicity

We discussed in class yesterday extensively about Mayhill Fowler, whose question about a “hatchet job” seemed to spark controversy when it wasn’t 100 percent clear whether former president Bill Clinton, who went on a rant after the question about the sleazy reporter who composed it, knew she was a reporter.

I agree with those in class who also emphasized that it was clear he must have known she was likely to be a reporter, given that she held out a recorder. And even if she didn’t, he is absolutely responsible as a public official to be cautious of what he might not want to say. He has different standards for libel suits; he knows this. He is on a platform that is different from private people and was the Commander-in-Chief for two terms. You aren’t the victim here, Billy boy.

Furthermore, this reminded me of the Sarah Palin’s “gotcha journalism” excuse–this was after Katie Couric asked her questions that didn’t even seem to be all that incendiary, with the exception perhaps of one about Pakistan. In the end, Palin’s interview was not conducted with some kind of malicious intent. Presidents, presidential and vice presidential candidates, anyone who’s a public official needs to simply realize that they live in a world of information dissemination.

This is great for journalists, truth-seekers, and activists/advocates of all kind trying to get out what’s happening globally. However, it seems to have inadvertently made politicians much worse at what they do despite the more extensive level of access to their speeches and press conferences.

And of course, the worst thing we could do is discourage tough journalism in light of these situations. Media complicity–asking questions that are obvious to get even more obvious answers–does not too much good for the American public. It allows the politicians and their corporate sponsors to continue to craft mainstream narratives as they please. Without hardball questioning and those willing to put people in power in a tight spot, we will not be able to build a comprehensive understanding of local, national and global politics. We need to dig out the secrets, the full-truths, the confessions, or the uncertainties if we want to begin to unearth the systematic mechanics of the U.S. political and economic structures.