While watching Bill Moyers' speech on Saturday at the 2008 NCMR and I was deeply touched by his concerns. His insight on the state of media in our current democracy was at least, hopeful. However, I feel that there was a gaping hole in the direction of the speech and the effectiveness of the entire conference this weekend.
First, I noticed that with the exception of a few concerned citizens, most of the attendees, including myself, were in some way closely tied to media/journalism itself. We, as the public/independent media community are aware of the attack on public media, but how do we reach the PUBLIC on this problem? With our distribution channels being compromised, how do we get this message out?
As I sifted through even the local twin cities news sites this weekend and watched the local evening news, I was not able to find a single mention of the conference this weekend. This weekend devoted itself to educating the media community, however it is the, shall I say, laypersons whom we are trying to reach. How will these laypersons recieve our message if there is no big media press coverage of our event? Again we have found ourselves at the base of a virtually immovable stronghold on information. It is nice to analyze the news with my future colleagues, but I would much rather hear that local social studies teachers are analyzing the news with their students. How do we effect the demand of the public to the ultimate end of no more big media conglomerates? How do we re-structure the people look at news so that the demand for reform is coming from their mouths? This is a mystery I have yet to solve.
So far what has been streaming from the mouths of Caroline Fredrickson of the ACLU and Phil Donahue former host on MSNBC are calls for more regulation by Congress and the FCC. However regulations are what have got the public media into this mess. Regulation does not only limit the private media, but also the public. And if regulations were to benefit one more than the other, that would go against the original goal of democracy in media. Ed Baker of the University of Pennsylvania reminded the heated crowd that the protection of Freedom of Speech is not something promised to us by big media, but is instead a promise from the United States Government. Big media has no obligation to uphold free speech. Technically these big media conglomerates should and are being treated as people under the law with right to convey whatever message, be it balanced or biased, that they see fit.
There is a sharp contrast between the goals of the public media and the private that seem to doom the misinformed populus. The public media community views information delivery as a public service. Like voting or donating blood, public media advocates view accessible, fair and accurate news as well as accessible educational resources as a civil obligation. However, private news firms are subject to a market economy. News is their product, not their goal. Like all private businesses, they must follow the most economically advantageous track.
We as the public, must lobby the private media. If reform is truly what we want, we must make these news producers aware of the demand, aka, the potential profit at stake. Regulation is not at the heart of democracy. People are at the heart of democracy. If the people can't win this battle, it can't be won. If the people don't want to win, we will no longer have a democracy.