Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mainsytream TV offers little coverage of widely unpopular repeal of Net Neutrality

New study shows little TV coverage of the big issue of Team Trump's move to end Net Neutrality on behalf of corporations like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon (where Trump-appointed FCC chair was a high-level attorney).  Even pro-Trump commenters on rightwing "news" sites object to Trump administration's repeal efforts.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Why don't we have public broadcasting like this in USA?

Weeks before the 2003 U.S./British invasion of Iraq, the BBC's Jeremy Paxman and skeptical British citizens literally cross-examined Prime Minister Tony Blair about evidence/reasons/legality behind the invasion -- an interview whose transcript and Blair's comments became part of Britain's official Iraq inquiry in 2011. (Here's another tough Paxman interview of Blair from 2001 . . . unrelated to Iraq. And here, Paxman interviews comedian/actor/activist Russell Brand in Oct. 2013.) 

In our country, pressure from politicians + lack of insulated funding = embarrassing timidity at so-called "public television" evidenced by PBS surgically removing Tina Fey's comedic swipes at Sarah Palin from a broadcast in November 2010.

Country by country comparisons (18 nations) of taxpayer spending on public television here (as of 2011) -- according to this survey by CBC/Radio-Canada. An interesting wheel-chart on NPR's funding sources (thanks Rae).

DOES IT FOLLOW THAT big public/state/taxpayer-funding of broadcasting leads to state-controlled and propagandistic broadccasting? Not according to the World Press Freedom Index, which shows the countries with the biggest media subsidies seem to have the greatest press freedom. 

On this list of 60 journalists and pundits (on the right, left and center) attacked by Trump by name during the 2016 campaign, only one was connected to NPR.  Of the 20 outlets he attacked by name, neither NPR nor PBS was one 

In Feb 2015 a mini-scandal blew up over corporate underwriting of U.S. public TV and I was interviewed on the topic by The Real News Network. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

USA invented the Internet, but our Internet is slow and under threat

In the opening scene of the Outfoxed documentary, media scholar Robert McChesney explains how big media corporations (acting almost like gangsters) have made media policy behind closed doors, dividing the cake among themselves. If the FCC were doing its job, it might pose gentle but probing questions to gangsta Murdoch and "Murdochopoly," as Jon Stewart did in 2013. Here is a 2015 list of Murdoch's holdings (H/t Mila)  (Years ago, Murdoch famously said: "Monopoly is a terrible thing, until you have it.")

The USA, where the Internet was invented, lags behind other countries in Internet speed. Here's a recent ranking placing U.S. mobile Internet speed at 28th in the world. Another ranking from Statista has U.S. Internet at 12th. In 2009, big Internet providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T DID NOT APPLY for any of the billions in federal stimulus grants for expanding broadband infrastructure, according to the Wall St. Journal, because recipients of our tax money had to agree to respect Net Neutrality.

On HBO in June, "investigative comic" John Oliver offered a powerful commentary in support of Net Neutrality, generating so many comments to the FCC that it crashed the Commission's website. Months of public pressure sparked President Obama in November 2014 to speak clearly that his FCC should protect Net Neut. 

So, Net Neutrality was saved in 2015. But under threat from President-elect Trump, cheered on by his friends at

PS "Survey Shows Satire News Programs Inform People Better Than Actual News on Net Neutrality," reported Dan Van Winkle (summarizing a 2014 University of Delaware survey). Respondents said they learned more about Net Neutrality from John Oliver, Colbert and Jon Stewart's Daily Show than from newspapers, online news or TV news. 

PPS In January 2011, I was asked to appear on a talk-radio show on a big city station to analyze Keith Oblermann's exit from MSNBC; when I suggested a link to the Comcast takeover and criticized Comcast's opposition to Net Neutrality, a producer asked me during a commercial break to stop the "Comcast-bashing" because "they're our biggest sponsor."  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The late Andrew Breitbart, a former assistant to Matt Drudge, ran and other websites (now found at In July 2010, the Obama White House forced U.S. Dept of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod to quit after BigGovernment posted a 100-second video excerpt purporting to show that, during a speech to the NAACP, Sherrod had boasted about discriminating against a white farmer while she was a federal employee in the Obama administration. Actually, as Breitbart later semi-corrected, Sherrod was describing events in the 1980s when she was Georgia field director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a civil rights group set up to help Black farmers long discriminated against by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. More importantly, a fuller version of the speech (first aired by CNN) showed that Sherrod had told the story to illustrate how she had overcome her bias toward whites and ultimately helped the white farmer save his farm.

