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August 31, 2007

The Power of Poetry

In this week's JOURNAL, Robert Bly calls us to respect the work of the Muslim poets, saying that "if we're criticizing the Muslim world so much, we should be able to give thanks for the genius that is there”

He then introduces us to some of the works of Rumi (born in 1204 in present-day Afghanistan) and Hafez (born in 1320 in present day Iran). We've posted a couple for your consideration:


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language. Even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

-Translation by Coleman Barks


The Five Days Remaining

The goods produced in the factories of space and time
Are not all that great. Bring some wine,
Because the desirables of this world are not all that great.

Heart and soul are born for ecstatic conversation
With the soul of souls. That’s it. If that fails,
Heart and soul are not in the end that great.

Don’t become indebted to the Tuba and Sidra trees
Just to have some shade in heaven. When you look closely,
My flowering cypress friend, you’ll see that these trees are not all
that great.

The true kingdom comes to you without any breaking
Of bones. If that weren’t so, achieving the Garden
Through your own labors wouldn’t be all that great.

In the five days remaining to you in this rest stop
Before you go to the grave, take it easy, give
Yourself time, because time is not all that great.

You who offer wine, we are waiting on the lip
Of the ocean of ruin. Take this moment as a gift; for the distance
Between the lip and the mouth is not all that great.

The state of my being – miserable and burnt
To a crisp – is proof enough that my need
To put it into words is not all that great.

You ascetic on the cold stone, you are not safe
From the tricks of God’s zeal: the distance between the cloister
And the Zorastrian tavern is not after all that great.

The name Hafez has been well inscribed in the books,
But in our clan of disreputables, the difference
Between profit and loss is not all that great.

-Translation by Robert Bly

Photo: Robin Holland

Respecting the Dignity of Labor

In her interview with Bill Moyers, lifelong activist Grace Lee Boggs, a champion of labor and civil rights, says:

Well just don't expect the system to catch up, the system is part of the system! What I think is that, not since the 30s have American have the American people, the ordinary Americans faced such uncertainty with regard to the economic system. In the 30s, what we did, was we confronted management and were able, thereby to gain many advantages, particularly to gain a respect for the dignity of labor. That's no longer possible today, because of the ability of corporations to fly all over the place and begin setting up all this outsourcing. So, we're gonna have people are finding other ways to regain control over the way they make their living.

This Labor Day the news is filled with coverage of gas prices, the home loan meltdown and college costs. Take stock of the state of American labor and the American dream through the BILL MOYERS JOURNAL stories below and tell us what you think.


In June, Bill Moyers talked with Andy Stern, the President of Service Employees International Union, the fastest growing union in the nation about the challenges facing unions in the 21st century:

"Well, the good news is this isn't Rwanda or Darfur or some impoverished country. This is the greatest country on earth with the greatest amount of wealth. The problem isn't about the wealth. It's about distribution. And the truth is we are seeing America's growing apart instead of growing together. Because for all this wealth, for the last five years according to the Census Bureau, American workers have not seen a raise, the longest period of economic stagnation in the history of our country. That is not the future. We have to figure a better way to share in the wealth of a successful society."-- Andy Stern

In August, Bill Moyers talked with Barbara Ehrenreich who has been writing about issues of inequality in America for years as one of our foremost independent journalists. When she reports, Ehreneich steps into the real-life shoes of the people she's writing about. For the bestselling book, NICKEL AND DIMED, Barbara Ehrenreich spent months working as a waitress, a cleaning woman, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk, among other low-wage jobs. And tried to make ends meet for $7 an hour.

"I didn't start the class war that's being gone on here. The class war that's been coming from the side of the extremely wealthy. Iit's been happening for a while. But it's a class war which has been very one-sided. Unions are weak in our country. They should be leading, you know, the charge against this. But the squeezing of people on wages and then on benefits and that's a big thing in the middle class too, you know, that your health insurance package shrinks, your pension is gone. College tuitions are rising. You know, that kind of squeeze...this has not been enough fight back. " - Barbara Ehrenreich


In June, THE JOURNAL took a look at high-flying airline executives. Northwest Airlines dodged the bankruptcy bullet. But while a $1.4 billion a year cut in labor expenses has ensured lower costs for Northwest, why are airline executives still flying high on salaries, stock options and benefits while workers and retirees see cuts in pay and compensation?

"Let me tell you in 1980 a CEO made 40 times the average worker; Today they make about 400 times. This is wrong."
- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)

"You know, we know what's right. And when the rest of society catches on that this isn't just about your flight attendant, it's about your daughter. And it's about your son. And it's about what kind of life and fairness and compensation you expect for your children that they will see that this is everyone's fight. This is not about a flight attendant contract, or a pilot contract or a mechanic contract. It's not any more even about the money. It's about what's right in our culture. What's right?"
- Kate Day, flight attendant


The crisis in the mortgage market has only worsened since late June when Bill Moyers talked with financial writer Gretchen Morgenson., who covers the financial world for the NEW YORK TIMES. A former stockbroker, she's now a columnist and assistant business and financial editor at the Times. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her trenchant and incisive coverage of Wall Street. Find out what's behind the meltdown.

"And it's been a policy of the government to try to encourage home ownership. And under-- with this mania, with the subprime loans that were going on, we did reach a peak in home ownership of 69 percent...The highest in history. But I would ask you, 'What's the good of getting people into a home if they can't afford it and they're then going to have to go into foreclosure?' It goes back to the idea of suitability. Are these loans suitable to the people that you're giving them to? Are these investments suitable to the investors who are buying them? There seem to have been a breakdown in that question." -Gretchen Morgenson


The JOURNAL has covered the ins and outs of Congressional negotiations on trade deals in recent months -- taking a look at what trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA mean for American workers and consumers.

Lori Wallach is Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

"Trade doesn't affect the total number of jobs in the economy. It affects the kinds of jobs." - Lori Wallach


"I realize that every time somebody says, 'We're helping the poor' or 'We're helping the foreigners' or 'the poor foreigners,' what they really mean is, 'We're going to exploit the hell out of them. This is a way we're going to lock in cheap labor in any country you can think of and exploit them.' And it's a union killing movement in the United States. You cannot form an union in the United States anymore without risking your plant being closed, sent overseas, or other kinds of intimidation. That's why union membership has now fallen to eight percent of the workforce." - John R. MacArthur

Seeds of Change

By Grace Lee Boggs

I was privileged to participate in the great humanizing movements of the last century, but I can’t recall a time when the issues were so basic, so interconnected.

How are we going to make our livings in a society becoming increasingly jobless because of hi-tech and outsourcing? Where will we get the imagination to recognize that for most of human history the concept of Jobs didn’t even exist? Work, as distinguished from Labor, was done to produce needed goods and services, develop skills and artistry, and nurture cooperation.

How do we rebuild cities like Detroit that were once the arsenal of democracy into models of 21st century self-reliance and sustainability?

How do we redefine education so that 30-50 percent of inner-city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that millions will end up in prison?

What will move us to care for our biosphere instead of using our technological mastery to increase the speed at which we are making it uninhabitable?

Can we build an America in which people of all races and ethnicities live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans, in particular, celebrate their role as one among many minorities constituting the multiethnic majority?

And, especially since 9/11, how do we achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world that increasingly resents our economic, military, and cultural domination?

These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.

We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.

Actions like these seem insignificant because we judge progress in terms of quantity. But, as the decline of GM suggests, the time has come to rethink the way we think. In the words of organizational consultant Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and Modern Science):

“From a Newtonian perspective, our efforts often seem too small, and we doubt that our actions will contribute incrementally to large-scale change. But a quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently.

Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, Changes in small places affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”

More response to My Fellow Texan

Rick Byrne, Director of Communications, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL:

The PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler posted another column this week regarding "My Fellow Texan.” In that column, he includes the letter below from a viewer. For the record, Bill Moyers did ask Karl Rove to come on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, by fax and by mail.  These requests were made before Chris Wallace responded on-air on Fox News Sunday to Bill Moyers' letter, and we still haven't heard from Karl Rove.

I saw and heard that commentary by Bill Moyers, and of course it was a commentary not intended to be news reporting. I was not aware of the so-called reports of Mr. Rove's comment on his alleged agnosticism, and would agree, after reading Mr. Getler's examination, that Moyers was loose in his characterization. Personally, I did not think that that point, true to whatever degree or not, was the key issue, but rather a sub point that was part of the larger commentary.

In any event, PBS executives are correct in saying that the program clearly is Bill Moyers and his views and his interviews with others. The press in general — including many commentators — was lax in reporting on and analyzing the White House, Congress and the war in the past half-dozen years, and Moyers' strongly worded commentaries are welcome by many. The fawning over Rove by other commentators — not by all, certainly — is hardly dented by Moyers' strong words. (Rove, in fact, was on three Sunday network or cable discussion shows. He more than holds his own all by himself.)

He slipped up, it seems, in not clarifying the agnosticism reference, and really did not need it. But on the whole, his role is clear: He comments on and analyzes events and the people behind them. If the argument is whether PBS needs to present someone with different views (which it has done, if I am not mistaken), fine. Add another voice.
But Moyers is a commentator and a thoughtful analyst who should be taken — and liked or disliked — for what and who he is. Here's an idea: Ask Moyers to ask Rove to be a guest on his program for a free-wheeling discussion. I bet Rove would not do it.

- Dan Hortsch, Portland, OR

August 27, 2007

Alberto Gonzales Resigns; Why Now?

Alberto Gonzales announced today that effective September 17, he would step down as Attorney General. THE NEW YORK TIMES writes that his "tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress," and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL remarks that his resignation ended "a monthslong standoff over his honesty and competence at the helm of the Justice Department...Republicans and Democrats alike had demanded his resignation over the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of U.S. attorneys."

For more information about Gonzales and the U.S. Attorney controversy, watch this piece from BILL MOYERS JOURNAL featuring Josh Marshall from talkingpointsmemo.com, which aired April 27, 2007.

  • Why do you think Attorney General Gonzales resigned at this juncture?
  • What implications, if any, does the resignation have on the remainder of the Bush Presidency and the upcoming presidential election?

  • August 24, 2007

    Low-Power FM Radio

    'Share it with each other. It's what you do.'

