Little Local News Coverage for Occupy America

Dick and I spent time downtown at the Los Angeles City Hall where hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of protesters “Occupied LA”. The protesters, who set up tents on the grounds around City Hall, were there 24-7 protesting the gridlock we see in Washington, the lack of representation for the concerns of common Americans, and the unfair advantages granted to the wealthiest 1% among us.

On one of the days we were there, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West were among the crowd delivering words of encouragement, free pizzas were donated by CrooksandLiars.com, and a resolution was read that had been approved by the Los Angeles City Council supporting the efforts of this grassroots, leaderless movement. The scene was positive, exciting, and inspirational.

So here we were, in the midst of this highly charged mass of humanity, with Cornel West blasting the establishment, scores of motorists honking their approval as they drove by, and hundreds of citizen journalists everywhere taking notes for stories they would write and using their hand-held flipcams to make YouTube videos — but no mainstream media.

Not a single camera or reporter from the local news stations was within view. I couldn’t believe that I stood witnessing this phenomenal movement without a hint of evidence that traditional media was documenting or reporting.

Protesters at Occupy LA (photo courtesy Myla Reson)

Then, as I scanned the mass of people I noticed a familiar face in the distance on the crowd’s outer rim. She looked like a reporter from a local television news show. I walked over to the area where she and her cameraman were standing for a better look.

And, I was right. It was a veteran reporter for the local NBC affiliate “Channel 4 News”. Turns out the local news affiliates for ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX had crews reporting from downtown Los Angeles. Yes sir – they were all downtown, in full force no less, covering the Michael Jackson/Conrad Murray manslaughter trial!  The case is being heard in the court house just a few feet from Los Angeles City Hall.

Now, I don’t want to minimize the importance of this or any other criminal trial. And I want to emphasize that this writing has nothing to do with the coverage of the Conrad Murray trial and everything to do with the lack of local news coverage devoted to Occupy LA – arguably one of the most important grassroots uprisings in recent times.

When I got home, I watched the CBS local news affiliate from beginning to end. I was hoping the presence of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley at the day’s events might have motivated local media to give it some on-air coverage, even if brief. But I was wrong. There was no mention of Occupy LA during the telecast.

After watching, I found myself wondering why the show occupies our airwaves. What they try to pass off as news can’t possibly fool anyone, with more than half of its air time being devoted to sports and weather. And this is Los Angeles – a city that rarely has any weather worth reporting.

It’s hard to fathom but according to a recent poll of average Americans, there continues to be a large percentage of people who rely on local television news to stay informed. According to Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center and professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, over 65% of Americans get their political news from local TV news stations. That might explain why we, as a people, are so woefully uninformed. So uninformed, in fact, that we continue to vote in ways that run contrary to our best interests — yet the vast majority of Americans continue to rely solely on mainstream media as their source for political news.

These are the people that are frequently referred to perjoratively as “low information voters”. We often hear late night comedians and others mocking these low information voters, but rarely, if ever, do they mention the key role TV and radio broadcasters play in the dumbing down of America.

Mainstream television and radio broadcast on the public airwaves with free licenses. These airwaves belong to you and me. We justify the practice of granting these free licenses to mainstream media because they allegedly fulfill a public interest obligation. However, it’s hard to reconcile them fulfilling their public interest obligation with what they air, night after night, in media outlets across this country.

In a New York Times Op-Ed piece entitled, “The Price of Free Airwaves“,  FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wrote about the lack of public interest information on the airwaves. Calling the use of the public airwaves a privilege, not a right, Copps wrote that the public airwaves are worth more than half a trillion dollars. He said that we allow TV and radio broadcasters to use them for free and all that we require is that they serve the public interest by devoting at least some airtime for worthy programs that inform voters, support local arts and culture and educate our children.

I, for one, can’t see the public interest requirement being satisfied in broadcasting that Conrad Murray was simultaneously texting several beautiful young women while he was supposed to be monitoring Michael Jackson after administering propofal or that members of the Los Angeles Fire Department were caught taking pictures of scantily clad women while on duty. These are a couple of the stories that dominated the local newscasts on one of the many nights the stations could have been airing coverage of Occupy LA.

Consuming a steady diet of this kind of mind-numbing pablum is having a devastating impact on our populace and ultimately putting democracy at risk. Although the FCC is tasked with the responsibility of holding broadcaster’s feet to the fire when it comes to serving the public good, Copps admitted that something more needs to be done. Offering one example of the lack of local political coverage, he said, “consider that only about 8 percent of local TV newscasts in the month before the last presidential election contained any coverage whatsoever of local races, including those for the House of Representatives”.

