Forty years ago Reed Irvine started Accuracy in Media because he understood that the media were trying to undermine the war effort in Vietnam. Later, he formed Accuracy in Academia, realizing that the seeds of the media problem rested in the colleges and universities.
Reed gave me my first job out of college, in 1978, after I had completed an internship at Stan Evans’ National Journalism Center.
Back in the 1970s, I learned what journalism was all about when I studied from Curtis MacDougall’s classic textbook, Interpretative Reporting. I understood then that a massive shift had taken place from objective news reporting to interpretative and advocacy journalism. Curtis MacDougall and his textbook trained several generations of journalists, and we are seeing the results
MacDougall taught at Northwestern University, where he was a journalism educator and political activist. He ran on the Communist-controlled Progressive Party ticket. His son, Kent, also a journalist, came out as a Marxist, after working at the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, and he then became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
We have just obtained Curtis MacDougall’s 319-page FBI file, showing he was on the “security index” of the FBI and under surveillance because of his affiliation with many communist fronts. As early as 1950, an informant was telling the FBI that MacDougall was guilty of “pro-Communist teaching” and that he followed the Communist Party line.
MacDougall’s Interpretative Reporting textbook criticized the media for being too soft on Senator Joe McCarthy. It was the perfect primer for a generation of liberal journalists and taught journalists to think that anyone opposed to communism or socialism was an extremist. No wonder “McCarthyism” has become a dirty word and still serves to squelch solid reporting into such matters as influence through Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis on President Obama himself.
Last fall I debated media bias on eight college campuses, and surveyed the left-wing textbooks and other books used in journalism and communications courses. One, Media Control, is by Noam Chomsky, a leading member of the Communist Party spin-off, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Another popular book in journalism classes is What Liberal Media?, by Eric Alterman, who contends that liberal media bias is a myth.
One of my debating opponents, Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, now teaches journalism at Ithaca College and runs the Park Center for Independent Media, where he just gave out an “Izzy Award,” named after the identified communist and Soviet agent I.F. Stone, to Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Bill Moyers promptly had Greenwald and Goodman on his Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show.
In terms of media, our only hope is not so much highlighting the errors and omissions of the other side, but in getting our own story out. The problem is the other side has billions of dollars in federal-and big liberal foundation- money.
Through AIM we urged reductions of the budget of the Corporation for Public Broad-casting; we failed, the CPB is requesting $483 million for Fiscal Year 2011. CPB funds 356 public TV stations through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and 860 public radio stations through National Public Radio (NPR). The funding was only at $340 million when Bush took office.
In addition to National Public Radio, the “progressives” also can tap the Pacifica Network, consisting of five stations owned by the Pacifica Foundation, one associate station, and close to 150 affiliated stations. The Pacifica Foundation, which gets about $1.4 million a year in federal money, puts about $46,000 into Democracy Now!, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. This radio/TV show itself got $150,000 from Bill Moyers’ Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. Goodman says her show is airing on over 750 stations and has a bigger audience than Larry King on CNN or the MSNBC cable channel. Her Democracy Now Productions! ran on a $2.4 million budget in 2007.
Meanwhile, the Ford Foundation is a major underwriter of the Center for Social Media of American University, a project headed by left-wing activist Patricia Aufderheide, who says that “Taxpayer funds are crucial…” to creating new “public media.” This group got money under a $50 million Ford Foundation program to create and strengthen “public media.”
This is the direction many of the “progressive” groups are going. In fact, a socialist-oriented “media reform” group with ties to the Obama Administration has called for new federal programs and the spending of tens of billions of dollars to keep journalists employed at liberal media outlets and to put them to work in new “public media.”
The group, which calls itself Free Press, is urging “an alternative media infrastructure, one that is insulated from the commercial pressures that brought us to our current crisis.”
However, Free Press, at this May 14 summit, didn’t say one word about the well-documented liberal bias that has contributed to the decline in readers and viewers for traditional media outlets and has enabled the rise of the Fox News Channel, conservative talk radio, and the Internet. Instead, Josh Silver of Free Press attacked the “bellowing ideologues” on the air and declared that “The entire dial is empty of local news in many communities.”