    By Rick Karr

    Imagine climbing a hundred-foot radio tower in the howling headwinds of a Category 3 hurricane so that you can stay on the air and keep your neighbors informed as catastrophe bears down. Or remaining at your post, on the mic and on the air, as floodwaters engulf the radio studio. Or pouring every cent of your income into the station to say on the air the aftermath, even though you're living in a FEMA-issue trailer because you've lost your home and everything in it.

    I can't. But Brice Phillips has done every one of those things. And that's why he's one of the most remarkable people I've ever met, and an inspiration to those of us who believe that community radio has the power to change lives -- and save lives.

    Brice is the brains, heart, and brawn behind WQRZ-LP, a low-power, community FM radio station on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. His station was the only one in the region that stayed on the air throughout both Katrina and Rita. I met him last year when Bill Moyers sent me and producer Peter Bull out to report on the state of the media in the U.S.

    When BILL MOYERS JOURNAL rebroadcast our report, I had a chance to catch up with Brice earlier this week -- and to think about why we need more stations like his.

    WQRZ-LP is one of about 800 "LPFM" (Low Power FM) stations that have come on the air since 2000. Back in the late 1990s, the FCC proposed licensing thousands of the stations as an antidote to Big Media's takeover of radio. "Deregulation" had nearly killed local broadcasting: Conglomerates bought up hundreds of mom-and-pop stations, then replaced local shows and community-service programs with more-profitable, one-size-fits-all fare. The radio dial turned into the aural equivalent of McDonalds: You'd find the same choices everywhere, but none of it had local flavor. Stations stopped serving their communities’ needs.

    LPFM was supposed to be the solution: thousands of stations run by volunteers who knew what their neighbors wanted and needed to hear. An LPFM station wouldn't broadcast to a whole county or even a city -- it'd serve a single neighborhood. It would represent the essence of local broadcasting.

    In Brice Phillips' case, that meant serving Hancock County, MS in emergencies. From the day WQRZ-LP went on the air, its motto was: "Come rain, shine, or God forbid another Hurricane Camille". There were no full-time stations in the county, and broadcasters in New Orleans and Biloxi were miles away.

    Hancock County officials say Brice saved lives by staying on the air as the storms battered the area. After the skies cleared, he aired constant updates on where his neighbors could find aid, Q&A sessions with relief workers and government officials, and music by local artists that reminded the community of better times.

    He’s been doing that for two years now, but he can’t keep up the pace much longer. WQRZ-LP is broke.

    "I'll be out of money in 30 days if things don't change," he told me. Then he laughed, and the laugh was genuine. That's how Brice is.

    Radio's a powerful medium in part because it's cheap. But it isn't free. Brice has been using his own money to pay for transmitters, towers, cables, CD players, computers, microphones, and everything else the station needs to stay on the air. He won a $16,000 award for his service, then sunk all of it into WQRZ.

    Yet despite the fact that he’s rewritten the book on broadcasting during catastrophes -- government agencies in the U.S. and Japan now use WQRZ as an example -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi state agencies have denied his grant applications. He says Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) couldn’t help. Nor could his neighbors, because the area's economy is still reeling. Meanwhile, WQRZ still doesn't have a permanent home because Hancock County officials have yet to break ground on a new Emergency Operations Center.

    “There are still 4,000 families living in FEMA campers around here,” he said. “I don’t have a lease for the station, and I’m down to my last $15,000.” His house, which was badly damaged by the storms, has been demolished, and he’s living in what he jokingly calls a “FEMA Castle” himself.

    “The new problem around here is formaldehyde poisoning,” he said, “because so many people are living in these trailers, and the plastic and so on in the trailers emits a lot of toxins.”

    One more thing: Brice is disabled -- he suffers from a chronic neurochemical disorder, which has kept him dependent on Social Security checks.

    The station’s still on the air, though, and Brice spends most of his time in his makeshift studio. Sometimes he records interviews in his trailer.

    The one bright spot has been the FCC, which has allowed Brice to increase the station’s power and range. Officials there are encouraging him to apply for an upgraded license that would allow him to better serve the community. “One guy there called me a ‘purple cow’ -- a strange and unusual beast,” he said. “And purple cows can end up changing the rules.”

    Brice is an extreme example of what LPFM can do. Other stations focus on environmental issues, the needs of migrant farm workers, or local musicians. Still others offer religious programming. But they’re all doing exactly what they were supposed to do: serving local needs.

    And that’s not a partisan assessment. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been one of LPFM’s biggest supporters. Former FCC Chair Michael Powell -- a Republican -- touted the stations as one of the big successes of his tenure. Current FCC Chair Kevin Martin -- who was nominated by President Bush -- seems to agree.

    But LPFM stations are only on the air in rural areas and small towns -- there are almost none in suburban areas and big cities. That’s because Big Media doesn’t like the idea at all. When the FCC first proposed the new stations, commercial broadcasters fought back through their lobbying arm, the National Association of Broadcasters, which lobbies on behalf of. Big Media argued that the new stations' signals would cause static and other interference. My former employers at National Public Radio agreed. So Congress approved a compromise: New community stations would be limited to rural communities and small towns, where there was little chance of interference, until a team of independent engineers had studied the risks.

    That report showed that there was no risk of interference. This summer, both the House and Senate took up bills to expand the reach of LPFM. The bills have bipartisan support, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll become law. Brice thinks it’s a no-brainer, though: It may be tough for him to keep WQRZ-LP on the air, but he thinks every community in the U.S. needs a station like it.

    PBS Ombudsman Responds to "My Fellow Texan"

    This column was posted by PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler on Friday. August 24, 2007.

    Over the last many years, reporters have grown fond of the once-secret tape recordings of White House conversations made by former President Richard Nixon. They are sometimes jokingly referred to as “the gift that keeps on giving,” not just because each new batch that gets released is likely to reveal something new, but because they almost always produce stories and give journalists and commentators something to write about.

    I’m beginning to think the same way about Bill Moyers and his weekly Journal on PBS. A few months ago, soon after Moyers returned as a regular to PBS, I said, half-jokingly, that there may need to be an ombudsman just for Moyers. Since then, I’ve written about segments of his programs, in response to viewer comments, several times, and Moyers and I have also aired our differences in this space. Actually, I’d rather not spend so many of my columns on one person or series of programs, but, like the Nixon tapes, the Journal and Moyers keep on providing material that viewers react to and that the ombudsman hears about.

    Moyers, of course, produces informative and often powerful public affairs programs and has a large and loyal following. But he also draws fire from others for his approach to some issues and that, for the most part, is what keeps an ombudsman busy.

    So, here we go again. Last Friday, Aug. 17, Moyers ended his program with what can only be described (by me) as an editorial. Here’s the transcript of how Moyers bid farewell to White House political strategist Karl Rove:

    BILL MOYERS: Some closing thoughts now on politics. When Karl Rove announced his resignation from the White House earlier this week, he got some rave reviews. Here’s a sample circulating on the Internet.

    CNN CORRESPONDENT: We should be congratulating Karl Rove for a long successful run — this is a guy who elected a president twice — who’s known as one of the most brilliant political activists of our time …

    CHRIS MATTHEWS: If you’ve ever talked to him he’s almost got, almost like a blinder’s eye — he looks you right in the eye — and he talks faster than I do — really fast right in your face totally intent on you — and it’s real like talking to a fire hydrant …

    BILL PLANTE: He’s not only the mastermind behind everything — he’s the president’s senior advisor …

    MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Boy genius, Bush’s brain, the architect …

    KAREN HUGHES: Karl is brilliant — he is funny — and he’s a passionate advocate …

    ANDREW CARD: Karl rove is a superstar — he’s very insightful — he’s a great friend to the president — he’s also a very broad thinker — he is one of the more intelligent that people I know — he’s very quick witted — he’s got a great sense of humor and the president will miss him …

    CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well generally where there’s brains, there’s Rove …

    BILL MOYERS: There is, of course, more to be said. What struck me about my fellow Texan, Karl Rove, is that he knew how to win elections as if they were divine interventions. You may think God summoned Billy Graham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the good lord was speaking in a Texas accent.

    Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God’s anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as precincts Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat — a battering-ram, aimed at the devil’s minions, especially at gay people.

    It’s so easy, as Karl knew, to scapegoat people you outnumber, and if God is love, as rumor has it, Rove knew that, in politics, you better bet on fear and loathing. Never mind that in stroking the basest bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion.

    At the same time he was recruiting an army of the lord for the born-again Bush, Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash. Crony capitalism became a biblical injunction. Greed and God won four elections in a row — twice in the lone star state and twice again in the nation at large. But the result has been to leave Texas under the thumb of big money with huge holes ripped in its social contract, and the U.S. government in shambles — paralyzed, polarized, and mired in war, debt and corruption.

    Rove himself is deeply enmeshed in some of the scandals being investigated as we speak, including those missing emails that could tell us who turned the attorney general of the United States into a partisan sock-puppet. Rove is riding out of Dodge City as the posse rides in. At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he could believe, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator. On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a Hail-Mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.

    What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    Now, let’s set aside the question, for a moment, of whether editorials (again, that’s my word for it) belong on PBS. One other thing that jumped out at me, especially, about this commentary was the use of the formulation, “even as reports were circulating,” to portray Rove as not a religious person and thus a “skeptic, a secular manipulator.”

    That, in my view, is not like Moyers; not up to his standards. Although Moyers is clearly a consistent target for conservatives, his reporting frequently hits a nerve but is almost always well-attributed, which is what makes it so often hard-hitting and why it draws a strong reaction from supporters and critics. I, personally, didn’t know what Moyers was talking about when I heard this line, and my guess is that most viewers were also in the dark about what reports were circulating, where they were circulating and what, exactly, were they saying. The portrayal of this contrast in Rove’s use of the Christian right politically and his own alleged non-belief was at the core of this commentary. So it seemed an important point, not to be skimmed over without any attribution or evidence.

    Since then, those “closing thoughts” by Moyers and the particular point about Rove’s faith have attracted a fair amount of attention. Two days later, Rove was a guest on “Fox News Sunday” and host Chris Wallace played a clip of the Moyers program and asked Rove about it. Then on Tuesday, Moyers, on his blog, responded to Wallace. Then on Thursday, Rove called me to say, among other things, that he had been inclined to just leave this thing alone but that Moyers’ online response to Wallace, and the program itself, had gone “beyond the pale” and he wanted to register a complaint with PBS. I’ll get to all of this, so hang in there.

    First, the interview with Chris Wallace:

    WALLACE: After you resigned, Bill Moyers — some would say he’s part of the mob — went after you as an agnostic who flim-flammed the Christian right … Your response.

