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Bill Moyers on Media's Future

Bill Moyers is headlining the National Conference on Media Reform in Minneapolis, and just gave a powerful pitch for network neutrality and why journalism’s future is key to the future of democracy. There’s a live stream, worth watching.

The conference is a gathering of mostly left-of-center media activists. That’s too bad in a way, because there are plenty of people on the political right who want media reform, too. They may want a different kind, and for different purposes. But there’s enough common ground that it would be valuable to have a more diverse community here.

Back to Moyers: “The press remains in denial of their role,” he accurately says. The big problem is not allowing competing narratives to emerge.

On Iraq, he again approvingly cites my former Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) colleagues who were the singular journalistic heroes in the Iraq war run-up. For the most part, “the Fourth Estate has become a Fifth Column” for the government, he says — a bit over the top but not enormously so, given what we saw during the media’s shabby recent performance.

He speaks powerfully of democracy’s reliance taming the grossest extremes of poverty and wealth, of not allowing the wealthy to control the law and the lawmakers. In this room he’s preaching — and he’s a former preacher, which is evident in his cadences — to a like-minded choir.

“It’s up to you to tell the truth about this country that we love,” he says.

1 Comment on “Bill Moyers on Media's Future”

  1. #1 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jun 9th, 2008 at 12:56 am

    I’m not sure if there is common ground to be found. We should pursue transparency, indeed. But many of the left-of-center media critics found fault with the media being *too* combative during the Clinton administration. From September 2002 to May 2004, it was seen as not combative enough. I just suspect that a *lot* of media criticism (but not all) is based on the circumstances of the day.

    I was looking for the transcript of Bill Moyers’s speech. I found Dan Rather’s from the same conference. It starts promisingly: “And when you hear me criticize and critique the press, please know that I do not exempt myself from these criticisms.”

    Well, let’s see if he delivers the goods:

    I only found out years after the fact, for example, about the pressure that the Nixon White House put on my then-bosses, during Watergate — pressure to cut down my pieces, to call me off the story, and so on… because, back then, my bosses took the heat, so I didn’t have to.

    Whoa. With the allegations from Jessica Yellin and Katie Couric about news execs pressuring reporters, perhaps Rather could shed some light on his personal experience in the last decade? He can’t even name names of whom those executives were? Not even a comment that he couldn’t comment because of the (self-serving) lawsuit he filed against CBS and Viacom? There’s nothing in this talk even remotely approaching a mea culpa like this: “Well, as you know, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, and I watched the tapes of myself during those 6 months leading to war.” Nothing to say whether he had come across Landay and Strobel in that time.

    Whatever. Journalism’s Bg Feet have a right to mail in their speeches. But nobody notices this; nobody wants to crack the unified front of media criticism. Greg Mitchell, writing in E&P, stenographs it in.