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  • Sunday, May 01, 2005


    Our Dumb Media

    I really enjoyed Making Connections: Why is the news so bad? What can progressives do to fix it? in the recent issue of In These Times. It's a shame the graphics for the article are in a pdf because they give a good sense of the networks and funding of conservative media and think tanks. As opposed to the amazingly redundant echoes and talking points of the far right, this quote talks about how progressives put out their messages.

    In contrast to conservatives, progressives have done little to internally define “who we are,” “what values we stand for” and “what we want.” Lacking an agreed upon framework, progressives spread singular messages, resulting in a cacophony rather than an outline of a progressive agenda.[...]

    The challenge for progressives is to create narratives that express progressive values. Progressives must develop the strength of speaking with a unified voice, one that communicates our fundamental beliefs while still drawing on the diversity of perspectives integral to progressive principles.

    Currently, the progressive media network is missing both a coordinated messaging system and a self-sustaining network that can funnel ideas from the grassroots, progressive think tanks and the independent media into the mainstream media where national conversations take place.

    In a 2002 report on progressive think tanks for the Open Society Institute, David Dyssegaard Kallick wrote, “What is lacking is not sharp individuals with creative ideas. … What is missing is an institutional infrastructure that brings these people together with each other and with people who understand practical politics, media and organizing.”

    For decades, liberal foundations and individual donors have failed to recognize the need for building long-term capacity in progressive media and affiliated organizations, and thereby create a progressive “echo chamber” that can begin to counter the right’s media machine. Progressive foundations, with their roots in the reform movements of the early 20th century, have focused on funding social work and single-issue groups.

    As a result, the progressive media network has evolved in an ad hoc, organic basis in contrast to the conservative media machine’s coordinated infrastructure. Progressive media is built by unconnected individuals who have in common the belief that the progressive agenda needs a voice of its own. When liberal foundations do provide media grants, they shy away from overtly political media projects, and instead direct millions toward federally supported public media, such as the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio, or to individual documentary film projects that might be shown on PBS.

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