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September 22, 2010

The JOURNAL's Emmy Nominees

Update: THE GOOD SOLDIER WON the Emmy Award! Three JOURNAL programs have been nominated for Emmy Awards: "LBJ's Path to War: A Tale of Two Quagmires," Bill Moyers' interview with writer and producer David Simon and the JOURNAL's presentation of the documentary THE GOOD SOLDIER. You can watch ""LBJ's Path to War" and the David Simon interview in their entirety online below. You can watch an excerpt from THE GOOD SOLDIER too.

And, if you're in New York City you can view THE GOOD SOLIDER at the Quad Cinema, from September 24 through September 30, (34 W. 13th St. (5th & 6th Aves.), 212-255-8800, Showtimes: 1:00, 2:40, 4:20, 6:00, 7:40*, 9:40*)

Continue reading "The JOURNAL's Emmy Nominees" »

April 23, 2010

Should the Federal Government Fund Journalism?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps about his perspective on net neutrality and the future of journalism in the digital age.

Copps, who believes that the government should play a role in regulating and promoting Internet access, suggested that government also has a role to play in funding and encouraging investigative journalism. He said:

"I think newspapers are going to survive, and I think broadcast is going to come back. What I'm not convinced of is that newspapers in their new survival mode are going to be able, unaided, to support the kind of in-depth journalism that we need to have, and get those reporters back. I think they can get by with that slimmed down newsroom, or the closed-down newsroom. That doesn't help the country very much though... We're talking about educating a country and keeping a country informed. I think at some point we have to get off the defensive and start talking about public support for public media. In the United States, we spend $1.35 per capita per annum supporting public media - public broadcasting, public radio. Lots of other countries are spending $50, $75, $100 or more, and you kind of get what you pay for. It's not interfering with the democracy of Denmark or Finland or Great Britain or places like that... The news has gone down the drain, investigative journalism is on the endangered list, [so] maybe there's an argument to be made for doing a little bit more."

Recent polling from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism suggests that many in the industry have reservations about accepting government funding:

"As they look forward, news executives have concerns about some of the funding ideas being discussed for journalism... [There was] overarching concern about accepting government money. Fully 75% of all news executives surveyed--and 88% of newspaper executives--said they had "serious reservations," or the highest level of concern, about direct subsidies from the government. And about half (46%) have that level of concern over tax credits for news organizations... Even in these dire economic times, only 19% would welcome such funding... 'If the government becomes the 'money bags' for journalism, journalism will become the ''bag man'' for the government,' wrote a member of [Radio Television Digital News Association]. 'This would be an assault to the first amendment of the constitution.' 'We must keep our independence or perception of independence and accepting government subsidies ties you to the government we are meant to watch,' explained an [American Society of News Editors] member, 'The lines become too blurred if we begin taking donations and subsidies. Even if we remain aggressive in coverage why would readers believe we are independent?'"

What do you think?

  • Should the government fund journalism? Why or why not?

  • Do you trust government-funded journalism to remain independent? Explain.

  • Do you believe that government funding has affected the independence of state-funded news outlets like the BBC?

  • September 11, 2009

    Respect for the Dead and the Reality of War

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In this week’s JOURNAL, McClatchy DC’s Pentagon correspondent, Nancy Youssef, gave Bill Moyers an update on the turbulent situation in Afghanistan, where American troops have been deployed for nearly eight years. She addressed the recent controversy over the Associated Press’ decision to publish a photograph of a Marine mortally wounded in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, over the protests of his family and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

    Bernard’s father had argued that publishing the photograph would cause additional pain to the family, while Gates suggested that the publication violated “common decency.”

    Santiago Lyon, the AP’s director of photography, defended the decision to publish the picture, saying “We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is.”

    Youssef expressed empathy for Lance Cpl. Bernard’s family and his comrades on the battlefield, but also emphasized that the public must be made aware of the violence of war.

