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News Polarization & Ethnic Media

In this week’s JOURNAL, WVON Chicago radio program director Coz Carson says:

“There’s a great deal of mistrust for mainstream media when it comes to African-American issues. So when we approach people, when we ask them to speak to us, they feel like they’re speaking with family, they’re speaking with people who understand their plight.”

A paper from Stanford University's Political Communications Lab about political preferences and news polarization argues that since “people prefer to encounter information that they find supportive or consistent with their existing beliefs” there is a “real possibility that news will no longer serve as the ‘social glue’ that connects all Americans… [as they turn] to biased but favored providers.”

What do you think?

  • Can this conclusion be applied to ethnic media as well?
  • Does news coverage from specific ethnic media outlets for specific ethnic groups contribute to the polarization of the news?
  • Do ethnic media serve their communities in ways the mainstream media can’t? If so, how?

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    I would like to thank Bill Moyers and the Journal for quality journalism once again. It scares me that this type of journalism is so rarely seen in the media today. One of the lessons of 911 is that for me to be the best citizen, I need better information. If I am spoon fed what the administration wants me to hear, I will not have the information I need to voice a helpful opinion.

    I think the FCC behavior is crimminal.

    -Deb Shechter

    I would like to thank Bill Moyers and the Journal for continually letting us know what the mainstream media will not. My views on the subject of the FCC commission pushing for media consolidation are best represented by the letter I sent each of the five FCC commission members, my Senators, Representative, and the President:

    To the FCC Commission:

    I am writing to you today to ask that you vote no to further media consolidation. It is vital to the American public that the American people have access to an array of varied and balanced media sources that reflect the communities and nation we live in. In an age where a small group of powerful large corporations own most of the media sources in the nation, outlets such as local community radio, NPR, and PBS are increasingly threatened and increasingly important. Media should be about the wealth of information offered to the American public, not the wealth being funneled into shareholders pockets. As a successful, college educated woman I am opposed to having the information I see on the nightly news, read in magazines, listen to on the radio, and search for on the web be filtered through an increasingly tight stranglehold on the American public’s right to be informed.

    Again I am urging you with the utmost sincerity to opposed Commission Chair Kevin Martin’s proposal to relax guidelines and requirements of media conglomerates and reward them with even greater powers to control access to knowledge and information through the media. There is no call from the public to pass or service to the public in passing these new guidelines by Christmas or any other time.


    Erika K. Savoy
    Registered Voter

    I will be sending a copy of this letter to my Senators and Representatives urging them to oppose media consolidation.

    I thought that the FCC was a body that takes its constitutional authority from Congress. Las t I looked the Democrats were the majority. Why is the FCC majority still 3 republicans and 2 democrats? This seems to be another issue the democrats are letting down the American people, again and again.........

    I am so relieved to have Bill Moyers back on BPS. You cover the issues that are so important while the conglomerates cover these issues with the fog of shows such as Nancy Grace. Never have I been so distraught about the US and its future. The executive branch has turned into a monarchy bouyed up by its own appointees in positions of power.

    I was one of the first female radio announcers on the air in Milwaukie WI starting in 1970. I worked for a small "progressive" station that actively protested the war in Viet Nam, we pulled and read our own choices of news stories from UPI and AP teletype machines...and we played the anthems of the times. It didn't take long for the station to be one of the highest rated in the region. At one point we received a bomb threat...and the FBI came in to crawl around under the studio equipment, seeking explosives, while I carried on with reading the news, and playing rock & roll. There was no bomb.

    There came a point in reporting the war news that the policy was simply to say "And the war in Viet Nam continues" at the end of every newcast.

    It is such a disturbing disappointment these days to spin the dial and find no variety or real personalities on the air. I'd be willing to bet there are virtually no stations in the country who take a stand on any national the rabid force-fed sindicated talk shows, most of which are entirely right wing serving.

    These new FCC policies are just one more step in the hijacking of the media, and the stifling of public opinion. In the past broadcast news was always somewhat polarized, since folks had a variety of stations to choose from, and chose those whose tone matched their sentiments. But, overall I think we can assume that the needs of minorities are not being served here....none of us are being served.

    Thanks, Bill Moyers. You are my hero.

    I am white and feel I don't get news and items like the peace march just are not reported.

    I give you credit for what you say but how to get the public involved?

    The press is not doing it's job since it's 6 companies which plan to own even more media.

    I feel like I'm living in Soviet Russia.

