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The Media

NPR Cancels Only Black-Issues Program, News & Notes

cross-posted to Jack and Jill Politics This is terrible news, and I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is going on. I first heard from Jasmyne Cannick. The basics are that NPR is hurting financially (projected $23M budget shortfall this year up from an estimated $2M). This is due to reduced corporate underwriting, reduced contributions from member stations and individuals plus severely depressed investment holdings that drive its endowment. According to its official statements, NPR decided it would do away with two shows, Day to Day and News & Notes because they suffered from poor audience ratings and the weakest underwriting. The shows will run through March 20, 2009 Some more source information is available at: According to Interim President and CEO Haarsager:
It is important for you to understand why we chose to cancel News & Notes and Day to Day, and the implications for programming strategy and commitments. Neither program was attracting sufficient levels of audience or national underwriting necessary to sustain continued production under these tough financial circumstances.
That's all very believable in this market, but of all the shows to cancel... News & Notes has been an absolutely wonderful, intelligent and fun outlet to listen to and be a part of. I've been on the show over 10 times since the summer of 2007 (and will be on next Wednesday Dec 17th) , and it has certainly contributed to the audience and credibility of Jack & Jill Politics. We're like family. In fact, the weekly Blogger Roundtable was a truly innovative segment on a show that already had some of the best coverage of black issues of any major media outlet. Because of News & Notes, our own blogroll has expanded, and I've had a chance to meet and work with some impressive voices. So many old school media outlets don't get how to work with technology, social media and the youngins, but News & Notes pulled it off effectively without exploiting or compromising these emerging voices. Obviously the media landscape and indeed any entity dependent on funds is suffering right now and will continue to do so. Newspapers have been hurting for a while. NPR, with its heavy dependency on donations and market-based endowment funds, must be hurting as well. In case you think News & Notes is the only show getting hit, it is not. The Washington Post reports that this is the first company wide layoff in 25 years:
Some of those losing their jobs are veteran NPR voices, such as Ketzel Levine, an NPR reporter since 1977, and Vicky O'Hara, an editor and former diplomatic correspondent with 26 years on the job. Others include "News & Notes" host Farai Chideya, "Day to Day" host Madeleine Brand, Washington reporter Libby Lewis, entertainment-industry correspondent Kim Masters and national reporter John McChesney. About half the 64 people cut are journalists.
Yet I can't help but think that now, of all times, is not the time to cut any sort of programing that brings intelligent discourse to black issues. Couldn't they have cut that weird news quiz show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, instead? I mean, really? In the grand, new age of Obama, this is happening? This past year, we at Jack and Jill Politics and the broader Afrosphere had to work triple time to try to inject some sanity into the media conversation about race. Suddenly Wolf Blitzer and crew had to say something, anything, about race, and they didn't know where to start because they lacked the lived experience, empathy or education to say anything useful. With Obama headed for the White House, the supply of ignorant racial media discourse will only grow. We've got four years of people picking on the Obama Girls' Hairstyle or Michelle's Rear End or Is Obama Really The Black President. We've got four years of Is Racism Over or Who's Gonna Be The President For White Folks and other ignorant questions headed our way. We know it's coming. Yet it's at this time that one of our most prized outlets is switched off. But fear not black people. CNN has hired D.L. Hughley. Update 1 On of our commenters reminded me that the show Tell Me More, is hosted by Michelle Martin, an African-American. While that's true, her show can't be accurately called a black program. This according to the description of News & Notes alternate host Tony Cox:
"People are concerned and they're hoping for the best," Cox, who worked with the show in each of its incarnations, told Journal-isms. "If our show goes down, it will be a tragic loss, because we provide a unique voice in the NPR universe, and if we go down, that voice will be lost." Martin's program, while also featuring an African American host, "is more multicultural," Cox said, "and our show is more Afrocentric and Afro-American-centric. We really focus on the black experience in America and in Africa."
Looking for something to do? Jasmyne Cannick has posted the numbers and emails of some key NPR execs as well as a petition.

