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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" »

August 31, 2010

Michael Winship: The Awful Price for Teaching Less than We Know

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship.

The Awful Price for Teaching Less than We Know
By Michael Winship

Watching Glenn Beck's performance Saturday at his "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, DC, I thought of the novelist Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry, the charlatan evangelist who seduces most of those around him with his hearty backslapping and false piety.

Then I realized it wasn't Gantry of whom I was reminded so much as another Lewis character, Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, the politician who poses as a populist, then once elected president turns the United States into a fascist dictatorship, aided by an angry, unknowing electorate and a paramilitary group called the Minute Men.

Read how Sinclair Lewis described Windrip seventy-five years ago in his novel It Can't Happen Here and think Beck: "He was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts -- figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Awful Price for Teaching Less than We Know" »

July 30, 2010

Michael Winship: The Right Manipulates Muslims - and Boy Scouts

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship.

The Right Manipulates Muslims - and Boy Scouts

By Michael Winship

I was never a Boy Scout but I was a helluva Cub Scout.
Pack 30, First Congregational Church. I rose through the ranks: Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion. I accumulated Gold and Silver Arrow Points, the Cubs' junior varsity version of merit badges. My mom was a Cub Scout den mother and spent a lot of time teaching fake Indian campfire songs and decorating various arts and crafts with poster paint.

But when the time came to transfer to the big guys, the Boy Scouts, I saw years of knot tying and helping little old ladies across the street ahead of me and opted not to re-up. Nonetheless, I feel my time served qualifies me to have an opinion about President Obama not appearing in person at this week's National Scout Jamboree in Caroline County, Virginia.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Right Manipulates Muslims - and Boy Scouts" »

July 24, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Political Discourse

This week, the JOURNAL reprised a report from last year examining the provocative and often hostile rhetoric used by some right-wing ‘shock jock’ talk radio and cable TV hosts to criticize liberals and liberalism.

A year ago, a gunman with an expressed hatred of liberalism stormed a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, killing 2 and wounding 6. Several books by right-wing ‘shock jocks’ were found in the killer's apartment, which led some to speculate that he may have been influenced by their rhetoric.

The church’s pastor, Chris Buice, said on the JOURNAL:

“A man came in here and totally dehumanized us. Members of our church were not human to him. Where did he get that? Where did he get that sense that we were not human?... Some have suggested that his spiritual attitudes, his hatred of liberals and gays, was reinforced by the right-wing media figures... When you hear in talk radio that liberals are evil, that they are traitors, that they are godless, that they are on the side of the terrorist, that’s hate language. You don’t negotiate with evil people. You don’t live in a community with people you consider to be traitors.”

In April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sparked controversy when it issued a report [PDF link] warning that "... lone wolves [individuals acting alone] and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States." Among other factors, the report pointed to the economic downturn, the election of the first African-American president, and fears of gun control as potential drivers for right-wing radicalization. It also warned that "disgruntled military veterans" -- with their military training and combat experience -- could be targeted for recruitment.

The DHS later apologized to a number of veterans groups that complained about the report.

Penn State history professor Philip Jenkins argued in THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE magazine that the true threat of right-wing violence and domestic terrorism has been exaggerated by partisans for political purposes. Jenkins wrote:

“We will hear a great deal about threats from racist groups and right-wing paramilitaries, and such a perceived wave of terrorism will have real and pernicious effects on mainstream politics. If history is any guide, the more loudly an administration denounces enemies on the far Right, the easier it is to stigmatize its respectable and nonviolent critics... Paying proper attention to terrorist threats is laudable, whatever their source, and some right-wing extremists have through the years demonstrated their potential for violence: they need to be watched. Yet almost certainly, a renewed focus on the far Right will develop more out of an ideological slant than any reasonable perception of danger.”

What do you think?

  • In your view, do right-wing ‘shock jocks’ and their rhetoric bear any responsibility for violent incidents like the shooting in Knoxville? Explain.

  • Do you agree with Philip Jenkins that partisans have used tragic events to stigmatize legitimate opposition? Why or why not?

  • What are your ideas for bringing more civility into political discourse?

  • June 5, 2009

    Making News Better?

