The News

there's more to it than meets the TV eye

Do you sometimes feel like every newspaper, radio station, and TV news anchor is reciting the same story at you, with only slightly different words? Now that a handful of giant corporations own almost all the conventional news media in the G7 nations, that feeling may not be so far from reality. The first function of most US media today is to connect advertisers with consumers; information unrelated to purchasing decisions is a secondary priority. "Corporatization" of newspapers and audio/video media has resulted in a harsh reduction in the number of working reporters and a shrinking of the range of topics and viewpoints covered.

A good introduction to this important problem of our time is found in Derrick Jensen's interview of Robert McChesney for The Sun magazine.

The narrow spectrum of opinion, high percentage of canned PR pieces, and low quality of international reporting in US major media are now notorious. People in other countries with a less censored and constrained press think of Americans as underinformed ("oddly parochial," as one European analyst put it). The US press does not bother to cover stories which are headline news in the rest of the world. It also writes and publishes increasingly from the viewpoint of the Executive Suite. No wonder it all starts to sound the same after a while.

One might fear that we're lurching backwards in time, that Americans today will soon be like Russians under Stalin, given only one official news source (the immortal Pravda) and expected to swallow uncritically everything it says. But that was before the Web. Online, analysis and opinion can be published with far less capital investment; in other words, people who aren't rich can have their say. There's a lot more variety: topics can be explored even if they don't suit the public relations agenda of the parent corporation or its advertisers. Online information is dynamic and mobile. It's much harder to burn down a web site than a newspaper office :-)

Freedom of information and opinion is the cornerstone of every other freedom. An informed, educated, and critical electorate is the only thing that makes democracy work better than any other method of government. A stupid, propagandized, and irrational electorate is the preferred launch pad of modern men-who-would-be-kings. Therefore it's in our best interest both as individuals and as a society to inform ourselves -- to read multiple viewpoints, to get as close as we can to original sources rather than 2nd or 3rd hand gossip, and to become sophisticated enough readers and thinkers that we can detect bias and the fingerprints of the spin doctors.

Places to read Independent Opinions: online op/eds and investigative reporting

Common Dreams
progressive and peace-oriented compilation of national and international news articles.
investigative reporting, war coverage, political analysis.
AlterNet reprints articles and provides original articles on foreign policy, environment, electoral politics.
In These Times
international news from a labour/democratic perspective
Open Democracy
"thinking for our time" -- political analysis, news, op/eds.
Tom Paine
political analysis and commentary of a populist flavour, often incisive.
Sam Smith's Progressive Review
maverick journalist Sam Smith, writing from the Beltway and packing a punch
Yellow Times
international coverage, often from correspondents in other countries. Critique of US foreign policy and "globaloney".
run by Cockburn and St Clair; much of the content is for my taste too testosterone-fuelled. but there are occasionally excellent articles.
Bitter Lemons
Israelis and Palestinians in their own words.
subtitle: "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters." How much the tech-world topics really matter in the global sense is debatable, but slashdot offers a frank and full exchange of views on issues related to information, internet access, and computing technology. Good source for the latest excesses of the intellectual-property lawyers.
Anti War
If you're tired of the relentless media sales pitch for the latest war, check out this compilation of opeds and essays, hosted by a conservative (yes, a conservative) publisher.
The Onion
The Onion is strictly satirical, sometimes hilarious.


The UC Regents disagree with me on almost every subject. Never assume that anything I say reflects anything that they, or any other members of the UC administrative caste, think or feel. Their lawyers made me say this :-)
De Clarke
UCO/Lick Observatory
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Tel: +1 408 459 2630
Fax: +1 408 454 9863