    ROVE: I’m a Christian. I go to church. I’m an Episcopalian. I think he may have taken a comment that I made where I was talking about how — I have had colleagues at the White House — Mike Gerson, Pete Wehner, Lindsey Drouin, Josh Bolten and others — who I’m really impressed about how their faith has informed their lives and made them really better people. And it took a comment where I acknowledged my shortcomings in living up to the beliefs of my faith and contrasted it with how these extraordinary people have made their faith a part of their fiber. And somehow or another he goes from taking it from me being an Episcopalian wishing I was a better Christian to somehow making me into a agnostic. You know, Mr. Moyers ought to do a little bit better research before he does another drive-by slander.

    After a bit of our own Web surfing and research early in the week, my assistant, Marcia Apperson, and I found two references which we thought may have been the ones that provided the basis for those “reports” that are “circulating” that Moyers alluded to. One is an interview on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program on Sept. 6, 2006, with Wayne Slater, author of a book about Rove, and the other is an interview with author Christopher Hitchens in May 2007 in New York magazine. In both cases, Rove is reported as a non-believer, although neither report could be considered definitive, and Rove’s statement to Wallace contradicts that.

    And now Moyers has responded on his blog to Wallace’s interview with more support for his reference to those circulating reports. Among other things, Moyers says in his posting: “There were several references to it online as well as in print journalism last week. The San Antonio Express News, which knows Rove well, wrote in an editorial (August 14): ‘The White House will miss his indubitable political acumen. What other agnostic could have mobilized hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians behind a political banner?’” Moyers, as you can read on the link above, also cites two other writers — Marc Ambinder and James Moore — but the quote used from Ambinder begins, “I could be wrong here, but …” and the quote from Moore begins, “[Rove] told his friend Bill Israel years ago that he was an agnostic …” and the quote from a book by Slater and Moore that Moyers uses begins, “Rove once told a colleague …” These are of interest but not exactly authoritative, first-hand reports.

    In his call to me, Rove said, “If someone says he is a believer, why is that not accepted? He (Moyers) has decided he will be the judge and the jury about whether I’m a believer. He attributes this to unknown parties and then defends it in a letter to Chris Wallace, with no personal interface with me at all. How does the San Antonio Express know? They don’t. They don’t know me well. He (Moyers) then relies on a blogger who says ‘I could be wrong here.’ Well, he is wrong.” Rove calls Moore an “incredible left-wing ideologue.” Bill Israel, he says, “was once my teaching assistant. He was no more a close friend of mine than the man in the moon. I attend church in my neighborhood and here in Washington. I was married in church, worship in church, tithe to the church. My faith is my business. This is just beyond the pale.”

    Opinion and Commentary

    PBS’s Editorial Standards and Policies require that when “a program, segment, or other content is devoted to opinion or commentary, the principle of transparency requires that it be clearly labeled as such” and “should identify who is responsible for the views being presented.” It is clear that Moyers was expressing his own thoughts in this matter. And my guess is that, in his view, he was also adding some “balance” to the television coverage of the official departure of Rove from the administration. Although there were many newspaper articles, and I’m sure a fair number of television reports, that captured both the accomplishments and criticism of Rove’s tenure, Moyers introduced his commentary only with TV clips of “rave reviews” about Rove.

    Viewers probably know what to expect from “Bill Moyers Journal.” To repeat what I’ve made note of in earlier columns, the program is clearly dedicated, as Moyers says in his online description of his weekly series, to “perspectives seldom available anywhere else on television.” In my view, that is most often a big plus for the viewing public. And Rove, whether one praises him or vilifies him, is a major figure in contemporary American politics and a fair subject for intense reporting and commentary. He has indeed been lionized often over the past several years, especially on many radio and television outlets and in conservative periodicals. So a broadcaster presenting a strongly worded negative assessment is okay, an important and valuable part of the mix for viewers to sort out. But in this case, I thought a central point of the criticism was not supported for those listening.

    But aside from this point, what makes Moyers such a lightning rod is that not only is he one of the few TV broadcaster/journalist/commentators that goes after the big and sensitive targets and presents such strong critiques, but that he does it on PBS, where, as far as I can tell, he occupies a unique position. There is no other high-profile program on PBS that I’m aware of where the host frequently presents such strongly worded “closing thoughts.”

    When I asked PBS how the service justifies broadcasting editorials by the host of a major program, here is the response I got from “programming officials”:

    “As we stated last month in our reply to your (previous) inquiry, ‘the title of the series, Bill Moyers Journal, signals to viewers that they can expect to encounter the strongly reasoned viewpoints of Bill Moyers and his guests.’ Last Friday, in Bill Moyers’ closing remarks, he began by quoting several broadcasters. Among them was a CNN correspondent who said ‘We should be congratulating Karl Rove for a long successful run — this is a guy who elected a president twice — who’s known as one of the most brilliant political activists of our time …’ Chris Matthews of MSNBC was quoted as saying, ‘Well generally where there’s brains, there’s Rove …’ These are but two examples of how in the days immediately following Mr. Rove’s announcement that he was leaving the White House, many journalists made known their assessments of Mr. Rove’s tenure. Bill Moyers did exactly the same thing at the conclusion of last Friday’s Bill Moyers Journal. Mr. Moyers is not hiding anything from viewers; his show is not a ‘nightly news’ program where the format standards are more narrowly defined. It is completely appropriate for him to express his informed analysis.”

    A CNN Correspondent, Not

    Actually, the person on CNN whose face and voice — but no name or title — appear in the clip Moyers used, is not a CNN correspondent. He is Terry Holt, identified in the transcript of the CNN program from which the sound bite was extracted as a “Republican Strategist.” Holt was a national spokesman for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign.

    Two other people — of the six who were shown at the start of Moyers’ segment on Rove — were also not journalists but former top officials of the Bush administration, Karen Hughes and Andrew Card. So it is not surprising that Rove got some “rave reviews.” In fairness to Moyers, he did not describe these people as journalists and was using these clips to make his point about how Rove was being portrayed on television and how that was circulating on the Internet. But it seems to me it should have been made clear that this was not exactly the journalistic community fawning over Rove and that it was not indicative of how, as the PBS “programming officials” statement above says, “many journalists made known their assessments of Mr. Rove’s tenure.”

    When I asked PBS whether there are any other regular programs in which the host provides editorial opinion or informed analysis analogous to what Moyers does, the officials said, “There is no other program or host precisely analogous to Bill Moyers Journal/Bill Moyers but the hosts of other PBS talk and public affairs programs certainly express their opinions on occasion.”

    Here is a sampling of the letters I received. Although there are undoubtedly large numbers of viewers who applaud Moyers’ perspective, all the letters that came to me were uniformly critical (with one exception).

    The Letters

    Tell me, sir, how does a supposedly objective, non-partisan reporter refer to the president of the US as an “intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket”? The lack of integrity found in today’s media is outrageous. It’s no wonder the American public has a lack of trust in the media when it continues to be represented by elite snobs like Bill Moyers who continue to denigrate anyone who doesn’t live on the east side of Manhattan.

    Arlene Barron, Colorado Springs, CO

    The most recent episode of Bill Moyers’ journal contains an embarrassingly bias commentary about Karl Rove that shames public broadcasting. Not only should PBS decline to broadcast the pitiable views of Mr. Moyers on the grounds that they are without merit, but also because you do not give equal time to idiotic conservative rants. By broadcasting material like this PBS is giving tacit endorsement — “what you allow, you endorse.”

    Charlie Dragon, East Brunswick, NJ

    Just what ARE PBS’s standards of editorial integrity? Does that include permitting Bill Moyers to spill his hateful poison year after year? His most recent tirade against Karl Rove and President Bush was so beyond the pale of decency that I am barely able to think or talk about it. No facts, just an emotional screed that went further than even his most intemperate remarks of years past. I think Moyers’ derangement over the Bush administration has pushed him entirely over the edge.

    Barbara Duran, Kaneohe, HI

    Just a comment on the creditability of Bill Moyers. He should suppress his personal feelings and spend more time checking out his information concerning others. So often his comments can’t be checked out with the facts.

    Gordon Record, San Diego, CA

    Bill Moyers, you are a true hero. You speak truth to power, albeit in a soft, well-spoken voice. Karl Rove is no Christian when he does the work of Satan (no matter if he occasionally sits in the pew of an Episcopalian church.) Rove helped elect a “true believer” though, a “born again” Bush, who thought that God “wanted” him to run for President. Talk about delusions of grandeur! The “God” that then “talked” to Bush is living in Hell now — or in Iraq.

    David Wyles, Playa Del Rey, CA

    I am outraged and disgusted at the recent incoherent ravings of Mr. Moyers on PBS. Obviously, he actively hates the President of the United States and more viciously hates Mr. Rove and I guess anyone else who is not a rabid liberal.

    Lynn Campbell, Whittier, CA

    I happened to have seen Bill Moyers’ commentary on Karl Rove. His holier-than-thou posturing and frankly stupid comments on Rove and Bush (and religious Christians in general) cast Moyers as the intellectually inferior of those he desperately attempts to malign. He unwittingly reveals that liberals are not tolerant nor frankly intellectually gifted as advertised.

    Richard Friedman, Los Angeles, CA

    My question is should a public TV station allow such one sided critique of Bush and Rove? In the past I never heard any one sided critique of Pres. Clinton. I am offended by this for I look to public TV as one place an individual can be told facts without a man’s personal bias so blatantly expressed. I ask PBS to look into this matter and advise me how this will be changed in the future. I do not want my tax dollars used to express any individual’s biased point of view. We get enough of this on regular TV broadcasts.

    Patricia Sommerkamp, Crestview Hills, KY

    There was a day when Mr. Moyers had something to say. I often disagreed with him, but he was a reasonable advocate for his political position. Sadly that day is past. His latest mad ravings regarding Karl Rove were embarrassing to PBS and to Mr. Rove himself.

    Wade Malloy, Charlotte, NC

    Bill Moyers is, as they say in the south, losing his “religion.” This is a bitter and totally off base journalist. The latest salvo was his commentary on Karl Rove. What creditability he held in the past has run dry.

    Gary Clower, Narvon, PA

    I am an atheist, a college graduate, a Texan, a former Democrat, and a former contributor to PBS … I am trying to be respectful and objective but is Bill Moyers an idiot, stupid, hateful, a resentful Democrat hack or what?? In my 60 years of following history and mainline politics I have never heard such hateful, unconstructive rantings in a respected media outlet. I too disagree with the President and Mr. Rove but disagree is not to hate.

