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The “Can Freedom of the Press Survive Media Consolidation” Conference

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Originally posted here

On May 10th and 11th, the Institute of Communications Research (www.iimpr.org) hosted a conference named “Can Freedom of the Press Survive Media Consolidation?” The conference featured Seymour Hersh, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, and Danny Goldberg. I went to this conference ready to witness outrageous examples of bias, partisanship, and carping. As I expected, there was not one conservative on the panel, and it seemed that everyone there was a socialist. They discussed free press, limited debate, and media bias. I had planned to write about these issues directly, but something else happened.

While it was clear that the free press and limited debate concerns pertained only to their viewpoints, I reflected on their arguments and realized that they had many of the same fundamental complaints as conservatives. Conservatives aren’t happy about the media either, though we complain of other biases. Largely speaking, the problem of the mainstream media trying to fit everything into a six-second sound-bite is one that I agree with. They complained of the stories the media doesn’t run and I agreed. I’ve broken and will be breaking stories that no one else is touching on my blog. Why am I, a system administrator with no journalism experience whatsoever, breaking these stories? The truth is, if you want the news report of the day, you can take 5 minutes to read the GOP website and 5 minutes to read the DNC website and you’ve got all the mainstream media is going to report. This is not a good thing.

I agree that only a few corporations owning media is bad. Media consolidation has led directly to the rise of blogs. People aren’t being served by the media. Take the Social Security debate. The Republicans say the system is going bankrupt and won’t be available to the young workers, and the Democrats say changing it would harm the elderly. But these talking points are not important right now. What we should be discussing is what we want Social Security to be. Partisan debate has made this into a war about who is the biggest victim. This means no compromise is available. We need to have a discussion on what Social Security should be before we talk about fixing anything.

I left this conference feeling that conservatives, at least this conservative, share many of the same basic complaints that progressives have about the media. More importantly, I left with a sense of disappointment. It seems to me neither progressives nor conservatives feel well served by the media, and for that matter, by the two major political parties. Why we as people don’t join together to demand better is beyond me. I have absolutely no problem with progressive Indy media; I think it is a great thing. But I left this conference with the impression that the feeling is not reciprocal and that’s a shame. Democracy is best served by debate where every side of the issue is represented, not just the side you think should be the winner.

(I’ll have more to say about individual speakers later)

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About John Bambenek

John Bambenek is a political activist and computer security expert. He has his own company Bambenek Consulting in Champaign, IL that specializes in digital forensics and computer security investigations.
  • http://leoniceno.journalspace.com Leoniceno

    Sounds like an interesting conference. I think the internet is doing well to diversify media, and again make it competitive.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    It was interesting and could have been much more so. I don’t see the point of whining about the MSM. If people don’t feel served, they’ll change the channel. If people don’t want to watch news in the first place than what are you going to do? I would like to have heard more about blogging and the Internet, but like almost everything I’ve heard at the University, it doesn’t seem to me like they either get it or know what blogging is.