Me With Onion Folks Speaking At The National Press Club, Plus Politico Coverage

I've been a journalism geek for a long time. In high school, I enrolled in a summer journalism program at American University, and as part of the class we got to visit the National Press Club. It was the summer that baseball almost died (again), and Bud Selig had been named acting commissioner. We got a tour of the building and got to attend his luncheon talk. Well, some 15 years later, I returned to the NPC victorious and shared the stage with coworkers from The Onion. Our charge: discuss this election season and our coverage. Here's an audio recording of the event. (apparently mainstream media is in such bad shape that they couldn't afford to record images as well). And here's the Politico's post-event report in which they reprint our post-event report and we wonder why the media is in the state it's in? :)

This Primary Campaign Has Brought Out The Best And Worst In Me

cross-posted to jack and jill politics and daily kos (note: i'm mad verbose. this is long. kick your feet up. get some tea. take your time with this one. I also strongly recommend you check out the comments on Jack and Jill Politics) Last week, after talking with several Hillary Clinton supporters, I had an epiphany: that which I most dislike about the darker sides of her and her campaign is just what some people see in me. It's the worst feeling, to end up displaying traits you deplore, and I'd like to explore it a bit as we move to the general election. I have never been as involved nor as invested in a political campaign as I have been this year. I've traveled to distant states, administered caucuses, knocked on doors, set up mixtapes, installed Internet access, raised and donated funds and rallied my wits and my keyboard in promotion and defense of a candidate I feel represents the best realistic shot at a national wake-up call that's long overdue. Months of cable news and blog coverage later, I know more about superdelegate math, fundraising limits and John King's stupid interactive maps than I ever, ever wanted. I've read entire biographies, full position papers and engaged in heated but productive conversations about deep policy matters on health care, energy, prisons, agriculture and Iraq. I got smarter. Stepping down from the media noise machine has been the greatest gift, and in canvassing for Obama, I learned my most valuable lessons: that people are not as stupid nor as simple as their media portrayals, that it's a lot easier to write off entire blocs of voters from the comfort of my living room and that becoming president of a nation with such diverse people and demands as the USA is just short of impossible. In all that on-the-ground work, I have and will continue to maintain that I've gotten much more out of this process than Obama has out of my work on his behalf. My level of involvement has allowed me to see the impact and power of citizen-initiated action when paired with technology, inspiration and urgent need. I've met some truly amazing people who've sacrificed even more than I. I've grown as a writer, a citizen and a human being. At the other end of the spectrum, however, I have felt driven to lash out in ways that expose the limits of my own ability to communicate. I never set out to hate Hillary Clinton or her supporters. I never thought I'd consider a vote for John McCain. I never thought I'd even jokingly threaten to burn down the city of Denver (sorry yall!). But that's exactly what I felt driven to at many moments during this season. Despite the positive lessons I learned, I have not always been able to take that high road. At the heart of my own anger lay a sense of betrayal, paranoia and a feeling that I was trapped by a family I once held in high esteem and a media that denied the validity of my experience. It began in January, shortly after Obama's Iowa victory. Many of us Obama supporters, especially black folks, were euphoric about his win in that state. On CNN I stated, "I felt like I won," after seeing the results come in. With that one victory, the world shook for a moment, and I could actually see new, previously unimaginable possibilities for the future. Within weeks, however, a troubling pattern began to emerge from the Clinton campaign. It was as if the Iowa loss set off an explosion on a snowy mountain, and a political avalanche was unleashed. Obama was accused of being a potential drug dealer, secret Muslim, "cool black guy" and other derogatory things usually tied to his race. When many of us black folks began pointing out these incidents, we were told that nothing nefarious was afoot, that we must be imagining it. There was little to no mainstream media coverage of what we were seeing. As any one who has been oppressed knows, the only thing worse than the oppression is the denial of that oppression by others, so we at JJP set up the Clinton Attacks Obama wiki in an effort to convince ourselves we weren't crazy and show the world, in a documented fashion, what distressed us. Then came South Carolina. The black vote, which had been reliably behind Clinton, looked certain to move to Obama after his strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Rather than stress the positive Clinton brand (if not results) among black voters, the Clintons decided to minimize the black vote and Obama's pending victory. There were the MLK comments and Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama to Jackson was the statement that finally put the media on to what many of us were seeing. The Clinton's star had fallen tragically and unnecessarily among black people. It was in this environment that Jack & Jill Politics really got traction. Despite having been around since the summer of 2006, our traffic truly began to grow when we started articulating this growing sense of frustration and panic over the "color arousal" tactics and code-word-laden decisions of the Clinton campaign. In many ways, we just happened to be in the right place-time and shared a sense of mission with other black political blogs like African American Political Pundit and Field Negro, among many others. Many new readers came here and found that they were not alone. The feeling was one of relief. It reminded me of finding that one other black kid in the white school. Even if you didn't talk, you could occasionally exchange knowing glances or a head nod when the teacher or a student said something racist. Over the next months, the situation escalated. Geraldine Ferraro called Obama the affirmative action candidate. Clinton campaign officials sowed dangerous seeds of discord between black and Latino constituencies. And of course, there was Reverend Wright. In most of these instances, I saw two battles. One was with a media ill-prepared to moderate a national discussion on race at any point, much less during a presidential election. Most of these organizations were unable to competently guide us through the decision to invade a country, so my expectations of their understanding of the black experience were low, and they met those expectations well. But what came as a shock, yes an actual shock, to me was to witness Hillary Clinton and her campaign, time and again, join in the ugliness. From "he wouldn't have been my pastor" to "he's an out of touch elite" to "he only has two years of experience" to "he's not a muslim as far as I know," I was repeatedly disappointed by the decisions she and her campaign made. Each one seemed designed, not just to win, not just to hurt the other candidate, but to attack the very people who, through the darkest of hours, had stood by the Clinton family in the past. As has been pointed out in the comments and as I've written before, I was so disappointed because this candidate, with all her brand name, money, establishment support and built-in advantages, so often rushed to the gutter for combat strategy. After all this, we began hearing "well, it doesn't matter" and "blacks will vote for Hillary in the end," and that's when I really actually snapped. After that, the issue moved beyond what Hillary was saying to why so many so-called Democratic leaders sat idly by, doing nothing. It moved to black superdelegates who not only bucked the overwhelming will of their constituencies, but did so in the face of clear, undeniable and unnecessary racially charged tactics that undermined not just Obama but, as rikyrah has so perfectly put it, "any black candidate who wants a shot at national politics outside a gerrymandered district." Most importantly, it became a test of the relationship between black voters and a Democratic party which for decades could rely on this demographic's loyalty beyond all others, despite the spotty record of actual results. Hillary and Obama were the actors, but the play was much, much bigger than them. Once this bridge was crossed, I fell into a heightened state of battle, and I saw everything through this lens. I became obsessed and I often became nasty. I found a community at JJP that often felt exactly as I did, and we supported each other in our justified outrage and incredulity. So the name-calling escalated: Ice Queen, Borg Queen, Tonya Harding, and beyond. Many of these terms were used in jest. All were used out of frustration and a sense of absurd, tragic comedy. As Hillary escalated her claims and false calculations (Michigan, Florida, popular vote, sniper fire, Obama voters as delusional), there was very little room left for me to escalate on top of that. I was fueled by anger and sometimes hate. Proud of me Yoda would not have been. Here's what I didn't realize. All the while I and many Obama supporters here were going through our trauma, many, but not all, Hillary supporters experienced their own version of the same. While I haven't found evidence of Obama or his campaign being involved, it is clear that the media handled gender about as ignorantly and dangerously as it handled race. How else can you explain the comparisons to Hillary as your wife in probate court or a nagging mother? Why else would it be acceptable to compare Obama's "weakness" in military aggression to his "feminine" ways? The hard part is that a) Hillary has often used the reality of sexism to shield herself from legitimate attacks, and b) by pretending this was a "horse race" for so long I believe the media helped her candidacy far more