Naomi Klein, in her book, The Shock Doctrine, told how the global banking system took advantage of crises, and sometimes created crises, in order to force national leaders to accept policies against their will. This seems to be what is going on in Ukraine.
Ukraine has beem in gave financial difficulties. Last fall the International Monetary Fund offered Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich a bailout, under conditions that reportedly included a doubling of prices for gas and electricity to industry and homes, the lifting of a ban on private sale of Ukraine’s rich agricultural lands, a sale of state assets, a devaluation of the currency and cuts in funding for schools and pensions to balance the budget. In return, Ukraine would have got a $4 billion loan, a small fraction of what was needed.
Then the Russian Federation offered a $15 billion loan and a 30 percent cut in gas export prices. Naturally Prime Minister Yanukovich accepted. Then all hell broke loose.
A mysterious sniper killed peaceful demonstrators in Maidan square in Kiev and, as has happened with mysterious sniper attacks in Venezuela, Thailand and other countries, the killings sparked a violent uprising.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in a leaked telephone conversation with the Ukraine ambassador that “we” want the former banker, Arseny Yatsenyuk, installed at Yanukovich’s replacement, rather than some more popular politician. And that’s what happened.
Yatsenyuk said he will do whatever it takes to get IMF financing, even though this probably will make him the most unpopular prime minister in Ukraine history. He in fact has little choice. The Russian offer has understandably been withdrawn, and Ukraine is in a much more desperate plight than it was six months ago.
Elections are scheduled for May, but that’s plenty of time for Ukraine to be locked into binding commitments to the IMF.
Ukraine is a country rich in natural resources but poor in money — an inviting target for financial speculators. Based on what has happened in other countries in like situations, I look for Ukraine’s resources and assets to be sold off at bargain prices.
I don’t see what business a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State has trying to name the head of a foreign government, or how this in any way benefits the American people. It seems to be an example of the workings of Wall Street as a component of Michael Lofgren’s deep state.
The shock doctrine
Washington’s Man Yatsenyuk Setting Ukraine Up for Ruin by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.
The Rape of Ukraine: Phase Two Begins by F. William Engdahl for World News Daily Information Clearing House.
Ukraine Premier States ‘Kamikazi’ Mission As Crimea Erupts by Bloomberg News.
The mysterious snipers
Snipers Are Commonly Used As “False Flag” Terrorists by Washington’s Blog.
Ukraine: Ashton Phonecall on Maidan Snipers by Moon of Alabama.
Everyone Agrees Sniper Attack Was False Flag Operation by Washington’s Blog. [added 3/15/14}
Ukraine's right wingers
Who Are the Protesters in Ukraine? by political scientists Keith Darden and Lucan Way. [Added 3/15/14]
Front and Center in Ukraine Race, a Leader of the Far Right by Andrew Kramer for the New York Times. [added 3/15/14]
After Ukraine protest, radical group eyes power by Maria Danilova for the Associated Press. [added 3/15/14]
I think governments should repay their debts, just as individuals do, and I think the Ukraine needs to get its house in order. But I don’t think debt repayment is the supreme obligation that supersedes all other obligations.
I think two parties are responsible for an un-repayable loan, the borrower and the lender, and the consequences of the bad decision should fall on both. I think borrowers are morally obligated to make a good-faith effort to pay back loans, but that obligation falls short of selling themselves and their dependents into the equivalence of indentured servitude.
When a government is in the position of Ukraine or Greece, it should be able to freeze its debts and pay off the principal, rather than trying to keep up with compound interest by reducing its population to misery and selling off national assets to speculators at bargain prices.
I recognize that there are other political issues in Ukraine besides foreign debt, including governmental corruption, ethnic divisions and relations with the Russian Federation and European Union, and I don’t claim to understand them all. And I think these other issues might have been worked out by the Ukrainian people if let alone to decide for themselves.
On February 1st, 2014, the “Struggling to Win: Anarchists Building Popular Power” nationwide speaking tour came to Rochester. The tour was organized by the Black Rose Anarchist Federation and will ultimately stop in 25 cities around the United States. Watch the video of their stop in Rochester here!
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for New York governor, addressed a crowd at the Flying Squirrel Community Space on April 10. Topics included environmental and energy issues, education, labor, minimum wage and health care.
“The current program of public austerity and tax cuts for the wealthy is not working.” Since 1994, New York has given over $7 billion to selected companies. Those companies have cut 175,000 jobs. Some of those jobs have been moved to nearby Ontario, Canada because it is less expensive for employers to pay their slightly higher taxes than to pay for private insurance in New York.
The party supports single-payer health care, progressive taxation, a tax on financial transactions, and renewable energy including a ban on fracking.
RocSubway was informed over the weekend by two separate and anonymous sources that a new independent grocer may be coming to downtown Rochester in 2014. Admittedly, this may be unsubstantiated and premature. But these sources have been very reliable in the past. And if true, this would be wildly good news for downtown.
And what the hell, this is a blog, not the Associate Press. I think I have the right to circulate some juicy gossip once in a while…
So here’s what I know. The building at 10 Winthrop Street , previously Craig Autometrics (behind The Little Theatre), has been sold. My sources indicate the buyer (or buyers) are city residents who want to open small neighborhood grocery store. Burch Craig, the previous owner, confirmed all but the part about the grocery store. He’s staying tight-lipped, saying only that the new owners will announce their plans in the new year.
The Little Theatre’s cafe is actually within the Winthrop Street building. And perhaps coincidentally, The Little Cafe has booked no bands for next year. This was confirmed by one local band that has regularly played at The Little for years. So then I wondered if The Little might be losing their cafe space. But the cafe manager tells me this isn’t the case.
So we’ll just have to wait and see.
This all comes on the heels of news earlier this month that Top’s “Friendly Markets” wants to be the first supermarket downtown.
And we all remember the toilet paper guy who pleaded with downtown planners for more small retailers/grocers downtown. Well, 2014 may finally be the year downtown gets some toilet paper.
UPDATE: The rumor turned out to be true…
It’s Harts Local Grocers coming May 2014.
This post is by K.
People, let’s be frank. We all have complicated relationships with our bodies. Oh, yeah, we do. This couldn’t be more true for W and me. We have both struggled with body image for…most of our lives. We are both fat people. We both have been fat for most of our lives, except for little periods of time when we dieted heavily or were really stressed out and unhealthy. I can only imagine I’ll have even more feelings about my body after pregnancy (assuming our plans go off as we hope).
(EDIT: I have personally gone back and forth between what is considered “average size” and plus size, but I have felt fat my whole life and I’ve been “overweight” compared to the little doctors’ charts my whole life. It is only recently that I’ve claimed fat as a positive and affirming identity, but I’ve benefited from average size privilege in the past, even if I had crappy self-esteem. There are people that have suffered much harsher and crueler fatphobia than me and I totally get that.)