Ten months earlier, in 2009, other selectively-edited tapes distributed by Breitbart's website (featuring James O'Keefe and played repeatedly on Fox News and elsewhere) helped put the anti-poverty group ACORN out of business. Rachel Maddow dissected the distorted presentation that doomed ACORN. (Democratic operative John Podesta was on ACORN's advisory council and investigated the Breitbart's video charges against ACORN; it appears that the recent conspiracy theory about Podesta and Hillary trafficking underage girls out of a DC pizza parlor is partly fueled by the ACORN sex-trafficking hoax.) 

It wasn't just Fox News that promoted the misleading ACORN story. The Public Editor of the paper of record, the New York Times, went to absurd lengths to defend his paper's inaccurate coverage.

Drudge's Influence

During the 2016 election season, Matt Drudge kept trying -- with some success -- to fuel mainstream media coverage of Hillary Clinton's alleged ill health, and of her alleged secet lesbian relationship, including Politico's "How Close are Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton?" slideshow criticized as click-baity. 

Now Hill copies Trump's hair, OR NOT.

Perhaps Drudge should stick to aggregating content from others (often with revved-up headlines) rather than "report" -- as demonstrated by this 1999 "World Exclusive," which helped push a hoax into mainstream media.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Trump's praise of killer president, first published by The Intercept

From CBS News: President Trump praised the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, during a phone call between the two leaders in late April, according to a transcript published by The Intercept. (emphasis added)
"I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem" Mr. Trump said. "Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."

Can openly biased or partisan journalists . . .

. . . engage in independent reporting and commentary -- as opposed to partisan propaganda? Here's some critical commentary from the conservative National Review Online within hours of John McCain selecting Sarah Palin as his running-mate in August 2008: 

          Ramesh Ponnuru: "Palin has been governor for about two minutes."
David Frum: "But question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?"

Shannen Coffin: "If John McCain has said that a year plus of statewide office (plus some small town politics) is good enough, why isn't state legislature and a couple of visits to the floor of the U.S. Senate?"

Jonah Goldberg: "Downside: She may not be ready for primetime. The heartbeat-from-the-presidency issue is a real one."
This isn't the drumbeat GOP cheer-leading one might get from a less independent source like Fox News at that crucial juncture.

More recently, NR devoted a whole issue (in Jan 2016) to opposing/exposing then-GOP-frontrunner Donald Trump.

Undercover video of animal abuse at factory farms . . .

. . . has prompted "food libel" or "food disparagement" laws in many states, aimed at protecting powerful agribusiness interests that apparently have something to hide. Here's a video report from U.C. Berkeley News 21 students.

HuffPo Citizen Journalist Impacts 2008 Prez Election

Mayhill Fowler, a citizen journalist for HuffingtonPost's "Off the Bus" project, posted a report that launched the so-called "Bittergate" uproar that nearly derailed Obama's 2008 campaign. 

The Bittergate of 2012 campaign: "47%-gate." (The 47% bartender/recorder.) During the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton reportedly used a noise machine so journalists and others couldn't hear what was happening at her private, high-dollar fundraiser in Colorado.

In getting a later scoop, Fowler claims she didn't hide that she was recording ex-President Clinton in June 2008 as he verbally trashed Vanity Fair reporter as "sleazy" and "dishonest" and "a scumbag, while greeting voters in public while on a campaign stop for his wife. BUT Clinton obviously did not know Fowler was a HuffPost "citizen journalist." Should she have ID'd herself? (She clearly got a more honest response from Clinton than if he'd known she was a journalist.)

Mayhill Fowler and Arianna Huffington photo (H/t Olivia R)

Should public figures know nowadays that anything said in public -- especially rants (or racism) -- will be recorded and available forever? Exhibits A (and A-1) features a U.S. senator and B features a comedic actor.

"1st Viral Video": George Holliday records 1991 LA Police Beating of Rodney King

Early "citizen journalist" George Holliday records "world's most famous home video." Here's a brief excerpt

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Snowden coverage: If U.S. media were state-controlled, how much different would it look?

My June 2013 piece on some of the mainstream media reaction to Snowden and his revelations about NSA collecting bulk surveillance on millions of people not suspected of any crime. NY Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin commented: "I'd arrest him [Snowden] and I'd almost arrest Glenn Greenwald." Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Greenwald, "Why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?" (start 1:30)

Snowden on how Thomas Drake retaliation influenced him. 
At 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents Association Dinner, top journalists (including then-NBC White House correspondent David Gregory) were literally dancing with a top source, the controversial Bush aide Karl Rove. These are social/charitable events where journalists and news-makers are expected to have some fun, but is it symbolic of too much elite media/government coziness? 

On the issue of "objective" vs "advocacy" journalism, here's a list of top works of journalism worth studying.

Here's an (unwitting perhaps) expose of journalistic/political corruption in D.C.