than it hurt it. She was given multiple stays of execution though she mathematically lost back in March. Still, that doesn't mean the illegitimate media attacks didn't exist and broadly. Many supporters saw the attacks on Hillary as more than that. They were saw them as attacks on women, and so, many women who might have been on the fence or only tepid Clinton supporters rushed to her in defense of themselves and their daughters, mothers and sisters. They may have seen the desperation in many of her tactics, but they also saw themselves under siege and could excuse much of that behavior as necessary to wage this worthy battle. (True, all of these supporters didn't rush to Michelle Obama's defense as she's been dragged through the fire, but again, we're not all perfect, and that's not an excuse). I spent hours and days even, researching all the race-baiting and ugliness going on in the media and among Clinton folks, but I never bothered to try to find out what was driving some of Hillary's staunchest supporters. That's not quite right. I found some justifications, but the most visible ones were easy to eliminate. I don't give any weight to "Obama is a muslim who will give all our money to Africa" or "Obama stole this from Hillary" wing of Clinton supporters. But I did completely miss the experience of Clinton-supporting women who wretched at the statements of Chris Matthews and others. In hindsight, this was a failure on my part. Here's a video that describes some of the incidents I know I missed: I love the part of this job that involves policy research and genuine arguments about the future. I love the biting and satirical edge many of the posts here use. I love the raw honesty that lives here for a people who are too often told their experience doesn't matter. However, I know from experience that I caused collateral damage with the tone of many of my personality-driven posts and that my own failure to try understanding the experience of those I disagreed with did me few favors. The sad part is that I had the model right there in front of me in two forms. The first was my own experience in canvassing, where you just can't start screaming at somebody when you're on their property. The second model is Obama himself. He has largely conducted himself and his campaign with admirable grace throughout even the hottest moments in this contest. I should have just asked, "What would Obama do?" So that's the situation I find myself in now, wondering and watching, "what would Obama do?" And I see the same steady, confident and open attitude that drew me to his candidacy in the first place. His people are talking to Clinton people (because "we shouldn't negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate"), and discussions are under way about debt retirement, campaign staffing and even cabinet positions. I don't know how much credibility I have among the most intractable of Clinton supporters, but I know that my own inflammatory attacks against Clinton are useless and probably counterproductive at this point. I know that I'm interested in having this conversation beyond the group of people who already know where I'm coming from because it's those conversations that will help the healing process even if forgiveness is hard or impossible to come by. This post is not a blanket apology for what this blog has become and my part in it. That's not at all what I'm saying. What we have here has grown into a truly amazing community of people fired up about much more than Obama, and I wouldn't change that for anything. I'll always call out wrong where I see it, and I'm not saying a simple kiss and make-up will undo the damage that has been wrought. As CPL mentioned in a recent post, I think both the Clintons need to make a Herculean effort to begin the healing process. Whether by attacking or dismissing the votes of entire caucus states or her remarks about RFK's assassination, the damage resulting from many of their tactics will not simply disappear without effort. As Ricky Ricardo would say, "they got some 'splainin to do," and I know I'll never look at them the same. However, I think Obama and all of his supporters also have work to do, not in wiping the slate clean with Hillary Clinton but in really trying to understand the experience of reasonable Hillary supporters who felt they had to defend her because they were defending something much larger than her. As with all things large, we can start small. I started by talking to actual Clinton supporters I knew, and I urge any pro-Obama folk out there to do the same. I've been making small changes to this post based on some comments from the Jack & Jill Politics fam, and I wanted to add one other point. If we are to actually succeed in changing this country, beyond the election of this particular politician, we (all people) need to at least try to see the world from the perspective of those we disagree with. Often such attempts will not be rewarded, but the attempt will reach some and, if nothing else, it will give us confidence that we've done everything possible to move forward. I'm trying again to be the change I want to see. Forever fired up! - Baratunde aka Jack Turner

