Media Discussion Center

NOTE! American Review is on archive status as of July 2000. Feel free to explore its multiple resources. E-mail will not be answered but updates will be done from time to time. Stay active, keep your eyes open, don't let the news that should keep us free (and safe) become, instead, our mainline to a cultural trance.

For example, write to Congress, FCC and White House to object to media mergers such as AOL & Time Warner and all other mega-mergers that reduce the free flow of information; object to FCC "relaxation" of its regulations, such as restrictions on ownership of print and broadcast outlets by the same corporation in same city (applicable in the LA Times/The Tribune Corp merger). Don't let politicos get away with arguing it's OK to let traditional news companies clump together into one blob, "because we always have Web news," as if that were a real alternative, which is like saying "Let the people eat the Internet." Internet media (AOL) is already gobbling up old media (Time Warner), so it's no longer so distinct. Besides, the Internet is not available to all people and, even if it were, journalism is not well enough developed on the Internet or its standards well enough protected to safeguard quality information for all.

Constantly question major media's conflict of interest with the profit motive and the weakening of journalistic standards. Some think big corporate media's single-minded loyalty to stockholders is George Orwell's nightmare. They forget that what scared Orwell was government, not the "private sector." Yet the private sector now presents as much if not more of a threat to our freedom as government might. It's subtler, there are no guns. There are simply fewer free ideas and dissenting opinions not consistent with the advertising environment or with the 2-party system and its campaign finance machine that interacts with major media to keep the whole system going like clockwork, without rocking the boat.

William Kennard, current head of the FCC, always speaks of "consumers" instead of citizens. In the mostly-monopolistic cable TV world, most consumers are suckered rate-wise -- and news-wise -- no matter how you cut it (and Kennard and his commissioners are utterly ineffectual in correcting this problem). Kennard is being suckered by media and telecom interests: he's trying to look good to minorities and general public by featuring "fairness" in access and pricing. These are worthy issues but by hesitating to speak up against corporate news conglomeration, he's losing the battle for real fairness: the fair and free flow of information.

Sure, news corps have a right to make a reasonable profit to keep their businesses going -- but 20% to 30% return expectations are outrageous. The Constitution gave the press unique freedom of action, not to be cash cows but to protect our liberty as members of a free and informed democracy. Let's take better care of the latter half of this transaction.

Jane Prettyman, Editor

We're having a conversation . . . Message Board #1

The Media Discussion Center is a place where you can post your thoughts, reflections and observations on the media, and you can read and respond to the thoughts of others.

Reporters, editors and other media professionals are invited to join the discussion and express yourselves frankly under the anonymity of pen names if you prefer.

Write on anything related to media. The CURRENT QUESTIONS, however, are:

Among the core riddles of media reform: (1) Can existing commercial news systems be reformed to preserve integrity of news for our democratic use to keep ourselves free and safe? Can government agencies or Congress be effective in reform and regulation or break-up of media mergers without crossing the Constitution's line on press freedom? (2) Can the dual nature of modern media -- journalism wrapped in high-pressure commerce -- be unraveled somewhat to better serve the public? Or has news become too profitable a sales product? (3) If parallel systems are to be created and news gathering and dissemination are to be uncoupled (or loosened) from stockholders' expectations, how will alternative systems be structured (financed and run) so as to preserve journalistic standards, independence from government, and a less biased slant than most "alternative media," while avoiding being run by government?

If you have ideas on how to fund and run new parallel alternative news systems and/or what should be done about the old news systems, please add them to the Media Discussion Center below.

Consider sending a copy of your comments, perhaps edited, to Congress, the Prez, the FCC, FTC, Justice Dept Anti-Trust Division, and media outlets. On the other hand, remember AR by sending us copies of your letters to editors, news managers and Congress/President related to media issues. The Media Discussion Center can benefit by your ideas and other letter-writers can see they are not alone.

This page is updated with postings as they come in. Messages are selected to appear based on relevance and insight. They may be edited for space and clarity.

When responding to other writers, please avoid ad hominem references. If you rebut an idea, avoid ridicule of the person, even by the backdoor of "that's a dumb idea." Write as you would like to be written to. If you disagree with something, please tell us why you disagree. Specific examples and citations are appreciated. Try to write concisely. This may be a challenge, given the complexity of the media subject. You're welcome to post more than once--and become a regular visitor.

A word about politics: Media and politics are hard to keep separate. We expect politics to appear in our discussions here. But try to keep your eye on the ball of media issues as much as you can.

The Media Discussion Center is moderated by AR's editor, Jane Wardlow Prettyman, formerly at (the old) Esquire Magazine.



1) Type "MDC" in subject line to show this e-mail is intended for the Media Discussion Center, rather than a private note to the editor.

2) Please remember to include the city and state you live in.

3) If your are a journalist and wish to use a pen name, please feel free to do so.


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