    “When that photo came out, I talked to a friend of mine who's a colonel in the Army. She served in Iraq, and many years ago she lost her daughter, who was a toddler at the time, to an illness. She could speak to it both as a soldier and as a parent. She was really angry about the photo and said, ‘No one has the right to tell me what my last memory of my child should be,’ and it really stayed with me... I think a lot of [soldiers] would be offended because it’s so personal. These are really guys that they were sitting next to the day before – it’s something to them that’s not for public consumption... But I'm conflicted, because as a journalist, and as someone who has to go out and see this war day in and day out, it's hard to say that these photos shouldn't be seen. In a way, I feel like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sanitized... It's really hard. You can't lose your humanity in war, and I feel for that father. I can't imagine that image being foisted upon me of my son in that position. I just can't imagine. But sometimes I feel that we as a public need to be hit almost violently with the reality of war, and that's what that photo does.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with the Associated Press’ decision to publish the photograph of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard? Why or why not?

  • How should journalists balance their responsibility to present the violent reality of war with honoring the wishes of fallen soldiers’ families?

    Click here to view photo essays about the reality of war.

  • April 17, 2009

    Why Are Newspapers Struggling?

    Speaking with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, former reporter David Simon contended that the recent struggles of the newspaper industry cannot simply be blamed on the Internet, as many have done:

    “This is not all the Internet. A lot of the general tone in journalism right now is that of martyrology: ‘We were doing our job, making the world safe for democracy, and all of a sudden terra firma shifted [with] new technology. Who knew that the internet was gonna overwhelm us?’ I would buy that if I wasn’t in journalism for the years that immediately preceded the internet...

    All that [Research and Development] money that was supposed to go into making newspapers more essential, more viable, more able to explain the complexities of the world, went to shareholders in the Tribune company... ultimately, when the Internet did hit, they had an inferior product that was not essential enough that they could charge online for it. The guys who are running newspapers over the last 20 or 30 years have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry.... they had contempt for their own product.”

    What do you think?

  • What are the main causes of the newspaper industry’s current struggles?

  • Do newspapers today provide essential information for a healthy democracy? Did they do a better job of providing that information 20 or 30 years ago?

  • February 6, 2009

    Politics, the Press, and the Public

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with prominent bloggers Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald about the role of the establishment press in America’s dysfunctional political system.

    Rosen suggested that members of the press may have a variety of preconceived notions through which they filter their reporting:

    “If you're a career Washington reporter, how do you know that your knowledge is always going to be relevant throughout your career? Well, if politics is just an inside game, then you're always on top of it. If all of a sudden, a new dynamic enters it, you may not have the knowledge you need to be the expert, to be the authority. And I think there's a tendency for Washington journalists to see everything converging towards the political game that they are themselves masters of.”

    Greenwald argued that the establishment media may be an impediment to political change:

    “If you were to say to normal Americans... that members of Congress leave office and make millions of dollars doing nothing other than essentially peddling influence to wealthy individuals who can have their way with Congress, most people consider that to be corruption. That's what Barack Obama called it when he ran. Yet, to members of the media, who have spent their lives in Washington, who are friends and colleagues of the people who are engorging themselves on this corrupt system, that is just the way of life. It's like breathing air or drinking water. It's not anything that's noteworthy, let alone controversial... What's going to have to happen is his supporters, on whom he relies for his political power, are going to have to be the ones holding him accountable, by being angry and dissatisfied when he seems to be off the course that he promised he would stay on.”

    On the other hand, many observers perceived that the establishment press supported Barack Obama, who campaigned as and was widely considered the candidate of change. Michael S. Malone of ABC accused the press of “shameless support” for Democrats, while Mark Halperin of TIME cited “extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage” during election season.

    What do you think?

  • Is the establishment press an impediment to or an agent for bringing change to Washington? Why or why not?

  • What role should journalists play in our democracy? Explain.

  • August 22, 2008

    UPDATE: Alive in Baghdad: Iraqi Children Speak Out

    UPDATE: Brian Conley, of Alive in Baghdad, has recently been detained by the Chinese authorities while reporting on pro-Tibet demonstrations in Beijing. Family members, who have not heard directly from Brian, believe that he has recently been sentenced to 10 days of detention for "upsetting public order".

    Read more at The New York Times and Boing Boing.

    And read more about China and human rights here.

    This week on THE JOURNAL, NPR's Deborah Amos, just back from Damascus, explains:

    I keep saying I cover Iraq - I just don't ever go there. But to do Lebanon, Jordan and Syria is essentially to cover Iraq, because the issues that are roiling Iraq are the same issues that now are playing out. Everything is hooked to everything else.

