MEDIAlternative by Kevin Howley


June 25, 2011

There’s plenty of news these days -- gas prices are down, the Republican presidential field is shaping up, and U.S. troops will soon be leaving Afghanistan. But despite all the political and media spin to the contrary, there’s not much good news in any of this.

While we can all breathe a little easier now that Anthony Weiner has lost his texting privileges, every silver lining has a dark cloud. Here are a few stories behind the news stories making headlines this summer.


February 4, 2011

Feb. 6, 2011, marks the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan. The following is an excerpt taken from an essay titled Always Famous: Or, the Electoral Half-life of Ronald Reagan that considered Reagan’s legacy following his state funeral in June 2004. -- kh

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What are we to make of Ronald Reagan’s fame and its implications for America? To begin with, we must acknowledge Reagan’s enduring influence on modern electoral politics. Clearly, Reagan’s “citizen politician” was a media construct -- the masterful orchestration of ideological content across the institutional structures of news, public relations and marketing.

While some may suggest that Reagan’s success was an anomaly, a historical aberration, a host of politicians and not a few celebrities -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Barack Obama among them -- emulate Reagan’s style and employ the media management strategies he pioneered.


December 25, 2010

File this one under: “You can’t make this stuff up.”

According to Greg Miller at the Washington Post: “The Central intelligence Agency (CIA) has launched a task force to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of US diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks. Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: WTF.”


July 10, 2010

Here's a news item that caught my eye last week: National Public Radio is changing its name to NPR.

Of course, with economic calamity devastating communities from Maine to California, environmental catastrophe in the Gulf and grinding occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, public radio's decision to re-brand itself is strictly small potatoes.

Still, I can't help thinking that NPR's re-branding efforts are one more indication that the public is being squeezed out of public radio.


June 26, 2010

For all of our concern with safety and security -- in our homes, at the airport, and on the border -- our way of life is threatened as never before.

According to national security experts, the threat comes from Islamic extremists, and, to a lesser extent, popular democratic movements in Latin America. For the Tea Party movement, Big Government threatens traditional American values and individual liberties. White supremacist and anti-immigration groups perceive undocumented workers from south of the border as threats to American national identity and culture. Meanwhile, U.S. business interests point to labor and environmental regulations that threaten our competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

And that's just the short list -- the one that plays out on a regular basis in the American news media.


June 12, 2010

In recent weeks, a handful of seemingly unrelated events -- the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, an Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, umpire Jim Joyce's blown call that cost Detroit Tiger's pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game and reporter Helen Thomas's abrupt retirement from the White House press corps over her controversial remarks on Israel-Palestine -- offer valuable lessons about taking responsibility for one's actions.

Call it an index of accountability.

Despite conflicting reports over the amount of oil that is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, there is no doubt this is the worst oil spill in U.S. history. To date, BP's efforts to control the leak have failed. And while the extent of the environmental damage is difficult to assess at this time, it is clear that the Gulf's ecosystem is in crisis -- and likely will be so for years to come.


May 29, 2010

The end of the school year is always a bit hectic: meeting with students, reviewing assignments, tallying final grades and attending commencement ceremonies. Then there's all the head scratching that comes with the feckless decisions university administrators tend to make at this time of year. It all makes it difficult to keep up with the news and current events.

Now, with the semester's work behind me and a busy summer ahead, it's as good a time as any to catch up with the headlines and see what is -- and isn't -- making news of late.

From the Middle East to the Gulf to the Internet to the Tea Party.


May 1, 2010

Editor's Note: On Friday April 30, 2010, veteran journalist Bill Moyers, host of the PBS public affairs series Bill Moyers Journal, retired from broadcasting at the age of 75.

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Dear Bill,

Like a lot of people across the country who are troubled by the crisis of journalism, I have mixed feelings about your retirement from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

On one hand, I have grave misgivings about the future of investigative journalism and current affairs programming on public television. Despite assurances from PBS executives to the contrary, I fear that in your absence journalistic standards on U.S. public television will decline precipitously.

On the other hand, I appreciate your desire to take a break from the demands of a weekly public affairs program. You have been a fixture on public television for as long as I can remember, and you deserve some time for yourself.


April 17, 2010

On April 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have the authority to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or controlling Internet traffic.

National media outlets reported the story in a timely and accurate fashion. The court decision was described as a victory for Comcast and other ISPs -- and a blow to advocates of "net neutrality" -- the long-standing principle of Internet regulation that ensures web users equal access to all Web sites.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been much follow-up on this decision. Nor have the consequences of the court's ruling received press coverage or analysis. Instead, Tiger Woods' appearance at the Masters Golf Tournament and the roll out of Apple's i-Pad dominated the week's news cycle.


April 3, 2010

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. to deliver the keynote address at EIU's 35th annual Communication Day event. Throughout the day, I spoke with students and faculty about my research and, more specifically, how I make use of alternative media in my teaching.

Throughout the presentation, I used examples of alternative media, from short clips featuring Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, to the work of self-styled video activist Ava Lowery. I wrapped up my discussion about alternative media in the classroom with a public service announcement (PSA) about the detrimental effects of radio payola on creative expression and public culture. Students from DePauw University produced this PSA a few years back.

During the Q&A session, EIU students asked some thoughtful questions about the current state of journalism and what, if anything, could be done to improve journalistic performance.

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