This was a tip-off that, in order to take conservative radio hosts off the air, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be flooded with complaints that “local news” has been shortchanged by stations airing conservative personalities with national programs.
Free Press, whose June 2008 “media reform” conference in Minneapolis turned into a virtual Obama for President campaign rally, is in a position to provide those complaints to the FCC. It claims nearly half-a-million supporters and a staff of 30, mostly in Washington, D.C.
As part of the proposed new “media infrastructure,” Free Press is calling for a $50 billion “Public Media Trust Fund” to underwrite the creation of new jobs for journalists and the use of the existing federal AmeriCorps program “to include journalistic activities as part of its mission” in the form of “journalism positions” and “journalism projects.” AmeriCorps is a federally-funded national and community service agency.
The group is also urging a direct federal bailout of liberal media institutions, declaring that “The Department of Labor could design a program aimed at keeping reporters employed at existing news organizations or at new outlets.” Free Press explains, “If the government were to subsidize 5,000 reporters at $50,000 per year, the cost would be $250 million annually, a relatively modest sum given the billions coming out of Washington.”
In addition to the $50-billion “Public Media Trust Fund,” another one of the proposals from the Free Press group is a $50-million “government-seeded innovation fund for journalism,” described by Craig Aaron of Free Press as “a taxpayer-supported venture capital firm that invests in new journalism models.”
The socialist nature of the proposals should not be surprising. Aaron is one of two Free Press staffers who have been employed by the socialist magazine In These Times and previously worked at Ralph Nader’s Congress Watch. The group’s policy director, Ben Scott, has been an aide to Senator Bernie Sanders, an openly declared socialist who has criticized the media for covering both sides of the global warming debate.
All of the controversial recommendations are included in the new 285-page book, Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age, officially released at the May 14 Free Press summit held at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the journalism profession.
Although Free Press didn’t want to examine the problem of liberal bias contributing to the decline of traditional media, the Newseum’s fifth floor, the News History Gallery, includes a film about liberal media bias.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which is already subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which itself gets $400 million a year in federal payments), wasn’t good enough for acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Michael Copps, who delivered a keynote speech.
He declared that we need a PBSS-“a Public Broad-casting System on Steroids”-based on the extraction of more dollars from hard-pressed American taxpayers. “That can’t be done on the cheap, and we’ll hear laments that there’s not a lot of extra cash floating around these days,” Copps said. “But other nations find ways to support such things.”
Targeting Talk Radio
Copps ruled out the FCC bringing back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which enabled bureaucrats during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to mute or silence on-air conservative personalities. “The Fairness Doctrine is long gone and it’s not coming back-as much as some conspiracy theorists see it lurking behind every corner,” he said. However, he did say that the FCC would force broadcasters to sell media properties to approved women and minority groups. He called this “equal opportunity” and “diversity.”
At the same time, Copps said that the FCC will have “to get serious about defining broadcasters’ public interest obligations and reinvigorating our license renewal process.” He said broadcasters need to be held to “clear standards that can be fairly but vigorously enforced” and should have to renew their licenses every three years, instead of every eight.
Under such a scheme, “progressive” groups could thwart a license renewal by claiming that a local radio station was airing too much conservative programming.
In this context of “saving journalism,” as Free Press described it, the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a May 6 “Future of Journalism” congressional hearing featuring testimony from Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who has introduced a “Newspaper Revitalization Act” to rescue failing liberal papers by letting them operate as non-profits.
The hearing was said to be the brainchild of Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the subcommittee.
One of those failing papers, the Boston Globe, is owned by the New York Times and regularly endorses Kerry’s campaigns and ideas. Ironically, however, another factor in the liberal media decline, and in the Globe’s demise in particular, has been the unreasonable demands of liberal labor unions which normally endorse and finance the campaigns of Democrats for office.
Left unsaid at the Free Press summit was the fact that direct federal payments to these papers might enable these unions to avoid taking pay or benefit cuts.