Suppose I Could Make Bill O'Reilly Disappear. How Would You Celebrate?

Bill O'reilly Goes Crazy on The Set of Inside Edition

Image courtesy of theleetgeeks via Flickr

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, Polk Award, Inside Edition meltdown fame, is a bad person who's doing bad things to this country. I cannot enumerate them. Google can do that for you. It's clear this country would be better if he weren't around. I got to thinking, what if he were to disappear into the void between dimensions? Based on Stephen King's The Mist, that seems like a place full of really bad monsters, so Bill should be right at home. I'm not saying I can do this, but with a particle accelerator and some cayenne pepper... let's just say I might know a guy and leave it at that. So supposing, just supposing it were possible to banish him to the interdimensional void, how would you celebrate? I really want to know. A friend on Twitter suggested a national holiday called "Fuckery Free Day." I think I'd max out my credit card to put on a massive parade of falafel-eating munchkins all singing "Ding Dong O'Reilly's Gone" or something to that effect. What would you do? What would you like to see done if our prayers of Bill O'Reilly disappearing were to come true?

Ok, Obama Did His Press Conference. Let's Call Up Catholics, Clinton and McCain

cross-posted to jack and jill politics See for yourself:

That's gotta hurt. I don't envy Senator Obama right now, and seeing him distinguish between Wright on Moyers and Wright at the National Press Club helped me see the difference as well. So have the commenters here. I truly believe the press and the Right would harass Obama on this issue to no end regardless of what Wright said, but I can see how he made it a little easier. Moving on. So, this is the part in the show where all Catholic politicians are asked why they haven't left a church that sanctioned mass child rape right? Or is it the part in the show when Hillary Clinton is dragged before the cameras to explain her association with The Family? My bad, it must be the part of the show where John Hagee gets death threats and McCain is harassed for weeks on end about his choice of a spiritual advisor who is promoting war against Iran because he thinks it will accelerate the Second Coming. Or not. What a farce.

ABC Has Lost Its Cotton-Pickin Mind / What Do We Do? (Update: FCC Reform!)

cross-posted to jack & jill politics "Senator Obama, a guy who you sat next to you on a plane for several hours was recently heard saying that America wears combat boots. We've brought him here tonight. Will you kill him with your bare hands, or do you not love America?" That about sums up the so-called "debate" which was much more freak show than anything resembling a deliberative discussion. Constitutional Hall should be declared a national disaster zone. I may write something more substantive later, but what happened on television last night was a disgrace and a great disservice to the American people and the people of Pennsylvania. I watched from a bar in Philly not far from the debate site and had a mind to walk over there and pull the plug on the entire operation. Utter and complete nonsense it was. To add insult to injury, here's the headline from ABC News' own coverage: Clinton, Obama Find 'Brotherly Love' at Philly Debate Dems Last Chance to Settle Scores Before Pennsylvania Primary Half of the debate. Half was entirely about bullshit the country has already processed and was more than ready to move beyond. I could barely contain myself, and I got even more frustrated when my fellow debate watchers weren't ready to storm the place with me. Thanks for keeping me sane JJP. Here's something from The Onion (YouTube) we can all appreciate:

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

So what can we do? I'm quite tired and have to get up early, but would love to hear your ideas and leads. Is it even worth calling, writing and tying up the lines at ABC? Pressing for non-renewal of their FCC license? Harassing advertisers? Increase coordinated efforts for media reform? Of course I'm bothered by the lack of balance and hate that they slammed Obama as hard as they did, but I'm most deeply offended by the lack of substance! I have a feeling a boycott won't work in a case like this. Folks are likely to move on. I guess I expect very little response from ABC or any MSM outlet. We have to keep doing us, building up our grassroots media and activism and accountability. Share your ideas in the comments, and let's see what folks respond to. Also, what are other blogs and organizations doing? Update @ 10:23 am The NY Times debate tool is very useful in times like these. This was a 90 minute debate. Iraq came up at minute 41. Minute 7 is where they started into Obama over bittergate. That's 34 minutes of bullshit to start the debate off. Of that time, 5 minutes were spent on Hillary's credibility, the remainder on Obama. So 29 minutes on Obama & 5 minutes on Clinton 6-to-1 pile on measured in the most important terms to television: time. Now as for what we can do... Some steam-blowing-off activities:
  • George Stephanopoulos got his Weather Underground question from Sean Hannity. Here's the audio to prove it.
  • Get at ABC News via web form
  • Jam their phones with complaints. 212-456-7777 when you call, if you ask for News, then press 2 then 199 you can leave a message for "Other News"
A constructive activity. VERY IMPORTANT. ABC is but a recent expression of a larger genetic defect in our media system. We've suffered a lower standard, in part, due to the treatment of news as a profit center and massive consolidation. Go to FreePress and Sign The Petition at This will call on Congress to reverse a recent FCC decision to allow further consolidation.

