CMD at Netroots Nation, June 16-19, Minneapolis, MN

Netroots Nation speakerbadgeCenter for Media and Democracy's Executive Director, Lisa Graves, the Director of our Real Economy Project, Mary Bottari, and Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, will be speaking at this year's Netroots Nation convention. The conference will take place from June 16-19 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Further details and the agenda click here. Stop by the CMD table at the Exhibition Hall and sign up for our IPad 2 raffle. For the very lucky, there may even be cheese curds!

R.I.P., Fairness Doctrine

FairnessOn June 8, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Julius Genachowski agreed to wipe the Fairness Doctrine completely off the agency's books, even though the rule has been officially dead since 1987. House Republicans have long pushed to get the Doctrine off the rule books for good, and they've finally gotten their way.

From the time it was put in place in 1949 until its demise in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required holders of broadcast licenses to provide the public with news and public affairs programming, and present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. Back then, the airwaves were dominated by the "big three" networks ABC, CBS and NBC -- which broadcast over publicly-owned airwaves under licenses issued by the government. The idea behind the Fairness Doctrine was to keep broadcasters from monopolizing the airwaves with a biased viewpoint, and assure that those entrusted with the public airwaves broadcast a diversity of viewpoints on important issues.

Twitter the Winner in Weinergate

Twitter WeinerThe only winner to emerge from the "Weinergate" scandal is Twitter, which once again paraded its effectiveness at everything from bringing down dictators to engaging in political self-immolation. Twitter is truly a double-edged sword. It can be used for good things like facilitating communication after natural disasters, or it can facilitate disaster itself by amplifying the effects of poor human judgment. In the time it took to make a single stroke on a computer key and then lie about it, Anthony Weiner destroyed his credibility, damaged his marriage and his integrity, handed endless fodder to his political enemies and singlehandedly diverted attention from a huge number of truly important domestic and global issues, for example that the U.S. is spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan while cutting desperately-needed programs and services here at home, or that an unprecedented three nuclear reactors experienced full meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Weinergate scandal shows that a little salacious piece of information sent out on Twitter has the tremendous power to wipe far more important news off the media map -- a realization that itself has huge implications when it comes to controlling what people see and hear in the mass media.

Harold Camping's Global Apocalypse PR Campaign

End of the WorldThe world is scheduled to end on May 21, 2011. At least that's the hysteria being spread by Harold Camping, the 89 year-old fundamentalist Christian radio preacher and president of Family Radio, Inc., based in Oakland, California.

Camping claims to have calculated that on May 21, Jesus Christ will return to Earth and save his true believers. The unsaved will be victimized, he says, by a world-wide earthquake that will "throw open all graves." The "saved" will then rise up to heaven and the unsaved will be left to rot. A subsequent, massive tsunami will wreak five months of havoc upon those remaining on Earth until finally the entire Universe blows up on October 21, 2011, according to Camping.

Two signs that indicate the end is near, according to Camping's website, are the arrival of same-sex marriage and Israel gaining nationhood in 1948.

Websites Skew Views of the News

The efforts of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other major websites to tailor our online experiences to our supposed interests can affect our ability to get a view of the world the way it really is. Instead, we are fed a view of the world that these organizations "think" we'd like to see. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other websites use proprietary algorithms to "personalize" news for us -- that is, to select news they think we will like to see -- not to select news that challenges the user, contradicts his or her views or that the user would be unlikely to see. The algorithms work invisibly, so users have no way of knowing what the websites are editing out and preventing us from seeing. The algorithms pick information based on what we usually look at, resulting in a feedback loop that Internet guru Eli Pariser calls "autopropaganda" -- unknowingly indoctrinating yourself with your own views. If you and another person you don't know both perform a search on Google on the exact same term, you can both get shockingly different results, based on Google's analysis of what each of you usually look at. What this means is that Internet users essentially get an edited worldview based on personal information over which they have no control. The fact that this activity is hidden leaves users without the ability to seek out sources of information and news with which they are unfamiliar, that might challenge them or give them a broader view of the world.


FOX "News" Bids Glenn Beck Adieu

Glenn Beck on cover of TIME, Sept., 2009Glenn Beck's show is ending after years of grassroots campaigning caused FOX News' once highest-rated show to lose advertising and public support.

On April 6, 2011, FOX News announced it would help Beck "transition" into other ventures, which include for-air projects and FOX News' websites. What the press release did not mention was the successful campaign against Beck initiated by Color of Change, an organization rooted in equal political access for people of color.

On the show Fox and Friends in 2009, Beck said that President Obama had a "deep seated hatred for white people." Color of Change began a petition appealing to Beck's advertisers to end their support, and within two days, reportedly 100,000 people had signed it. The current number of signatures, according to the group, now stands at 285,000 people. Organizations like Media Matters, MoveOn, CREDO Action and StopBeck joined Color of Change in petitioning Beck's advertisers to stop supporting the show.

Indiana Prosecutor's Email to Walker Encouraged Wisconsin Violence

Johnson County, Indiana deputy prosecutor and Republican activist Carlos Lam resigned from his job after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism discovered an email he sent to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suggesting the governor have an "associate" make a fake, violent attack to discredit union protesters and influence media coverage of the protests. Lam resigned shortly before the Center published a story containing excerpts of the email sent from Lam's account on February 19 praising Walker for standing up to unions and suggesting a "false flag" attack on Walker. Lam wrote,

...I think that the situation in Wisconsin presents a good opportunity for what's called a 'false flag' operation. If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the public unions. ... Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.

Lam denies writing the email, saying his email account was hacked. It would have been easy to verify whether his email account had been hacked by examining information that could be obtained from Hotmail and his Internet service provider, but Lam declined to reveal the provider's name to the Center so they could check out the hacking claim. This news follows an earlier admission by Governor Walker to a prank caller pretending to be David Koch of Koch Industries that he and his team had considered placing troublemakers in the crowd, but Walker claims to have rejected the idea for political considerations.


FOX to Be Fined by FCC for Fake News; CMD's Complaint on "Video News Releases" Nets New Proposed Fines

FoxliesA FOX News station has been sent a notice of a proposed fine for airing fake news in the form of a "video news release" (VNR) without disclosing that the "news" segment featuring General Motors was produced to promote GM's cars.

As Jonathan Make reports in Communications Daily, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a notice of a proposed fine to FOX's Minneapolis affiliate for what amounted to a commercial for GM's convertibles masquerading as news. The VNR had been provided to the station by "FOX News Edge," which is described as "a news service for broadcast stations affiliated with the FOX Network."


New York Times Retracts Information on Front Page Story Implying Union Support for Walker

On February 21, the New York Times created a stir in Wisconsin by printing a front page article giving the impression that union families supported Governor Scott Walker's attempt to remove collective bargaining rights from workers. On February 26, The Times retracted information related to this article.

The lead of the story, entitled "Union Bonds in Wisconsin Begin to Fray", featured a former Janesville General Motors employee Rich Hahn, who was characterized as "...a man who has worked at unionized factories, [and] a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker's sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers." In the story reporters A.G. Sulzberger — said to be the son of New York Times Co. Chairman of the Board Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.— and Monica Davey spend very little time quoting Hahn but a lot of time characterizing him. "He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations," the story says of Hahn.


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