Garbed in dark sweater and herringbone sport coat, he acted like the tranquil Dean of the group. In spite of havingfostered scores of kids over the decades, owned Marin's oldest saloon, worked the unseemly probation beat, struggled daily to keep a contentious monthly Coastal Post newspaper alive and lively,Deansaid the least. Yet, Dean Deane was the one for whom the fundraiser tolled.
To Don Deane's right sat Sonoma State Professor/Author Peter Phillips. To his left sat Nation Journalist/Author John Nichols, with KPFA's Bonnie Falkner gently moderating. Pulled together on April 28 to offer suggestions as to how journalism could return to a healthier space, the panel was tortuously asked:
Were newspapers in a death star spiral? Why? Could they and the media be saved from living under the Dark Side's megaphone? With lasers abeam, were Luke and Princess Leah about to spring from the shadows and enlighten the world?
Phillips, Director of Project Censored and author of Censored 2008: The Top 25 Censored Stories, felt the Jedi had little time left before corporate troopers overwhelmed the increasingly depleted Jedi's in their quest to spread universal truths and understandings. He nostalgically referred to the 60's War on Poverty, and recalled how then thousands of Head Start and VISTA volunteers coupled with Community Action Centers made America smarter and healthier. This night, he said we need "Thousands of Community Media Centers."
Nichols, co-author with Bob McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, provided a rosier scenario than that portrayed by the glummer Phillips. Nichols could find a smile, even after he statistically outlined the dramatic decline of reporters and independent journalism, due in large part to the inflated prices corporations paid in acquiring and concentrating media outlets. The problem could be easily cured he stated, with which Phillips concurred, with a Journalism Stimulus Package of, say, $5 billion.
Nichol's most delightfully ironic proposal revolved around the public benefit programming media outlets were once required to do in exchange for access to the public's airwaves. Quoting the networks' claim that public affairs programming costs them $10 billion per year, which supposedly includes lost ad revenue time they incur doing Amber Alerts, Nichols proposed that the Federal Communication Commission relieve media of any public affairs requirements. In exchange, he proposed that half of their claimed public affairs broadcasting costs be given annually to rejuvenate community journalists and journalism.
How would Fair and Balanced Fox Opinion Corporation or General Electric NBC respond to giving $5 billion a year to journalists to do some independent reporting?
It is a simple, brilliant, common sense proposal, especially since recent governments quit trust busting and enforcing public affairs broadcasting requirements. However, John made his proposal to an audience eager for answers while hoping to sell books. He failed to count the years it takes simple, common sense legislation to be sponsored and moved through Congress cleanly enough to garner public understanding and support.
People's Lobby knows how sluggishly long implementing good, needed legislation takes. For about five years, it has tried to move its common sense American World Service Corps (AWSC) Congressional Proposals and Fair Tax Bracket Reinstitution Act (FTBRA) through Congress. Our AWSC Congressional Proposals cost effectively fields an all-volunteer army of 21 million Americans in their choice of Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, Head Start, Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, OxFam, Mercy Corps, and State Conservation Corps over the next 27 years. For those earning over the $5, 10, 20+ million dollars per year, our Fair Tax Bracket Reinstitution Act (FTBRA) reinstitutes progressive tax brackets that existed under IKE, JFK, and Nixon, when our single earner middle class grew.
Smartly proposing simple, common sense, non-partisan solutions in a book or behind a microphone is one thing. Educating an electorate and pushing legislation, via initiative or Congress, to enact the same is the real ball game.
Prior to the meeting starting, Radical Dean Don Dean said he was, "Happy to see any more than one" attending the fundraiser. During the talk, John Nichols expressed faith that any group "More than three" was enough to engender a peoples' movement.
With about 140 in attendance, I felt the usual. At this College of Marin function, where were the college students? One, or maybe two, was my count. Where were the fresh faces? Most were familiar folks who knew most of what was spoken.
After another intelligent meeting, many will leave to prepare for the next presentation or demonstrating on a street corner. Is this the most effective way for most of these tired activists packing thinner wallets to topple a corporate media oligarchy flush with earnings who is propagating a Brave New World?
Peter Phillips, expressing concern that there wasn't much time left to reverse the censoring that is dumbing-down America, stands around the same precipice from which some of us view the hazy world.
Have we run too low on what used to be a stable of Woodward and Bernsteins? Are there no more Izzy Stones, who eschewed the fancy D.C. functions in favor of digging for the hidden political news?
For those unable or unwilling to ponder media's demise or resurrection, why not drop a line and become a paper paid subscriber to the financially beleaguered Coastal Post? Help that little newspaper, produced out of a few small rooms over a saloon, continue appearing on your bathroom's reading stool. Maybe that will help resurrect some I. F. Stones, who on good news days could cover the works of the AWSC volunteers the world needs.