    KW Kessler, Austin, TX

    I do not believe in censorship or in boycotting, but Bill Moyers’ latest rants have moved him into the tinfoil hat crew and I have to question why he has a PBS platform for his outbursts. They have become rants and outpouring of bile which 1) should cause PBS management to take note and 2) make me wonder why he should be publicly supported.

    Dave Cotts, Alexandria, VA

    I am indignant at Bill Moyers’ description of our president. He can criticize his policy but he slandered him with his description in the article about Rove … he also offended me as a Christian who is a moderate and lumped me together with a group that I am not a part of. PBS has some great programming but I for one will not watch again as long as Bill Moyers is allowed to speak this rubbish.

    Suzanne Allen, Wagram, NC

    I listened to the comments of Bill Moyers regarding Karl Rove and President Bush. While commentators are entitled to their opinion, Mr. Moyers’ comments were entirely out of line. They were biased, hate filled and full of stereotypes. If Don Imus had said what Mr. Moyers said … he would have been fired. Shame on him for his remarks about the President of the United States.

    Luci Snyder, Carmel, IN

    My wife and I watch PBS more than any other network, having 3 stations in our area from which to choose. I am appalled at the sloppy, rude, arrogant, and inaccurate nature of Bill Moyers’ nasty commentary upon Karl Rove’s resignation. Moyers played loosely with the facts, or with no facts at all. I appreciate objective journalism that deals with all sides of issues, but I deplore the tone and nastiness of Moyers’ diatribe about Rove and the President. For a man who once worked for a President, he shows amazing immaturity and very lazy research habits about the facts. He is embarrassing to those of us who revel in the wonderful programs on PBS.

    Richard Palmer, Springboro, OH

    You folks have to do something about Bill Moyers. He has really gone way over the top on some of his latest rantings. I understand PBS is for ALL of the people but Mr. Moyers represents such a small portion of this country’s population it is incredible. The statements he made about Karl Rove and our President are extreme to say the least. These comments by Mr. Moyers, “intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket” are just unbelievable. Even if you do not agree with someone’s political view this is just personal attacks. I do not mind hearing other viewpoints but this is ridiculous. PBS is throwing away any credibility they have left by continuing to air this person on our public airwaves. On top of that there is no balance to this perspective at all but how can you balance personal attacks against political viewpoints.

    James Ward, Kaneohe, HI

    Objective journalism goes right out the window every time you play something by Bill Moyers. Give me a break this guy is a half a mile left of Marx himself. You would have to play Rush Limbaugh for 3 days straight to offset him. I enjoy NOVA and some of the history programming but if you wonder why you do not see money from young men in their 30s don’t play stuff that tells us our country is the worst thing on the planet.

    B. Peterson, WI

    I wonder why PBS permits Bill Moyers to provide slanted political commentary which at times is inflammatory rather than balanced. For example, he rails against Bush, but instead of sticking to presenting opposing viewpoints, he tries to paint unflattering and misleading pictures of Bush as a person or suggest malevolent, conspiratorial efforts underfoot as the reason we should hate Bush. If PBS is supposed to offer itself up as an intellectual broadcaster of issues, then tell him to act more like Charlie Rose and stop thinking he is on a personal crusade and newscast representative for the Democratic Party. Maybe he is pining for a job as the news spokesman for the next Democratic President if the party takes over the White House. It is this kind of performance which turns me off from PBS.

    Bomoseen, VT

    Please investigate Bill Moyers. He has gone/is going too far in his rhetoric. His anti-Bush rhetoric is damaging PBS not to mention his own reputation.

    Reno, NV

    Bill Moyers owes Karl Rove an apology. If he can’t bring himself to do that, he is obliged by journalistic ethics to issue a correction. Moyers, a seasoned journalist and former White House staffer himself, relies on “reports were circulating” as the source for his characterization of Rove’s religious beliefs.

    After reading Moyers’ blog and watching a video of his broadcast, I alerted Karl Rove via e-mail that Moyers had described him as an “agnostic.” This was Karl Rove’s reply, once again via e-mail: “I am a believing Christian who attends his neighboring Episcopal parish church. People have taken out of context a quote in which I express admiration for the deep faith of colleagues that so clearly informs their lives as a statement I am not a believer. I am: just not as good a Christian as some very fine people I have been honored to call friends and colleagues.”

    Deal Hudson, Washington, DC

    (Ombudsman’s note: Hudson’s role in religious issues and relationship to Bush and Rove is referred to in the interview with Wayne Slater and the recent blog posting by Moyers after the Fox News Sunday interview.)

    August 23, 2007

    Poll: Net Freedom or Limitation?

    One important aspect of the complicated issue of net neutrality relates to whether stricter regulations on Internet providers could have an adverse effect on developing new web innovation. Read this opinion below:

    Mr. and Ms. Consumer are starting to demand a lot from their Internet. They want on-demand movies. Voice-over-Internet telephone service. Streaming live video. And, very soon no doubt, a lot of data-rich services that we haven't even heard of yet. Those sorts of services will require Internet providers - like, yes, the telecoms and the cable firms - to invest enormously in expanding the pathways for that coming flood of data. If we want movies (and we do) and if we want streaming video (and we do), then someone must pay for the huge infrastructure improvements necessary to deliver those innovative services into our offices and homes. Government-enforced "net neutrality" would stifle that innovation. It would temper the consumer-driven imperative to make the Internet work faster and better."

    - "'Net Neutrality' Would Stifle Innovation," editorial, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, June 26, 2006

    But Jeff Chester of THE NATION disagrees:

    "According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets--corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers--would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out...If we permit the Internet to become a medium designed primarily to serve the interests of marketing and personal consumption, rather than global civic-related communications, we will face the political consequences for decades to come. Unless we push back, the "brandwashing" of America will permeate not only our information infrastructure but global society and culture as well."

    - "The End of the Internet?," Jeff Chester, THE NATION

    Learn more about net neutrality here.

    What do you think? Answer our poll question then debate the topic below:

    August 22, 2007

    Response to "My Fellow Texan"

    Rick Byrne, Director of Communications, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL:

    In his comment on the blog, Mr. Deal Hudson has asked Bill Moyers to apologize for his piece about Karl Rove's departure (watch here), which aired last Friday, August 17. Hudson posted part of an email he says he received from Rove after Hudson sent him a copy of Moyers' comments. Rove replied to Hudson: "I am a believing Christian who attends his neighboring Episcopal parish church."

    It is not surprising that Deal Hudson would take on the role of defending Karl Rove. They have been allies in implementing the very political strategy for religion of which Bill Moyers was critical. According to this published report, Mr. Hudson was an adviser to the Republican National Committee and a "regular White House visitor" where he helped implement Rove’s efforts to coordinate conservative Christian and Republican politics.

    One conservative Catholic activist was quoted in the story as saying: "The White House has a Catholic strategy and its name is Deal Hudson." Mr. Hudson himself wrote in a November 2003 letter, also quoted in the report: "I continue to lead an informal Catholic advisory group to the White House, as well as communicate with various White House personnel almost every day regarding appointments, policy, and events. These efforts have helped to place faithful, informed Catholics in positions of influence."

    Rove’s statement to Mr. Hudson was similar to what Rove said on Sunday, August 19, in an appearance on Fox News Sunday when he was shown a clip from Bill Moyers' comments by anchor Chris Wallace. Yesterday, Bill Moyers addressed the Chris Wallace interview and Rove's reaction to the clip in a letter to Fox News Sunday below:

    August 21, 2007

    Chris Wallace
    Fox News Sunday

    Dear Chris Wallace:

    I just came upon your interview last Sunday with Karl Rove during which you asked him to respond to my comments on his departure from the White House. It appears that you only selected a one-sentence excerpt from what I said. The sentence you used reads: “You have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian Right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator.” Without any challenge or follow-up from you, Rove said that he is a Christian, goes to church, and is an Episcopalian, and that “Mr. Moyers ought to do a little bit better research before he does another drive-by slander.”

    Now, what I said, after discussing Rove’s documented appeals to religious prejudice for partisan purposes, was: “At his press conference this week he [Rove] asked God to bless the President and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he ‘wished he could believe, but he cannot.’ That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian Right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator.”

    If you had checked, you would have found that his agnosticism, or questioning of faith, has indeed been in the news specifically in connection to his political expediency in the manipulation of believers. There were several references to it online as well as in print journalism last week. The San Antonio Express News, which knows Rove well, wrote in an editorial (August 14): “The White House will miss his indubitable political acumen. What other agnostic could have mobilized hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians behind a political banner?” On TheAtlantic.com (“No One Like Karl Rove,” August 13) Marc Ambinder wrote: “I could be wrong here, but I distinctly recall conversations with Rove friends who’ve told me that his struggles with faith did not lead him to Jesus Christ. Yet he knew and understood how to interact with (and manipulate, at times) the standard-bearers of the evangelical Right and the Catholic conservative intellectual elite.....” James Moore (“The Rove Goes on Forever”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com ) wrote that “[Rove] told his friend Bill Israel years ago that he was agnostic and that ‘he wished he could believe, but he cannot.’” In their book on Rove, Wayne Slater, former Austin bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News, and Moore, a veteran journalist write: “Rove once told a colleague that he had no religious affiliation and was ‘not a Christian.’” And so on and so on and so on. All of these sources were available to you as they were to me.

    Obviously Rove wanted to blow smoke because his version of reality is undermined by his own previous statements and by the reporting and analysis of journalists who have done their homework and don't take his every word as gospel – no pun intended.


    Bill Moyers

    Mr. Hudson says that he has written to the PBS Ombudsman to protest Mr. Moyers' comments about Karl Rove. He posts that letter on his own blog, where he mentions a previous column by the Ombudsman on another Bill Moyers Journal episode but fails to note Mr. Moyers' response, which you can read below to see the whole story.

