Friday, April 29, 2005

Wanted: an armature for a dynamo 

Progressive media needs a solid foundation under its feet and a sturdy roof over its head.

Alice Marshall notes:
If Robert Parry ran the NewsHour instead of Jim Lehrer we would live in a far better country.

We'd certainly live with a far better NewsHour.

Via Robert Parry at Consortium News, April 29, 2005 - (excerpt follows):

To understand how the United States got into today’s political predicament – where even fundamental principles like the separation of church and state are under attack – one has to look back at strategic choices made by the Right and the Left three decades ago.


At Consortiumnews.com over the past year, we have approached more than 100 potential funders about supporting an investigative journalism project modeled after the Vietnam-era Dispatch News, where Sy Hersh exposed the My Lai massacre story. Our idea was to hire a team of experienced investigative journalists who would dig into important stories that are receiving little or no attention from the mainstream news media.

While nearly everyone we have approached agrees on the need for this kind of journalism and most praised the plan, no one has yet stepped forward with financial support. Indeed, the expenses of contacting these potential funders – though relatively modest – have put the survival of our decade-old Web site at risk.

Which leads to another myth among some on the Left: that the media problem will somehow solve itself, that the pendulum will swing back when the national crisis gets worse and the conservatives finally go too far.

But there is really no reason to think that some imaginary mechanism will reverse the trends. Indeed, the opposite seems more likely. The gravitational pull of the Right’s expanding media galaxy keeps dragging the mainstream press in that direction. Look what’s happening at major news outlets from CBS to PBS, all are drifting to the right.

As the Right keeps plugging away at its media infrastructure, the pervasiveness of the conservative message also continues to recruit more Americans to the fold.

Ironically, the conservative media clout has had the secondary effect of helping the Right’s grassroots organizing, especially among Christian fundamentalists. Simultaneously, the progressives’ weakness in media has undercut the Left’s grassroots organizing because few Americans regularly hear explanations of liberal goals. But they do hear – endlessly – the Right’s political storyline.

Many progressives miss this media point when they cite the rise of Christian Right churches as validation of a grassroots organizing strategy. What that analysis leaves out is the fact that the Christian Right originally built its strength through media, particularly the work of televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. What the Right has demonstrated is that media is not the enemy of grassroots organizing but its ally.

Bright Spots & Dangers

Though there have been some recent bright spots for the Left's media – the fledgling progressive talk radio, new techniques for distributing documentaries on DVD, and hard-hitting Internet blogs – there are also more danger signs. As the Left postpones media investments, some struggling progressive news outlets – which could provide the framework for a counter-infrastructure – may be headed toward extinction.

Just as the echo chamber of the Right’s infrastructure makes conservative media increasingly profitable, the lack of a Left infrastructure dooms many promising media endeavors to failure.

The hard truth for the Left is that the media imbalance in the United States could very easily get much worse. The difficult answer for the progressive community is to come to grips with this major strategic weakness, apply the Left’s organizing talents, and finally make a balanced national media a top priority.

Read in full: The Left's Media Miscalculation


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