If You Missed It: The Future of the Internet Town Hall

By Tracy Dingmann

If you missed Tuesday’s town hall in Albuquerque with Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Copps on the Future of the Internet, you can catch up right here with these links.

The event was sponsored by the organizations The Center for Media Justice, Media Literacy Project and Free Press.

Writing at NMFBIHOP.com, Claus Whiteacre said:

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps spoke to hundreds of supporters about the need for net neutrality Tuesday evening at the Albuquerque Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Net neutrality is the principle that all content on the internet should be treated equally, and that internet service providers cannot discriminate between different types of content.

“When broadcast came about the corporation said ‘trust us.’ When previous FCC commissions removed limits on media consolidation we were told ‘trust us.’ With this new medium they are saying ‘trust us,'” Copps said.

Andrea Quijada, the Executive Director of the Media Literacy Project, served as the MC for the evening. She shared how an open internet is needed for the most basic of services.

“With 30 of our 33 counties being medically underserved, we know that the internet is not just about civic participation,” Quijada said. “With a state poverty rate at 19 percent we know that the internet is not just about access.”

“America cannot have a digital divide, this is an injustice for those that have been too long denied,” Copps said in his speech.

George Lujan of the SouthWest Organizing Project gave his account at ElGritoNM.org:

Perspectives from the community included single mothers explaining how the internet allows them to provide a strong sense of family; students detailing how far they have to drive just to finish nightly assignments; local artists and slam poets offering a cultural perspective; professionals trying to bring the online world to offline communities.

The point was clear- we need an open internet, we deserve an open internet, and now we demand an open internet.

Finally, those who would like to see an accounting of the entire event can visit this link to the webcast at SaveTheInternet.com.

Welcome, El Grito!

By Tracy Dingmann

On Aug. 4, our friends at the SouthWest Organizing Project launched “El Grito: News and Views from New Mexico’s Grassroots.”

The exciting new website aims to use digital media to evoke the deep cultural traditions of New Mexico communities as well as the rich legacy of struggle through alternative media for justice, equity, and opportunity that exists in New Mexico.

In English, El Grito means “The Cry,” and in this context it refers to several things, including the traditional shouts made during cultural celebrations and dances in New Mexico, as well as to El Grito de Dolores, the battle cry of the Mexican revolution for independence from Spain.

El Grito also refers to El Grito del Norte, a community newspaper founded in Espanola in 1968 that chronicled the grassroots struggles of traditional New Mexico communities.

Writers and activists from El Grito del Norte later moved to Albuquerque’s Los Duranes neighborhood, where they founded the Chicano Communication Center to advance grassroots communication across the state.

As explained on the site:

SWOP’s roots in alternative media extend back to those days at the Center, and the spirit of grassroots powered media lives on in our work today through blogging and our magazine, Voces Unidas. We hope that spirit is embodied here at El Grito, where we’ll bring community based analysis about the burning issues we face today, as well as news of the happenings in our communities.

In an interesting nod to history, two of El Grito’s writers, George Lujan and Clearly New Mexico alum Juan Reynosa, are from families that were well represented in the Chicano Communication Center.

The site will have several sections, including space for community event notices and for short pieces on current events El Grito finds noteworthy. There will also be longer articles from El Grito writers.

Submissions from the public are encouraged and welcome.

From the site:

Our lens is critical analysis of our society, our focus is the landscape experienced by New Mexico’s traditional and low-income communities. We reserve the right to only publish those pieces that further the debate in a constructive and positive manner.

El Grito is strictly non-partisan, and will not publish any content referring to political elections or written by a person seeking elective office.

From the site:

We pledge to offer a space here for the diversity of voices that exist in New Mexico, and to continually seek out and share the stories and views of New Mexicans who may not always have access to a medium that will let their cry be heard across the state. And we sincerely hope you’ll check in often and add your “grito” to the debate.

Please join Clearly in welcoming this much-needed voice to the New Mexico blogosphere!

It Ain’t Journalism, Folks

Have you noticed those Watchdog websites?

