Thursday, October 19, 2006
Peter B. Collins came to Humboldt on Wednesday, broadcasting his afternoon talk radio show from the theater in the Dell'Arte School of Physical Arts in Blue Lake, CA. Over 100 people were in the theater audience for this show heard in five cities as well as online. Wednesday's show, devoted entirely to issues of election integrity, is archived here (.mp3).
The event was presented by the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County in cooperation with Peter's local affiliate, KGOE 1480 AM, and the Veterans For Peace Chapter 56. I was honored to be asked to sit with Peter at the broadcast table throughout the entire show.
Dave Berman (L) with Peter B. Collins (R), Oct. 18 2006.
Guests on the show included Brad Friedman, Paul Lehto, Bev Harris, Ohio Gubernatorial candidate Bob Fitrakis, and CA State Senator and Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen. All of these people had high name recognition by the theater crowd and the energy was so high that it really made for great radio. Download the show and advance to 1hr 56min 35sec to hear me ask Sen. Bowen about interpreter code. In her reply Bowen mentions discussing this earlier in the day while debating CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. The debate was presented by the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle. Watch it here and check out BradBlog's meticulous dissection here. In concluding her response to me, Bowen said:
"I totally agree with you Dave, and thank you. You have been a stalwart. You've done an awesome job. You have educated so many people." (applause)Looks like I'll have to add that to the WDNC sidebar quote collection! Incidentally, BradBlog reported on Monday that McPherson's office issued a memo on Oct. 3 ordering that all counties must make paper ballots available to any voter wishing to use one. At least that appears to be the intent of the memo's message while its vague wording leaves great discretion to Registrars who may well choose to keep an insufficient supply of paper ballots on hand. Brad's piece honors the general goodness of the memo while also citing criticisms from Bowen and Lehto.
Peter B. pointed out that while Bowen came on the show, McPherson had not even responded to an invitation to do the same.
Throughout all of the 1990's I worked as a DJ at rock radio stations. In reflecting back on that time, the two most memorable occasions I dealt with on the air were the outbreak of the first Gulf War and the death of Jerry Garcia. Wednesday's forum hit that same peak. There was an extraordinary energy that was visible and tangible among the people filling the theater seats. This energy had a sense of intention - we MUST do something about our elections. For many, what to do is still a perplexing puzzle. I see even more clearly now the need to help such people become involved in unifying community actions. Here I have returned to my definition of advocacy journalism - working for change in the community and writing in a way that furthers those efforts.
Following the radio show we took a short break and then re-convened for a media roundtable discussion. Peter and I were joined on the panel by Tom Sebourn from KGOE, Bob Doran from the North Coast Journal, Pete Meyer from Power 96.3 (KFMI), and Jimmy Durchslag who was one of the founders of KMUD and who currently books guests for the Mainstream Media Project.
The evening part of the event was not broadcasted or recorded, as far as I know. The audience had dwindled to about 25 but we had a passionate dialog for more than 90 minutes. I was asked to facilitate this exchange and I framed it as an opportunity to close the loop in what is supposed to be two-way communication. The audience must tell the media how it is doing, and how it could be doing better. And the media must let the audience know the feedback has been heard and assimilated.
Of all the topics we covered, amid a steady stream of audience comments and questions, what is etched the deepest in my mind is the terror people are experiencing as the result of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which eliminates Habeas Corpus. As devoted as I have been to issues of election integrity, I have also written and publicly stated many times that election reform is not the end goal, but rather the best tactic we have toward peaceful revolution. I was encouraged to see others recognize that even if we fix our election problems, losing Habeas Corpus still means we're not Free People. On understanding this, I think it is possible for people to reach the conclusion that peaceful revolution is necessary, NOW!
I pointed out to the group that creating this kind of public dialog, and the consensus building experiences that went along with developing the Voter Confidence Resolution, and repeatedly publishing in Humboldt's media a message that the press should not report unverified election results as fact when such information can't be proven; all of this paradigm shifting is what defines my role as an advocacy journalist.
We discussed the well known phrase "be the media." Anyone can do it, through any number of means and with a variety of approaches. But it matters why anyone would want to be the media. If the answer is in any way connected to wanting to be involved with efforts for progressive change, then it should be an easy extension to think of the media as one of the best tools. Being the media, to me, means using this crucial tool to achieve all other aims. I certainly don't think it is going to be possible to generate significant community cohesion, or create a national groundswell, without being able to coordinate the dissemination of information on a mass scale. We literally need to be advocacy journalists to do the organizing work necessary for peaceful revolution.
Another way I was able to illustrate this point was in reference to Air America Radio, the newly bankrupted "progressive talk" network. For as long as AAR has been around I have stated my doubts that they would deliver any meaningful change. The reason is simple: they didn't make it their top priority. AAR has always been about making money, a difficult enough challenge on its own. While I won't condemn the profit motive, I do see that prioritizing it over the pursuit of true progressive change dooms both prospects. On the other hand, clearly stating tangible goals and then advocating for them is what I see resulting in cohesive, consensus-based communities operating in cooperation. Such a loyal audience will appeal to advertisers, bringing profit along the way.
Other topics I recall from Wednesday night's roundtable include the FCC, media ratings (Arbitron and Nielsen), corporate consolidation, and blacked out stories. Also, Tom Pinto from 911TruthHumboldt.org was in the audience. Pinto said that various media people, including Alexander Cockburn, have ducked his recent challenges to engage in public debate about 9/11. Peter B. said he would try to book Cockburn on his show for exactly this purpose. I believe Pinto said he had directly confronted Cockburn at the recent World Can't Wait rally in Eureka, an event at which I also spoke (.mp3).
Since I haven't had time to blog as frequently as I'd like lately, I want to tag this post with a few related comments and links. First, Peter B. Collins is a consummate professional and I hope his show gets syndicated more widely.
Tom Sebourn is a righteous dude who was recognized by audience members on Wednesday for doing what really does match up with my advocacy journalism definition. Check out his coverage (.mp3) of this Raw Story article about Charles Grapski, a FL election integrity advocate charged with wiretapping and prevented from mounting a defense.
I was glad to get Bob Doran booked on our panel and to finally begin to forge a relationship with the North Coast Journal. This paper has not previously given any coverage to the Voter Confidence Committee, although in a cover story on blogs back in January the paper did recognize my work at GuvWurld as "gaining some stature in the larger blogosphere."
Perhaps even more importantly, last week I met with Journal editor Hank Sims for the first time as well. In our hour long interview I definitely gave him hooks for at least a half dozen possible stories. One that I know is going forward is the parallel reviews of my scrapbook. I first brought this up on the night of the first media accountability forum. Just as Diane Batley suggested, we now have HSU journalism professor Marcy Burstiner doing an analysis of Humboldt media coverage of election issues as reflected in articles I've collected over the past 2.5 years. This is meant to run beside another review of the same material written by VCC member Ruth Hoke. What better way to pursue media accountability than to review the performance of the media in a comparative context over a period of time with multiple perspectives judging the same content?
Alright, at this point I have a huge list of other things I've been wanting to post here but I'm going to forgo them all to announce a scoop I have just received from correspondent Jane Allen in SF. That will be coming up in a few short minutes...