As an adult, I have made it my goal to love my bod the way it is, to really love myself, not in spite of my size, but inclusive of my size. I have stopped saying things like, “Oh, I’m so fat,” or “Dude, I really need to lose 10 pounds,” to myself. I’ve stopped saying things like, “Wow, have you lost weight?” and “You’re so skinny!” to other people. I tell myself that I look fabulous. I look at my body with and without clothes on and think positive things about myself. I buy clothes that look and feel great. When something doesn’t fit my body, I blame the garment, not my body. I accept that my body is changing as I get older and I try to beat those negative messages out of my head when they pop up. They do pop up. Of course they do. I’ve spent a quarter of a century learning the negative messages, crying over bathing suit shopping, telling myself that I’d be more attractive/desirable/healthy if I was # pounds lighter. And I’ve just spent the past few years unlearning it all.
It’s not easy to embrace size acceptance, fat-positivity, body love, whatever you want to call it. We don’t see much body diversity in the media. We see a LOT of negative messages about our bodies all over the place. For those of us female assigned at birth and raised as girls, we know this experience well. We probably saw women in our life model this self-loathing behavior. For those who grew up to be pre-teen and teen girls, we internalized this message hard. By the time we were hitting puberty, we knew to be ashamed of and angry at our bodies, to be jealous of stereotypically hot girls, to always be on a diet, to hate ourselves.
For those who grew up to be pre-teen or teen boys or who did not identify strongly as female or who were gender non-conforming or just didn’t feel comfortable for whatever reason, this body hate was likely even more intense and confusing. And the reaction may have been to hide under baggy clothes, to be jealous of girls who were able to better fit in, or be jealous of stereotypically hot cisgender guys, to always be obsessing about covering up our bodies, to hate ourselves.
For those who were male assigned at birth and raised as boys, you picked up on some of this, too. Body image issues disproportionately affect young women, but they affect men, too. Especially queer, bi, or gay men. According to a 2007 International Journal of Eating Disorders study, more than 15% of gay and bi men at some time suffered anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder, or at least certain symptoms of those disorders, compared with less than 5% of heterosexual men.
So regardless of gender, many people can relate to this feeling of self-loathing, of actively hating your body.
Of course, now that we can look back on our youth with clearer vision, we realize that everyone hated themselves, including the stereotypically hot guys and girls, the popular ones. This stuff runs deep and it is toxic.
These are the reasons I never wanted to have a kid. I don’t want to expose a lovely innocent little kid to this world that is so full of negative messages and bad stuff. There’s so much bad stuff out there. I’d rather spend my time fighting it.
According to a 2011 national study, the median age of onset for eating disorder diagnoses is 12- to 13-years old. The majority of adolescents with eating disorders express significant impairment (inability to cope) and a higher risk of suicide. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls, ages 6-12, are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.
Need more proof? Here’s some stats from the National Eating Disorders Association. Be aware that eating disorders have been on the rise every decade since the 1950′s, so some of these older statistics are possibly even higher today.
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (1991).
- In elementary school fewer than 25% of girls diet regularly. Yet those who do know what dieting involves and can talk about calorie restriction and food choices for weight loss fairly effectively (2011; 2009).
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (1991).
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets (1992).
- Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives (2005).
What can parents and/or caregivers do to combat that?! To balance it out? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers! Part of the reason I never saw myself with kids is that I want a better world for a future kid. Even though I’ve decided to become a parent, I still feel deeply that we need to do better.
I will continue to fight for better and more diverse representation of bodies in the media, for better info about the link between weight and health (which is greatly exaggerated), and for more inclusivity everywhere. But it won’t be enough. There will still be magazines and t.v. and peers and THE REST OF THE WORLD to tell my future kid that they are not pretty enough or good enough.
I know one thing I can do. It is simple, but it’s kind of really really really hard, too. I do not want my future kid to hear negative messages about fat, size, bodies, in our house. I want to model positive attitudes towards bodies, especially as a fat person. Future kid will get plenty of negative messages from everywhere else in the world. I can’t do much, but I can give them another perspective, genuine positive reinforcement, and maybe a little emotional armor. So that means I won’t complain about my pant size or weight in front of my kid (or ever). I will compliment myself and my partner as much as I compliment my kid. I will wear things that make me feel great. I will speak positively about other people’s bodies and looks. I won’t comment on other people’s weight. I will encourage healthy habits, but I won’t focus on diet or weight. I won’t starve myself or deny myself dessert and I won’t talk about “good food” and “bad food.” I will probably mess this up sometimes. It’s easy to say now, but may be harder to do than I think with a real, live kid in front of me and a post-pregnancy body. But I’m really going to try. And I’m going to keep practicing being kind and loving to myself in the meantime.
I just don’t think you can tell a kid that they are beautiful just the way they are, then go on to say how much you hate your thighs and think that they aren’t going to pick up on it. I picked up on it as a kid. Future kid will, too. It’s not enough to say the rights things to our kid. We have to say the right things to ourselves, too, or this cycle of self-hate and body-shame will never change.
original article: http://www.freejalil.com/amotherscry.html
A Mother's Cry
By Billie Bottom-Brown
February 14, 2014
I am writing this Statement with the hope of enlightening the Media, Social Media, all Cyberspace users; and our United States Government attempting to make them aware of our forgotten Political Prisoners Languishing Away in prisons across America without any empathy for them and their families. The Local States and their Parole Boards are abusing the Constitutional Civil Rights Law by consistently using the outdated verbiage “Nature of the Crime” and “Impact of the Crime on Victim and Victim’s Family” to deny their freedom. Political Prisoners are Victims of our Government which also Impacts us as their Families.
A Mother's Cry
This is the voice of a mother crying for the freedom of her child, Anthony Leonard Bottom aka (Jalil Muntaqim 77A4283) who has been swallowed up in the New York Penal System for 37 years; (1977-2014). My child has been held captive in the Belly of New York State Prisons without any regard of his Constitutional Human Rights. Consequently, as a Political Prisoner, he has become a Forgotten, Disenfranchised Citizen of the United States of America. Anthony (Jalil) was 19 years of age when he was arrested in San Francisco California. The California Penal System sentenced Anthony (Jalil) to 5 Years for Aiding and Abetting; he served his time in San Quentin State Prison. Anthony (Jalil) was 25 years of age when he was extradited to New York where he has been since 1977; October 2013 Anthony had his 62nd birthday. Anthony (Jalil) is America’s Nelson Mandela; in fact, he has been incarcerated longer than Mr. Mandela, who was incarcerated 25 years. Our Government has negotiated release of Foreign Political Prisoners; but unfortunately, has not acknowledged or negotiated the release of its own Domestic Political Prisoners. Perhaps it’s because our Government is the perpetrator of these disenfranchised citizens. If we go back 46 years ago, our Government: (John Edgar Hoover) FBI; John Erlichman CIA; collaborated with President Richard Millhouse Nixon and initiated their Counter Intelligence Program (CoIntelPro) under the guise of protecting our “Homeland Security” against those accused of Communistic Ideals and the Black Panther Party (BPP) as Revolutionary Descendants, and planned a full fledged war against these citizens.
