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The DC Press Is up in Arms

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Wayne Madsen
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From the production shop of Washington's signature newspaper, the Washington Post, to the 100-year old National Press Club, journalists and newspaper support workers are up in arms over the further attempts to corporatize the Fourth Estate.

Washington area commuters have recently been treated to an advertising campaign sponsored by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) decrying attempts by Washington Post management to raid the production workers' pension fund and its failure to provide workers with a pay raise for five years. The CWA has posted clever ads attacking the Post in Metro stations and on Metro buses.

The campaign has earned the union workers the support of journalists throughout Washington, including those at the Post. Post journalists and editors managed to publish one article in the Post about the CWA campaign. In a January 3, 2008 article in the Post, reporter Thomas Heath reported, "Some of the print ads use the names of the newspaper's sections to help get their point across. For example: 'Some employees are going on five years without a raise. Is kicking workers around a SPORT at the Post?' 'OUTLOOK not good for Post workers looking for fair wages.'"

The Washington Post Company, the parent of the Post, actually earns more revenue from its test preparation and education subsidiary, Kaplan, Inc. Washington Post publisher and CEO Donald Graham has relaunched  his firm as an "education and media company." Through its non-journalism-related business link, the Post has been subsumed by an elitist corporate culture rather than a journalistic one committed to the public welfare.

The January 3 Post article pointed out the CWA's biggest point, "The Post reported a profit of $324.5 million in 2006 and 'handed out millions in executive compensation. Despite this, our workers continue to receive nothing. No raises. No parity. No help on health care.'"

Veteran journalists at the National Press Club were in revolt over plans to move the Eric Friedheim Library, a resource for investigative reporters, from the confines of the National Press Club to the fourth floor of the National Press Building in order to open additional event rental space for outside entities. The plans -- reportedly tabled for the time being -- were coupled with the announcement of a strategic relationship between the National Press Club and the insurance giant, Aviva, something that earned a pointed barb from veteran Baltimore Sun columnist and TV pundit Jack Germond at a recent public event at which the partnership was announced.

Journalists at the Voice of America (VOA) have long been up in arms over the move by the Bush administration and members of the International Broadcasting Board (IBB) to shut down traditionally independent VOA radio broadcasts into key parts of the world and provide more support for more politically-biased broadcasts that hew to the neocon line. The move to close some VOA broadcasts were supported by then-Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Ken Tomlinson, a longtime friend of right-wing GOP operatives, including Karl Rove, who was recently signed up by the Washington Post Company's other major publication, Newsweek, as a columnist.

The IBB favors forcing international listeners of the VOA to broadcasts by Alhurra, the Arabic language satellite TV channel; Radio Sawa, the Arabic language radio network; Radio Farda, the Persian language radio station that broadcasts into Iran; Radio Free Afghanistan; Radio TV Marti, that broadcasts into Cuba; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that broadcasts into the former USSR and Eastern Europe; and Radio Free Asia, that broadcasts into China, North Kore, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. The curtailment of VOA broadcasts is also intended to force more people to the right-wing satellite networks operated by Rupert Murdoch's worldwide media empire.

Clearly, Washington journalists are beginning to stand up to the corporate tycoons who have tried to turn the Fourth Estate into an echo chamber for corporate propagandists and right-wing political agendas.
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