    And according to a recent mid-year review by the International Organization for Migration:

    Iraq is experiencing the worst human displacement of its history, with almost 2.2 million persons displaced within its borders and an additional two million who have fled the country to the surrounding region. This mass displacement is fast becoming a regional and ultimately international crisis.

    Continue reading "UPDATE: Alive in Baghdad: Iraqi Children Speak Out" »

    June 6, 2008

    Ask Greg Mitchell...

    We'd like to thank Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG, for his comments below and for agreeing to answer your questions. His responses are in bold below.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Greg Mitchell are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    From Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG:

    So what do you feel about the latest revelations in Scott McClellan’s book and a new Senate report that the U.S. was led into war against Iraq based on false pretenses? McClellan flatly calls the administration’s case “propaganda” and accuses the media of being “complicit enablers.”

    This week’s segment with Bill, which probes all of this, felt like a kind of “reunion” for me, even though I had never before met fellow guests Jonathan Landay and John Walcott. But I have been hailing their work for more than five years, going back to the “run-up” to the attack on Iraq in 2003. They were among the few to repeatedly, and accurately, probe the administration’s case for war in the most crucial period.

    At the same time, I returned to the scene of my last sit-down with Bill, in April 2003, just days before the U.S. entered Baghdad. Even then, we were warning that this was only the beginning, not the end, of our stay in Iraq (less than a month later, President Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech). A transcript of that session with Bill and a lengthy tribute to his 2007 BUYING THE WAR program appear in my new book, SO WRONG FOR SO LONG: HOW THE PRESS, THE PUNDITS – AND THE PRESIDENT – FAILED ON IRAQ.

    In this week's program, Landay and Walcott explore the evidence for war (or lack of) while I focus on the media sins of omission and commission. I have found appalling, if not surprising, the media’s general refusal to truly come to grips with their failures on Iraq, even after five years of war. Most in the media, in response to the McClellan charges, defended their pre-war work, which is stunning.

    Actually, one of the best lines of this past week came from Stephen Colbert. He said that he couldn’t understand why McClellan was saying reporters were not doing their job in the run-up to the war. “What is McClellan complaining about?” Colbert asked. “They were doing HIS job!”

    I am wondering what viewers think of all this – where the fault really lies for the U.S. getting “misled” into war, and if they think the policymakers, and the journalists, have learned any lessons.

    Got a question for Greg Mitchell? Please post below.

    June 3, 2008

    Exposé Reporters Answer Your Questions

    We thank reporters Cary Spivak, Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger for taking time to answer your questions about Exposé's story on their work following the chemical Bisphenol A.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by the reporters are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    I would very much like to know what is happening in the European Union regarding Bisphenol A. Is the EU addressing the safety of BPA? Thank you so much.

    The European Union's food safety watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), may review the chemical Bisphenol A, the agency website says.
    "EFSA is aware of the studies on bisphenol published in the United States and Canada. The agency will examine whether it should review its opinion on this product, which dates from January 2007," spokeswoman Anne-Laure Gassin said.

    Bravo! Wonderful reporting. Can you please tell me which plastics contain the toxic substances? Are they marked in any way, i.e. by the number in the triangle on the bottom? Many thanks to you for such a wonderful expose.

    Plastic containers with the recycling number 7 often contain polycarbonate, which contains Bisphenol A. You should know that not all plastic containers have recycling labels on them, including baby bottles and sippy cups. Those with the no. 3 on them are made of polyvinyl chloride which may contain Bisphenol A as well as phthalates, another kind of endocrine disruptor.

    In your opinion, if the government does decide to act and announces that Bisphenol A poses enough of a risk to ban it from products such as water bottles an the linings of metal cans, what will the fall-out or repercussions be? Will the millions(?) of products inflate in cost along with the regular inflating? Will we see certain products being recalled? What other chemicals are we being exposed to that could cause great health risks that the government has ignored due to corporate manipulation and interests?

    Several companies are removing bisphenol A from their products or merchandise, including Nalgene, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us. Many are working to develop alternatives to Bisphenol A. We'll be watching to see what the effects on the marketplace will be.
    There still are many chemicals in use that scientists are suspicious of and others that are known to be dangerous that remain in the marketplace.

    Do you think that there will be more reporters like yourselves -- with specialized science backgrounds? Does the consumer's ability to access more and more information hampering or helping beat journalism?

