Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Nashville Free Press

The Nashville Free Press, Middle Tennessee's new biweekly community newspaper, is born of the belief that the job of the media is to challenge the status quo, not prop it up. Our customer is the reader, not the advertiser. So we'll be rocking some boats.

In 1945 the Supreme Court declared that "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public," and that "a free press is a condition of a free society." Newspapers and other media have a responsibility to foster free and open discussion and debate on the issues that affect our lives.

The corporate dominance of local markets like Nashville by companies like Gannett and Village Voice has subdued the debate, silenced conflicting voices, shuttered the unfettered marketplace of ideas, and steered the ship of state into dangerous and narrow straits. Robust competition and ownership diversity are more essential than ever to the economic health, vitality and viability of our community.

The words "corporate" and "journalism" don't fit together well. While corporate papers are concerned with regionalizing content, papers like The Nashville Free Press reflect local communities. Is there a story that will take some time and digging to bring to the light of day? The NFP will do it, when the bigger boys probably won't.

The corporate entities act as gatekeepers of ideas, deciding which get a hearing and an opportunity to shape the debate. That's how centrist positions got renamed progressive, and how "liberal" somehow became a pejorative term. We aim to change that.

The monopoly of the media marketplace has led to less in-depth reporting on politics and elections, the environment, minority and labor affairs, education, government malfeasance, assaults on civil liberties and civil rights, and a score of other subjects. As a result, the identity, values and informational needs of our local community are at risk.

In the news and information business, competition and diversity enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of content, assure a multiplicity of voices from a variety of sources, and reduce the risk that news will be censored or slanted by a few controlling interests.

Maintaining competition and diversity is central to protecting the public's right to information and encouraging informed participation in our democracy.






PARTNERSHIP WITH RADIO FREE NASHVILLE


98.9 WRFN-LPFM Radio Free Nashville battled the FCC for years before receiving a broadcast license. RFN was born of the belief that democracy can't function if the media is controlled by the few, and it has become a forum for voices marginalized or misrepresented by corporate media.

As the federal agency charged with regulating mass media, the FCC long had rules in place to promote "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources." Over the years, however, many of the rules designed to foster independent news and entertainment were weakened.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed for the consolidation of ownership of the publicly owned airwaves into a few corporate hands, effectively limiting or completely cutting off the people's access to the media. The public interest has suffered greatly.

How? With the loss of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, media companies no longer must present more than one side of an issue. Think about what that means when your government is pushing your country into an illegal war.

With it no longer mandatory for media companies to provide public-affairs programming, the number of such broadcasts has dwindled to virtually none. It's become harder for the average citizen to generate coverage of local events.

Voice tracking (prerecording of a broadcast) means that there is not an actual person in a studio reporting on what's happening at the time. Think of Hurricane Katrina, with no broadcasters around to tell you what was what and where to go for safety.

Centralized corporate operations, usually based far from the local community purportedly served, have made it nearly impossible for fledgling broadcast journalists to get hands-on experience.

The partnership between The Nashville Free Press and Radio Free Nashville will help to rectify these ills, both over the airways and in print. Example:

As a Pacifica Radio Network affiliate, RFN was one of only a handful of media outlets in this area to cover the horrific civil-rights abuses and pre-emptive arrests of journalists and other citizens during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The blatantly illegal and unconstitutional actions of law-enforcement officials there should have been front-page news everywhere. They weren't.

They would have been, at The Nashville Free Press.

We have a shared responsibility as citizens to do our part to nurture a society that gives each of us a voice and the opportunity to flourish. Our calling ought to be to actively live out our democratic principles. That means promoting equal opportunity for everyone, not just the privileged few. It means no less than protecting democracy itself by defending our Constitution.

We need to heed the call of citizenship as never before -- to reestablish America as a true democracy, with a free and informed people at the center.

That's what The Nashville Free Press and Radio Free Nashville are all about.

(For an introductory sample of The Nashville Free Press, call 516.5678 or email paulerland@gmail.com)

2 Comments:

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December 30, 2009 at 10:40 PM  
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December 30, 2009 at 11:36 PM  

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