Prof. Jeff Cohen Interview

During his visit to the Huntington Cinema Arts Centre on June 14, 2017, Prof. Cohen was interviewed by Janine Melillo of the Long Island Media Task Force. He gave advice for how the Task Force can be more effective in bringing its message to the public.

Here are some brief notes:

Notes – LIMTF Interview with Jeff Cohen , June 13, 2017

( “J:” to indicate Janine’s question/ comments; otherwise text is Jeff Cohen.)

 

Opening question about how hard it is to get an environmental story produced on ABC News – Victor Neufield, head of news division – his wife is a spokesperson for the nuclear power industry. Spousal relationships need to be “correct”, e.g. wouldn’t be acceptable if spouse worked for Greenpeace.

Refers to 2013 book: This Town (Washington DC) by Mark Leibovich about the power culture.

J: We are seen as a satellite to NYC; we don’t get L.I.-centered news

So many places are lacking local news like this; it’s very common. Cannot have local democracy w/o local media. In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville was impressed to note that Americans were reading newspapers of all sorts. But now half a dozen corporations control everything. Democracy needs many viewpoints, accountability of officials. The US falls flat in both departments. Independent media is rising, but mainstream media is crashing because advertisers no longer need newspaper ads. Says there’s an independent local online newspaper. L.I. Business news? Or theislandnow.com?

J: How do we get the most effectiveness from our efforts?

You’re doing great stuff. That’s important. Do what you can. Key thing: affiliate with journalism departments, students, to encourage more local news. Approach professors about collaboration about news. Local county and municipal governments need to be reported on.

J: Project Censored’s Christopher Oscar said that students produce a video for each story in Sonoma State University’s annual book “The 25 Most Censored Stories.”

Spread the word that there are alternatives to mainstream media. Let people know about alternatives: Democracy Now (Amy Goodman); Common dreams; truthdig. Jeff recalls underground newspapers in the good old days, e.g. Ramparts, but now there are many more independent journalists and online news outlets. This is a good time for independent media. Trump trying to end net neutrality; the corporations will be able to discriminate. Ajit Pai (Verizon attorney who now heads the FCC) wants to end neutrality. This is a freedom of the press issue, the biggest battle we face just now. Use militant non-violent demonstrations.

J: What about the ‘Net Neutrality July 12 Day of Action’?

Great. Talk it up. Freepress.net, the organizer of the Day of Action, was founded by R. McChesney (also author of “The Problem of the Media”)

J: How do you start telling people about media literacy?

Must start in the high-schools. Get young people involved: commercials, TV programs, then news. Failure of education. School boards are open to it. Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly” documentary; discusses women in ads, gender stereotyping.

J: Then you start questioning other things.

 

Summary of Professor Cohen’s advice to LIMTF:

  1. Spread the word about Independent Media (like the list on LIMTF’s website). He said to hand that list out everywhere, at supermarkets and flea markets. He also suggested we tell people to try watching “Democracy Now” a few times a week for a month, and see if their opinion of mainstream news starts to change.
  2. Be really active about Net Neutrality. For example, there’s the July 12 Internet-Wide Day of Action (link of our site). He said to mount protests at local government buildings.
  3. He said that our group should generate new content weekly on our website and on social media.
  4. And the best way to get the manpower to do that is to reach out to college journalism programs. They have the energy. (A group member suggested that we sponsor internships, for them to post our events and media news. And even produce video & audio podcasts.)
  5. Bring media literacy to young people. ‘Project Look Sharp’ media literacy at Ithaca College for high schools: https://www.projectlooksharp.org/