(H/t Sophia T): According to The American Press Institute, the original concept of objectivity in journalism requires “a transparent approach to evidence” so that “biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work” but it was never “meant to imply that journalists were free of bias.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Early You Tube Stars Earned Real Income

What the Buck? Here's Michael Buckley's "My You Tube Story." According to a Dec 2008 NY Times report, "You Tube Videos Pull In Real Money," Buckley earned over $100k in the previous year from his YouTube video-commentaries or rants about celebs. 

Since she was about 14, my now-20-year-old daughter's main source of daily news was, for years, Philly D (of "The Philip DeFranco Show"), who offers his take on current events and celeb news. (Should I have been monitoring my daughter's online activities better?)

Cory Williams and his smpFilms hit the big-time with "Hey Little Sparta" (aka "The Mean Kitty Song" -- over 86 million views). He told the NYT in 2008 that he was earning over $200k per year, partly from (ugh!) product placements in his videos. 

MannyMua taking off makeup (h/t Alexis); Jake Paul vs Logan Paul and Daily Grace (h/t Mila)

The Rise of The Young Turks ("TYT")

The Young Turks is a web TV phenomand YouTube played a major role in its success; here's a Turksvideo on media censorship. (Cenk Uygur is sometimes "Mad as Hell"; it's the title of a doc on Cenk and TYT. Here's the original "Mad as Hell" excerpt from the 1976 movie Network.) A 2014 London daily profiled Cenk. And the doc "All Governments Lie" featured Cenk and TYT. Yours truly was interviewed by TYT about media coverage of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. 

Brave New Films' "McCain's Mansions" played a role in the 2008 election campaign, thanks in part to YouTube. Ditto for this citizen journalism video about the then-dictator of Tunisia, and for this music video that helped build the successful insurrection against the dictator.

Disney Retaliates Against L.A. Times . . .

 . . . over investigative reporting that displeased Disney company.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"The Internet is My Religion"

Intensely personal 2011 speech from Brave New Films' Jim Gilliam (who was raised a conservative Christian evangelical) discussing how the Internet offered him salvation and literally saved his life.

Journalistic Values at AOL?

Soon after AOL announced its merger with HuffingtonPost in February, 2011 Business Insider (followed by the Boston Globe) published leaked AOL documents offering a glimpse into that company's journalistic approach -- not one that Arianna Huffington would endorse. Indeed, it's an approach that violates journalistic ethics. (H/t to former indy media student Leah T, for posting the Insider's summary of AOL's guidelines.)

Web Censorship in China

Google and Yahoo disappeared Chinese dissident Guo Quan, which preceded his 10-year imprisonment.

After Yahoo provided info to China's government that led to 10-year prison sentences for two Chinese dissidents beginning in 2003 and 2005, the families of the victims (Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao, photo here) sued Yahoo. As a result, Yahoo announced in 2008 that it had established a fund for people persecuted or jailed in China for posting political views online. Too little, too late?

In response to demands from China's government, Google agreed in June 2010 to quit automatically switching its users in China to Google's uncensored Hong Kong search site. But there's a tab users can click to be switched. Should Chinese citizens feel safe when hitting that tab?

Web Censorship in the USA

In 2008, the media reform group Free Press highlighted media and telecom corporations who'd recently been caught censoring web or cellphone traffic.

Inner City Press was delisted by Google News not long after its founder/leader asked anembarrassing question of Google at the United Nations.

Trump's tweet on Net Neutrality -- no more accurate than his tweet on global warming.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Victory for bloggers' access to courtrooms

In March 2012, a Massachusetts court ruled that bloggers deserve the same privileges in covering courts and trials as traditional media.

Can pay walls save newspapers?

No, said Arianna Huffington, as she testifies on "The Future of Journalism & Newspapers" before the U.S. Senate in May 2009 (at 59:02). (A former indy media student complained about Boston Globe's paywall around the Globe's editorial.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Crowd-funding/pre-funding of journalism and docs is "a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers..." A key aspect of Kickstarter is "All or Nothing funding."

On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.
Here's a documentary movie project that I was a part of, which used Kickstarter successfully.

Before Kickstarter was launched, the Robert Greenwald documentary on war-profiteering (Iraq for Sale) was PRE-funded mostly by small donors -- an example of grassroots financing of a work that had real impact.

An interesting experiment called, which lasted three years until it closed up shop in October 2016, pre-funded freelance writers and indy media 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Media start-ups can be flukes, accidents . . .