Maybe you have – New Mexico’s got one, after all. The ten state-based sites, which are funded by the free-market group The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, bill themselves as a “network of independent state-based journalists who investigate and report on state and local government.”

Since its launch late last year, many in New Mexico have noted that the reporting on the New Mexico Watchdog is thin and the motives behind the “scoops” it peddles to the  mainstream media have seemed…well…partisan at best.

But it hasn’t stopped the site’s main purveyor, Jim Scarantino, from boasting that he’s the only one with the “guts, determination and courage” to pull off his particular brand of investigation.

Yes, conservative investigative websites are now a trend – one that early on, some government watchdogs had hoped could be a way to keep investigative journalism alive in the face of a declining newspaper industry and the years of professional reporting experience that was disappearing with it.

However, a story in this month’s issue of The Washington Monthly concludes that perhaps the Watchdog clones and a number of other sites just like them could begin to perform that important function…if only the “investigating” on them was up to actual journalistic standards.

Journalist Laura McGann, an assistant editor at the prestigious Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University and former editor of the nonprofit news site the Washington Independent, takes an incisive look at the new trend in a piece called “Partisan Hacks: Conservatives Have Discovered the Virtues of Investigative Journalism. But Can Their Reporting Survive Their Politics?” (The Nieman Journalism Lab’s mission is to investigate and chronicle the changing world of journalism in the Internet age through original reporting, analysis and incisive commentary.)

McGann’s lengthy examination of the conservative investigative trend contains an embarrassing deconstruction of the “phantom Congressional district” story so widely heralded late last year by the New Mexico Watchdog.

From her story:

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Watching Tea Partiers Play “Spot The Black Person”

black guy tea party

Black Guy At A Tea Party

By Tracy Dingmann

Is the Tea Party finally waking up to the realization that they have a public relations problem when it comes to, you know, brown people?

It’s interesting, because lately I’ve been detecting some sensitivity on the part of Jim Scarantino, one of the biggest local Tea Party boosters around. You can catch Jim glowingly singing the praises of the Tea Party on TV and radio and blogging about it at a number of sites.

The other day, he posted the most fascinating picture on the New Mexico Liberty blog, which sponsors the local tea party and many of its events.

This is what the picture showed: It was a black guy at a Tea Party. You heard me right. An actual black guy at a tea party in St. Louis. Speaking, no less. And standing right behind him – another person of undetermined brownness. With a big crowd of white folks staring up at the both of them.

Scarantino gave the picture the sardonic headline: “Another Racist Tea Party; Scroll Down for Photographic Evidence from St. Louis.“

And that, my friends, is apparently all we should need  – one photo of a black guy at a Tea Party somewhere as proof positive that the Tea Party movement doesn’t have a racist bone in its body.

Sadly, since I’ve been a black person my whole life,  I know this game very well.  It’s called “Spot the Black Person” – and tea partiers have been doing a lot of it lately. And I understand why. Headlines like this and this can’t be good.  Not to mention this collection of wretched posters. Although to be fair, a couple of these pictures are not actually  racist – just incredibly offensive. We trust you’ll be able to tell the difference.

This flood of bad publicity is drowning the Tea Party movement as it celebrates its first birthday. And I think all the bad publicity is starting to make some of the people in the movement nervous.

Why do I say that? Because they’ve been whining a lot lately about how the racist incidents and kooky statements from some of their followers have overshadowed what they really stand for.

And they are doing damage control.

Check out this email from the Columbus, Ohio Tea Party, which features the admonition: “Actually, what your signs say matter a great deal.” (That’s in response to the many Tea Partiers who like to say, “It doesn’t matter what my sign says, you’re going to call me a racist anyway.”) Serious rehabilitation going on there.

But really, who are the tea partiers, and what do they stand for? A poll came out today that helped the rest of us delinate their demographics. According to this NYT/CBS poll, they are largely white, Republican, older and male. Fair enough.

The poll also shows they are more likely to think its okay to think violent action against the government is justified. Wow.

