By Jim Tarbell, editor of Justice Rising
Media reform is on a roll, moving from a defensive attitude to a
proactive offensive stance. Evidence of this shift was everywhere at
the National Conference on Media Reform, held January 12 through 14 in
Memphis, Tennessee. The contrast from the last Media Conference in St.
Louis was marked.
At that last gathering a disparate group of congressmen wistfully
talked about their hopes to control the Bush administration's plans to
further centralize control of our national media. This year Rep. Ed
Markey (D-Mass.), the new chair of the House Subcommittee on
Telecommunications and the Internet made the keynote address and one
could feel the shift of power. Two years ago Rep. Bernie Sanders joined
that wistful group of congressmen. This year he spoke as Senator Bernie
Sanders, the first democratic socialist ever elected to the US Senate.
At the St Louis gathering Bill Moyers reflected the mood of the
conference when he lashed out at the Bush onslaught against National
Public Radio. Moyers threatened to get out of the rocking chair and
back into the broadcasting chair. The momentum coming out of 2005s
conference ejected Bush rube Ken Tomlinson as the Chair of NPR, and now
Moyers is going back on the air.
All of this was set in the somber and soulful atmosphere of Memphis on
Martin Luther King weekend. The Cook Convention Center, site of the
conference, is just down the street from the Lorraine Motel where the
civil rights leader was killed 39 years ago. The media silence and
complicity on that tragedy is a reminder of the disinformation and
power that our corporate/imperial media has over Americans and our
cultural story. During the final session of this year's conference I
sat next to an elder Memphisian matron who told me how her neighbor had
been pulled off duty as a guard for King that day, and the pervasive
sense in Memphis is that "higher-ups" were definitely involved in
The feeling at the convention was that the cover-ups were coming to an
end and popular media was creating a new story in America. The spirit
of the event was electric from the moment I arrived in the airport.
Conference attendance was up by 50% over 2005, with 3500 participants.
Bloggers declared the primacy of two-way citizen journalism.
Independent media producers had a whole track of workshops. Beside the
politicians, media luminaries like Phil Donahue and Amy Goodman,
activists like Jesse Jackson and Jane Fonda, and decision makers like
FCC commissioners Jonathon Adelstein and Michael Copps were all there.
AfD founder Ronnie Dugger joined the crowd researching the media reform
movement for a writing project. The exhibit hall featured 50 booths by
an array of media activist groups, and attendees eagerly took copies of
Justice Rising, and fliers for the 2-minute Commons Radio Spots that
Jan Edwards is putting together for the AfD.
I had a breakfast gathering with Ronnie, AfD member Ben Kjelshus from
Kansas City and Progressive Populist editor James M. Cullen. Ben was
there with a sizable contingent from Kansas City promoting Kansas City
Food Circle's Coming Home to Eat Conference on February 2 and 3 (http://kcfoodcircle.smn-rab.org/docs/greens-conf-0702.pdf
). AfD member Martha Spiess was also there, filming the event for a Maine media outlet.
I attended several workshops, including one on Faith Communities and
Media Reform, which will be profiled in the upcoming issue of Justice
Rising on Progressive Religion vs. Pervasive Corporate Corruption.
Perhaps most importantly I participated in a 2-part workshop on
fund-raising for media reform activism with people from the Media
Democracy Fund, Highlander Research Center and the Development Director
for Free Press. The role-playing they put us through gave me a great
sense of what I was going to be involved with in the search for
Finally I watched a showing of Outfoxed, where Robert Greenwald made a
presentation. I used this and other information I got at the
conference, including my connections with the Newshounds, to make a
presentation to 60 people at a showing of Outfoxed at the Point Arena
Theater two weeks after I got back from Memphis.
I suggest that at least four AfD members attend the next Media Reform
Conference and that the Alliance have a booth. It would be great
exposure for the AfD to a crowd that is very sympathetic with our
mission. We could use it as a way to get our Media Campaign moving
ahead. You can see videos and listen to audio tapes of the conference
at freepress.net. Let me know if you have questions or want more
information about the conference. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call me at 707-964-1323.