We can go back further than 1972, we can go back to 1968; when (John Edgar Hoover) FBI; and CIA/CoIntelPro infiltrated the “Civil Rights Movement” resulting in the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King; Jr.; John F. Kennedy; Robert (Bobby) Kennedy; and let’s not forget Malcolm Little (Malcolm X). Now we can go back to 1972, when (John Edgar Hoover) FBI; President Ronald Reagan, and the Regents of University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) collaborated against Professor Angela Davis, the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Black Liberation Army (BLA); the CoIntelPro raised its Ugly Head again along with State Police Departments to stop all Civil Rights Activities. Then our Judicial Government developed their “Three Strike Law” resulting in our Black and Brown men being incarcerated for minor infractions for longer periods of time. They have become Resource Commodities for Rural America. They are the New Slaves without restitution. Prisons are the modern day “Investors Gold Mines” It’s so sad that the American Dream now, is to invest in building more Prisons rather than building better Educational Systems. What kind of monster has our society become? The “Stand Your Ground” law permits the killing of young Black Males, at the discretion of inferior White Men. I say inferior, because they seem to attack only Black Teens. Would they challenge a Black Adult Man in the same manner? I don’t think so. It’s time for the Black American Community to “Stand our Ground”; stop the slaughter of our youth, and incarceration of our men. The Martin and Davis cases take me back to April 1989, when the state of New York erroneously convicted 5 Black Teens (Central Park 5) of heinous crimes knowing they were not guilty. But, rather than admit their error; they chose to strip them of their youth. The State of New York is guilty of making the same error with my son (The New York 3). No one has attempted to discover the truth about 1972 Code (NewKill) initiated by Nixon’s Watergate and J. Edgar Hoover’s CoIntelPro.
That being said, I would like to bring your attention to the fallen Black Police Officer (Waverly Jones) whose family wrote a “Family Impact Statement” (2004) stating the men accused of the alleged killing of his father were victims of the system (CoIntelPro) during the 60’s and 70’s. His Impact Statement and Officer Waverly Jones’ life seemingly has been disregarded by the PBA with all their attention focused only on Officer Joseph Piagentini’s family. Is this because Officer Waverly Jones was Black and his life has no relevance? Therefore, leaving me to believe Officer Jones’ life; the Impact Statement, and the Appeal from his son has been disregarded by the New York State Parole Board and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA). The PBA needs to reevaluate their actions toward Political Prisoners, channeling their negative energy referring to them as “Cop Killers“ into a positive energy by investigating the source of CoIntelPro; and the struggle of Black Americans fighting for their equal rights in the United States of America’s Apartheid.
Attention: officers who are so willing and ready to slander these prisoners as “Cop Killers” and those who are not familiar with the history of the 60’s and 70’s. You all are so full of venom feeling it’s your empowered duty to slander these prisoners; shame on you. Your actions are proving not to be any better than the prisoners you are victimizing; with your Slanderous Attitudes, Stop and Search Procedures without provocation. I implore you to overcome your hatred; take time to research America’s long history of oppression and its Black Citizens fighting to eradicate this oppression. I don’t know if you are aware that your Civil Rights are also being violated on a daily basis; that you are not above reproach. You never know when you will be next victim of CoIntelPro. Stop! Think!
You are probably also on a Homeland Security Black List.
Hopefully, my statement will raise the consciousness of its readers to act by joining me and the families of all Political Prisoners across America to sign the petition Free Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), and write letters to New York State Penal System, and New York’s Governor regarding its Parole Policy Laws.
Parent of Political Prisoner
Anthony (Jalil Muntaqim) Bottom 77A4283
Attica Correctional Facility
Dr. Schempp, a physicist, spoke in Rochester, NY about the SCOTUS case he and his family were litigants in and the important issue of separation of church and state.
I spend a lot of time in both men’s and women’s public restrooms. Or more accurately, girls’ and boys’ restrooms – I clean toilets, and I work at an elementary school. There are also a few gender neutral bathrooms, for staff, which is pretty great. For a tally, there are 3 girls’ gang bathrooms and 3 boys’ gang (That’s really how they are referred to, which totally conjures images of ruffians scribbling graffiti all over the walls and pulling all the toilet paper off the rolls. Oh, and smoking and fighting and stuff.), 3 gender neutral bathrooms for staff, one women’s room, one men’s room, and 7 bathrooms within classrooms (also gender neutral).
For my first half-hour of work, kids are still in school. I like to get a head start on some areas I can access before they leave for the day, and gang bathrooms are one of the places I can start. But only if I’m sure no kids are in there, and they’re not likely to come in. Especially for the boys’, because technically I am female. This is very serious.
Before I labor over that point, here’s a little back story about my take on which bathroom I personally should be in: Over the holidays, I got to hang out with two out-of-town friends who are both trans*. They were both describing dreams they’ve had where they went into an unaccommodating bathroom, like stalls were missing or it was more of an open locker-room vibe. And they asked my partner and me if we’ve had public restroom anxieties, and we both replied, “No.” And in that sense, it’s true. I strongly feel myself to be non-binary and genderqueer (and my sense of self is closer to male than female), yet I really have no questions or reservations about which public restroom to use. If a gender-neutral or family one is available, I will use that. Otherwise, I will use the women’s room. And if people are doing a double take or wondering if I should be there, that’s kinda their problem. Because it’s the bathroom I feel more comfortable in. I didn’t always feel this way. I used to always feel very anxious about the whole endeavor of going into the women’s room. Honestly, I’m not sure what changed, other than the fact that I’d rather be in there than in the men’s room, and I’d rather feel calm than anxious?
What if, though, I were just a few degrees closer to feeling male and presenting masculine? And/or I felt more comfortable going to the men’s room, but looked the way I look now? What would that mean for me at work? The whole system of safety according to separation of genders would be breaking down. Like, what if I were out at work, and asked for male pronouns and used the men’s / boy’s room? Would there be a lot of upheaval and confusion? Or would everyone be accepting and cool with it? I really can’t make that call in advance, but it’s interesting to think about, even on this basic level of which bathroom is it “safe” for me to be in at the same time with children?