Free Press has some impressive financial support of its own, having been lavishly funded in the past to the tune of millions of dollars from foundations associated with George Soros and Bill Moyers. This summit, however, was financially sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an entity with $2.3 billion in assets.
Alberto Ibarguen, president of the Knight Foundation, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of ProPublica, one of the new media ventures of the type that seemed to be in favor at the Free Press summit.
However, ProPublica, which claims to be “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest,” has been embarrassed by revelations that one of its major funders is a foundation associated with billionaire Democratic Party liberals Herb and Marion Sandler, who have been accused of having a hand in the financial crisis.
The Capital Research Center has published a major analysis of ProPublica, which has collaborated with news organizations such as the Washington Post, noting that it churns out “left-wing hit pieces,” such as an attack on Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin during the campaign.
While making demands for more federal money, another topic at the Free Press summit was how to divvy up the $7.2 billion that was authorized in the federal economic “stimulus” legislation to expand access to the Internet. The legislation makes the funds available to private and left-wing non-profit entities. There is no way of knowing at this point how much of this could be funneled into the coffers of “progressive” groups, including Free Press itself.
The Benton Foundation, another major liberal foundation, is spearheading efforts to get the federal “stimulus” money into the hands of “progressive” groups and state and local governments.
Consider that one of the groups following the money trail is the Progressive States Network, whose board of directors includes David Brock of Media Matters, the far-left “watchdog” group; Wes Boyd of MoveOn.org, the group that fought Bill Clinton’s impeachment; and John Podesta of the Center for American Progress, one of those in charge of Obama’s Transition Project.
Big Government Is Back
Demonstrating its close ties to the Obama Administration, one of the featured speakers was Susan Crawford of President Obama’s National Economic Council. She was introduced by Timothy Wu, chairman of the Free Press board and an advocate of more federal regulation of the media. A Columbia Law School Professor and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Wu claims the U.S. Constitution is flawed because the founders did not anticipate the problem of “the abuse of private power.” He coined the term “net neutrality,” an attempt to justify federal control of the Internet in the name of guaranteeing equal access to it.
Crawford was on Obama’s FCC transition team and is the founder of something called “OneWebDay,” whose slogan is, “One web. One world. One wish.”
It’s a reminder of the proposal which came out of the World Economic Forum, outlining “a new global network” with “the capacity to connect the world, bridging cultures and peoples, and telling us who we are and what we mean to each other.” The proposal was issued under the supervision of Pat Mitchell, the president of the Paley Center for Media and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Public Broadcasting Service.
The Paley Center is supported by all of the major media companies, ranging from Viacom to NBC to News Corporation.
In terms of federal initiatives, conservatives don’t have the votes in Congress to stop any of what is coming. Plus, Obama will soon have his FCC majority
Our focus has to be-as best we can-to try to prevent further government interference in the new media, as well as talk radio. That’s why Lynn Woolley and I wrote The Death of Talk Radio two years ago. AIM has strongly opposed not only the return of the Fairness Doctrine but the federal media shield bill, which would define and regulate journalists in the name of protecting them.
While several speakers at the Free Press event paid lip service to the First Amendment, there was no serious discussion as to how freedom of the press could be maintained in the face of mounting federal involvement in the journalism profession. One has to conclude, therefore, that the natural result of having new federal money and sponsorship would be that journalists would toe the “progressive” line, as they already do at public radio and TV.
Another speaker, Vivian Schiller, the new President of National Public Radio (NPR), was already comfortable with federal funding and could use more. NPR, which claims an audience of 27 million Americans, continues to get federal money through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. However, she said NPR is also facing a financial crisis because of a reduction in corporate underwriting and investment income.
Schiller recently came to NPR from the New York Times Company, another failing liberal media enterprise, where she served as senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com.
So while liberal newspapers bite the dust, plans are well underway to increase federal funding of existing “public” entities, including PBS and NPR, and create more taxpayer-financed “public media” outlets.
In the meantime, George Soros, the “progressive philanthropist,” has been funding journalism organizations for years, including Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), the Fund for Investigative Journalism, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. That guarantees they will never investigate him-and his role in creating new socialist media.