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with media commentators Jay Rosen and Brooke Gladstone about how America’s sensationalistic news media has been covering important issues of our time.

    Jay Rosen said that today’s mainstream journalists often present a narrative that doesn't represent the true range of debate and fail to responsibly referee the arguments that make it through the filter:

    “One of the subtler things that journalists do in our public life is they set the terms of what a legitimate debate is. They marginalize certain people as not a part of it. And they include other people, who perhaps ought to be marginalized, as a central part of it. It's very hard for us to hold them accountable for those decisions, because they are subtler than we sometimes recognize... We don't have a press that's willing to say, 'This is not a legitimate argument this person is making.' We don't have a press that's willing to say, 'This, he said it, but it's completely out of bounds,' or 'it's completely baseless,' or, 'it has no grounding in reality.' We just don't have a group of political interpreters who are willing to say that.”

    Brooke Gladstone pointed to the increasing importance of Internet journalism and suggested that it may lead to better news coverage in the future:

    “We have to be careful in not regarding the media as solely the mainstream media, as solely the mainstream television news outlets, or even the big daily papers. There is a huge, raucous, wide-ranging discussion going out there, and even though it is not the dominant media in this country yet, it will be a far more democratic discussion as we move forward. I am talking about the Internet, I’m talking about all the different conversations – local, national, and global – that are going on outside the realm of these filters.”

    What do you think?

  • In your experience, what does the mainstream media do well, and what should it be doing better?

  • Do you think the Internet will provide better news to a mass audience than is currently available on television and in major newspapers? Why or why not?

  • Is the American mass public interested in thoughtful, in-depth journalism? Explain.

  • September 12, 2008

    Poll: Has The Press Scrutinized The Candidates Equally?

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with journalists Les Payne and Brooke Gladstone about the media and the upcoming elections.

    Gladstone said that press coverage revolves around sensationalism:

    “This [election coverage] isn’t about relative importance. This is about celebrity. This is about putting your finger in the air and following the public mood. Is it news? No. Is it an audience generator? Yes.”

    We invite you to discuss in the space below.

    July 2, 2008

    How Have You Been Impacted By The War?

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers explored the new documentary film BODY OF WAR with filmmakers Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. Donahue explained that the film, which follows disabled Iraq war veteran and anti-war activist Tomas Young, was intended to capture the brutal realities of war:

    "My inspiration for this film was the naked child running from the napalm. Remember that Vietnam picture? I mean, terrified, this little girl is totally naked... See the pain. Don't sanitize the war. If you're gonna send young men and women to fight for this nation, tell the truth. That's one of the biggest reasons for the First Amendment, and we haven't been. And so I thought 'I will tell the story,' the real story of the harm in harm's way."

    Photo Credit: Associated Press

    How have you been impacted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • Do you have a friend, family member, or loved one involved in the war effort?

  • Phil Donahue said a single photograph inspired him to want to make BODY OF WAR. How has the media coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan affected you?

  • Does today's media, as Donahue would say, "tell the truth?"

  • June 9, 2008

    Rick Karr on Internet Surveillance

    Congress is still deadlocked over the Bush Administration's efforts to listen in to phone calls and read emails without search warrants. The sticking point is whether or not to allow private citizens to sue telecom conglomerates, the huge firms that provide most of us with phone and internet service - and helped the Administration spy on us. Now, the Administration wants to try to spy on Americans in another way. My colleague Rick Karr has this to bring you up to speed.
    -Bill Moyers
    Update Required

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    We invite you to respond in the space below.

    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.

    May 2, 2008

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson Asks...

    [Photo by Robin Holland]

    This week on THE JOURNAL, political expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson returned to offer her perspective on 2008’s extraordinary campaign season. Conversing with Bill Moyers, Jamieson posed two questions.

    “Politicians from the beginning of political campaigning have tried to find all of the avenues that they could to identify with the people who largely are not going to be as well-off as they are. That's just the nature of the structure that produces political candidacies. Essentially, one has to make the assumption that candidates are capable of governing with an understanding of the circumstances of people who don't live the kind of lives they live... The question is, how do they find a way to understand the circumstances out there? And then how do they address it in a way that makes sense to the people who are actually experiencing those problems?”

