Friday, November 04, 2005

Saving an Independent News Media

There’s one possible victory and one impending defeat in the battle for a free and independent news media in this country. Kenneth Tomlinson, who has been attempting to force right wing bias on NPR and PBS shows, has been forced out of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While this will end Tomlinson’s harassment of broadcasters, and hopefully his policy of bringing in right wing commentators, the Washington Post warns that this may be more symbolic:

Despite his departure, the CPB remains firmly controlled by conservatives. Tomlinson’s successor as chairman, Cheryl F. Halpern, is a longtime contributor to Republicans, including President Bush and Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.). Its vice chairman, Gay Hart Gaines, another Republican contributor, was a founder and former chairman of GOPAC, a powerful GOP fundraising group.

While Tomlinson’s departure might help curb the conservative attacks on PBS, another source of excellent journalism, Knight Ridder, is in danger of being taken over by conservatives. A Knight Ridder reporter wrote about this danger earlier this week at Editor and Publisher. It would be a shame to lose Knight Ridder. Will Bunch warns:

This is probably very bad news, for a couple of reasons. And even if you’re one of the many people who thinks that newspapers are dinosaurs and believe it doesn’t matter whether they live or die, you should pay attention to this.

No. 1: Are you concerned about pro-GOP Big Business taking over America’s media business? Then you should be concerned about this deal.

My initial research shows that top executives of Private Capital Management donated $112,000 in late 2003 and early 2004 to help President Bush and Dick Cheney get re-elected. On Nov. 6 and 7, 2003, in what would appear to be a coordinated effort, six PCM executives each gave the maximum of $2,000 to Bush-Cheney ‘04.

Then on the same day, April 8, 2004, the head of PCM, Bruce Sherman, and company executive Gregg Powers gave $50,000 each, or $100,000 total, to the Republican National Committee. Company executives gave no money to Democrats during the 2003-04 cycle, according to the Political Money Line database.

Say what you will about Knight Ridder’s business practices, but when it comes to journalism, they do a remarkably good job of getting out of the way. Thus, the liberal editorial voice of the Daily News and the Inquirer, and the amazing work by Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, which was one of the few media voices casting doubt in 2002 and 2003 on whether Iraq had WMD and posed a threat to America.


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