    The media consolidation segment this week reminded me of the kinds of dangers predicted by Madison in Federalist Paper #51. Although he addresses civil and religious rights threatened by “the tyranny of the majority”, his concerns pertain as well to threats to freedom of information attendant to the consolidation of power by a few media conglomerates. Madison writes: "The second method will be exemplified in the Federal Republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority. In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government. This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends or republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States, oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated; the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every citizen, will be diminished; and consequently the stability and independence of some member of government."
    M. Douglas Ris

    Thank you for the "Journal". I believe that you are presenting information that is vital to the survival of our democracy. Unfortunately, there are not enough of us listening. How can we prevent the FCC from allowing this proposed consolidation of the media? We are already living in a country where the "news" is so biased and controlled that it takes a lot of work to find out what is really happening in the world. Please keep up the good work.

    It saddens me to see that Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzales - Democracy Now, don't receive any credit for their outstanding, unbiased reporting of news stories.They were months ahead of everyone reporting about the Jeena 6; Mykal Bell's incarceration & the circumstances leading up to the convictions. They showed how the white kid pulled a gun on the black kids at a Quick Shop & yet not a thing was ever brought up about this criminal behavior by the main stream media! So I'm sorry but the news does get out there on progressive programs. Where's the outrage that "Air America" is the only left wing, liberal, progressive staion out there! At least there's more than one Hispanic, Black, Christian, Right Wing,etc. channel out there! Granted, where are the rich Progressives to help initiate or back progressive stations? I know that I pay my monthly fee to sattelite to get progressive radio & will GLADLY continue too so I can hear an opinion not sculpted by the corporate media, otherwise there's only the internet, Democacy Now & Link T.V. I'd suffer otherwise! By the way, Rev. Jackson had his own show on Air America along w/ other black hosts.I realize this is far & few between, but at least it's proof that not all media is completely biased & that liberals, progressives, whatever you want to call us, believe that people are people, & that's what really matters!News should be truth & not propaganda!

    When you did your story about WVON and the FCC, you just repeated some of the myths about the Jena 6.
    Craig Franklin listed twelve of the myths that the mainstream media thought to juicy to fact-check.
    Here they are.

    Media myths about the Jena 6
    A local journalist tells the story you haven't heard.
    By Craig Franklin

    Jena, La.
    By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they've all heard the story of the "Jena 6." White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests – the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

    There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

    I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning.

    The reason the Jena cases have been propelled into the world spotlight is two-fold: First, because local officials did not speak publicly early on about the true events of the past year, the media simply formed their stories based on one-side's statements – the Jena 6. Second, the media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they'd read on blogs, which expressed only one side of the issue.

    The real story of Jena and the Jena 6 is quite different from what the national media presented. It's time to set the record straight.

    Myth 1: The Whites-Only Tree. There has never been a "whites-only" tree at Jena High School. Students of all races sat underneath this tree. When a student asked during an assembly at the start of school last year if anyone could sit under the tree, it evoked laughter from everyone present – blacks and whites. As reported by students in the assembly, the question was asked to make a joke and to drag out the assembly and avoid class.

    Myth 2: Nooses a Signal to Black Students. An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of "Lonesome Dove.") The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. When informed of this history by school officials, they became visibly remorseful because they had many black friends. Another myth concerns their punishment, which was not a three-day suspension, but rather nine days at an alternative facility followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court, and evaluation by licensed mental-health professionals. The students who hung the nooses have not publicly come forward to give their version of events.

    Myth 3: Nooses Were a Hate Crime. Although many believe the three white students should have been prosecuted for a hate crime for hanging the nooses, the incident did not meet the legal criteria for a federal hate crime. It also did not meet the standard for Louisiana's hate-crime statute, and though widely condemned by all officials, there was no crime to charge the youths with.

    Myth 4: DA's Threat to Black Students. When District Attorney Reed Walters spoke to Jena High students at an assembly in September, he did not tell black students that he could make their life miserable with "the stroke of a pen." Instead, according to Walters, "two or three girls, white girls, were chit-chatting on their cellphones or playing with their cellphones right in the middle of my dissertation. I got a little irritated at them and said, 'Pay attention to me. I am right now having to deal with an aggravated rape case where I've got to decide whether the death penalty applies or not.' I said, 'Look, I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With the stroke of a pen I can make your life miserable so I want you to call me before you do something stupid.'"

    Mr. Walters had been called to the assembly by police, who had been at the school earlier that day dealing with some students who were causing disturbances. Teachers and students have confirmed Walters's version of events.

