Wrap-up: Media Forum at SUNY Old Westbury
“The News L.I. Isn’t Getting, Part 2”
Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
SUNY College at Old Westbury
The diverse and informed panel explored a range of media problems and their causes.
- Greg Palast: Winner of Puffin Award, reporter for BBC, The Guardian (UK), and Rolling Stone Magazine. Author of The Best Democracy That Money Can Buy (book & film), covers voter suppression, 2000 – 2016 elections
- Christopher Twarowski: Editor In Chief, Long Island Press; formerly at the Washington Post
- Rashed Mian: Reporter, Long Island Press; graduated Hofstra University in 2010, majored in journalism. Mian reports on civil liberties and Long Island’s Muslim American community
- Mario Ferone Field Organizer (NH, NV, NC, NY & IN) for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign; youngest candidate to run for NYS Assembly (age 19). Also worked on campaign for Tim Canova campaign (FL). Lifelong Plainview resident with a B.A. in Economics & Political Science from Stony Brook University, and finishing a masters in Public Policy.
- Joseph Manfredi, SUNY Old Westbury Instructor, American Studies, & Station Manager of OWWR (Old Westbury Web Radio)
- Steven Abreu; president of PEL club (Politics, Economics and Law).
Mr. Palast joined the panel via Skype from Los Angeles. We are deeply grateful to all of the participants.
The Constitution regards freedom of the press as vital to democracy. The framers of the Constitution provided substantial subsidies to the press (via cheap postal rates) without regard to political viewpoint, allowing a wide variety of publications to flourish.
In the 1934 Communications Act, FDR granted big media companies free use of the public airwaves in exchange for a) producing comprehensive news programs, b) requiring equal time to both sides of issues, and c) giving candidates free air time. But since then, media corporations have chipped away at their legal responsibilities to inform the public, by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine (1987) and allowing consolidation of media outlets (1996). Today, we find that most news coverage is in the hands of six very large corporations that emphasize profits, and who relegate production of quality news reporting as too expensive and secondary to their interests.
Devotion to the bottom line has resulted in: a) shallow news coverage, b) editorial judgment that’s increasingly constrained by the views of corporate owners, and c) important stories being ignored or unreported. For instance, among those mentioned at the forum were:
- Months before the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, BP had another blowout in the Caspian Sea near Azerbaijan. This was not brought to the attention of US officials.
- Many thousands of voters were removed from the voter rolls in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, based on a list of alleged felons compiled by a private company. The list had a large number of inaccuracies, and the illegitimate removal of voters tipped the balance in favor of George Bush.
- Many tons of radioactive waste was dumped on land owned by Verizon in Hicksville. When the Long Island Press reported the story, Verizon pulled all its ads from the paper.
- John Ridenhour, who as a G.I. in Vietnam gathered information on the My Lai massacre, had great difficulty finding anybody to publish the story or investigate further. The New York Times agreed to look into it only when Ridenhour threatened to read the story on the steps of the Pentagon.
A more subtle problem is the introduction of stories as news which are really intended to promote the viewpoints of advertisers or corporate owners. The public is often unaware that many stories have essentially originated in PR departments.
The Internet offers many news sites that are not controlled by the big six corporations. These can be useful as alternatives to the mainstream news programs and newspapers.