    July 24, 2007

    Dear Mr. Getler: [PBS Ombudsman]

    I respect your work and your role, but I disagree with you about “balance.” The journalist’s job is not to achieve some mythical state of equilibrium between two opposing opinions out of some misshapen respect -- sometimes, alas, reverence -- for the prevailing consensus among the powers-that-be. The journalist’s job is to seek out and offer the public the best thinking on an issue, event, or story. That’s what I did regarding the argument for impeachment. Official Washington may not want to hear the best arguments for impeachment -- or any at all -- but a lot of America does. More than four out of ten people indicated in that recent national poll that they favor impeaching President Bush and more than five out of ten, Vice President Cheney. They’re talking impeachment out there and that dynamic in public opinion is news. There’s a movement for impeachment, not one against impeachment, and to fail to explore the arguments driving that movement would be as foolish as when Washington journalists in the months before the invasion of Iraq dared not talk about “occupation” because official sources only wanted to talk about “liberation.” Letting the official consensus govern the conversation is also to let it decide the subject.

    So to hear the best arguments driving public sentiment, I invited on my broadcast a conservative scholar who reveres the Constitution, Bruce Fein, and a liberal political journalist, John Nichols, who has written a fine book on the historical roots of impeachment. That two men of different philosophies come to the same conclusion on this issue is in itself newsworthy, and they made a valuable contribution to the public dialogue, as confirmed by the roughly 20:1 positive response to the broadcast. Of course I could have aired a Beltway-like “debate” between a Democrat and a Republican, or a conservative and a liberal, but that’s usually conventional wisdom and standard practice, and public broadcasting was meant to be an alternative, not an echo. If a debate about impeachment becomes the story, I’ll come back with different guests to explore it. Right now it’s the argument for impeachment that is shaping public opinion, and that’s why I chose to interview two informed thinkers who have arrived at the same destination from very different directions.

    A personal note: Pinned to the bulletin board on the wall behind my computer -- I am looking at it now -- is the column you wrote in January calling on public broadcasting to “be more…aggressive,” including on the issue of, yes, impeachment. I took encouragement from that column over these months as I tracked grassroots activity and the growing public conversation on the subject across the country. I was cheered by your assertion in the same column that “‘on-the-one-hand/on-the-other hand’ type of journalism that is much more common can be less than enlightening at times such as these...” In thinking that you imagined public broadcasting as a service, not a sedative, I trust I wasn’t misreading your New Year’s resolution.

    By the way, we did not remove any controversial postings from our Web site, as indicated in your critique. We welcome all points of view and responses to our programs on our blog.


    Bill Moyers

    August 20, 2007

    What Adam Said to Eve

    By Bill Moyers

    Prepared remarks for the annual conference of the
    Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
    On August 9, 2007 in Washington, DC

    I wanted to come and thank you for what you do. Half a century ago my own journalism teachers – Selma Brotze in high school, Cecil Schumann and Delbert Maguire at North Texas State, and Dewitt Reddick and Paul Thompson at the University of Texas – stoked my passion for journalism, as you do for so many young people today.

    That passion bloomed early. In 1950, on my 16th birthday I went to work for the daily newspaper in the small East Texas town where I grew up – the Marshall News Messenger. It was a good place to be a cub reporter – small enough to navigate but big enough to keep me busy and learning something every day. I soon had a stroke of good luck. Shakespeare said: "Merit doth much but fortune doth more." Some of the old-timers were on vacation or out sick, and I got assigned to cover what came to be known as the “Housewives’ Rebellion." Fifteen women in my hometown decided not to pay the Social Security withholding tax for their domestic workers. They argued that Social Security was unconstitutional, that imposing it was taxation without representation, and that – here’s my favorite part - "requiring us to collect [the tax] is no different from requiring us to collect the garbage." They hired themselves a lawyer but lost the case and wound up holding their noses and paying the tax.

    I've thought over the years about those women and the impact their story had on my life and on my journalism. They were not bad people, they were regulars at church, their children were my friends, many of them were active in community affairs and their husbands were pillars of the business and professional class in town. They were respectable and upstanding citizens in all. So it took me a while to figure out what had brought on their spasm of reactionary rebellion. It came to me one day many years later. Fiercely loyal to their families, to their clubs charities and congregations - fiercely loyal in other words to their own kind - they narrowly defined democracy to include only people like themselves. The women who washed and ironed their laundry, wiped their children’s bottoms, made their husband’s beds and cooked their families’ meals, these women too would grow old and frail, sick and decrepit, lose their men and face the ravages of time alone, with nothing to show from their years of labor but the creases in their brow and the knots on their knuckles.

    So over the years I came to realize that small revolt in Marshall, Texas, embodied the oldest story in America – the struggle to determine whether “We, the People” is a political truth – one nation indivisible - or merely an economic arrangement masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.

    Some of the stories I wrote about the housewives were picked up by the AP. One day the managing editor, Spencer Jones, called me over and pointed to the AP ticker beside his desk. Moving across the wire was a notice citing the News Messenger for our reporting. I was hooked. I went off to college two years later with enough experience to land a job working for the school’s news office. The spring of my sophomore year I wrote a letter to Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, whom I’d never met, and said I wanted to become a political journalist and could he teach me something about politics? I spent the summer in Washington and then at his urging transferred to the University of Texas where I attended classes full-time and worked overtime at the Johnson’s radio and television station. We were the first in Texas to buy a station wagon, paint it red, and christen it – what else? – Red Rover. I wheeled around town in style, broadcasting from crime scenes and accidents and the state legislature, which some people said was the biggest crime scene in town.

    My path led me on to graduate school, through seminary, and in 1960 back to Washington, where I helped organize the Peace Corps before the assassination of John Kennedy tragically thrust Lyndon Johnson suddenly into the White House and me with him. I left in 1967 to become publisher of Newsday until it was sold to the Los Angeles Times, and then I made the leap from print to television, to PBS and CBS and back again to public television – one of those vagrant journalistic souls who, intoxicated with the moment, is always looking for the next high: the lede yet to be written, the photo yet to be taken, the interview yet to be conducted, the story yet to be told.

    I mention all this not to review my C.V. with the intention of applying for an adjunct position - although don’t count that out – but to put in perspective what I want to say about the changing landscape of journalism. Before he became a celebrated humorist Robert Benchley was a student at Harvard. He arrived at his final examination in international law to find the test consisted of one question: "Discuss the abstract of the international fisheries protocol and dragnet and procedure as it affects (A) the point of view of the United States and (B) the point of view of Great Britain." Benchley was desperate but he was also honest. He wrote: "I know nothing of the point of view of Great Britain in regard to the arbitration of the international fisheries problem and nothing of the point of view of the U.S. I will therefore discuss the issue from the point of view of the fish."

    Here’s the point of view of one fish in the vast ocean of the media.

    Journalism's been a good life for me. A continuing course in adult education – my own. It enabled me to cover the summits of world leaders and the lives of poor people in Newark. I was paid richly as a CBS news analyst to put in my two cents’ worth on just about anything that had happened that day. I produced documentaries on issues and subjects that fascinate me – from money in politics to the Chinese experience in America, the history of the Hudson River, the power of myth, and the making of a poem. With journalism came a passport into the world of ideas, my favorite beat. I’ve enjoyed the sometimes intimidating privilege of talking to some of the wisest and sanest people around – scientists, historians, scholars, philosophers, artists and writers – to ask them important questions: Why is there something instead of nothing? What do we mean by a moral life? Can we learn to be creative?

    And one of my favorite of all questions; what does it mean to be a Texan? I put that one to the sainted writer, raconteur, and radio personality John Henry Faulk shortly before his death in 1990. Faulk, some of you old-timers may remember, was the popular CBS Radio host hounded by the right-wing out of his job and into court where he won an important case. In that interview John Henry told me the story of how he and his friend Boots Cooper were playing in the chicken house behind their homes in Central Texas when they were about 12 years old. They spied a chicken snake in the top tier of nests, so close it looked like a boa constrictor. As John Henry told it to me, “All our frontier courage drained out of our heels – actually, it tricked down our overall legs – and Boots and I made a new door through the henhouse wall.” John Henry’s momma came out and, learning what all the fuss was about, said to the boys “Don’t you know chicken snakes are harmless? They can’t hurt you!” And Boots, rubbing his forehead and behind at the same time, said, “Yes, Mrs. Faulk, I know that, but they can scare you so bad, it’ll cause you to hurt yourself.”

    That’s such an important lesson to teach your students. I had to work hard at times to remember it. After the early twists and turns put me in the White House as LBJ’s press secretary it took me awhile to get my footing back in journalism. I had to learn all over again that what’s important for the journalist is not how close you are to power but how close you are to reality. I would touch that reality in assignment after assignment, from reporting on famine in Africa and guerilla war in Central America to documentaries about working families in Wisconsin ravaged by global economics and corporate cruelty.

    I also had to relearn another of journalism’s basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. One of my mentors years ago told me that “news is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.” When you’re digging for what’s hidden, unless you’re willing to fight and refight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive your colleagues nuts going over every last detail to make certain you’ve got it right, and then take hit after unfair hit accusing you of bias, there’s no use even trying. You have to love it, and I do. But I have had to keep telling myself to remember John Henry Faulk’s counsel: You can’t spook out.

    When the indomitable Washington producer Sherry Jones and I reported the first documentary ever about the purchase of political influence by political action committees, we unfurled across the Capitol grounds yard after yard of computer printouts listing campaign contributions to every member of Congress. On that printout were names of politicians who had been allies just a few years earlier when I worked at the White House. Supporters in Congress of public television were also outraged.

    I learned something from that. There’s a story about the medieval knight who returns to the castle after a long absence. He rides back through the gate with his helmet battered, his shield dented, his shield broken, and his horse limping. The master of the castle looks down from the parapet and shouts: “Sir Knight, what has happened to you?” And the knight looks up and says “Oh Sire, I’ve been up pillaging and plundering your enemies to the east and the west.” And the lord of the castle looks down at him and says, “But I have no enemies to the east and the west.” And the knight answers: “Now you do. Now you do.” We do make enemies in journalism.

    Later, when Sherry and I went digging into the Iran-Contra scandal in a documentary called “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Washington’s right-wing vigilantes ran to their allies in Congress who then accused PBS of committing in public the terrible sin – horrors! – of journalism! The Clinton White House also complained after we reported on the unbridled and illegal fundraising by Democrats in the president’s re-election campaign in 1996.