. . . such as 

Student papers on historic outlets

The North Star published by intersectional Frederick Douglass . . . . The Revolution, published by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony . . . . The Woman's Journal, published for many years by Lucy Stone . . . .  Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Review . . . .  George Seldes' In Fact . . . .  I.F. Stone's Weekly . . . . the first U.,S. publication aimed at lesbiansThe Ladder . . . . Ramparts magazine ; issues/covers still relevant. . . . KPFA/Pacifica radio network.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Indy journalist assassinated in Republic of Malta

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a globally-known investigative reporter in Malta who revealed the secrets of the wealthy, powerful and corrupt, was killed by a car bomb on Monday.
Her car exploded as she drove in northern Malta, sending debris into a nearby field, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.
Caruana Galizia, 53, ran her own websitewhere her posts "often drew more readers than the total circulation of Malta's newspapers," Sylvia writes.
Her work targeted many powerful figures, including money-laundering banks, Mafia-linked gambling companies and politicians allegedly receiving covert payments, The Guardian reports. (H/t Fred B.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cops vs. Journalists: Occupy Wall St, 2011/2012

Between Sept 2011 and Sept 2012, more than 90 journalists (both indy and mainstream) were arrested while covering Occupy protests in the U.S. Removing journalists and citizen journalists from the scene seemed to be a strategy because acts of police brutality -- when recorded by citizen journalists and ubiquitous cameras & cell phones -- led to more sympathy and activists for the movement: for example, in NY City and at University of California, Davis. Like in the 1960s, the federal government built a large surveillance apparatus to spy on Occupy activists. 

A citizen journalists with a video camera taped himself apparently getting shot by police rubber bullet while covering a seemingly peaceful moment during Occupy Oakland (CA) protests.  

And the surveillance of social movements continues into the present

"THE MAYOR'S AFRAID OF YOU TUBE": In October 2011, hours after New York City authorities made a last-minute decision NOT to clear protesters from the original Occupy Wall Street site in Lower Manhattan, filmmaker Michael Moore said this to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell (begin 2:54 for context): 
"One cop down there actually today. I asked...'Why don't you think the eviction happened?' And he said, 'Cause the Mayor's afraid of You Tube.'...The power of the new media, the media that's in the hands of the people -- that those in charge are afraid of what could possibly go out."

Harassment of Indy Media at 2008 Republican Nat'l Convention

Since the late 1960s when the FBI and local police engaged in violence and continuous harassment against "underground weeklies," repression against dissenting U.S. outlets has decreased. But it never ended. Case in point: the 2008 Republican Convention in Minnesota. Three years later, the journalists' suit against the police was settled, with $100,000 in compensation being paid by the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the Secret Service. The settlement included an agreement by the St. Paul police to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the 1st Amendment rights of the press and public, including proper procedures for dealing with journalists covering demonstrations.

Journalists at Trump Inauguration Protests Charged with Felonies

Aaron Cantu, whose work has appeared in Vice, The NationThe Guardian and The Intercept, was hit with felony riot charges that could put him away for decades. Here are his many articles for AlterNet on police misconduct.  Professional photographer and videographer Alexei Wood, who live-streamed the protests, was charged with crimes that could cost him 70 years. The two journalists were arrested along with more than 200 protesters.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

N. Dakota authorities harassed journalists at Standing Rock

Trespassing and riot charges against Amy Goodman for the crime of journalism were ultimately dismissed, but . . . 

Excerpt from a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report:
[Jenni] Monet, who contributes to outlets including Yes! Magazine and the PBS NewsHour website, wrote about her experiences in an article for the Oneida Nation owned Indian Country Media Network. In the piece, she said that despite showing police her media pass and walking away when instructed to do so, she was arrested, strip searched, and held in jail for 25 hours before being charged.
Jihan Hafiz, an award-winning Egyptian-Samoan journalist who also faces charges, told CPJ that she thought reporting in North Dakota would be "a walk in the park." Hafiz, who has covered conflict in the Middle East and police brutality in Brazil for outlets including The Real News Network and Al-Jazeera America, said she was surprised by what she described as heavy-handed police tactics . . .
Hafiz, who published an account and video footage of the mass arrests on October 22 in  The Intercept, said she told officers she was a journalist and pleaded with them not to arrest her. "We were subjected to strip searches, which is humiliating. People who looked native or were not white were targeted and told to spread body parts or jump up and down," Hafiz told CPJ.

Two stars of 1960s "radical media"

"DR. HIP": Syndicated widely to "underground weeklies," Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld dispensed blunt and humorous advice about sex (and drugs). The sex advice legacy is carried on by Dan Savage's  "Savage Love" column in today's alternative weeklies. Savage started the "It Gets Better" project.

RAMPARTS: One of the most explosive indy magazines of the 1960s, Ramparts published photos of the impact of U.S. napalm (a chemical weapon that eats away human flesh) on Vietnamese civilians in its January 1967 issue. Martin Luther King, Jr. credited those photos with being the main spark that got him to break his silence and speak out loudly against the Vietnam War a few months later.  Besides its investigative scoops and vivid writing, Ramparts was known for its cover art, shown here and HERE.