Judy Daubenmier spent 25 years as a reporter for the Associated Press and saw the field of news reporting sliding downhill. Now she works to reform our system of communications through the internet. Daubenmier is the author and editor of "Project Rewire: News Media from the Inside Out." I talked to her about her work and her hopes for news reporting in the future.
Here's the audio.
Swanson: This is David Swanson with Judy Daubenmier, the author and editor of Project Rewire. Judy, thanks for being here.
Daubenmier: No problem. Glad to be here.
Swanson: So, before we talk about the book, can we talk for a second about your background? For years you were a reporter for the Associated Press, is that right?
Daubenmier: That's right, I started out in journalism, well that's about the only thing I ever wanted to be, I guess, from about the time I was in fourth grade. And I majored in journalism, and I worked for newspapers in Iowa and then also the Associated Press in Iowa and Michigan both, and then had a career of about 25 years in journalism.
Swanson: Did you find it fulfilling work? Was it what you imagined growing into from your earliest ideas of journalism or was it disappointing in some ways?
Daubenmier: You know, the first twenty years or so were pretty good. You know, it was everything that I wanted to do. I loved it. I loved the writing, and being close to the news and what was happening, but, you know, in the early '90s there started to be a change in journalism, I think, nationally, and I felt it in my career. There began to be more of an emphasis on trivial news, on light stories, non-serious type things. I remember when I was working for the Associated Press in Michigan in the early '90s. Michigan was revamping its school finance system, the system of financing local schools, moving away from property taxes to sales tax and it was a change under discussion that was going to affect everybody in the state. If you had kids in public schools, if you bought something, if you owned property, whatever.
Daubenmier: And, you now, we, I worked out of the State House bureau and we were doing out best to cover that story, but about that time some local newspaper did a story on legislatures in a squabble over parking spaces, and we were told by our editors that that was the type of story they wanted to see more of, and the directive literally came down: "Find out where they park." And it just sort of was demoralizing to me, that that was the priority. It wasn't serious news, it wasn't important changes in legislation, it was petty squabbles among legislators because that would be something everybody could understand. And, you know, it would be cute, and everybody would read it and talk about it, and that's what we should be looking for. And that sort of shift was taking place, I think, nationally throughout journalism, and it sort of was the handwriting on the wall for me, an indication that I need to find something better to do with my time.
Swanson: Well, that certainly was my experience getting into journalism in the late '90s. I apparently missed the good times and I got out very quickly.
Swanson: What, and then from there you retired and maybe you can fill in the gaps, but at some point you ended up helping out with a movie that a lot of people have seen that's a wonderful critique of FOX news called
Daubenmier: That's right. I left journalism and I went back to graduate school and went to the University of Michigan and got a degree in history and I got my PhD in history and now I work part time at the University of Michigan, not tenured faculty, I'm only adjunct or what they call lecturer faculty. And while I was doing that I really didn't do anything in the way of political activity until the start of the Iraq war and I got involved with Moveon. And then Moveon decided to form a media corps, what they called a media corps, which would concentrate on watching the news media and reporting incidents of, you know, bias or whatever. And I volunteered for that and at the same time Robert Greenwald who was the producer of Outfoxed started recruiting people to watch FOX and tally incidents that they would grab video of. And he approached Moveon and asked for volunteers and I was among, you know, I don't know, ten or twelve people or so who volunteered and stuck with it and the rest of us who stuck with it, there were eight of us, formed a blog called Newshounds. And we're still in existence at www.newshounds.us, and we decided to just keep going after the movie came out and to continue to scrutinize FOX news and to try to pressure it to do legitimate news.
Swanson: And you are still doing it now at newshounds.com, right?