    But taking on political scandal is nothing compared to what can happen if you raise questions about corporate power in Washington. When the producer Marty Koughan and I started looking into the subject of pesticides and food for a Frontline documentary, Marty learned that the industry was attempting behind closed doors to dilute the findings of a National Academy of Sciences study on the effects of pesticide residues on children. The industry heard we were poking around and mounted a sophisticated and expensive campaign to discredit our broadcast before it aired. Television reviewers and the editorial pages of key newspapers were flooded with allegations and innuendoes. It was a steady whispering campaign hard to discern and confront. A columnist for The Washington Post took a dig at the broadcast without even seeing it – and later admitted to me that the dirt had been supplied by a top lobbyist for the chemical industry, who was his neighbor. The industry even prepared letters which some nervous public television station managers signed and sent to PBS here in Washington protesting a film they hadn’t even seen. My colleagues at PBS stood firm – even though some of those snakes were boa constrictors – and the documentary aired, the journalism held up, and the National Academy of Sciences was emboldened to release the study that the industry had tried to stifle.

    Even when you win one battle, the war goes on. Sherry and I spent more than a year working on another documentary called Trade Secrets. This one was a two-hour special based on revelations – found in the industry’s own archives – that big chemical companies had deliberately withheld from workers and consumers damaging information about toxic chemicals in their products. These internal documents were a fact. What they contained was not a matter of opinion or point of view. You could read right there in the industry’s own records what the companies knew, when they knew it, and what they did with what they knew – which was to deep six it. The facts portrayed a deep and pervasive corruption in a major American industry and raised profound implications for public policy. So when the companies got wind of what we were doing, they sharpened their hatchets and went to work.

    They hired a public relations firm here in town noted for using private detectives and former CIA, FBI, and drug enforcement personnel to investigate competitors and critics. One of the founders of that firm is on record boasting of using “unconventional” methods – including deceit – on behalf of his clients. To say they tried to smear the messenger is an understatement. To complicate matters, the single biggest Congressional recipient of campaign contributions from the chemical industry was the very member of Congress whose committee had jurisdiction over public broadcasting’s appropriations. We didn’t use any public funds to produce the documentary, but that didn’t spare PBS from another wave of ferocious pressure. Again they stood firm, Trade Secrets aired – every fact documented – and a year later the National Academy of Television named it the outstanding investigative documentary of the year.

    Nowadays journalists who try to dig up what’s hidden still bring down on their heads the opprobrium of government and corporations. But they must also face the wrath of right-wing media whose worldview is to see a liberal lurking behind every fact. Journalism is under withering fire these days from ideologues – those true believers who have closed their mind to all contrary evidence and hung a sign on the door with the words: DO NOT DISTURB. Any journalist whose reporting dares to challenge the party line becomes a candidate for Guantanamo. Rush Limbaugh, notably, railed against journalists for their reporting on the torture at Abu Ghraib, which he dismissed as a little sport for soldiers under stress. He told his audience: “This is no different from what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation… You ever heard of people [who] need to blow off some steam.” [Well, yes, I have: they usually wind up as talk show host.] The Limbaugh line became a drumbeat in the right-wing echo chamber from which many millions of American now get their news. So I wasn’t surprised to read that nationwide survey by the Chicago Tribune in which half of the respondents said there should have been some kind of press restraint on reporting about the prison abuse and just as many said they “would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, especially if it is found unpatriotic.”

    Imagine: Free speech as sedition.

    Tell your students: silence is sedition.

    Those of you who saw Buying the War know that journalists and others who tried to challenge the administration’s fallacious evidence for invading Iraq found the patriot police on their tail. Whatever Kool-Aid he’s brewing for The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch could make a singular contribution to journalism simply by uncoupling Fox News from the Republican fog machine and giving it the mandate to report reality instead of attacking those who do. For sure we’d get more real news – what Richard Reeves calls “the news you and I need to keep our freedoms.”

    I know you must have some sleepless night over what’s happening to journalism. I do. I know a vigorous struggle for the survival of professional journalistic values is playing out with particular intensity inside the walls of your universities. The former Washington Post correspondent, Neil Henry, now teaching at Berkeley, writes about this in his new book, American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media. I recommend it to you, as well as his essay from it in the May 25 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Neil Henry writes that those of you in education “are in a constant state of flux, fighting to stay current with evolving industry demands and technological innovation while also seeking to protect the primacy of traditional standards in a world where such values are either misguided or threatened.”

    You’re on the frontlines of that struggle and know the issues well, so I won’t belabor the obvious. But no day passes without a reminder of it. Last Sunday I picked up my copy of
    The New York Times at the corner newsstand. The price had gone to $4 from $3.50, and yet there on the front page, below the fold, was a small box that read:

    Starting Monday, The Times is reducing the width of its pages by an inch and a half, to the national newspaper 12-inch standard. The move cuts newsprint expenses and, in some printing press locations, makes special configurations unnecessary. Slight modifications in design preserve the look and texture of The Times, with all existing features and sections and somewhat fewer words per page.

    There you have the sign of the times: More money, less news. The rest is commentary –the loss of advertising, the consumer migration to digital media, changing viewer habits. Think 3-minute YouTube clips versus 30-minute TV shows versus long-form documentaries that have been my stock in trade, and the lengthy Wall Street Journal investigations that Rupert Murdoch has already said are rather trying.

    I often hear in my head the late Saul Bellow’s prophesy during an interview I did with him two decades ago. He said the day would come when “no one will be heard who does not speak in short bursts of truth.” So I muse: Buying the War was a 90-minute documentary that took almost 15 months to produce. Our exposé Trade Secrets took a year. McClatchy’s, then Knight-Ridder’s, Landay and Strobel needed weeks to gather and then space to lay out the evidence that challenged the official view of reality leading up to the war. For reporters time is the most valuable thing you invest; for all Wall Street, the only measure is money.

    Coming down on the train, I read of the latest casualties from Wall Street’s assault on the newsroom. Starting last Thursday and continuing this week (according to an account by Kimi Yoshino in The Los Angeles Times), managers at the Orange County Register have been tapping staffers on the shoulders and asking them to leave. The editor told them revenues are down 14% and profits 38%. Yet it was only three years ago that the owner, the privately-held Freedom Communications, Inc, worked out a $1.3 billion buyout deal that saw more than half of the members of the founding family cash out their holdings. Two private equity firms – Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners – purchased nearly 40% of the shares. Now, typically, they are recouping their investment at the expense of employees. Many are long-time reporters, including 50-year-old Michele Himmelberg, whose coverage of the National Football League helped women reporters gain access to locker rooms and won equal-access policies for all journalists. She had been working at the paper for nearly 24 years covering major news events and, in her words, “telling the stories of people who have shaped our community.” Michele Himmelberg could be speaking for thousands of journalists when she says: “News is a consumer product that will continue to be in demand. The question is, with the methods of delivery changing, how do the people who tell these stories earn a living?”
    The question goes beyond newspapers. I heard this week from a talented freelance reporter in his 30s who made the media beat a specialty. He has an offer outside the craft he has practiced since he was 15 and will probably take it. He told me “the problem in journalism isn’t that there are no jobs; my students [he is an adjunct professor in a graduate journalism program] inevitably end up with great starter jobs. Most news organizations seem to prefer hiring freshly-minted J-school grads and having them learn the beat anew. But that’s where everything’s stuck: at the starter level. As a freelancer in broadcasting, I don’t have the profile in print to land big magazine assignments, the only kind that pay well. I’m at the top of NPR’s freelance scales, but NPR pays freelancers dismally – I make less than $1000 for a piece that takes four solid days to report and produce, which isn’t nearly enough for a homeowner who’s paying his own health premiums.”

    You can ask The Writers’ Guild about that. My friend and colleague Michael Winship sent me the study the Guild has just published that describes how media conglomerates are destroying broadcast news with the same tactics other companies are using against their workers. They’re cutting staff resources and replacing full-time news writers with part-timers and temps. CBS alone has cut the number of full-time news staff by about 60% since 1980; the budget for the CBS Evening News, where I succeeded Eric Sevareid as senior news analyst, was cut almost in half from 1991 to 2000. In 1989, CBS network television news employed 28 researchers; ten years later, none. Half the guild members reported that at least several times a week, they use no more than a single Web site to check the accuracy of stories. Mike Winship says that some are working “off-the-clock” to ensure that the facts are properly checked. When the guild asked its members: “Do you think your news outlet spends enough time and energy making sure that your audience has enough information to make sound judgments on issues relevant to public life?” 72% said “Not enough” or “Not nearly enough.”

    Small wonder MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezknski recently tried to burn a script on air in frustration over being asked to lead the day’s news with a story about Paris Hilton rather than one about Bush’s strategy in Iraq.

    For an old-timer like me – who’s had his run and is on his last lap – this is all very sad. For young journalists it’s all very confusing. That’s exactly what 25 year old Steven Barrie-Anthony wrote in a recent blog on The Huffington Post (for which he wasn’t paid.) Anthony had worked for a spell at The Los Angeles Times before winning a scholarship for further study, and now he’s wrestling with a multi-media future.

    Here’s what he writes:

    It’s a terribly confusing time to be a young journalist, but you won’t hear many of us complaining out loud. Jobs are too precious, corporate owners too fickle….The subtext to any conversation about journalism, these days, is the effect of the internet on newspapers and society in general. There’s a little question that the Web will prove deadly to major newspapers unless we figure out how to make real money from online content. Among journalists and media watchers, there’s a tendency to either bemoan this development as the end of days, or to worship the ambiguous phoenix emerging from theses ashes. The Net is either a democratizing force that will transcend fractious boundaries and borders and move us toward Buddhist-style interconnection, or a barrage of contagious subjectivity masquerading as objectivity and undermining the very concept of truth.

    As young journalists, we straddle an interesting divide: we understand well and often trumpet the virtues of traditional journalism, and yet we sheepishly get much of our news online or via The Daily Show. We have MySpace accounts, write blogs and read them, and have come to view Google as an extension of the brain. At this very moment I’m ignoring the advice of a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist friend, who maintains that writing for The Huffington Post without getting paid is a bad use of time and energy. My inky side understands the problem with journalists working gratis – it devalues the trade – while another part of me thirsts for the immediacy, the intimacy that this venue provides….

    This is clearly the worst of times.

    On the other hand, I find myself delighted by all the chaos and ferment. This point could be argued that the inventions of the quill and scroll, the printing press, the typewriter, the mimeograph, the ballpoint pen, the personal computer, are in sum only half the equation in a large transformation to a written and shared conception of self and world. Now that the Internet has completed the circuit, given everybody access to an audience, the point could be argued that society has been so dramatically altered that traditional journalism has been rendered largely moot.

    Could this be, I dare say it, the best of times?