Daily, I have to be in and out of both bathrooms. And as of now, f I get a call that there’s a problem in a boys’ room, I gotta get out wet floor signs and yell into the doorway, “Anyone in here?” (I do this for the girls’ room too, even though I don’t technically have to.) If I’m already in there and a boy walks in, I have to make a huge deal out of the fact that we are both in there. And I have to walk out immediately. This happened just yesterday in fact. I knew I was taking a chance, starting to clean the bathroom before school was out. A first-grader came in, and I had to be all, “Wait one second. Let me leave and then you can go in.” He was really flustered and turned right around and was really hesitant about going in at all after I walked out. I had to repeat a couple of times, “You can go ahead now.”
Why all the paranoia????? I follow this protocol because people can loose their jobs over shit like this. And a part of me understands it, from a safety standpoint. But at the same time, we are instilling and reinforcing really irrational fears and gender rigidity into kids! The situation is anxiety provoking, all around!
During the majority of my shift though, I walk in and out of bathrooms without any hesitation because my co-worker and I are the only ones in the school. (There are evening activities most days, but everyone needs to go to designated bathrooms at those times. They can’t just wander around the school.)
This may sound kinda weird, but bathrooms are a good place to kill some extra time. I like to practice peeing standing up, without an STP device. (Basically because I don’t have one; I’m thinking about getting one.) Interestingly, I do this still in the girls’ room. I never actually use the boys’ bathrooms (it’s been ingrained in me too). Also, bathrooms have mirrors, which used to come in handy when I was just starting to get into doing drag. I’ve spent countless work hours listening to my mp3 player and practicing lip synching and dancing, in front of mirrors in the public restrooms. I like to use the mop handle as a microphone stand. It’s pretty fun.
Bathrooms end up being a microcosm for people’s anxieties surrounding gender. And I don’t totally get it. But I can attest to the fact that it is indeed taught and reinforced at a very young age. I can also attest to some differences between genders, based on the different states I find the bathrooms in or just trends and differences between the two, but that’s sort of a different topic all together. And some of it is just plain gross.
On March 22 the Afghan Peace Volunteers called for an International Weekend of kite flying in opposition to the piloting of lethal Reaper and Predator drones over the towns and cities in Afghanistan threatening their homes and their families. The local event was sponsored by Rochester Against War.
In Afghanistan, kite flying is a traditional activity to celebrate Nowruz, their New Years holiday, which falls on the Spring equinox. Kite flying is a popular activity of both children and adults in Afghanistan. One can vision the kites filling the sky in early spring as people emerge from their homes following a harsh winter in the mountains of Afghanistan. What a wonderful sight! Harsh winter indeed local kite flyers braved temperatures near freezing and 30 mph winds.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers wish to live without war and without drone strikes. They ask "Why not love?" These young people were born into a war that has plagued their country for decades. As US troops leave at the end of this year, they hope the drones will go with them so the war canfinally end. You can see their video invitation at
Jeremy Moule and 13WHAM's GM Chuck Samuels may want to dial it down when it comes to media consolidation, but the "shifting of voices" ploy and the reality of covert consolidation agreements doesn't fool Rochester Indymedia.
While our article may not be timely in terms of when Moule's piece was written, the news coming out of the FCC regarding covert consolidation agreements certainly makes it timely now!
This is in response to Jeremy Moule's article “Dialing it down: local media changes” from December 25, 2013 published in City Newspaper. While Rochester Indymedia appreciates the fact that City actually reported on covert consolidation and the changing media landscape in Rochester, we are critical of the framing of the article around the responses of, and giving a platform to, WHAM-TV (Channel 13) general manager Chuck Samuels, the lack of articulation regarding the ownership oligopoly in Rochester's TV market and how covert consolidation agreements work to further consolidate those corporations, and the minimizing of these agreements as a way to downplay and brush off the seriousness of this national and global issue. Media consolidation and covert consolidation agreements, a direct threat to a vital and participatory democracy, are barely given any space. Moule also leaves out corporate media’s precarious (distrust of government / anti-regulation) and totalizing (commercial dominance) nature within the context of the local news landscape. Of course, we are not sure if these are editorial decisions or Mr. Moule's decisions, but we felt compelled to write something that highlighted our criticisms regarding this piece.
“Dialing it down: local media changes,” written by Jeremy Moule and published in City Newspaper on December 25, 2013, is broken up into four basic sections. We begin with a summary of each section. Section one announces the end of an eight-year shared service agreement (what we and other media critics and activists call covert consolidation) between WROC-TV (Channel 8) and WUHF-TV (Channel 31), and the beginning of a new period of covert consolidation (starting January 1st, 2014) between WHAM-TV (Channel 13) and 31WUHF. We're assured, in the article, that neither the 13WHAM station nor the news team will become a “Fox News operation.” In fact, 13WHAM General Manager Chuck Samuels states pretty boldly that 13WHAM will not become some other product, but will “extend [its] news brand on to WUHF.” Moule then offers up some criticism of covert consolidation by vaguely citing Federal Communications Commission ownership rules, offering two sentences on the lack of a “vigorous local media” because of covert consolidation from unsourced “critics,” and a one line quote from Todd O'Boyle, the program director for Common Cause's Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, about how covert consolidation “undermines the local [media] ecosystems.”
Samuels then states his denials of these criticisms. He tells us that media voices are not being lost—that happened eight years ago with 31WUHF—but that this is more of a “shifting of voices.” Moule then goes to another source, SUNY Geneseo communications lecturer Michael Saffran, who agrees with Samuels' analysis. Moule then examines the conflicting interests that were not the same when 31WUHF-8WROC were paired. He does a pretty good job of trying to untangle the ownership overlaps between Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Deerfield Media. He then looks at a Free Press report that heavily criticizes the use of shared service agreements.
The report singles out Sinclair as one of the worst offenders of covert consolidation. Moule, again, goes to the industry to get the rebuttal in regards to the Free Press report. Sinclair's argument is that the Free Press report ignores the fact that the company is working within the bounds of the law. Lastly, there is a paragraph stating that Sinclair isn't neglecting stations or laying off workers, but rather it's investing in promotions and equipment. Sinclair claims that in the last 18 months it has hired nationally some 72 people to its 167 news rooms. Section one is definitely where the flesh of the article hangs.
Section two starts with a brief look at Sinclair's politically conservative reputation. Former 13WHAM reporter (now 8WROC anchor) Rachel Barnhart is questioned about Sinclair's conservative politics and if those politics will have any bearing on the content and reporting of 13WHAM. She cites Sinclair's segment Waste Watch (a segment designed to look at how local tax dollars are being spent by government) and questions its lack of objectivity and bias by “telling the viewer upfront that something is wasteful” and not allowing the audience to make up its own mind. Moule then reports that the segment “seems solid, fair, and addresses issues of concern across the political spectrum.” Barnhart is paraphrased as having “confidence” in her former coworkers ability to resist pressure from Sinclair, regardless of the company's politics. Evan Dawson, who left 13WHAM to host 1370 Connection on WXXI radio, is reported as having the same “confidence” in his former co-workers. The last three paragraphs of this section go back to giving Samuels the floor to reject any criticisms and reassure the reader that 13WHAM material will be balanced, no station owner will dictate how or what is reported locally, and that the station is as strong as ever—nothing will change.