Yep, the Tea Party is in the midst of a public relations crisis over its identity…and I don’t envy it.

And Jim, I’m sorry – sending out pictures of lone black people at Tea Party events is not going help.

PS. Check out this hilarious blog from someone calling themselves Tea Party New Mexico. We found this blog by cruising the official NM Tea Party Patriot directory –  but this guy or gal is clearly a ringer.

Check out this quote from all-caps post called “A Response To My Critics:”

FIRST OF ALL FRED, THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY WEBSITE, I DO APPRECIATE YOUR TIME, AND PLEASE TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS IF ANY OF THEM ARE MORE PATRIOTIC THAN YOU ARE THAT YOU THINK IT’S A REAL GOOD WEBSITE THEY OUGHT TO CHECK OUT. SECONDLY, THE TEA PARTY IS NOT A RACIST MOVEMENT. IF YOU HAD READ MY SITE WELL, INSTEAD OF JUST DISMISSING IT WITHOUT EVEN READING IT, YOU WOULD HAVE SEEN THAT AT THE MOST RECENT TEA PARTY MEET AND GREET MEETING HERE IN ALBUQUERQUE, WE WATCHED A VIDEO OF GLEN BECK FANS AND ONE OF THEM WAS BLACK AND HE GAVE A GOOD LITTLE SERMON ABOUT FREEDOM AND LIBERTY. THE TEA PARTY IS NOT RACIST, AND THAT IS JUST A FACT. NICE TRY, COMRADE.

Here’s another quote from a post called, “ I Can’t Stop Crying.”

I was going to write today about how it turns out Obama probably isn’t an android or robot or altered guy or whatever (though he is a Kenyan and a Muslim and a socialist and maybe the Antichrist), because my wife heard from a reliable conservative source that that guy James David Manning wasn’t right about that.

I was GOING to, but then when I went to type about it, I thought of some things about this once-great nation of ours, the United States of America…and Obama, and the Democrats, and that she-wolf Pelosi, and that traitor to our race Bart Stupak, and my daddy and his drinking, and how the Tea Party is working so hard to fight all that, and I just started crying and crying and I still can’t stop.

It’s taken me over an hour just to type these words through the tears and the shaking and, anyway, I guess I won’t be able to do a full write-up today.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will be feeling better.

UPDATE: I finally stopped. I’m okay now.

Read the rest …it’s a postively Swiftian takedown of tea partiers. (We thought he was real for quite some time. And then we laughed and laughed.)  Whoever this is – he or she gets the joke.

The Poorest And The Sickest

It’s funny what makes the news these days.

On Friday, I went to a Medicaid Concept Coverage public meeting at the Balloon Museum in Albuquerque.

Several hundred people came there to hear New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary Pam Hyde explain what’s going on with the Medicaid program, which faces a projected $300 million or more shortfall for FY 2011.  The meeting was one of a series of hearings the department is holding across the state through Dec. 18.  (To read about possible changes, visit the department’s site and click on the Medicaid Concept Paper under “What’s New.”)

At Friday’s meeting, the HHS laid out some grim statistics.

  • Approximately 23 percent of all state residents – some 452,800 people – are uninsured.
  • New Mexico ranks second in the percentage of the highest number of uninsured in the nation, followed only by Texas.
  • Uncompensated care for the uninsured costs New Mexico $335 million annually.

Hyde then told people she wanted to hear their comments about which services they think they can’t live without – and which they could recommend be cut.

First let me say it’s commendable that the state department is taking great pains to meet with New Mexicans to explain what changes may be coming.

But I do have a few observations about the whole affair.

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New Mexico’s Interlock(ing Directorate)

When I was but a wee lass in college absorbing complicated theories in Political Science 101, I learned about a scary thing called an interlocking directorate.

The dictionary defines it as “the practice of members of corporate boards of directors serving on the boards of multiple corporations.” The good book says the concern is that hubs of power will form around these alliances, threatening to compromise the quality and independence of various board decisions.

