December 1, 2005

‘Air America Radio’ To Offer Single-Show Syndication

Posted by Eric Jaffa
September 8, 2005 @ 3:39 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

It seems that stations interested in switching to progressive talk radio will get a choice from Air America:

Buy multiple Air America shows, including “The Al Franken Show” for noon-3 PM Eastern.

Or just buy one show, “The Thom Hartmann Show” for noon-3 PM Eastern.




Will FEMA Photo Ban Receive Press Coverage?

Posted by Amanda Toering
September 8, 2005 @ 11:16 am
Filed under: Media Watch

Earlier today, Eric Jaffa posted a story from Editor and Publisher about the Bush Administration’s attempt to ban the publication of photos of Katrina victims.

How is this issue being covered in the US mainstream press?

As far as I can tell, only one columnist — John Kass of the Chicago Tribune — has addressed the issue. Other papers, including the LA Times, have simply published a Reuters wire story.

John Kass, Chicago Tribune:

Bush wants news organizations not to take photographs of the uncounted dead in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Politics is at the bottom of it, since he has been blamed, either fairly or unfairly, for the weak federal response. Now it seems that photos of flag-draped coffins will finally become acceptable to the White House, as long as they’re from the American Gulf. Anything better than the bloated dead.

Media watchdogs and alternative press have jumped on the story, though. And so has the foreign press.

American Journalism Review:

Perfect.

Dead solid perfect.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration’s efforts to prevent journalists from photographing the dead bodies of victims of Hurricane Katrina is right out of the playbook of the “no bad news” administration.

It’s like the old riddle about a tree falling in the forest and no one hearing it. The Bush administration is unrivaled in its belief that if you don’t show it, it didn’t happen.

Turkey’s Zaman Daily:

When American authorities asked the media not to publish pictures of those who had died in hurricane Katrina and the flood waters that followed, defenders of the freedom of expression reacted on the grounds that the administration is trying to censor the media.

US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked the media not to publish pictures of those who died in the Katrina disaster, just as the Bush government had asked the media not to publish the pictures of those who died in the Iraq war placed in coffins covered with US flags.

See also: Stuff NZ, Der Spiegel, and Uruknet.




Does Project Censored Need To Be Put Down?

Posted by Amanda Toering
September 8, 2005 @ 10:48 am
Filed under: Media Watch

Project Censored, the 30-year-old anti-censorship watchdog based at Sonoma State University, has just released its list of the 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media in the past year.

The annual release of Project Censored’s list is like a bucket of chum to the alt-weeklies’ circling censorship sharks. Anxious to point out the shortcomings of their bigger, more corporatized cousins, the alt-tabs can reliably be counted upon to trumpet Project Censored’s achievement (while simultaneously keeping their fingers crossed to secure a spot in the Top 25).

And you can’t hardly blame them.

But the venerable Mother Jones has argued that Project Censored is one bulldog that’s lost its teef.

From MoJo’s “The Unbearable Lameness of Project Censored,” (April 11, 2000):

The fact that Project Censored is predictable and boring isn’t its biggest problem these days. It’s also become irrelevant, laughable, and cheesy. Worse still, it’s losing its credibility — not a good thing for a media watchdog.

Censorship is a big, scary word. It’s dangerous to toss around the concept casually; there are legitimate First Amendment issues in this country, never mind the limits of press freedoms elsewhere in the world that should get attention but don’t. Censorship implies that some covert cabal somewhere is conspiring to keep The Truth from The People. But that’s hardly the case with Project Censored’s latest picks. …

It should embarrass us that Project Censored has become a thinly veiled excuse for an alternative press self-love-fest, an opportunity for us to give ourselves awards, something to convince us that we’re doing well and doing good. Are we really that insecure? …

It’s sad, really. Back when Carl Jensen founded Project Censored in 1976 at Sonoma State University in Northern California, outlets for alternative views and news — such as cable television, weekly newspapers, and Internet sites — were either far fewer than they are now or didn’t exist. If the mass media of the time didn’t report it, we likely never heard it.

Jensen and his journalism students pored through public-interest groups’ studies and trade journals for his “censored” stories. He was, at the time, justified to some extent in invoking the spectre of censorship, because no mainline news media ever covered the stories he cited, despite the fact that some mainstream journalists told him that they had known about the stories but chose not to pursue them. The public was stunned and outraged by what Project Censored exposed in those early years, and the news media were publicly shamed.

We owe Jensen a debt of gratitude: His two decades of work helped change journalism for the better. Unfortunately, his success made Project Censored a less compelling project after the first decade. Four years after Jensen’s retirement, the project is so far from its founding mission and sensibility that it’s not only irrelevant — it’s an embarrassment. Not only is the project no longer run by journalists (it moved from the communications department to the sociology department with Jensen’s departure) or effectively even about journalism, it has become more misleading than informative.

Project Censored has done great things for public-interest media. Let’s give it a dignified burial.

The Mother Jones article (from 5 years ago) laments the list’s “no shit” factor: “Perhaps the greatest indicator that Project Censored has passed its prime is how high on the “no shit” scale most of this year’s honorees will rank with even marginally informed readers.”

Take a look at this year’s top 7, and count the number of no-shits:

#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government
#2 Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll
#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage
#4 Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In
#5 U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia
#6 The Real Oil for Food Scam
#7 Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood

These are the biggest “censored” stories of the year?

What’s wrong with Project Censored?

We can safely discount the idea that there’s a lack of interesting and important “censored” topics to cover.

Maybe Project Censored has lost some of its relevance with the increasing popularity of “bloggers,” or “citizen journalists.” Or maybe it’s the easy, 24-hour access to a variety of news sources — both mainstream and indy — that all us internet users have at our literal and proverbial fingertips.

It could be that services like Technorati keep many of us on top of the stories we’d otherwise be missing. And maybe — just maybe — corporate media is becoming aware of the increasingly informed scrutiny of folks who get a large percentage of their news elsewhere, and who notice glaring holes in the front page coverage.

Or maybe (and this, I’m afraid, is the clincher) Project Censored has collapsed under the weight of its own branding. It’s sole purpose is no longer to inform — in the age of the internet, we don’t need journo profs to scour lefty rags in search of articles that will shock and outrage us.

These days, it seems that Project Censored’s main goal is to sell copies of its book. (And how mainstream is that?)

MoJo was right. We face many legitimate censorship and free speech concerns these days. Sadly, Project Censored is no longer a useful standard-bearer for that battle.