Public domain information - including our shared culture of literacy and democratic dialogue, basic drug research and government information resources paid for with public tax dollars - has grown in importance now that the Internet has empowered everyone to become a creator and to readily share information with others. As a result, writes David Bollier, corporate "content aggregators" -- film studios, publishers, record labels -- have "brazenly cast a broad net of claimed ownership rights in the intangibles of our culture.
Jeffrey Chester and Gary Larson have drafted a "plan on behalf of a more democratic media system, a collective effort to ensure that alternative, independent voices will still be heard over the growing din of conglomerate media culture. " In the Internet age, they say, "The sad irony is that never before have we had such communications power at our disposal, in the form of new digital technologies that allow any of us to be producers as well as consumers of media content.
The news media have criticized the tangled finances of companies like Enron and WorldCom, but Howard Kurtz notes that many of them are engaged in similar deals themselves. For example:
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, coverage of hard news skyrocketed and ratings went off the charts. Since then, however, "the networks are slipping back into their bad, old habits," which authors Leonard Downie and Robert Kaiser describe as "the shallowness, the obsessive attention to celebrities, and the pandering to advertisers that has crept in to news gathering during the last decade."
The University of Wales in the UK will mark the first anniversary of 9/11 by hosting an international conference about TV news and transnational audiences. According to conference organizers, "The news media are central arenas of political conflict and public debate. The proliferation of satellite news channels brings new transnational configurations of audiences into being that may have unpredictable consequences for states, governance and citizenship.
A new study by Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) shows that 92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed on the nightly network news in 2001 were white, 85 percent were male and, where party affiliation was identifiable, 75 percent were Republican. Big business, too, was overrepresented. In a year in which the country lost 2.4 million jobs, corporate representatives appeared about 35 times more frequently than did union representatives.
Radio stations won't let environmentalists at the Sierra Club run a radio ad urging the US car industry to build more fuel efficient cars. The ad spot specifically names Bill Ford Jr. of Ford Motor Company, an executive who excels at greenwashing his company with rhetoric, while failing to 'walk the walk.' Ford gives lip service to fuel efficiency, but staunchly opposes laws that would require it. Radio stations doing business with Ford and running its car ads are refusing to run the Sierra Club's radio spot.
The news media is generally failing to report the historic verdict against the FBI in the 1990 bombing of non-violent environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. That would not surprise Judi, were she alive today. In her book Timber Wars she described how the news media eagerly parroted the FBI's lies and deception, casting Bari and fellow bomb victim Cherney as terrorists. "The news quickly went national, with newspapers across the country screaming about Earth First!ers carrying bombs. It was the only time we ever made the front page of the New York Times.
Dave Itzkoff has written a confessional based on his two and a half years editing Maxim, one of the so-called "lad magazines" that cater to male interest in topics like beer, sex and gadgets. Itzkoff describes the magazine's formula as "unrealistically retouched photographs, patently invented pillow talk, obvious editorial concessions to advertisers and a pervasively smug attitude. ... We didn't do issue-oriented news features or authoritative first-person narratives, and hadn't published a proper profile in almost a year -- all hallmarks of basic magazine journalism.