    At almost three times his age I would no doubt strike that 25-year-old as a codger, but in fact I appreciate the tug he’s experiencing. I’ll make a confession to you. I start my day with Josh Marshall and end it with Jon Stewart – and both of them were on my first broadcast this year. Josh Marshall because his talkingpointsmemo.com drove the story of the firings of the federal prosecutors; without the muscle and money of the mainstream press Josh relies instead on a small under-funded network of journalists whose single-mindedness is a thing to behold and imitate. Jon Stewart, because Mark Twain is alive and well on Comedy Central holding the powers-that-be accountable to intelligence and wit.

    Whether it’s the best of times or the worst, I can’t say. But I remember from my seminary studies that as Adam and Eve were on their way out of the Garden he reportedly said to her: “My Dear, we live in a time of transition.”

    So in the few minutes left I want to challenge this association to lead the way in making sure journalists can do the best of things in the worst of times. We need to call on our field, our craft, our allies, sympathizers and the public at large to address what is at stake in this new world order – because the market will not deliver to democracy the news we need to survive.

    The odds are formidable. While I was at CBS back in the 1980s, I saw firsthand the deleterious impact of Reagan-era deregulation – when television, according to the FCC chairman at the time Mark Fowler, was just another appliance, a “toaster with pictures.” Accompanying that first major wave of deregulation were changes in the ownership of the then-three major broadcast networks. We know that as a result of those takeovers, electronic journalism took a serious hit, with investigative reporting and serious long-form documentary programming eliminated and overseas bureaus closed. There have been more recent developments – from broadcast television to newspaper cross-ownership to broadband communications. You heard Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein talk about that this afternoon. By the way, no finer public servants more consistently do battle for the public and the fate of journalism than those two. Talk about odds! The commission is daily besieged for favors on behalf of the corporations that largely control our media and telecommunications systems. These industries spend even more than the oil and gas lobby to influence the government. It’s hard to fight their money as they maneuver to shape public policy. As a result we have fewer owners of the key media outlets – a trend now extending into new media as well. In addition to Murdoch’s acquisition of MySpace, we have Google buying the country’s most important digital video distribution service, YouTube. Google is also in the process of further expanding its advertising power with the purchase of Doubleclick, another leading online advertising battle. Viacom, Time Warner, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have been collectively spending hundreds of millions to strengthen their position in the new world of broadband interactive media. In fact, there has been breathtaking – and largely unreported – spending to acquire or merge with companies in the media and telecommunications field. In 2006, there were $72 billion worth of mergers of acquisition in the entertainment and media sector alone, along with an array of corporate alliances involving media, technology and distribution companies. In the first half of this year, $33.4 billion worth of mergers and acquisitions have taken place in the marketing and advertising field, according to Advertising Age. The key to the media future, it seems, is controlling and utilizing consumer data for targeted audiences. So much of how the media will service us in the digital era is being influenced by the needs of interactive marketing – to track us wherever we are and to create ever evolving digital profiles of our interests so that they can send us personalized and powerful interactive messages designed to get us to behave in ways they wish. Today it’s buying an automobile; soon it will be a candidate for public office.

    You will be interested in is what Advertising Age had to say about Murdoch’s recent coup:

    A News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal begs a question: in a world where the attention of consumers and hence advertisers is divided among video games, American Idol, and the like, can a business built solely to deliver news—especially long, serious articles about complicated topics – remain independent and successful?....the nation’s leading purveyor of business information, still an agenda-setter for the planet’s biggest economy, becomes a cog in a vertically integrated, multinational creator and distributor of entertainment, a machine engineered to pump out synergies such as The Simpsons movie or, more scarily, that aborted O.J. Simpson extravaganza, rather than Pulitzers….sure, Mr. Murdoch will pump capital into the paper, allowing it to build out its international operation, but some are predicting that one effect of that bulking up could be to further his business goals, especially in China. And Journal reportage, now a means to the purist end of watch-dogging the business community, will be called upon also to add more grist to that massive multimedia content mill, in the form of the Fox business network—which is already being positioned as more pro-business than CNBC, absurd as that sounds.

    And in a society where capitalism and corporations have more power than any other aggregation of human beings, the watchdog role of the business press, becomes as essential as the watchdogs to Washington. Where, then, does journalism stand as the future of our media world is being determined by such investment and the rapid development of business models to better target us primarily as consumers instead of citizens? Ironically, many of these new media concerns offer their users access to news and information that comes from traditional news outlets. A new study by the Center for Media Research this week listed the “top global news destinations” on the Web, which included Yahoo and Google, along with CNN, Tribune, Gannett, ABC news, Fox, and The New York Times. We know the source for much of the news online – and that’s the day-to-day reporting that largely occurs in the nation’s daily newspapers and wire services. Who is going to pay for those reporters?

    Reporting is so essential to the food chain of democracy, we can’t just throw up our hands and say that newspapers and professional journalism have to accept a fate where they become more marginalized – or made irrelevant from changes in attitudes and behaviors about media, especially from young people. There’s no question we have already entered a new age – one that many of you are familiar with and are engaged in helping develop responsibly. Even an old codger like me knows that the majority of America’s connected young people now regularly log on to social networks and have incorporated their cell phones deeply into their DNA; I have grandchildren who don’t let me forget. The emergence of so-called user-generated media is a positive sign that the next generation sees itself as creators of content – perhaps even as citizen or professional journalists, members of networks similar to the one Josh Marshall has created for talkingpointsmemo.com.

    But if in the future journalism remains a vital profession, secure in its mission to report on reality without fear or favor, we need a serious, widespread, sustained public campaign for the press in democracy. You can be in the vanguard to engage the field in its mission – and to help educate and inform the public about the consequences and choices regarding the fate of journalism.

    My friend Jeff Chester, who runs the public interest group Digital Democracy, dug up and sent me a copy of your code of ethics. You say it plainly: “free expression should be nurtured and protected at all levels. …AEJMC members should work to improve the understanding of free expression intellectually, historically, and legally...to serve as the voice and support of free expression on their campuses and in their communities….to conduct constructive evaluation of the professional marketplace…act as media critics…[and] provide a voice in discussions of media accountability.”

    It’s time for a public debate to help light up this crossroad, one that will fully take us from the old media world even more fully into the new digital.

    We can’t look to the conglomerates to tell us what’s really going on. Except on the business page, the news media has been largely silent about the deregulation and media mergers I previously discussed. During the debate on the deregulatory 1996 Telecommunications Act, which included a massive giveaway of public property – the airwaves – to the TV networks and other broadcasters, television virtually ignored the story. It was newspapers without any broadcast interests that took a stand editorially against the giveaway – versus the many papers that were either silent or supported the beltway deal to better promote their corporate agendas.

    So we need to go to the public to affirm foursquare that journalism matters. Whatever our failings, we must remind the country of the crucial role investigative reporting plays; how news bureaus abroad are a form of “national security” that can be relied on to tell us what our government won’t. That as America grows more diverse, it’s essential to have reporters, editors, producers and writers who abundantly reflect those new voices and concerns. That the independent, truth seeking, damn-the-torpedoes-and-full-speed- ahead attitude of journalists is crucial to fulfilling America’s promise as a more equitable and democratic society.

    I know. I know. We’re up against the odds. Ed Wassermann of Washington and Lee writes of the “the palpable sense of decline, of rot, of a loss of spine, determination, gutlessness” that pervades the field today. David Simon goes further. The former Baltimore Sun reporter covered urban life so brilliantly his work inspired books and TV series such as Homicide and The Wire. Now he expresses increasing cynicism “about the ability of daily journalism to affect any kind of meaningful change.” And he concludes: “One of the sad things about contemporary journalism is that it actually matters very little.”


    But Hrant Dink thought journalism matters. He had edited the only Armenian newspaper in turkey. "I want to write and ask how we can change this historical conflict into peace," he told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dink was the target of death threats from nationalists who saw his work as an act of treachery. And on January 19th of this year, Hrant Dink was shot and killed outside his newspaper’s offices. Because journalism matters.

    Sahar Hussein Ali al-Haydari thought journalism matters. Targeted twice for abduction last year, she had recovered after surgery following an assassin’s attempt on her life. Later in the year a gunman killed her fiancé. Al Haydari was investigating a suicide attack on a police station when she, too, was shot to death. Not knowing she was dead, a source called to give her more information for the story. One of the gunmen actually answered her phone, saying to the caller: "She went to Hell." Because journalism matters.

    Luis Carlos Barbon Filho thought journalism matters. He was 37, a reporter for ten years, who drew attention in 2003 with an investigation into a child prostitution ring for his daily paper Realidade. His work resulted in the arrests and conviction of four businessmen, five local politicians, and a waiter - only the waiter is still in jail. After he was forced to shut down his paper because of financial problems, two masked assailants shot him twice at close range, leaving his wife a widow and his two children fatherless. Because journalism matters.

    It mattered to Miguel Perez Julca, the popular Peruvian radio commentator. His radio program – El Informativo del Pueblo - Bulletin of the People – uncovered allegations of government corruption connected to local crime. For weeks he received death threats on his cell phone. Then, on March 17, two hooded gunmen shot and killed Miguel Perez Julca in front of his wife and children. Because journalism matters.

    Chauncey Bailey believes journalism matters. The editor of the Oakland Post was murdered a week ago on the streets of his city. The 19-year-old suspect told police he ambushed and killed Bailey for writing negative stories about a local bakery that may have been responsible for more questionable activities than baking bread. 1,500 people turned out this week for his funeral, believing that journalism matters.

    Tell your students it matters. Tell it over and again. So that no matter the medium or the technology or the odds, some of them will go out to do their damndest to make sure it does. What more can we ask?

    August 16, 2007

    My Fellow Texan

    By Bill Moyers

    Like the proverbial hedgehog, Karl Rove knew one big thing: how to win elections as if they were divine interventions. You may think God summoned Billy Graham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the Good Lord was speaking in a Texas accent.

    Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious, draft-averse, naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God’s anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as precincts, Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat -- a battering ram, aimed at the devil’s minions. Especially at gay people. It’s so easy, as Karl knew, to scapegoat people you outnumber. And if God is love, as rumor has it, Rove knew in politics to bet on fear and loathing. Never mind that in stroking the basest bigotry of true believers you coarsen both politics and religion.