    There probably will be more reporters with specialized backgrounds in science -- also law, education, the arts, etc. It's a really interesting question to wonder if more information by consumers hampers or helps beat reporters. It probably helps. The more consumers know, the better their questions will be. They will be pushing us to ask more and tougher questions.

    The report says that from 1996 to 2007 --- a period that had both parties in the White House --- the EPA hadn't screened a single chemical. Are both parties compromised by the chemical lobby's influence?

    We will let the educated viewers of PBS figure that out.

    What was the $80 million for endocrine research actually spent on, if not chemical testing?

    The $80 million went for "payroll and program support" to develop the screening program, according to the EPA spokespeople. They had a lot of meetings to discuss how to screen these chemicals. They went through no fewer than three different permutations of the program.

    It's always heartening to see good, relevant journalism. Thank you. How does one determine what plastic items contain Bisphenol A? Can it be purged from the body once ingested?

    Look for recycling no. 7 -- and generally any hard, non-disposable clear plastic is likely to contain Bisphenol A. Children and adults break down Bisphenol A pretty quickly. But there is nearly constant exposure. So, the body gets inundated. Research shows that very young babies and fetuses may not be able to break it down because they lack an enzyme that allows them to do so.

    May 2, 2008

    Poll: The Experts Speak?

    Authors Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf were on THE JOURNAL this week to discuss their new book, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! OR HOW WE WON THE WAR IN IRAQ. The latest from Cerf and Navasky’s satirical “Institute of Expertology,” which previously published THE EXPERTS SPEAK: THE DEFINITIVE COMPENDIUM OF AUTHORITATIVE MISINFORMATION, the book is an in-depth examination of five years of expert commentary on Iraq. Regarding experts, Navasky said:

    “The format of journalism is that you quote someone on one side, and then you quote someone on the other, and you pick experts. And the theory [is] that if you get two people who, as we found out in THE EXPERTS SPEAK, are experts who are wrong, that somehow you’re gonna get the truth out of that.”

    What do you think? We invite you to discuss in the space below.

    April 7, 2008

    Bill Moyers' Ridenhour Courage Prize Acceptance Speech

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    On April 3rd, 2008, Bill Moyers accepted the Ridenhour Courage Prize from the Nation Insitute and the Fertel Foundation.

    To read the speech Bill Moyers delivered at the event, click here.

    February 7, 2008

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Last week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson, accepted viewer questions regarding the road to November.

    Her response is as follows, and we invite you comment below:

    Continue reading "Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions" »

    January 4, 2008

    Media and the Presidential Election

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    In her conversation with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, Kathleen Hall Jamieson discussed the media's influence on ‘outsider’ candidates like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich:

    "Those two have provided a clear alternative in the debates and expanded the range of discourse within each political party. Alternative parties don’t get to have debates. They don’t get that kind of television coverage. We don’t have any way to have those ideas percolate back into the mainstream. We don’t have any way for the public to see that those are legitimate and viable options and as a result, potentially, to rally behind them. And so, when those voices are marginalized, where people are taken out of the debate, that’s problematic for the process.”

    Dennis Kucinich agrees. Having been rejected from THE DES MOINES REGISTER debate before the Iowa caucuses and now the ABC News debate before New Hampshire, Kucinich tells Moyers:

    "How can you have a debate if you don’t have a voice that challenges all the others? Right now every other Democrat on that stage will be for keeping our troops in Iraq through at least 2013. Every other Democrat on the stage will be there to keep a for-profit healthcare system going with all of these Americans who don’t have coverage. Everyone else on the stage will be there for the continuation of NAFTA and the WTO. I mean, my position on the American political scene is to show people there’s a whole different direction that America can take here at home and in the world. And the Democratic Party in narrowing the choices and the media in trying to block the point of view that I represent is really doing a disservice to the American people.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree that media and its political coverage has too great an influence on the elections?

  • Does mainstream media effectively serve the public interest in elections and create informed voters? If not, what are ways in which it can improve?

  • Do you think we have too many or too few debates? Are we including enough participants in the debates?