    Myth 5: The Fair Barn Party Incident. On Dec. 1, 2006, a private party – not an all-white party as reported – was held at the local community center called the Fair Barn. Robert Bailey Jr., soon to be one of the Jena 6, came to the party with others seeking admittance.

    When they were denied entrance by the renter of the facility, a white male named Justin Sloan (not a Jena High student) at the party attacked Bailey and hit him in the face with his fist. This is reported in witness statements to police, including the victim, Robert Bailey, Jr.

    Months later, Bailey contended he was hit in the head with a beer bottle and required stitches. No medical records show this ever occurred. Mr. Sloan was prosecuted for simple battery, which according to Louisiana law, is the proper charge for hitting someone with a fist.

    Myth 6: The "Gotta-Go" Grocery Incident. On Dec. 2, 2006, Bailey and two other black Jena High students were involved in an altercation at this local convenience store, stemming from the incident that occurred the night before. The three were accused by police of jumping a white man as he entered the store and stealing a shotgun from him. The two parties gave conflicting statements to police. However, two unrelated eye witnesses of the event gave statements that corresponded with that of the white male.

    Myth 7: The Schoolyard Fight. The event on Dec. 4, 2006 was consistently labeled a "schoolyard fight." But witnesses described something much more horrific. Several black students, including those now known as the Jena 6, barricaded an exit to the school's gym as they lay in wait for Justin Barker to exit. (It remains unclear why Mr. Barker was specifically targeted.)

    When Barker tried to leave through another exit, court testimony indicates, he was hit from behind by Mychal Bell. Multiple witnesses confirmed that Barker was immediately knocked unconscious and lay on the floor defenseless as several other black students joined together to kick and stomp him, with most of the blows striking his head. Police speculate that the motivation for the attack was related to the racially charged fights that had occurred during the previous weekend.

    Myth 8: The Attack Is Linked to the Nooses. Nowhere in any of the evidence, including statements by witnesses and defendants, is there any reference to the noose incident that occurred three months prior. This was confirmed by the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, Donald Washington, on numerous occasions.

    Myth 9: Mychal Bell's All-White Jury. While it is true that Mychal Bell was convicted as an adult by an all-white jury in June (a conviction that was later overturned with his case sent to juvenile court), the jury selection process was completely legal and withstood an investigation by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Court officials insist that several black residents were summoned for jury duty, but did not appear.

    Myth 10: Jena 6 as Model Youth. While some members were simply caught up in the moment, others had criminal records. Bell had at least four prior violent-crime arrests before the December attack, and was on probation during most of this year.

    Myth 11: Jena Is One of the Most Racist Towns in America. Actually, Jena is a wonderful place to live for both whites and blacks. The media's distortion and outright lies concerning the case have given this rural Louisiana town a label it doesn't deserve.

    Myth 12: Two Levels of Justice. Outside protesters were convinced that the prosecution of the Jena 6 was proof of a racially biased system of justice. But the US Justice Department's investigation found no evidence to support such a claim. In fact, the percentage of blacks and whites prosecuted matches the parish's population statistics.

    These are just 12 of many myths that are portrayed as fact in the media concerning the Jena cases. (A more thorough review of all events can be found at – click on Chronological Order of Events.)

    As with the Duke Lacrosse case, the truth about Jena will eventually be known. But the town of Jena isn't expecting any apologies from the media. They will probably never admit their error and have already moved on to the next "big" story. Meanwhile in Jena, residents are getting back to their regular routines, where friends are friends regardless of race. Just as it has been all along.

    • Craig Franklin is assistant editor of The Jena Times.

    Regarding to the absence of programs who expose the current "war' .....
    is true that they almost non exist...
    neither in the mainstream media or in the hispanics or 'minorities' networks ....

    I didnt see any program on the new veterans of war,talking about the horrors...when all the television around the world is exposing it,as every day ,internationally speaking,the american image is really "going down the tubes"....

    Also the name documentary channels seems are part of the conglomerate and also in its historic perspectives defend this empire,and the "former" empire,as most of the providers of reality and non fiction are british companies....

    The only two heroic programs who are scaping from the selled out and prostituted media is Frontile ,Now,and Bill Moyers....

    Let's pray for its continuation...

    Where are the contact addresses for the FCC Chairman and his cohort?

    I certainly am against the further consolidation, and am anxious to add my name to the list of persons opposing these new rules.

    Nevertheless, i am not certain the address i might select to send my objection to, would be the most effective.

    Your assistance is most appreciated.

    Thank you for your prompt response


    Gary Mason

    Thank you, Bill Moyers, for being the outstanding journalist that you are.

