Journalism in Crisis
Journalism in Crisis, a talk given by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols.
Brief points from the talk:
- Newspapers and news organizations and bureaus are disappearing at a frightening rate.
- Communities and critical events worldwide are not being reported on.
- Democracy cannot survive without a free press to keep citizens informed and responsible.
- The age of commercial media is passing, and the next free press should be made a public service.
Last edited by Asterion; 08-27-2010 at 06:19 PM.
Thanks Asterion! Certainly an interesting talk!
Roll-your-eyes references to how massive slaveholders like Madison and Jefferson were really proponents of equality and democracy and so on aside, I think these guys really have hit on an important point here in pointing out that commercial media cannot continue to provide an acceptable level of real news coverage and in arguing that it's necessary to radically restructure the press as an independent, at least largely not-for-profit public service. In so many ways this must be the proverbial wave of the future. The essential thing they're pointing to there is vital: the contrast between the value of production for exchange on the one hand and that of and production for use on the other. The former corresponds to capitalism and the latter to communism.
But I also must stress the point that even while the essence of what Nichols and McChesney are getting at here is progressive-minded, they're still envisaging this as something taking place under the current mode of production and under the corresponding state system. The current system will never support projects like these. To get a certain sense of what I mean, let's further contextualize some of what McChesney in particular pointed out regarding the history of how the press developed in this country:
McChesney points out that the government used to provide fairly lavish subsidies that a thriving domestic press might be established and how countries like France and Britain didn't have the level of press diversity and coverage that America did in this general period. What he doesn't do is point out America's level of power in the world at the time. America's bourgeois-democratic revolution took place on a much weaker material foundation than that of France, for example. In France, the bourgeoisie successfully rose up and overthrew the feudal system independently. For our revolution to succeed, by contrast, we had to have the extensive military assistance of the French monarchy. Thus we can see what was, in many respects, the comparative weakness of the American capitalist class next to others that existed at the time. America had to subsidize its domestic businesses in order to prevent pretty much all of its enterprise from being taken over by these other, more muscular empires. The fact that this regime of subsidizing the press ceased at around the close of the 19th century is not coincidental! This was the period in which America emerged as a monopoly-capitalist empire with the world's most powerful domestic capitalist class. And so we see that the government's press policy has historically always depended on the strength of the country's economic rulers. We are not about to return to the standard bourgeois policies of the 18th century here in a context in which American imperialism dominates the globe.
More broadly speaking, even the nature of nominally "independent" state media depends on the fundamental class orientation of the state in question. Consider the Bush policy toward PBS for example. Whereas the Bush gang deemed that PBS's programs weren't adequately supportive of his agenda (which reflected the commercial interests of his campaigns), they slashed PBS's funds until finally they started running a slew of pretty overtly pro-Bush programs. Point: Even state media can never be independent of the commercial interests that rule the state. Only a proletarian state can provide the social context for the type of press regime that's spoken to in that talk to actually emerge. Probably the best example of a principally similar press regime that comes to mind was that seen in China during the Cultural Revolution. In Beijing alone, for example, they had more than 900 newspapers in circulation at once during this period! And the government actively encouraged this rampant, authentic citizen-journalism, providing people with free paper, free ink, etc. This was one way that public debate took place on a wide scale during the period in question.
Yes, the era of commercial media is passing and we need to establish a new, popular media to replace it! We cannot just appeal for reforms.
Last edited by Red Monkey Queen; 08-29-2010 at 09:52 PM.