  • December 14, 2007

    Can Only "Screechers" Compete In Today's Political Discourse?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In his conversation with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann addressed critics who liken his brand of editorializing to that of the conservative commentators he decries:

    "It's the most vulnerable point because it bothers me, too. The one criticism that I think is absolutely fair [is that] we're doing the same thing. It becomes a nation of screechers. It's never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply... I think the stuff that I'm talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history... I think only under these circumstances would I go this far out on a limb and be this vociferous about it."

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with those who describe Olbermann as a "Limbaugh for Lefties?" Can "vociferous" remarks --- either from Olbermann or conservative commentators --- contribute constructively to the national discourse?

  • Is it possible for reasoned, even-handed journalism to compete in today's marketplace of ideas?

  • Does the political polarization of news outlets as seen in cable news, blogs, talk radio, etc. undermine the potential for Americans of differing views to find common ground?

  • December 7, 2007

    New Media, Political Discourse, and the 2008 Elections

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In her conversation with Bill Moyers this week, Kathleen Hall Jamieson has this to say about some of the impact of the Internet on the political process:

    "There’s more information available than there ever has been, and it’s more easily retrievable. So we can, within minutes, locate candidates’ issue positions, contrast them to other positions, search news interviews with the candidates where they’re held accountable for discrepancies between past and current positions… And you can hear in the candidates’ own voices their arguments for those issue positions, sometimes at great length – greater than you’re going to find in ads or greater than you’re going to find in news."

    And new media is having other effects as well. Barack Obama has a formidable presence on Facebook, including one group with more than 400,000 members - while the largest opposing Hillary Clinton has more than 600,000. And in a development that stunned many analysts, Ron Paul used the Internet to raise more than $4 million in a single day despite minimal coverage from the mainstream media. In fact, this week a new-media driven grassroots movement for Dr. Paul announced that it has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a blimp in hopes of garnering media attention.

    What do you think?

  • How is new media impacting the 2008 Presidential race?

  • Will Internet activism be an effective way to marshal votes in primaries and elections?

  • Is new media a net positive or negative for the nation’s political discourse?

  • Religion In Politics

    In this week’s edition of the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers asked Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Melissa Rogers about Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s high-profile speech regarding his Mormonism, highlighting the following quote:

    "Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate’s religion that are appropriate. I believe there are."

    This is a debate with deep historical roots that has long defied easy categorization into "left" vs. "right" terms. While some liberal figures - like Jimmy Carter - have embraced linking religious principles to their political values, a number of conservative statesmen have taken stands arguing for the stringent separation of church and state. In 1981, Republican U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater said:

    "On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

    I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'"

    (For more on Barry Goldwater and Bill Moyers' interview with Goldwater staffer Victor Gold, click here)

    What do you think?

  • Is it acceptable to ask candidates questions about their religious faith? If so, which questions?

  • Is it appropriate for a candidate to promote, as Mike Huckabee has, their religious viewpoints as part of their appeal?

  • What is the proper relationship between candidates’ religion and their decisions when they reach office?

  • November 2, 2007

    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?

  • Is the Internet the antidote to media consolidation?

    by Rick Karr

    Rick Karr by Robin HollandA majority of Americans (pdf) think media consolidation is a bad thing, as we report in this week's JOURNAL. So why do Republican members of the FCC want to allow more consolidation?

    The answer, in two words, is "the Internet”. Let's look at the argument that leads up to that conclusion:

    (Photo: Robin Holland)

    Continue reading "Is the Internet the antidote to media consolidation?" »

    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.

    Continue reading "What Adam Said to Eve" »

    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.

    June 29, 2007

    Moyers on Murdoch

    Watch the videoIf Rupert Murdoch were the Angel Gabriel, you still wouldn’t want him owning the sun, the moon, and the stars. That’s too much prime real estate for even the pure in heart.

    But Rupert Murdoch is no saint; he is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power he’s carnivorous: all appetite and no taste. He’ll eat anything in his path. Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract or the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash. He hires lobbyists the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes, and stacks them in his cavernous closet, along with his conscience; this is the man, remember, who famously kowtowed to the Communist overlords of China, oppressors of their own people, to protect his investments there.

    Continue reading "Moyers on Murdoch" »

    June 22, 2007

    Polls: Undercover journalism

    Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.

    May 23, 2007

    Bill Moyers Responds...

