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Taking Back the Fourth Estate

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13 February 2008: VoV: Taking Back the Fourth Estate

Putting together issues concerning election integrity with those concerning media can be as simple as saying that most of the former are controversial enough to be squelched by the latter. And the entire problem can be traced back to the “first estate,” the corporate conglomerate controlling the media—an issue that Mary Ann Gould’s guest this evening traced back to the time of the French Revolution and the reason why the French revolted.

This award-winning producer of shows for the three major networks—60 Minutes, Dateline, 20/20, Nightline—Melissa, shared insights about "the new media" and how citizens can get their message out.

Melissa got her start right out of college when she went into the CBS building in New York City and told them she wanted to work for them. She promptly was given an internship under Walter Cronkite.

The focus of her first year at this distinguished station that had already contributed Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly to the media was ethics in journalism and rewriting news of the previous year. Despite the embargo against South Africa because of its Apartheid system, CBS maintained a bureau there. Out of that presence came the poignant documentary Children of Apartheid, among others.

The bottom line of news was not always turning a profit, said Melissa. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that this country will survive if the media remain strong. In Europe the press served the aristocracy, undermining democracy—a tradition as old as historiography itself.

Proof that wealth is really omnipotence? Consider the 1950s: after the war the men returned to go out foraging for their families while their wives stayed home to fan the flames of consumerism.

Melissa has been hearing horror stories about voting experiences since 1987, she said: some were held at gunpoint at the polls; paper ballots were thrown in the river; servants were forced to vote the way their employers did.

In 1987 Melissa received a card in the mail proclaiming her an honorary member of the Republican Party. In her case her voting status was unchanged because the card was addressed to her maiden name and she had used her married name on her registration form.

Republicans went from state to state, deleting names from polling lists, getting caught, and starting all over again in the next state.

Melissa went to ABC, where she found someone tracking what is really an ongoing story, the undermining of democracy by the rich and powerful in all ways, shapes, and forms.

And it was around that time that she looked to the grass roots for support; after all, the American revolutionaries had an underground system that worked for them; so did the French résistance during World War II. Today we must overcome the divisiveness that has gripped this nation since Bush took office, and work from the grassroots.

Asking the absurd question, What can I do? in itself doesn’t accomplish much, unless we form a group and share our experiences with others.

At this point, Mary Ann pled with her audience to contribute time and money to keep VoV on the air, a grassroots effort whose audience is rapidly expanding, whose guests are world-class activists from all over the country and the world. Donors can visit the Web site or send checks to P.O. Box 536, Doylestown, PA 18901. All contributions are tax deductible.

It is important to donate because we are the new media, said Melissa. We speak from the heart with no frills; there is a shift away from materialism toward a joining together across races and religions.

Reaching out across all boundaries, our youth have at very little cost created international communities like MySpace and Facebook. It all started with this “Net generation,” progressing to a multi-billion-dollar enterprise; Yahoo was worth $40 billion to Microsoft.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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