Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Sunday, April 18, 2004

TV: Prime Time for Democracy?

Synchronicity... I was preoccupied with tax deadlines when True Majority sent a petition campaign alert earlier this week that I only glanced at, but vaguely recalled having something to do with telling the FCC broadcasters should be forced to provide more TV time for public issues. Then today this popped up in Howard Rheingold's SmartMobs weblog:

A serious failure of journalism.

... A research team led by John McManus at Stanford University watched every story in the most watched evening newscasts of the four most popular SF Bay Area stations and confirmed what everybody knows: informing people about what they need to know to remain free citizens of a democracy is no longer on the agenda of mainstream electronic journalism. The NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates devoted an average of one minute or less on the most watched evening newscasts to the candidates' positions and merits of ballot measures -- three weeks and one week before the last election.

McManus, who directs Grade The News went to the heart of the matter in an Op-Ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 2004. Mcmanus noted that "Unlike newspapers, television stations are licensed to use public property -- the airwaves -- in return for public service. Because they are given broadcast spectrums that others, such as phone companies, must pay for, television stations receive a substantial public subsidy. They owe us. Unlike newspapers, television stations earn a great deal of money from political advertising. Just during the newscasts we analyzed, KRON, KGO and KPIX aired 189 political advertising "spots."[ Smart Mobs]

That sent me back looking for the TrueMajority e-mail. Here's a piece of the message:

What broadcasters have forgotten is that they're broadcasting for free over publicly owned airwaves. It's a broadcast spectrum that's worth tens of billions of dollars. And they're getting to use it for free, courtesy of you and me, the American taxpayers. It's time we got something in return.

If you want to send the FCC a fax through TrueMajority, click that link for the sample text. If you'd like to learn more, visit or go to (Note: the Media for Democracy server was not responding this evening. If need be, use Google's cache to see the last version of the site.)

11:15:47 PM    

Bloggercon Aftermath

The Bloggercon II conference at Harvard on Saturday was a full day of real-world encounters among people who usually meet only online.

I'll be weeks catching up with the blogs and webcast recordings of sessions I didn't attend and writing an essay about things I didn't get around to saying in person. For now, I'll just paste a few links from my RSS aggregator to jog my memory.

Fortunately, Dan Gillmor already points to Tara's link list of folks who wrote about sessions and a Feedster listing for the event.

My main contribution was unearthing an Internet Relay Chat program I'd forgotten that I installed on my iBook a year ago, just in time to contribute it to the virtual-community-building effort, allowing Dowbrigade to contribute to one of the sessions from afar. He and his BloggerConI sessions for beginners were greatly missed.

I did attend excellent sessions with Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Rebecca McKinnon, J. Baumgart, John Perry Barlow and Dave Winer, as well as catching up with Vin Crosbie and Chris Lydon between meetings. I met Stephen Waters, who I've corresponded with about blog-journalism issues, and Dick Bell, who runs the John Kerry campaign blog, and saw Dan Bricklin walk by with his camera, so I know where to go to browse his pictures from the event.

Barlow's session about emotional life on weblogs, along some lunchtime conversation about, has me re-thinking my own writing (online and off, for money and not), which has an effect that's a bit like looking at your feet while riding a bicycle. Re-balancing may take some doing.

(The "looking at your feet" bit is a metaphor I read somewhere earlier today in some entirely different context. I can't remember where. More information overload. More need for re-balancing.)

4:40:37 PM    

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