    Greetings to all:

    I've been faithfully reading your posts during the weekends after each broadcast and wish that I could respond to each one individually. But not even Wm. F. Buckley could pull that off in today's vast cosmos of correspondents — and he was the best at answering letters of any editor around. I'll just make a few comments in response to some posts that represent more than one communicator:


    Benjamin asked: "Why do commentators and analysts use the term "we" when discussing the actions of the central government of the United States, as in: " 'We' bombed Iraq," or " 'We' tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib," etc?"

    Benjamin, you're right about commentators and analysts using the term "we" when discussing the actions of the U.S. government. It's a sloppy habit, an expression sometimes of the "royal we" — ruling elites; sometimes of the "imperial we" — the superpower complex; or just a hasty short cut. But it's imprecise and misleading. The White House is not the government and the government is not the country. So keep rapping our knuckles when "we" do it.

    Ralph asked: "Somewhere I heard you were raised in a strong Biblical setting as I was. What do you believe today?"

    Ralph, I did grow up in a strong Protestant East Texas culture and was at home in it; I even went on to get a master's in divinity because I thought I would pursue a religious vocation. But seminary, as someone said, is where your questions are answered and life after seminary is when your answers are questioned. Furthermore, one day, if you're lucky, you discover the world's your home and you need a different vocabulary to describe your travels through it. Seems to me that wrestling with the questions is the heart of the matter. "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" those words are inscribed above the main building at my very secular alma mater, the University of Texas.

    Continue reading "Bill Moyers Responds..." »

    May 18, 2007

    Bill Moyers Essay: SOS

    It's time to send an SOS for the least among us — I mean small independent magazines. They are always struggling to survive while making a unique contribution to the conversation of democracy. Magazines like NATIONAL REVIEW, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, SOJOURNERS, THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, THE NATION, WASHINGTON MONTHLY, MOTHER JONES, IN THESE TIMES, WORLD MAGAZINE, THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, REASON and many others.

    The Internet may be the way of the future, but for today much of what you read on the Web is generated by newspapers and small magazines. They may be devoted to a cause, a party, a worldview, an issue, an idea, or to one eccentric person's vision of what could be, but they nourish the public debate. America wouldn't be the same without them.

    Our founding fathers knew this; knew that a low-cost postal incentive was crucial to giving voice to ideas from outside the main tent. So they made sure such publications would get a break in the cost of reaching their readers. That's now in jeopardy. An impending rate hike, worked out by postal regulators, with almost no public input but plenty of corporate lobbying, would reward big publishers like Time Warner, while forcing these smaller periodicals into higher subscription fees, big cutbacks and even bankruptcy.

    It's not too late. The postal service is a monopoly, but if its governors, and especially members of Congress, hear from enough citizens, they could have a change of heart. So, liberal or conservative, left or right, libertarian, vegetarian, communitarian or Unitarian, or simply good Samaritan, let's make ourselves heard.

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    April 27, 2007

    "Open-Source Journalism"

    Back in 1999, Salon columnist Andrew Leonard coined the term, "Open-Source Journalism" while describing a story where a writer for JANE'S submitted an article for critique prior to publication to "Slashdot," after which readers "sliced and diced the story into tiny pieces," to such degree that an editor at the magazine later announced that the article would not be published after all. Leonard poses the question:

    Will better journalism ensue if more reporters and editors beta test their own work? Hard to say — in the deadline-crazed world of technology journalism, there's often hardly enough time to get a story properly copy edited and proofed, let alone reviewed by hundreds of frothing critics. Still, the principle is worth taking a look at. There's an immense amount of expertise on the Net — sites like Slashdot are pioneering new territory as they facilitate access to that knowledge, to the great and last benefit of all.

    The tremendous growth in readership of political blogs in the last five years, such as Josh Marshall's Talkingpontsmemo, which receives close to a million visitors a month, has put this concept to test outside just the technology news arena. As Marshall explains in a blog post from April 3, 2005:

    "It would have been impossible for me, for instance, to have written most of what I've written on Social Security over the last few months if I didn't have literally thousands of people reading their local papers and letting me know what they're seeing or reporting back from townhall meetings or giving me the heads up on things that are about to break on the hill. That's not a replacement for journalism; it's different. But it's potentially very powerful."

    What do you think?

    Have blogs and the Internet in general strengthened or weakened the craft of journalism?

    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments


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