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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/12/08

Media Opportunity in Disaster

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An overused saying of late explains that the Chinese character for "Disaster" combines the characters for "Danger" and "Opportunity." In the current economic climate of disaster, there is an opportunity for us. I'd call it "deconsolidation" of the media, or distributing the media into multiple hands from a few.

Read on for more!

Editor and Publisher predicts that several cities will be without a daily newspaper by 2010. The Miami Herald may be the first to go, but papers owned by the Tribune Company could beat it to the punch with their bankruptcy filing this week.

Some of the problems that the media are having are due to the current economic situation--many companies do not have as much to spend on advertising. Some of it is due to lost viewership. This is especially true for daily newspapers, but also local nightly newscasts are feeling the pinch as well. My feeling is that much of the lost readership of newspapers and lost viewership of local news is not because of shifting media habits--that's just the symptom.

Media habits are shifting because people feel that they are not getting the information they want from traditional sources. When you put on a TV news program that gives both sides of an issue equal time and equal say in order to seem fair and balanced (yes, I typed it), even when one side is clearly wrong, people lose respect for you. They wonder why you are wasting their time on some loony. The mainstream news organizations have, to a large extent, been cowed by pressure from these loonies (not always Republicans, but often enough) to give them equal or even more access by using the argument that the media (often called "the liberal media") is not being fair in their presentation. We need news organizations that are strong enough to actually BE fair. Being fair doesn't mean that the person with one poorly-done study gets equal say to someone who has 500 well done studies saying the opposite thing. Sometimes being fair involves telling someone that they are a batshit loony (ask any judge).

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Right now we are in the time of the biggest economic upheaval that anyone has seen since the Great Depression. I can only hope that my last statement will be proved wrong in a positive way. But, with this historic economic disaster looming, there is a historic opportunity. Remember the overused saying that the Chinese symbol for disaster combines the symbols for danger and opportunity.

For virtually my entire life (40 years next month) the main stream media has been consolidating into the hands of just a few people. Now is the first time that this can change. Many of the holding companies for these media sources are going to go bankrupt in the next year because of dropping revenue from advertising, and because they borrowed heavily against now non-existent equity in those holdings. This means that they cannot refinance their debt to meet their obligations.

This may be an opportunity for those of us who would like to see reporting of the truth in the media. I'm guessing that with expanding problems for newspapers, CNN laying off their science and tech reporting staff, the Tribune Co. filing for bankruptcy, and Sumner Redstone's problems being just examples of what will be coming, there are likely to be main stream media (MSM) outlets in many markets that will become available to buy at firesale prices, certainly the lowest prices adjusted for inflation since the rules of media ownership were relaxed.

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Right now everyone is facing an economic calamity. However, the rich can find themselves at a bigger disadvantage than the rest of us in this situation.  The rich are trained to leverage other people's money, mostly banks money, by investing a little bit of their own money and borrowing the rest. We have numbers going for us. Even in a depression, there will be more people making a living wage than there are rich people. Many of those wage earners will have a little bit to give for something like this. That is a whole different kind of leverage where the rich don't have an advantage over us.

Yes, I know that there are people reading this who will say "it can't be done" and come up with all kinds of excuses why it won't work. The advantage goes to those who can organize better, and that's something we CAN do. You just have to pool together enough people and their money to do it. Organization skills are more important in this case than being rich, and we do have some of those organizations in place--think Unions, political groups, and liberal churches. If you are reading this then you are witnessing one way to organize this kind of media take over. It will take hard work, but I am not willing to say that the conservatives can do something we cannot. The conservative elite didn't buy all of the media outlets overnight, and I'm willing to work at it over time as well. But if we are to do it, there has probably never been a better time to start than now.

It's well past time for the mainstream media to do it's job. This may be the only opportunity in our lifetimes to wrest some of these outlets from the hands of the corporate/conservative powers that be. I would love to be watching the news on KKOS in my area instead of the fast-food preprocessed pap we're getting now. I'd love to get involved in this kind of venture. We are going to need all kinds of people to help with something like this. Who would like to join me?

-Ed "Edly" Smallwood


Editor and Publisher Article: "'Several Cities' Could Have No Daily Paper As Soon As 2010, Credit Rater Says" by Mark Fitzgerald, Published Dec. 3, 2008.

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Columbia Journalism Review Article: "CNN Cuts Entire Science, Tech Team" by Curtis Brainard, Published Dec. 4, 2008.


AP Article: "Tribune files for bankruptcy protection" by The Associated Press, Published Dec. 8, 2008.


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Ed is a dedicated husband and father of three, as well as one of the managers of one of the busiest movie theaters in the Bay Area. Ed used to have hobbies, but really doesn't have time for it anymore.
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