Section three starts with Moule stating that the FCC ownership rules are “intended to preserve as many local voices as possible”—not just radio and TV—even though we hear about consolidation most often from those two formats. The author tells us that it can be hard to pin-point where folks are getting their news and which consolidations hurt more because of the internet and other available media outside of radio and TV. Specifically, Moule mentions the “near-silencing of voices” with the laying off of the whole Monroe County division of Messenger Post Media in November of 2013. Saffran is quoted as supporting Moule's speculation about the impact of consolidation on formats other than TV. Saffran is then paraphrased as reassuring readers that Rochester still has strong radio news outlets: WHAM 1180 AM and WXXI 1370 AM and is paraphrased as saying that consolidation in radio “is a concern” and a “cautionary tale for TV;” a lot of radio stations in the area have lost their sense of “localism.”
The fourth and final section of this article essentially repeats everything that Samuels has said up to this point: 13WHAM is strong (ratings are mentioned) and that 13WHAM will use the 31WUHF signal because it's stronger and has more viewers which means more revenue and brand exposure. We're also told about the benefit of the Fox Network sports brand which may allow a Buffalo Bills pre-game show and some kind of high school sports show. Moule reminds us that there will still be competition with 10WHEC, 8WROC, and YNN (now TWC News)—though he points out that TWC News “fills its own niche.” And finally, we are reminded by Samuels, once again, that nothing is really changing, just shifting. This concludes the summary of Jeremy Moule's “Dialing it down.”
Credit where it’s due
For starters, we're glad City reported on covert consolidation. One does not often see profit-driven media give critical information about this issue, even though it's been around since the 1990's, according to Free Press's report. To be sure about this, we did a quick review of articles looking at the Democrat & Chronicle, City, and the four major TV affiliates. In fact, this critical review of City's article wouldn't have been written if Moule hadn't written his article.
On January 14, 2014, Rochester Indymedia did a search on the Monroe County public library's ProQuest archive of articles over the past 10 years from the D&C. Specifically we searched for the terms “covert consolidation” and “media consolidation.” Then, on March 1, 2014, we conducted the same search but added more search terms: “shared service agreement,” “media concentration,” “media” and “concentration,” “31WUHF and 8WROC,” “WUHF WROC,” “sidecar agreement,” “local news services agreement,” “local news sharing agreement,” “joint sales agreement,” “joint services agreement,” “local marketing agreement,” and “option agreement.” Specifically we were looking for instances of these terms linked to local media organizations and/or their parent companies. In some of the searches, results appeared, but they were not related to the search we were doing even though they contained the search term. The D&C was selected because it is the paper of record for Rochester, NY.
While there were hard news stories written about the specific agreements and deals relating to media consolidation and ownership for TV (“Fox begins carrying 13WHAM news this week” by [author not listed], Jan. 1, 2014; “New faces for local Fox news” by Matthew Daneman, Oct. 8, 2013; “Parts of WHAM-TV sold” by Matthew Daneman, Dec. 4, 2012; “WHAM-TV is up for sale by Newport” by Matthew Daneman, Jul. 21, 2012; “Tuning in TV to the new future” by Mary Chao, Feb. 11, 2007; “WUHF-TV's news shifts to WROC in management deal” by Mary Chao, Aug. 31, 2005; “WUHF introduces revamped newscast, new staff” by Mary Chao, Nov. 1, 2005; “Tune in to dangers of TV deregulation” (letter to the editor) by Bill Burks, May 10, 2003; “AT ISSUE: MEDIA OWNERSHIP” by Dennis J. Moriarty, May 30, 2003; “AT ISSUE: MEDIA OWNERSHIP” by Michael Saffran, May 30, 2003; and “WROC to switch owners” by Frank Bilovsky, Mar. 9, 1999), radio (“BATTLE FOR ears” by Matthew Daneman, Jan. 6, 2008; “3 radio stations put up for sale” by Mary Chao, Mar. 27, 2007; “Up, down the dial” by Mary Chao, Aug. 22, 2006; “Broadcasters are obliged to use airwaves to serve public good” by Michael Saffran, Apr. 23, 2004; “JAZZ FEST 2003” by John Pitcher, Jun. 6, 2003; “A classic rocks” by David Lee, Nov. 10, 2000; and “Consolidation antidote” [author not listed], Jan. 24, 2000), newspapers (“Newspaper chain moving to Monroe” by Ben Rand, May 10, 2006), cable/internet (“TV wars far from over” by Tom Tobin, Jan. 17, 2010; “Fox, Time Warner at odds” by Matthew Daneman, Dec. 15, 2010; “WHAM buys local channel” by Mary Chao, Nov. 14, 2006; “Megamerger, megaquestions” [author not listed], Jan. 13, 2000), and media consolidation in general (“Seminar zeros in on 'big media'” by Alan Morrell, Mar. 9, 2004, with a correction issued on Mar. 9, 2004 followed by a letter to the editor from Louise Slaughter (D-NY); “Too little discussion has preceded FCC decision on media ownership” (guest essayist) by Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Jun. 2, 2003; “Community Focus '99” [author not listed], Jan. 1, 1999), none of the articles mentioned covert consolidation and the last article to do any kind of analysis about the perils of media consolidation was back on January 6, 2008 with Matthew Daneman's article about radio consolidation in the Rochester market.
The D&C ran two articles about the gutting of the 31WUHF newsroom (“WUHF-TV's news shifts to WROC in management deal” by Mary Chao, Aug. 31, 2005 and “WUHF introduces revamped newscast, new staff” by Mary Chao, Nov. 1, 2005) when it was bought by Sinclair. According to photojournalist Brendan McDonough who worked at 31WUHF at the time, the employees had a week's notice that they would be laid off. The article stated that Nexstar would run the station and that they hired 26 of over 50 WUHF-TV employees. Chao's second article only mentions that Nexstar hired 26 people, “...with most moving from the East Avenue office,” as stated at the time by Tim Busch, senior vice president of Nexstar. In Chao's article, there is no follow-up on McDonough's statement that nearly half the newsroom was not rehired. There is also no mention of covert consolidation or any analysis of media consolidation. However, there is plenty of fluff from industry types who express excitement at the deal, while going on about how they will “...change the face of television news in this area.” However, we digress...