    What do you think?

    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.

    February 29, 2008

    Election Ads, Narratives, and Political Discourse

    In her conversation with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson suggested that politicians' campaign ads and other media appearances are akin to puzzle pieces that together form a larger, albeit ambiguous, narrative of the candidates' lives, characters, and campaigns:

    "We elect a person, not a set of issues... The strength of an underlying biographical narrative is extraordinarily important. You can't underestimate its importance when you're attacked, as every candidate will be, with a counter story... One of the things that advertising is able to do is to make some things more important in your decision about who should be president. And so ads are always a contest about what is important as an issue and what is important as an attribute about the candidate... There's an element of emotion in all of this... And we shouldn't lose track of the fact that advertising doesn't exist in isolation. People are drawing material from news, from what they are talking with their friends about, from the front pages into advertising to create a composite message"

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree that Americans vote for candidates as people rather than for their "set of issues?"
  • Can sound bites and 30-second ads sufficiently inform citizens about the issues, the candidates, and/or the policy differences between them? If so, has this happened so far in the race to November?
  • How would you like to see candidates and issue groups use the media to elevate political discourse?

  • February 15, 2008

    An Age of American Unreason?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Conversing with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON author Susan Jacoby offered various reasons for what she calls “an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” in America, including our educational system:

    “You shouldn't have to be an intellectual or a college graduate to know that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth. There's been a huge failure of education. I do agree with many cultural conservatives about this: I think schools over the last 40 years [have been] just adding things, for example African-American history [and] women's history. These are all great additions, and necessary, but what they've done in addition to adding things is they really have placed less emphasis on the overall culture, cultural things that everybody should know. People getting out of high school should know how many Supreme Court justices there are. Most Americans don't.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Jacoby that America faces “an overarching crisis” of civic irrationality and ignorance?
  • If so, to what extent does the problem lie with America’s educational system? Politicians? The media?
  • Do these outlets reflect the priorities of interest groups more than essential knowledge for the public good? What reforms would you recommend to promote civic intelligence?

    (NOTE: Another interview with Susan Jacoby from the Moyers archives is available here.
    Several viewers have written in stating that the Constitution does not specifically state that the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution or all judicial review. Some legal scholars maintain that Article III does imply it and many argue that Marbury V. Madison only formalized that authority. )

  • 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 20, 2007

    Web Exclusive: The FCC Vote

    Producer Peter Meryash and Correspondent Rick Karr analyze the recent FCC vote and discuss what's next:

    We welcome your thoughts on the recent vote, please comment below.

    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?

  • Media Consolidation: What happens after the FCC vote?

    By Rick KarrRick Karr by Robin Holland

    (photo by Robin Holland)

    Next Tuesday (December 18), the five members of the Federal Communications Commission will decide whether or not the U.S. will go through another frenzy of media consolidation: They'll vote on Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to let newspapers buy radio and TV stations. Martin's plan is opposed by minority groups, a majority (pdf) of the public, and, as we report on this week's edition of THE JOURNAL, Capitol Hill lawmakers from both parties.

    I tell my students at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism that reporters shouldn't make predictions because if they turn out to be wrong, the reporter loses credibility. But I'm throwing caution to the wind to make some predictions about Tuesday's FCC vote, anyway:

    Continue reading "Media Consolidation: What happens after the FCC vote?" »

    December 7, 2007

    Poll: Where do you get your election news?

    Take our poll and then discuss by commenting below.

    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 30, 2007

    Update: Minority Media Ownership & Consolidation

    Readers following the story of minority media ownership amidst increasing consolidation will want to take a look at Out of the Picture 2007 (pdf), a newly updated report on minority and female ownership of commercial broadcast TV stations. Issued by Free Press, a nonpartisan media reform organization, the report finds that minority ownership steeply declined in 2007 and argues that it is likely to fall further if FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s reform proposals are implemented.

    According to S. Derek Turner, research director at Free Press and lead author of the report:

    “Minority television ownership is in such a precarious state that the loss of a single minority-owned company results in a disastrous decline. Permitting any more consolidation will only further diminish the number of minority-owned stations.”