    At the same time he was recruiting an army of the Lord for the born-again Bush, Rove was also shaking down corporations for campaign cash. Crony capitalism became a biblical injunction. Greed and God won four elections in a row -- twice in the Lone Star state and twice again in the nation at large. But the result has been to leave Texas under the thumb of big money with huge holes ripped in its social contract, and the U.S. government in shambles -- paralyzed, polarized, and mired in war, debt and corruption. Rove himself is deeply enmeshed in some of the scandals now being investigated, including those missing emails that could tell us who turned the Attorney General of the United States into a partisan sock puppet.

    Rove is riding out of Dodge City as the posse rides in.

    At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the President and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism. He wished he could believe, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a secular skeptic, a manipulator.

    On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a Hail Mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.

    Katrina Revisited

    As Bill Moyers discusses with JOURNAL guests Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Mike Tidwell, a recent letter from an activist working with a coalition of individuals in response to the Katrina disaster, now two years ago this week. She writes:

    "The problems that confront us down here are immense and immensely complex. And as the road to recovery stretches ever longer before us, I fear we're in danger of losing our grasp on the reality of our potential and falling prey to the illusion of powerlessness."

    We invite you to respond to this letter by commenting below.

    Recapturing Our "Childness"

    This week on THE JOURNAL, historian Martin E. Marty discusses that sometimes mysterious quality that children possess, that we often often strive to cultivate in ourselves, even in our later years:

    "I think that notion that you spend your life finding ways to change and become like a little child means you will be more open to mystery, more responsive to others, more receptive."

    What do you think?

    • Do children possess certain qualities worth emulating as adults?
    • What do you think is lost in the transition away from childhood, and have you ever tried to recapture it?

      Photo: Robin Holland

    August 15, 2007

    Story Update: Alaskan Pork

    Taxpayers for Common Sense, an earmark watchdog group recently featured on THE JOURNAL, has helped bring to light, with the Associated Press, alleged earmark abuses by prominent Alaskan legislators, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young. From the AP article:

    More than 2,000 projects worth $7.5 billion have gone to Alaska since 2000, says Taxpayers for Common Sense. Alaska received a little over $1 billion in the 2005 highway bill.

    A 2005-2007 study of earmarks by the group showed that Alaska _ ranked 47th in population _ has done far better than other states, when spending is calculated per person. Spending over the three-year period came to $4,311 per person in earmarked projects for Alaskans, while Hawaii was a distant second at $1,812. At the low end were the populous states of Texas, at $98 per person, and New York, $95 per person.

    Part of the difference can be explained by Alaska's special needs, with its remote geography, rough terrain and extreme weather. But the clout of Stevens and Young also has played a huge role.

    According to the AP, some of these 2000 earmark projects included:

    • $500,000 to the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, which used some of these funds to paint a Boeing 737 to look like a Chinook Salmon.
    • $1 million was set aside for mobile computers for police cars in Wasilla, Alaska, which has a population of 6,700.
    • $435,000 went to the Alaska Christian College in 2005, which had several dozen students at the time.

    For an interactive map detailing earmark allocation by state, compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, click here.

    August 8, 2007

    Impeachment: The Conversation Continues

    The tremendous response from our recent impeachment panel broadcast tells us this is a conversation that is important to you. Here are a few of the thousands responses we've been receiving:

    Ethel, July 13, 2007:

    After watching tonight's Bill Moyers program, I think for the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful. There is a solution! For the last five years, I have been watching and listening and feeling rather isolated in my frustration and disgust. Impeachment is the solution for this federal insanity.

    Carol Taylor, July 14, 2007:

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for the re-education about the Constitution. I have already written to Nancy Pelosi. This program is just what we need to hear.

    Lee Partide, July 14, 2007:

    One sided and misleading. Bill Moyers is a good presenter and very smooth, but what is frightening is the power he and the media exercise by presenting information that neglects so many facts, and does not present rebuttal by the myriad others who can refute claims made on this show, and point out their dangers. I am NO Bush fan, but your show edges on appalling by misrepresentations. One can see how far this has gone by reading how many people in media (and thus among the population) compare Bush to such people as Hitler. That kind of extremism presented under the guise of objective journalism is what is MOST scary in our culture.

    SR, July 15, 2007:

    I am not nearly as articulate as your bloggers, however, I was compelled to say something...I was raised to respect our leaders, our elders and one another. To trust in our government and have faith in our religion...What has happened to the America we once knew?...We the American people can no LONGER hide our heads in the sand-- we cannot rely on our political leaders to help us out of this peril...Thank you SO MUCH for airing this show.

    Ken, July 14, 2007:

    I just caught the end of your show waiting for the British comedies to come on. What a bunch of crap! The democrats don't have the guts to stop the war or impeach Bush or Cheney. What congress should do is remove public funding for this show and send it to the troops in the war.

    We invite you to continue to the conversation by commenting below.

    Poll: Civil Liberties and National Security

    Constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein states:

    “Most important thing for the American people to know is that the great genius of the founding fathers, their revolutionary idea, with the chief mission of the state is to make you and them free to pursue their ambitions and faculties. Not to build empires, not to aggrandize government. That's the mission of the state, to make them free, chart their own destiny. And the burden is on the government to try to understand why that freedom has to be curtailed for a security purpose or otherwise.”

    Photo: Robin Holland

    Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.

    August 6, 2007

    Buying the War, Again?

    Four months since our original broadcast of Buying the War and more than four years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, has the media's coverage of the Iraq war changed?

    As President Bush continues to declare that Iraq has become the main battleground in the war on terror, NEW YORK TIMES public editor Clark Hoyt recently wrote a column criticizing the coverage of his paper, that it has not delved far enough into the intricacies of the enemy in Iraq:

    Why Bush and the military are emphasizing al Qaeda to the virtual exclusion of other sources of violence in Iraq is an important story. So is the question of how well their version of events squares with the facts of a murky and rapidly changing situation on the ground.

    But these are stories you haven’t been reading in THE TIMES in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about al Qaeda’s role in Iraq - and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.

    And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn’t even exist until after the American invasion.

    Oliver North, who has made 8 trips to Iraq with FOX News, agrees that most media outlets are not reporting the Iraq war accurately, but in a different way:

    For nearly two years, the potentates of the press have been slavishly following liberal dogma and telling us that the war in Iraq is all but lost; that the region will never embrace democracy and that young Americans serving there are dying needlessly. Even before the “troop surge” was underway, they were telling us that it wouldn’t work. And since the final contingent of 28,500 additional troops arrived in theater two months ago most members of the Fourth Estate have tried to convince us that it has failed. Some of them may even believe it, but that doesn’t make it true.

    What do you think?

    -Is the media sufficiently reporting the truth about the war on the ground?
    -Where do you turn for the latest information and analysis about the Iraq War?

    Want to read the original blog discussion that helped to merit this rebroadcast? Click here.

    August 3, 2007

    Cultural Amnesia: Who would you remember?

    Cultural critic, Clive James, has gathered 106 biographical essays in his recent collection, CULTURAL AMNESIA: NECESSARY MEMORIES FROM HISTORY AND THE ARTS, with the hope that future generations will learn from the lives and interconnections of these individuals; how they each contributed to our collective story, for good or bad.

    You can read many of his essays here at Slate.com including commentaries on Duke Ellington, Adolph Hitler, and Leon Trotsky.

    But since we all have different lives, and inhabit various circles, we are each affected by a diverse group of people.

    • So who do you believe is worth remembering?
    • Which individual, for good or ill, do you believe is most important for generations to come to understand and learn from? And why?

    A New American Dream?

    It was James Truslow Adams who first coined the term "The American Dream" in his book THE EPIC OF AMERICA written in 1931. He writes that the American dream is:

    "...that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.

    It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

    But Barbara Ehrenreich, who has lived, worked and fought along side low-wage workers has witnessed the growing disparity of wages between the rich and poor. The hopes and dreams of many of the workers she's been hearing from seem to differ from the definition above. Says Ehrenreich:

    "There was one woman who said something to me that was so poignant. Speaking of her hopes for the future, she said, 'My big wish would be to have a job which if I missed work one day, like for a child home sick or something, I would still be able to buy groceries for the next day.' And I thought, yeah, that's quite a hope."

    How would you define the American Dream?

  • Has it changed for you over time?
  • Do you think your children or even your grandchildren will define it the same way?

    Photo: Robin Holland

  • August 2, 2007

    Story Update: The Murdoch Deal

    A few weeks ago, we reported on Rupert Murdoch's bid to bring THE WALL STREET JOURNAL under the umbrella of his News Corporation.

    With News Corps' $5 billion takeover of JOURNAL publisher Dow Jones almost a done deal, the press has been abuzz this past week:

    Seth Sutel, of the Associated Press argues that Murdoch’s acquisition of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL opens up new opportunities:

    "Now that its part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, JOURNAL publisher Dow Jones will have access to several things it would have had a tougher time finding alone: capital to invest in new digital distribution channels; ready access to multiple media platforms and more muscle to compete against rivals at home and abroad."

    Eugene Robinson, writer for the WASHINGTON POST, argues that while selling THE WALL STREET JOURNAL to Murdoch may create some problems and issues, it may be the best situation available to the struggling paper:

    "This week, members of the Bancroft clan who hold a controlling stake in Dow Jones, THE JOURNAL'S parent company, are deciding whether to accept Murdoch's money. It's a tough call, but I can tell them with confidence what not to do: The surest way to destroy the great newspaper their family has owned for more than a century would be to seek out some another billionaire, a "white knight" on a valiant steed, to buy the paper instead. If they're going to sell, they almost certainly should sell to Murdoch."

    THE NEW YORK TIMES ran an editorial cautioning Murdoch to leave his influence out of the workings of THE JOURNAL:

    "The best way for Mr. Murdoch to protect his $5 billion investment is to protect THE JOURNAL'S editorial quality and integrity. That will mean continued high-quality competition for THE TIMES and other news organizations. And that will be good news for all Americans."

    Still, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is saying stop the presses:

    "This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically affects the local market in New York City…What's good for shareholders of huge media conglomerates isn't always what's good for the public interest or our civic dialogue...We should immediately conduct a careful factual and legal analysis of the transaction to determine how it implicates specific FCC rules and our overarching statutory obligation to protect the public interest. I hope nobody views this as a slam dunk."

    So we've heard from journalists and critics, now we'd like to hear from you on this story.

    Does the impending buyout of Dow Jones by News Corp represent a pillar of capitalism or a bane to democracy?

    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments


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