An initial search was conducted on the City website on January 14, 2014 where the search terms “covert consolidation,” “media consolidation,” and “shared service agreement” were used. A second search was conducted on March 3, 2014 with the added search terms: “media concentration,” “media” and “concentration,” “31WUHF and 8WROC,” “WUHF WROC,” “sidecar agreement,” “local news services agreement,” “local news sharing agreement,” “joint sales agreement,” “joint services agreement,” “local marketing agreement,” and “option agreement.”
Aside from “Dialing it down,” no other article contained the search terms “covert consolidation,” “media consolidation,” and “shared service agreement.” The articles that were returned dealt with media consolidation in general (“ANNUAL MANUAL '07: A guide to media in Rochester” by Susie Hume, Mar. 21, 2007; “Future tense” by Krestia DeGeorge, Feb. 8, 2006; “Mega mediasaurus” by Jack Bradigan Spula, Mar. 17, 2004; and “Concentrated dilution” by Jack Bradigan Spula, Jun. 25, 2003), the fight to bring Democracy Now! to Rochester (“The sounds of silence” by Chad Oliveiri, Oct. 13, 2004; and “Democracy... later?” by Jennifer Weiss, Jun. 9, 2004”), the internet, cable access, and community television (“The speed wars” by Jeremy Moule, Aug. 14, 2013; “Changing channels” by Jeremy Moule, Jul. 24. 2013; “Creating the electronic public square” by Krestia DeGeorge, Jul. 20, 2005; and “Your government at work on the air” by Jack Bradigan Spula, Jul. 16, 2003), and Mary Anna Towler's own representation of the value of alternative weeklies (“Alternative to what?” by Mary Anna Towler, Feb. 18, 2004). Aside from “Dialing it down,” the last time City reported on media consolidation in any substantive way was back on February 8, 2006 with Krestia DeGeorge's “Future tense.”
Two searches were also conducted on the websites of the local TV stations with major affiliations: the local NBC affiliate WHEC-TV (Channel 10), the local CBS affiliate WROC-TV (Channel 8), the local ABC affiliate WHAM-TV (Channel 13), and the local FOX affiliate WUHF-TV (Channel 31). Because 8WROC and 31WUHF had a shared service agreement for eight years, the two stations were sharing the same website when we did our first search on January 14, 2014. Our second search, conducted on March 3, 2014, included the newly posted local FOX website.
The search terms used on all the local TV websites were: “covert consolidation,” “media consolidation,” “shared service agreement,” “media concentration,” “media” and “concentration,” “31WUHF and 8WROC,” “WUHF WROC,” “sidecar agreement,” “local news services agreement,” “local news sharing agreement,” “joint sales agreement,” “joint services agreement,” “local marketing agreement,” and “option agreement.” Again, we discounted search results that had no relationship to local media ownership or media consolidation. That said, none of the TV stations—as archived on their respective websites—listed any articles pertaining to local media ownership or media consolidation.
We also wanted to recognize the research that went into figuring out the ownership overlaps between Sinclair and Deerfield. Moule’s diligence shows as he tries to untangle and articulate some of the connections between Sinclair (31WUHF) and Deerfield (13WHAM). He writes that Sinclair owns “WUHF's physical facilities and its broadcast license, along with WHAM's physical facilities.” All the news and sales workers at 13WHAM are Sinclair employees. He also notes that 13WHAM's broadcast license is held by Deerfield with close links to Sinclair. Deerfield's owner, Stephen Mumblow, is a former banker to Sinclair CEO David Smith, according to Moule's research. Moule states that these companies—as if they are separate entities—jointly operate the stations through “sidecar agreements.” Our understanding is that they are not separate companies, but rather that Deerfield is a shell company that functions within the control of Sinclair, acting as a subsidiary. These companies, like Deerfield, are off the hook financially as Sinclair takes on all risk, and practically all profit. The SEC would agree with this assertion, even though the FCC wouldn’t. We’ll talk more about “sidecar agreements” and shell companies in the next section of our article. What’s important is that Moule offered enough information so that we could go on to do our own investigation.
Another acknowledgement is that Moule pointed out the reputation of Sinclair as a “politically conservative corporation.” Sinclair has used its stations as platforms to disseminate “politically charged content.” He offers a few examples that speak to Sinclair's bias such as Sinclair directing its stations to air “Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal”—a documentary critical of John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activities right before the 2004 presidential election as well as morning show segments hosted by Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman “a conservative commentator,” with an obvious right-wing bias, according to an article from Media Matters for America. He also interviews Rachel Barnhart on the bias of the segment Waste Watch but concludes that it “seems solid, fair, and addresses issues of concern across the political spectrum” without defining those terms or offering any empirical evidence aside from the anecdotal. Of course, this all goes back to Samuels who brushes the concerns away.
Finally, we want to recognize the author's attempt to look beyond the TV market. He writes about other mediums that are being radically changed in the local media market. Aside from the new contract between 13WHAM and 31WUHF, Moule writes specifically about Messenger Post Media laying off its entire Monroe County reporting staff. He also mentions consolidation in the local radio market. He cites Saffran saying that local radio has lost its localism and that “format duplication is common.”
Our first criticism is that the article tended to give the industry and 13WHAM's general manager a platform for their views with no tough follow-up questions regarding the concerns leveled against the industry-wide use of covert consolidation agreements. Both Samuels and Sinclair get the last word in three of four sections in the article. The third section ends with a paraphrase from Saffran who tells us a cautionary tale regarding the downward spiral of corporate radio as opposed to an actual critical position on the TV industry. That said, the article is framed around the positive interview with Samuels and peppered with concerns--not criticisms.
Looking back at our summary, Moule begins the first section of the article by announcing the new agreement between 13WHAM and 31WUHF and giving Samuels space to reassure readers that 13WHAM is “just going to extend [its] news brand on to WUHF.” We're then treated to “critics”—unnamed and unsourced—who raise concerns about FCC ownership rules, mergers of larger corporate media conglomerates, and a few lines about how covert consolidation will deprive us of a “vigorous local media.” After this, one critic, Todd O'Boyle, is cited (only once in the whole piece) about the undermining of ecosystems. At no time are the critics allowed to directly challenge Samuels' reassurances.
Moule’s writing comes off lackluster as he downplays the idea of an informed, vibrant, democratic society. In this section, only O’Boyle is cited as a source. We are not told why he is an important, critical voice, what the Common Cause Media and Democracy Reform Initiative is, and what “local ecosystems” refers to and why they are important. And yet, these all seem like important points to maintain a healthy, democratic society.