    We invite you to discuss this topic by commenting below.

    November 16, 2007

    Media Consolidation: A primer on making your opinion heard

    By Rick KarrRick Karr by Robin Holland

    Media laws and regulations are complex. And the process that establishes them is positively byzantine – a complex dance that involves not only the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but also Congress, the White House, courts, cabinet-level departments, and other agencies, as well.

    So here's a primer on how to tell the powers that be what you think about the current controversy over media consolidation that we cover on this week's JOURNAL:

    (Photo: Robin Holland)

    Continue reading "Media Consolidation: A primer on making your opinion heard" »

    November 5, 2007

    The Net @ Risk update

    by Rick Karr

    Since we're talking about media this week, it seems to be a good time for an update on the fight over “net neutrality."

    (If you're not familiar with the term, all you need to know is that this battle is a lot like the one over media ownership that we cover on this week's show: It involves the FCC, and it pits media conglomerates – in this case the cable and telephone giants that Rick Karr by Robin Hollandprovide most Americans with Internet service – against the public interest. For a more detailed explanation, check out the web page for the documentary that we broadcast on the subject last year.)

    Public-interest advocates say net neutrality is essential to preserving openness, innovation, and free expression online. Cable and telephone conglomerates and their allies argue that net neutrality is a “solution in search of a problem” -- in other words, that they'd never censor or otherwise interfere with online content.

    But a few recent incidents have cast doubt on the conglomerates' claims, according to net neutrality advocates.

    (Photo: Robin Holland)

    Continue reading "The Net @ Risk update" »

    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?" »

    October 31, 2007

    Preview: Minority Media

    (Can't Play This Video? Click here for quicktime and windows media versions)

    Big Media is pushing the FCC to relax ownership rules again to give conglomerates more control over what Americans read, see, and hear. What most Americans don't know is that the FCC plans to fast track the rule changes and cut off public comment in December. Who wins and who loses?

    On Friday, November 2 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), Bill Moyers Journal reports on the real-world consequences of media policy through the lens of how it affects minority media ownership in America.

    Check Your Local Listings here and we'll see you on the blog after the show.

    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.

    Continue reading " Low-Power FM Radio" »

    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 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.

    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 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?

    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" »

    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.

    For more information, please visit:

    April 26, 2007

    This Week: Jon Stewart

    Jon Stewart

    This Friday, April 27th on Bill Moyers Journal (check local listings), Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART, about how faking the news can reveal more of the truth than all of the Sunday-morning talk shows put together.

    Click the picture for a preview.

    Photo: Robin Holland

    April 16, 2007

    Welcome to The Blog

    Watch the video Hello, I'm Bill Moyers. It's been my pleasure through the years to hear thoughtful responses from so many of you after our broadcast. Whether you've agreed or disagreed, I've always been impressed by your willingness to join the dialogue. Well here's a new twist, to accompany our weekly broadcast, we're launching a blog: a community of viewers seeking out new points of view, and expressing and exchanging ideas. We'll offer you some food for thought, more from our guests, fresh voices, articles of note, and invite you hopefully to reason together. From time to time, I'll be weighing in myself, so we hope you'll check back often, tune in and tell us what you think, here at

    Preview: BUYING THE WAR

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9 PM on PBS (check local listings)

    Watch the video

    How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?

    In this clip from the premiere of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL on PBS, Bob Simon of 60 Minutes, who was based in the Middle East, talks about the reporting he was seeing and reading out of the beltway, and John Walcott and Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder newspapers (now The McClatchy Company), discuss their work burrowing deep into the intelligence agencies to determine whether there was any evidence for the Bush Administration's case for war. On Wednesday, April 25 at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), watch "Buying the War," a 90-minute documentary that explores the role of the press in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, which includes interviews with Dan Rather, formerly of CBS; Tim Russert of Meet the Press; and Walter Isaacson, former president of CNN.

    Two days later on April 27, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL airs at its regular timeslot on Fridays at 9 P.M. with interviews and news analysis of underreported stories across an array of beats, including: the environment, media, politics, the economy, arts and culture, and social issues.

    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

    Your Comments


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