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.
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