After O'Boyle's comment, we go back to Samuels who sorts the whole thing out for us by stating that covert consolidation and the elimination of the WUHF newsroom happened eight years ago; the new agreement is nothing more than a “shifting of voices.” Samuels implies that consolidation is a thing of the past and that we shouldn't worry. The whole issue of covert consolidation agreements and media consolidation in general is downplayed in Samuels' statement. Moule doesn't follow-up with any tough questions, but rather cites Saffran.
Perhaps Moule wanted to get a more local angle on this thing—thus Saffran. The SUNY Geneseo lecturer, however, doesn't raise any critical questions or even concerns regarding Samuels' statement. In fact, Saffran agrees with Samuels. To be fair, Saffran is not asked a moral or qualitative question about media consolidation, though if one looks at the structure of the article, it seems that this would be the obvious next step in its progression. Instead, Moule asks him if the quantity of local news will change.
Moule seems to be suffering from some kind of media myopia. He seems quite able to give a platform for the corporate media position but when it comes to larger ideas and criticisms of heavily consolidated, profit-driven media being the only source of information in democratic societies, he gets confused, or worse, intentionally confuses.
The section continues with Moule doing research into the ownership overlaps between Sinclair and Deerfield showing some potentially conflicted interests between the companies (if you go by the FCC) or company (if you go by the SEC). (We'll talk about this later.) This goes back to the use of shell companies by Sinclair and other media corporations. Moule doesn't dig deep enough to articulate those connections in the article. This does give him an entry point to introduce another critical voice into the discussion--specifically Free Press and its report “Cease to Resist: How the FCC's Failure to Enforce Its Rules Created a New Wave of Media Consolidation.”
Rochester Indymedia read the 44-page report and out of that, the only thing Moule notes is that Free Press emphasizes Sinclair’s aggressive use of covert consolidation agreements. With that in mind, he then writes specifically about the number of stations bought by Sinclair between 2011 and 2013. He tells us that covert consolidation can “diminish the quality of local journalism” (though we're never told by Moule what the quality of local journalism was before the WHAM-WUHF deal went through, or nine years ago before 31WUHF was obliterated).
Sinclair takes the floor at the end of the section. They refute the report claiming they are “operating within the law” (though Moule doesn't explain why they aren't operating within the law) and whereas Free Press's criticism was focused on how many stations Sinclair bought, Moule presents the corporation as a job creator “adding 72 staff members to its newsrooms nationally,” (a different argument entirely) without addressing the issue of why media consolidation might actually be bad for an informed, vibrant, democratic society. To back up the job creator claim, Samuels notes that “four or five news positions have been added,” in Rochester. Moule is comparing apples to oranges here. He's not being consistent with the topics or the criticism.
Section two of the article starts boldly enough with a look at the conservative politics of Sinclair. Rachel Barnhart is questioned as to whether or not Sinclair's politics will negatively impact the programming that goes on at 13WHAM. She specifically cites Waste Watch as a concern because she feels that it is biased. Telling the audience that something is wasteful before they even get to view it is putting the cart before the horse. Moule tell us—refuting Barnhart(?)—that the segment “seems solid, fair, and addresses issues of concern across the political spectrum”—based on what? Moule cites no studies nor does he mention any in-depth content analysis of the show (although he does give anecdotal evidence from three different episodes from which he has the audacity to make the claims quoted above). It does make one wonder from whom Moule gets his paycheck.
Barnhart and Dawson state that their former coworkers at 13WHAM will do a great job and not be influenced by Sinclair's politics. Samuels jumps in to let us know that 13WHAM gets content from the outside too, not just from Sinclair. Anything broadcast from outside distributors will be “balanced in its entirety.” The last word for this section is given to Samuels with the droning refrain of nothing will change and that the creation of solid, local news will continue.
In the third section, Moule talks about the layoffs at Messenger Post Media. He doesn't write specifically about covert consolidation agreements but rather media consolidation in local terms. Moule tells us it's hard to figure out how other mediums are impacted when a change occurs in one specific medium—like when a whole newsroom is laid off for a group of local papers. He doesn't speculate about what impact is felt when more and more of our media comes from fewer and fewer sources.
In the game of downplaying the importance of covert consolidation, Saffran tells us that, locally speaking, the slashing of the Messenger Post Media newsroom has far more impact than anything going on in the local TV world. The section concludes with the SUNY Geneseo lecturer noting that duplication of content and a loss of localism can be expected if TV goes the way of corporate radio. This is the only section that is not ended by the industry or Samuels.
The last section of the article is essentially the cheerleading section for 13WHAM and Samuels. We’re told about potential program changes once the agreement starts, that 13WHAM will have more exposure and more profits, that competition is alive and well in the local TV market, and that again, nothing will change.
The laughable assertion made by Moule about there being competition in the Rochester TV market leads us to the second criticism we found in the article. Moule offers a very limited scope of the TV station ownership landscape. We don’t have competition; we have a stale ownership oligopoly. Related to this, and shown to be downplayed above, is the use of covert consolidation agreements that further consolidates sources of news.
The covert consolidation agreement between WUHF and WHAM gives Sinclair a 50 percent share of the local television market. This means that Nexstar (WROC), Hubbard Broadcasting (WHEC), and Sinclair (WUHF & WHAM), are the three owners of local mainstream TV media. YNN (now Time Warner Cable News) and PBS are excluded because of different regulations for cable and public broadcasting. These three companies not only dominate our airwaves, but Nexstar and Sinclair have used covert consolidation in other markets with the same outcomes, though Hubbard has actually expressed opposition to these kinds of agreements.
Above we mentioned that Moule did show some potentially conflicted interests between Sinclair and Deerfield. However, in Moule’s analysis, these companies are two separate entities. He casually mentions that these companies use “sidecar agreements” to jointly run stations.
The mention of “sidecar agreements” is important, but Moule does not elucidate why they are important. Sidecar agreements, bluntly, are shell companies. A shell company “is a company which serves as a vehicle for business transactions without itself having any significant assets or operations,” according to Wikipedia. In this case, the shell companies—sidecars like Deerfield—are owned by their parent company, Sinclair, according to the SEC's Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Jenn Topper and S. Derek Turner (who both work for Free Press) explain in an editorial published on November 6, 2013 in The Baltimore Sun how Sinclair uses shell companies:
Consider Sinclair's longtime shell, Cunningham Broadcasting. Like many of the companies created to sidestep the FCC's rules, Cunningham has no physical presence, and is even headquartered at Sinclair's flagship station WBFF in Baltimore. Sinclair, through Cunningham, controls Baltimore's WNUV.
Furthermore, under Securities and Exchange Commission rules, Cunningham is considered the same company as Sinclair. And when it communicates with investors, Sinclair refers to its shells, which include Deerfield Media and Howard Stirk Holdings, as "our sidecar companies." Similarly, it refers to stations nominally operated by these shells as "our stations." (Sinclair, through Deerfield, controls Baltimore's WUTB.)
Shell companies allow Sinclair to grow because, while these companies are technically owned by Sinclair according to SEC rules, they are not recognized as the same company by the FCC. “So we have one set of rules for the FCC and another set of rules for the SEC. It's clear that the SEC's attribution rules reflect reality, while the FCC's approach reflects a politically useful fantasy,” according to the Free Press report.
Just to recap, in Rochester, the broadcast license and facilities (what facilities?) for 31WUHF are owned by Sinclair as well as the physical facilities (4225 W. Henrietta Rd.) for 13WHAM. The news and sales workers for 13WHAM are Sinclair employees according to Moule's article. Deerfield owns the broadcast license for 13WHAM—and according to the FCC, these are considered two separate companies—even though as noted in the editorial above, the SEC recognizes them as one company. The Free Press report repeatedly criticizes the FCC—a politically appointed commission—for not enforcing its own rules.
Our last criticism in “Dialing it down,” is the lack of explanation regarding how covert consolidation undermines democracy. An example is in order. When two stations are presenting the same pro-hydraulic fracturing news--both owned by one corporation with an economic interest in natural gas, it undermines the diversity of viewpoints--and dissent--in the community and potentially creates a dangerous reality for the people living in affected areas where fracking is taking place. When different demographics of the community are excluded from the dialogue, in this case scientists, activists, Indigenous people, and those who consume their water from local sources (all of us), it undermines democracy and public health. Democracy calls for informed participation from many people who make the decisions that directly affect their lives. If you are only presented with a few viewpoints—fracking is great, or fracking could cause problems, therefore we need to frack responsibly—then the reality disseminated by the mass media is not only biased toward a specific capitalist agenda, but might very well be dangerous to your physical health. (And really, what the hell is responsible fracking anyway?) A system of profit-driven, consolidated media will use the tactics of spreading disinformation and creating divisions within the community as distractions to their own and their advertisers' economic agendas. (Check out Josh Fox's "The Sky Is Pink" for a great example.)
Democracy is undermined in other ways as well. For instance, when one station does the work of two as we saw with the liquidation of the WUHF newsroom through the covert consolidation agreement between Sinclair and Nexstar. When profit-driven media consolidation goes on without regulation or interest in the public, newsrooms are cut down or scrapped altogether in favor of wire reports or syndicated copy from the parent company. (Moule reported on this with regards to GateHouse Media laying off its whole Monroe County reporting staff for Messenger Post Media.) Local news and information is traded in for more profits and less overhead. There are fewer reporters, producers, and local stories--and according to an article by April Glaser and Jason Smith, one in three newsroom layoffs affected women and people of color.
Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, testified at an FCC hearing on March 4, 2010 about the reduction of reporters and how that affects the generation of local news. He testified that...
From 1998 through 2001, we saw measurable decreases in the level of enterprise in stories. We saw more instances of cameras being sent to events without correspondents. We saw a higher percentage of tell stories, those narrated by the anchors, use of press release material and syndicated material.
Overall, the percentage of stories with a reporter on scene fell by 30%. The percentage of stories that were syndicated material rather than locally produced rose by 62%. The number of spot news stories, those that were truly live, local and late-breaking, dropped by 31%.
The research conducted by the PEJ did find that TV newsrooms tended to maintain their investigative and spotlight news teams because of their importance to the station's brand. What's been affected, according to Rosenstiel's testimony, is the “level of local reporting in other work.”
Educator and writer, David Cay Johnston, also speaks about this increase in less-than-accurate and unaccountable reporting when he says that beat reporting is “fundamental to journalism, but our foundation is crumbling.” Beat reporting, according to Johnston, “means finding sources and sniffing out news, then a firm foundation of knowledge about the topic is essential, though not sufficient,” and goes on to say that this foundational knowledge needs to be paired with a deep curiosity and tenacity to look at all kinds of public documents and then ask sources tough questions about what those documents show. Instead of an informed public getting new and accurate information, we get cheap news. Johnston continues...
Far too much of journalism consists of quoting what police, prosecutors, politicians and publicists say—and this is especially the case with beat reporters. It’s news on the cheap and most of it isn’t worth the time it takes to read, hear or watch. Don’t take my word for it. Instead look at declining circulation figures. People know value and they know when what they’re getting is worth their time or worth the steadily rising cost of a subscription.
Stations are not able to cover the news and events that matter to the communities they are located in because parent companies are focused on the bottom line. Rather than holding government and business accountable, these media conglomerates function within a capitalist system that rewards them for their greed and distortion.
Jeremy Moule's article “Dialing it down: local media changes” from December 25, 2013 published in City Newspaper reads like a fluff piece for 13WHAM and Sinclair Broadcasting Group. While Rochester Indymedia appreciates the fact that City actually reported on covert consolidation, elucidated some of the ownership overlaps between Sinclair and Deerfield, referenced Sinclair’s political bias, and looked beyond the TV market to the changing media landscape in Rochester, we felt the article severely downplayed the issue and didn't push the local players enough.
Moule (or his editor) wrote an article that gave 13WHAM General Manager Chuck Samuels and the corporate TV news industry a platform to voice their pro-consolidation and capitalist agendas while simultaneously downplaying the underdeveloped criticisms of covert consolidation. The article frames Moule's interview with Samuels in a positive light that highlights the new agreement between WUHF and WHAM. Moule neglected to articulate the ownership oligopoly in Rochester's TV market and the role that covert consolidation agreements play in the consolidation of media that destroy newsrooms and deprive the public of a nuanced, informative, and democratic media. Moule barely discusses how covert consolidation agreements are a threat to democracy. He also leaves out for-profit media’s precarious (distrust of government / anti-regulation) and totalizing (commercial dominance) nature within the context of the local news landscape. At some points in the article it appears that Moule is trying to intentionally confuse readers, while making evaluations of inconsistent arguments. At the end of the day, Moule doesn’t do the work of the people, he writes for the advertisers and corporations. What could have been a highly charged, objective, and informative piece of writing about covert consolidation agreements and their effects on local media, the product produced, and the workers involved in the production process, instead becomes a piece of writing that supports the status quo and downplays the seriousness of the issue.
Additional & Related Information:
The Wolf of Sesame Street: Revealing the secret corruption inside PBS’s news division | Shedding Light On TV News’ Dark Side: Watch Defensively | The Death of Local News | Media Consolidation: The Illusion of Choice | Cease to Resist: How the FCC's Failure to Enforce Its Rules Created a New Wave of Media Consolidation | Outsourcing the News: How covert consolidation is destroying newsrooms and circumventing media ownership rules | Covert Consolidation in Charleston, South Carolina (check out the video) | FCC Votes To Curb Media Consolidation in Local TV Markets