UCC?s Parker lecturer: ?We need an unfettered, unembedded media? Written by J. Bennett Guess Wednesday, 13 September 2006
"The media in this country has reached an all-time low." That?s the blunt assessment of journalist Amy Goodman, who delivered the UCC?s 24th annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12.
"Instead of a media that covers for power, we need a media that covers power," said Goodman, syndicated columnist and host of the Pacifica-network radio and TV program Democracy Now! "? Reporting from the victim?s perspective ? not being ?spun? ? we see it so rarely in this country."
In a hard-hitting address that repeatedly questioned the motives of conglomerate-owned, profits-centered media companies, Goodman said that, after Hurricane Katrina, the American people got a short-lived glimpse of what an independent, victims-focused media might look like, despite objections from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency that insisted that reporters not show images of drowned bodies floating in a flooded, neglected New Orleans.
"This nation saw people suffering and they were horrified," she said. "If only we saw these images from Iraq, [of] the reality of war."
Using the war in Iraq as her oft-repeated example, Goodman said "embedded" journalism relies on what reporters? sources tell them, not on what reporters see, experience and discover for themselves.
"Increasingly, what do we get? ? Static," she said.
In Iraq, unlike the immediate days that followed last year?s Katrina disaster, the stories of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens are not given adequate voice. Therefore, most Americans have little reason to identify with the suffering or incentive to demand change.
"When you hear someone speaking from their own experience ? you can not help but identify," Goodman said. "?That?s my boy, my mother, my aunt.?"
Moreover, Goodman said, instead of reporting the truth from Iraq, the U.S. government is paying to plant false stories in Iraqi newspapers about alleged successes there ? Goodman and others have claimed ? in order to bolster the war?s image back home. It?s a practice that?s illegal in the United States, she said, but not in Iraq.
"But if you can plant it over there and it blows back here, it?s the next best thing," she said.
The UCC?s Parker Lecture, which annually examines the technological disparity that exists between wealthy, white communities and those living in poorer, underserved communities, is co-sponsored with the Washington, D.C.-based Telecommunications Research and Action Center. It is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications and the digital age from an ethical perspective.
Named for the legendary UCC pastor, the Rev. Everett C. Parker, 93, who led the UCC?s historic campaign in the 1950s and 1960s to make the Federal Communications Commission hold its license awardees accountable to the communities they serve, the annual event draws about 200 media advocates, telecommunications industry executives, clergy and lay leaders.
Despite living in a digital, high-tech age, Goodman emphasized, we are increasingly seeing the media used as "the force of state" and not as the public?s vehicle to "force the state."
"We need an unfettered, unembedded media," she said. "We have to take it back. ? We need an honest media. We need an independent media."
Citing the experience of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier, Casey Sheehan, killed in Iraq, Goodman said many reporters asked Sheehan why she waited so long to speak out in opposition to the war.
"Cindy had been talking for a long time," Goodman said, "to a media that would not listen."
Goodman, who is in the midst of an 80-city promotional tour for her new book "Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back," also spoke later on Sept. 12 at People Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C. She also is scheduled to give an address on Sept. 14 at First Congregational UCC in Oakland, Calif.
Funded entirely through contributions from listeners, viewers, broadcasting stations and foundations, Goodman?s "Democracy Now!" describes itself as maintaining "editorial independence, providing a counterweight to media consolidation."
Goodman?s reporting on East Timor and Nigeria has won numerous awards, including the George Polk Award, Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, and the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award. She also has received awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Project Censored.
Also, at the Parker Lecture, awards were presented to:
Katherine Grincewich, Associate General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recipient of the Parker Award. The award is given in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications.
Randall Pinkston, CBS News, recipient of the Donald H. McGannon Award. The McGannon Award is given in recognition of special contributions in advancing the roles of women and persons of color in the media.
Ken McEldowney, Executive Director of Consumer Action, recipient of the Consumer Education Leadership Award. This award is given in recognition of efforts to educate and enable consumers to use technology as a toll of empowerment.
The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc. (OC, Inc.) was established in 1959. Throughout its history, OC, Inc. has advocated for persons historically excluded from the media, especially women and people of color; petitioned the FCC to issue EEO rules; sought to guarantee educational and informational children?s programming; defended the Equal Time Rule for political candidates; supported efforts to establish low-power FM radio; protected affordable access to emerging technologies; and urged strengthening of basic corporate character requirements for those who transmit images and data.