    This story caused me to recall a related story on the privatization of the Postal Service recently aired on NPR's "Justice Talking." I never realized the postal monopoly on first class mail was largely credited for the comparatively high literacy rate in the United States by promoting the relatively inexpensive movement of information through periodicals and newspapers within the country. The changes being proposed in the postal rate structure threaten this information movement for small publishers. Such small publishers might be compared with small locally owned radio or television stations.

    In a similar manner, the consolidation of media under a few very large companies bodes for less local coverage and will likely foster intellectual improverishment.

    Congratulations on another timely program on media consolidation. I promptly sent a message to the chairpersons of the FCC objecting to the lack of public notification for the Nov.9th hearing.

    Media consolidation does not necessarily lead to exclusion of minority voices. On the contrary, corporate monopolists find it to their advantage to over-represent minorities of every stripe, to emphasize group grievances and generally to Balkanize the American media markets. Nothing would pose a more potent threat to corporate media monopoly than a robust, unified mainstream. For proof, just compare the number and independence of daily newspapers in the 1950s to today.

    The lack of reporting of anti war views and the views of most Americans is appalling. In my state I live near the southern border by 55 miles. Seattle is about 130 miles north. That is where the TV broadcasters are. So I get TV from Portland. Problem is Portland is in another state and the news and politics have NOTHING whatsoever to do with our state. We have no information from our own state EVER and as citizens are being completely ignored and unserved. There is not one person to go to to remedy this. The politicians and appointees ignore us too.

    Just like they ignore the protests.

    They have the American public locked down and they are going to keep it that way. I believe they will call Marshall Law next year and cancel the election.

    I wish the piece had focused less on representation (i.e. 10% of the population is named Bob but guys named Bob only own 1% of the TV and radio stations) and more on the larger problem. The larger problem being that more and more of the media is being monopolized by self-serving megaconglomerates leading to bias and censorship. By censorship I refer to the "non-reporting" touched on in the report.

    The FCC Chairman's current rush to consolidate control of US broadcast media is consistent with the post-war rise of American empire as documented in the 2007 book by Chalmers Johnson "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic". The US government (and the corporate special interests and religious groups it now serves) cannot effectively enforce American hegemony over the world unless it also controls American public speech and opinion through a consolidation of all licensed commercial media into friendly hands. The current actions of the FCC Chairman is just a final step in that regard.

    Mr. Bill Moyer: PLEASE devote at least one Journal show to interview Chalmers Johnson. He is an American patriot in the mold of Washington and Jefferson. The fact that Mr. Johnson is now considered by many in the press as "radical" just proves how precarious is the position of our republic today.

    The narrow coverage of national and international news is troubling. Too few people decide what the public hears--this is dangerous for democracy.
    I fully support diversity and the freedom of access to the media. We need more stations, newspapers, TV, internet connections rather than a restricted few. Perhaps then, public demonstrations would make the news!

    Bill Moyers, THANK YOU for the program tonight, Nov. 2nd. Both subjects were absolutely terrific and so important.
    I especially was spellbound by the piece with K. Newman and her research which resulted in the book, THE MISSING CLASS. I do social policy advocacy for the League of Women Voters Illinois and in so doing have also been in the community so that I really know many folks in that missing class. Housing in my community, a Chicago suburban county, is such an issue for those in the modest income group; however, even in my town which has a reputation of a community with many Evangelical churches and institutions, I have found less than favorable attitudes regarding the supply of affordable housing. This, in my mind, is deplorable!!

    It is a moral issue to me and not just for the Evangelical faith group, but all religious as well as just plain human decency.

    I can attest to everything that was spoken of on your program, sadly.

    Thank you for getting this information out.

    Jan Kay

    why is it so great for blacks and hispanics to have their own tv stations and radio stations and newspapers but so horribly RACIST when white people to do that?? dont get me wrong im not racist but its a RACIST DOUBLE STANDARD for some people to stick with their own kind when others arent supposed to. if we want people to stop being racist then EVERYBODY needs to be AMERICANS instead of just sticking with their group.


    Througth my observation toward the coverage of the hispanic media....
    the news are too polarized and no integrationist. with the main media.
    Ethnic media is very limited with the community covering the basic and sensatioalist issues,but not helping to educate.

    The isolation is inmense,as you feel you are watching news from an imaginary channel,or country.
    For example with the events of September 11,and last six conmemorative years,any news deptarment open a different criteria.
    Is taboo for networks as Univision or Telemundo cover issues that can look antiamrican,or contradict the official version or the offfcial story of the things...

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