|Don't Take the Internet for Granted
Posted June 9, 2008 | 11:12 AM (EST)
Hearing and seeing Bill Moyers, Arianna Huffington, Naomi Klein, and Dan Rather--and a host of independent journalists and techies--all gathered under one roof at last weekend's National Conference for Media Reform (in Minneapolis) was soul refreshment for this 20+ year journalist. So why was I crying?
Because at last for a few moments, I could relax the vigilance that keeps me writing and fighting, and shed a few tears for the lost honor of my profession--and for the crumbling integrity of our democracy, knowing that as I wept that other fearless journalists still held the banner high.
Among these 3,500 peers and colleagues, I realized with relief that I'd found an oasis here in the self-created American desert of complacency. Was it a mirage? Can it be real? Will I dare to hope that truth-seeking will prevail in journalism and that core human concerns may triumph over greed to rule our society? Is this oasis--the internet and sites like this one--safe from tampering by the power brokers?
The last eight years have been an object lesson in the critical need for an independent press--and the terrifying fragility of democracy and freedom without one.
The Huffington Post and other internet forums like it are oases--the safe communities where we can gather, exchange, find out, and act. Don't take them for granted.
Having trekked the worlds of mainstream media, public television, and commercial publishing in my work as a writer, producer, and journalist, I've seen first hand how in the media, as in politics, the environment, health care, energy production, agriculture, and trade, the drive to unbridled gain will over-ride every other human value, if through denial, complacency, or inaction, we allow that. If you come here to read, write, or comment, whether you are left, right, or whatever, you are taking part in something rare and precious: it's called a Second Chance.
Don't take it for granted.
That's why maintaining internet freedom is not just the concern of journalists like me, but of anyone who values these kinds of forums.
Fourteen years ago, when I left CBS News, I turned off my cable service and (like Rip van Winkle) missed a lot of changes in television.
When I reconnected to television eleven years later, a lot had happened:
• the news magazine shows went away
• the evening news went to soft soap and entertainment
• foreign bureaus and investigative journalism succumbed to budget cuts
• pharmaceutical ads came in
Back on the tube, I noticed that the most prevalent evening programming is the show, Law & Order, with its message that tough cops get criminals, with or without the rule of law. Meanwhile, more and more people are numbing their feelings and taking anti-depressants.
When you haven't watched this happen incrementally but have seen it all in one fell swoop, you really question: Is this the stuff of democracy--or something else?
So don't be Rip van Winkle. Don't take a nap and wake up one day to discover that that ad-based/branding/celebrity-driven homogenization has overtaken the internet while you were sleeping.
And please note: this is not a journalistic piece. It's an appeal from the heart--even a prayer. Imagine that each and every one of us decided to protect this community (and all the other internet gatherings we share) by "turning on the alarm" to safeguard our Second Chance.
How? By signing up for actions protecting internet freedom at Free Press (at www.freepress.net). They are the conference sponsors--and though I never met them before this last weekend, as both a citizen and a journalist, I'm grateful for what they are doing for all of us. Let's not take it for granted. PS: On the site, you can also watch streaming video of Arianna and Bill Moyers at the conference. Even if they don't move you to tears, I hope they will move you to action.