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Focus on the Media: FCC & Media Revolving Door, Press Freedom Index, and ‘The Power of Activist Journalism’

Below are three ways of looking at and assessing the media, the press and journalism. Definitions of what each of those terms means vary, as does the accurate, or not, use of the three interchangeably.

Reporters Without Borders has released its 2013 World Press Freedom Index report, which, following last year’s “Arab Spring” and other movement influences,

… marks a return to a more usual configuration (and) … a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term.

One again ranked at the top are Finland, the Netherlands and Norway, and once again filling the three poorest rankings are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

A few more rankings (you can see the entire list at the link): 4 — Luxembourg; 5 — Andorra; 6 – Denmark; 7 — Liechtenstein; 8 – New Zealand; 9 — Iceland; 10 — Sweden; 11 — Estonia; 12 — Austria; 13 — Jamaica; 14 — Switzerland; 15 — Ireland; 16 – Czech Republic; 17 — Germany; 18 – Costa Rica; 19 — Namibia; 20 — Canada; 26 — Australia; 29 – United Kingdom; 30 — Ghana; 32 — United States; 37 — France; 148 — Russia; 158 — Egypt.

The report includes the disturbing fact that for “journalists and netizens,” 2012 was “the deadliest year ever registered by Reporters Without Borders.” Mentioned in this regard are Somalia, Syria, Mexico and Pakistan.

In the section “Democracies that stall or go into reverse,” the report states that for much of the European Union, “The situation is unchanged, “ with “Sixteen of its members … still in the top 30.” But, the report also states, “the European model is unravelling,” noting, among others, the fall in ranking of Hungary and Greece. Beyond the EU, Japan also fell, “because of censorship of nuclear industry coverage and its failure to reform the ‘kisha club’ system,” and Argentina.

Turning from the Press Freedom Index to the media and FCC, Free Press released this statement which focuses on another aspect of “freedom” and the press / media / journalism, As the Revolving Door Spins: Tribune Hires Former FCC Chief of Staff: (emphasis added)

The Los Angeles Times reports that Edward Lazarus, former chief of staff to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, has been hired by Tribune Co. as the company’s general counsel. Tribune Co. is one of the primary companies lobbying to lift longstanding FCC limits on how much media one company can own in a given market.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

‘ … Maybe this job for one of Julius Genachowski’s closest advisers explains why the FCC Chairman is so eager to trash the few remaining media ownership limits, going against the positions of President Obama, more than 60 members of Congress, the federal court of appeals, and millions of Americans. Maybe it explains why the FCC Chairman would try to clear the way for someone like Rupert Murdoch to buy Tribune’s flagship papers in Chicago and Los Angeles.

‘Or maybe Lazarus’ new job is just another unseemly example of FCC regulators cashing in at the companies they were once supposed to regulate. He may be just the latest to take a spin through the revolving door … .’

If you’re interested, check out the upcoming National Conference For Media Reform.

Finally, at Waging Nonviolence, one example of “activist journalism.” Ken Butigan writes Getting the story out – Terry Messman and the power of activist journalism: (emphasis added)

The monumental challenges we face today – poverty and economic inequality, climate change, military intervention and surveillance, unjust immigration policies, handgun violence, white privilege and many others – resist transformation for many reasons, including the stubbornly enduring frames that keep them in place. The monumental change we need will hinge on a new way of looking at the world, and this in turn will be spurred on by powerful stories that bring that new worldview alive. …

Butigan focuses on Terry Messman, editor of Street Spirit, an American Friends Service Committee monthly newspaper, sold in Oakland, CA, by 100 homeless vendors.

Reporting from ‘the shelters, back alleys, soup kitchen lines and slum hotels where mainstream reporters rarely or never visit,’ the newspaper runs stories on homelessness, poverty, economic inequality and the daily grind of human rights violations that poor people face. … It also chronicles and raises the visibility of the movement that is dramatically working for human and civil rights, challenging inequality, and demanding – and winning – change.

Street Spirit is highlighting “the tools of powerful … nonviolent movement-building, with extensive coverage of the Occupy movement,” and with interviews, including with Erica Chenoweth, co-author with Maria Stephan of Why Civil Resistance Works and with “nonviolent action campaigner and scholar” George Lakey”.

Such “activist journalism,” in other words, operates out of a very different “frame” than that accepted and maintained by most mainstream media. For the usual sliver of time the MSM allows, the Occupy movement’s “We are the 99%” was allowed to sort of frame “reporting.” That didn’t last long, because, that other Occupy term, the “1%,” objected. Electeds, and law enforcement — surprise! — chose the preferences of the latter.

There’s a World Press Freedom Index-ing connection to be made here. And in general, questions to be raised about what media, press and journalism mean, and what roles they do, and don’t, play.

(National Conference For Media Reform logo Via Free Press)

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2 Responses to Focus on the Media: FCC & Media Revolving Door, Press Freedom Index, and ‘The Power of Activist Journalism’

  1. Cujo359 February 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Re: The FCC revolving door, what this looks like to me is someone using the job he had at FCC as work experience. In itself that’s not terribly bad, but when this sort of thing goes on at the top of the chains of the organizations involved, as happened here, there is a high likelihood that it will end up that the influence this guy had over his former boss will affect future FCC decisions.

    I still remember all the lectures I got when working for defense contractors about the appearance of conflict of interest being reason enough for disciplinary action, etc. This certainly has the appearance of conflict of interest. In this case, though, no one seems motivated to avoid that appearance.

    • Joyce Arnold February 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      To pick up on your thinking, the only obvious “motivation” is power, influence and money.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong