Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tom Huffman: "Reflection - Greater Kansas City Democracy for America meeting, 7 Oct. 2009"

The meeting was called to order shortly after 7:00 PM.

The main feature of the October meeting was a panel of media professionals discussing the need for media reform.

Meeting attendees were first given the opportunity to look at student handmade thank you cards from the kids of McCoy school. They thanked us for the school supply donations collected for them in September.

Before turning over the mike to the media panel, we presented a glimpse of the assignment for the November meeting. Fashioned after the NPR THIS I BELIEVE series we are asking members to prepare a 2 to 3 minute THIS I BELIEVE presentation of their own. Julie Rola offered an example by presenting her BELIEF that gifts of time and shared experience have much longer-lasting value than gifts of material stuff.

It was then onto the media panel moderated by Anne Pritchett, who introduced the panel guests:

  • Lewis Diuguid: Columnist for the Kansas City Star.
  • Carolyn Szczpanski: Reporter for the Pitch Weekly.
  • Tom Klammer: Host and producer of KKFIs TELL SOMBODY
  • Sharon Lockhart: host of the KKFIs EVERY WOMAN
  • Blue Girl and Michael Bersin, Internet Bloggers.
  • Mike Nellis: On Line Director of the Kansas Democratic Party.

In the course of their opening remarks and answers to questions each member offered different insights into the media changes and deterioration of the news, over the past 50 + years. There was consensus within the panel that media, does and should set the tone of the debate, whether good or bad. And without it, we have no objective way to view the facts or make decisions nationally or locally. Or as Tom Klammer put it Access to information is essential to democracy. It helps citizens make informed decisions, and assures that elected officials uphold that democracy. Subconsciously, media dictates much of our life: it tells us what to buy, what to watch, movies to see, sporting events to embrace. It feeds our prejudices, and persuades our politics; it fills great expanses of time in our life. It replaces actual experiences with virtual experiences. On the other hand it can foster ideas, and educate; expand our knowledge and awareness of the world around us.

In recent years, the impact of corporate media has reduced objectivity of the media substantially by drawing attention away from local news to cheaper, packaged national news. Corporate control has narrowed perspectives and steered reporting to serve the corporate viewpoint. Lewis Diuguid pointed out that McClatchy News, while it has continued to substantially increase profits over the years, it has reduced its workforce by 1/3rd. This has given rise to the sound-bite era, reduced access to and availability of reporters, and a general dumbing down of news. All panelists suspected this may have been the intention of corporate owners.

Enter, the blogging era, the not necessarily trained journalistic folks, who gather and report what they can find on the net. They fill the gap; the gap that corporate media avoids because it is contrary to corporate goals. Bloggers seek out the obscure, the hidden stories that need to be told. They bow to no-one and speak freely. They, like independent radio, can feature those stories and commentators who the mainstream media chooses to ignore. They are the voice of the people who haven?t yet found their voice; the voice that must rise to create reform within the media so it reflects our values, our way of life, our democracy.

Yes, we are pummeled on the right by the Rush Limbaughs, the Hannitys, O?Reillys and the great white hope, Glenn Beck. But as Mike Bersin put it, 295 million people get up every morning and don't listen to Rush and his cronies, so they don't set the entire tone. There is a great thirst for information, that is not being fulfilled for lack of independent sources. Thus it is up to us, the people to make our voices heard in matters like: expanding independent media, reducing corporate control, and safeguarding Net Neutrality. Like so many facets of our life, WE have to get involved and stay involved to outweigh the domination of the rich and powerful.

After the panel discussion ended, Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar, Legislator Theresa Garza, and Sheriff Mike Sharp were introduced. They urged renewal of the Combat anti-drug Tax in Jackson County. This program is up for renewal on Nov. 3rd, 2009. Combat has been a highly successful program with a 99% success rate, rehabilitating 1600 people. Instead of simple prosecution and incarceration it is part of a nationwide movement of preventions, treatment, drug counseling and education for children. We all must get out and support Combat by voting for renewal Nov. 3rd.

We look forward to seeing and hearing everyone on Wednesday Nov. 4th. Please bring your 2 to 3 minute THIS I BELIEVE statement to share ? or just come and listen.

December = a holiday party and silent auction. Just for fun!

Submitted, Tom Huffman

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