Easy Question: Are PA Voters Actually Offended?

cross-posted to jack and jill politics It's a simple question. All these old, white millionaires on TV are saying Obama made a big mistake. That he chose poor words. That he offended small-town Pennsylvania. How do they know? They all live in Los Angeles and Manhattan. They eat sushi and drink mad lattes. They read the NY Times. None of these commentators owns a gun. I bet most don't go to church. I bet most don't know financial hardship because their town wasn't decimated by the end of the industrial era in this country. It's all bullshit. Almost everything you see on TV is just bullshit. These idiots have big ass microphones and cameras and soapboxes. They are in the top percentile of wage-earners. Yet somehow they know the hearts and minds of a rural voter? It's a complete farce. They waited all of 30 seconds to say his comments were wrong, but they didn't ask any of these allegedly-0ffended voters. They just made it up. They pulled political analysis right out of their buttholes. And yet, their uninformed opinions dominate the news and dominate the discussion. Just look how much time we've spent on this topic, and we're supposed to be new media. Granted, I think we serve a useful purpose in these distraction-debates when we call bullshit. When we counter with information. When we don't simply amplify or get baited (like Hillary) into a meaningless conversation. However, it's not easy. So do I have special insight? Not much, but I have family that's lived in rural PA and post-industrial Michigan. I also think I use my brain more than these TV people. And I still live in the real world. The dangerous part is that if PA voters were not offended before, they might be now because they don't hear the context of Obama's statement (a reaction to a question about what they might face as volunteers going to PA). They only hear "elite" and "out of touch" and "condescending." Thus Obama gets defined beyond his control. If it could happen to Max Cleland, of course it can happen to a half-black dude who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia and graduated from Columbia and Harvard. It's so frightening and certainly not isolated to this candidate or this event. So, can anyone point to actual -- and I know this is crazy -- evidence that rural or post-industrial small town voters would be offended by Obama's comments? If not, then just realize we're all being bamboozled and distracted. Meanwhile, there are food riots in the developing world due.
In the last year, the price of wheat has tripled, corn doubled, and rice almost doubled. As prices soared, food riots have broken out in about 20 poor countries including Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, and Mexico. In response some countries, such as India, Pakistan Egypt and Vietnam, are banning the export of grains and imposing food price controls. Are rising food prices the result of the economic dynamism of China and India, in which newly prosperous consumers are demanding more food—especially more meat? Perennial doomsters such as the Earth Policy Institute's Lester Brown predicted more than a decade ago that China's growing food demand would destabilize global markets and signal a permanent increase in grain prices. But that thesis has so far not been borne out by the facts. China is a net grain exporter. India is also largely self-sufficient in grains. At some time in the future, these countries may become net grain importers, but they are not now and so cannot be blamed to for today's higher food prices. If surging demand is not the problem, what is? In three words: stupid energy policies.
I'll be writing more about energy and food policy later.

Combatting Ignorance: Report From Someone Actually At The Obama San Fran Event

cross-posted to jack and jill politics What would we do if all we had were cable news yappers and Clinton backstabbers to explain what was going on? Read the entire thing. Here's an excerpt:
Imagine my surprise to see an article in the Huffington Post by Mayhill Fowler describing his answer as "a problematic judgment call in trying to explain working class culture to a much wealthier audience." and his answer being like "explaining the yawning cultural gap that separates a Turkeyfoot from a Marin County." I guess Ms. Fowler thought that, unlike herself, the other attendees had never gone outside the large house in Pacific Heights where the event was held. I grew up working class in Texas. I thought it ironic that Ms Fowler, was attempting to paint Obama as a condescending elitist, while at the same time she was stereotyping everybody at the event with her omniscient insight. In any case, her agenda was clear. Despite Ms. Fowler talking about the people at the fundraiser being middle class in an earlier post, the "rich man poor man" theme fit better with the "Obama as a judgmental elite, talking to judgmental elites" spin. This also seemed to fit with some of her earlier articles where she had described Obama as cocky, arrogant, and even "flirty". What a coincidence that she now writes an article putting another twist on Obama's personality. All she had to do was a sneak a recorder in an small event for Obama supporters and do a little bit of crafty writing and out of context editing. Now Fox News and Lou Dobbs are having a field day.
I say again, the people moderating our political discourse are dangerously unqualified and irresponsible. I'm amazed this country still functions at all with the amount of well-financed ignorance that passes for media coverage. Amazed.