As I recall it, my poli-sci prof broadened the concept dramatically, using the term to describe the heads of media and commerce and government generally as they interacted across their customary boundaries to influence and shape society to their mutual benefit.

At the time I thought I’d never actually experience this phenomenon in real life – it sounded much too sinister and contrived to my innocent, Catholic-educated ears.

But I’ve sure been thinking about it a lot lately as I watch certain media and business groups collaborate furiously to protect the interests of those who stand to benefit most from resisting reform and maintaining the status quo. It’s happening whether the debate is about climate control regulations, healthcare reform or solutions to the economic crisis that’s now upon us.

It occurred to me when I read this editorial (subscription required) in Tuesday’s Albuquerque Journal warning the state against enacting stringent environmental regulations that might cause oil and gas extractors to leave New Mexico. (Ignore for a second the question of why these companies would leave, when the materials they extract from the land are here, not somewhere else.)

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Freak Show Friday at Clearly NM

Whew!  That’s all I can really say after watching the clip posted below.

Recently there have been a lot of stories about Fox News host Glenn Beck.  Not news they want to have out there – the stories about advertisers pulling their spots from Beck’s program in the wake of his calling President Obama a racist.

But Beck is ramping it up. On last night’s show he made an announcement that he’s tired of being a victim and the gloves are coming off!  He’s tired of being a sheep! From watching his show, I don’t know when the gloves were ever on, but tonight he promised proclaim his plan to show Americans exactly how to “take back their republic.”

Yet what might be even more interesting, or should I say entertaining, was the chart of words Beck pulled out last night on his blackboard on which he deciphered a conspiratorial code.

By assembling the first letters of words like Obama, revolutionaries, ACORN, hidden agenda, etc., Glenn produced the word OLIGARH, thus spelling out the secret plan that unites them all — the supposed Obama oligarchy to come.

That’s right oligarchy, not “oligarhy.” When Glenn asked the audience what letter was missing, I’m sure most said “C”. They must have been surprised when he said “Y” instead.  Obviously he was doing this to make a point of asking why, but in the end he raised even more questions about his rationale for what he says on his show.

Yet the Y that’s missing for me in this picture is “why” is Glenn Beck wasting so many people’s time by still being on TV?  Why are people still taking him seriously?

How about “Honest and Accurate” for a change?

FauxNewsThe recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicating that the anti-health care reform disinformation campaign seems to be getting traction raises serious questions about how the news media have been covering this story.  (For example, 45 percent of those polled are buying into the “death panel” lie that health care reform will allow the government to stop providing medical care for the elderly.)

It would seem that coverage focusing on detailed analysis of the actual provisions in the health care bills doesn’t make for good TV.  On the other hand, interviews with militia members explaining the finer points of health care policy apparently do.

There’s a great post on Daily Kos that gets at this question. Here’s the key piece:

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Advocates With a Pen

RFK_CesarThere’s been so much talk about the decline of the traditional media and concern about what kind of in-depth journalism might rise up to up to take its place.

But I’m more encouraged now about the future of journalism since I’ve seen the ambitious and righteous project called  “Divided Families,” a series of stories by journalism students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

The series, a melange of photos and text which movingly examined the lives of  families divided by the U.S. – Mexico border, won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the college print journalism category. It traces the stories of families who are separated as a result of both legal and illegal immigration and explores the social consequences of public immigration policy.  (To view the full series, go to the above link and click on the PDF file on the right side of the page. )

The Divided Families project was the work of 17 students in the Cronkite School’s In-Depth Reporting class. Students took more than 30 trips to the border, deep into Mexico and to various parts of Arizona to report, record and photograph their stories.

You can read about the other winners, which included The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Charlotte Observer and National Public Radio, here.

The prizes will be awarded today in a ceremony at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The RFK Journalism Awards program honors outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert F. Kennedy’s concerns, including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world. Winning pieces examine the causes, conditions and remedies of injustice and analyze relevant public policies and attitudes and private endeavors.