With mainstream media feeding us a steady stream of useless information, true informative programming — the kind that people are desperate to get, the kind that helps them to make informed ballot box decisions — is harder to find. Michael Copps noted one major deficiency but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Case in point – how do you know who to elect in judicial elections or where to stand on the propositions in any given election cycle? The kind of reporting that would help you to make those kinds of informed decisions has become a relic of the past. You almost have to be an FBI agent to find out anything about the candidates on your ballots.

The protesters occupying Los Angeles and a hundred other cities in the nation call themselves “The 99%”. They are fed up with a system that they believe has been rigged to serve the interests of the wealthiest 1% of the country. They are demanding reform across a broad spectrum of political and governmental arenas. The use of the public airwaves is just one example that is ripe for reform and is the type of concern they are challenging the power structure to address.

Americans are over-entertained and under-informed partly because the use of our public airwaves has been co-opted by a handful of corporations.

Knowing that access to the public airwaves is granted to mainstream media specifically to enable them to deliver information that is for the public good made it all the more irksome whenever I tried as a voter, to get information on candidates’ positions and failed. It also troubled me that the talking heads all looked pretty much the same – white and male – both on the right and the left.

Russell Simmons

I figured I wasn’t alone in my frustration so, working hand-in-hand with my husband, I founded the LA Progressive. Since launching the LA Progressive in 2008, we’ve received 5,000,000 pageviews. But we need to do better. We are barely scratching the surface. Fortunately for us, the new media gives you, the reader, the power to be a distributor of news simply by clicking “share” or “like” on the Facebook icon below this article and in the upper right side of this page.

With mainstream media falling down on the job and the FCC allowing them to use our public airwaves for free without demanding that they fulfill their end of the bargain, we have to fight back with whatever we’ve got.

Recently, I discovered that Hip Hop mogul, Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam, is supporting the efforts of The 99%. Russell and I grew up in the same neighborhood and went to school together. Our old neighborhood in Queens has been hard hit by this economic downturn. Unemployment there is off the charts. Foreclosures abound. Yet the people who live there rely on mainstream news to inform them about what is going on in the world. Should we be surprised that these same communities exhibit the highest degree of voter apathy. Many of them simply don’t show up because they know so little about the candidates or the issues.

But Hip Hop culture has also become a dominant force in their lives. So I applaud Russell and any other celebrity who steps up to support the much needed reform The 99% is demanding. The mainstream may not put Cornel West on the air but they seem to love Hip Hop celebrities.

sharon kyleIf you’ve got celebrity, use it. If you’ve got a computer, use social media. If all you have is a telephone, call your people. The 99% Occupy movement is giving this country an opportunity to make some long needed adjustments. Every one of us must get involved before it’s too late.

Big kudos to everyone supporting the movement. In spite of the lack of coverage on the public airwaves we, the people, will be heard — history has been, will be and is being made with or without mainstream media.

Sharon Kyle
Publisher

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Comments

  1. says

    Sharon,
    Thank you so much for writing this article and once again bringing our attention to this ongoing problem about the lack of local news actually reporting local news of importance to our community. As you and Dick know this started years ago with the FCC relaxing ownership rules allowing the big corporations to buy up local TV stations, radio stations and newspapers. Before that cross ownership was not allowed. This practice has proven not to be a benefit to society. We are close to same thing happening with the Internet and losing the last open means of communication. I would encourage everyone to check out http://www.freepress.net or http://www.freepress.org to see what I’m talking about. Thanks to you and Dick for providing us with LA Progressive and all your activism on issue important to all of us!

  2. Pat Hamer says

    A point I should state is that officials who support the movement, only do it hoping that the protesters can affectively make some openings by vote that they can take control of Sovereign Power. That is what is at stake here! Who controls sovereign power.

  3. Pat Hamer says

    Welcome to the world of reality given to those who object to abuse of power under the color of law. When you break it down to the lowest common denominator, every revolution, or cause of action complaint that ever existed originates from some form of abuse of power by officials under the false color of law. It takes very little education in regards to studying logic and philosophy relating to the ability to correctly discern the validity of arguments. It is essential that activist and all citizens understand the rules that expose uncogent premises. Ignorance is the friend of politicians who have turned bureaucratic socialism, into a capitalistic venture. Yes corporations are evil and chock full of unbalanced fairness. But officials who pretend they want to help the masses are getting rich and using these, i.e the Tea Party for example.

    Nevertheless, protestors are in the streets, and I only recall one society which benefited by protesting, excluding Egypt, and perhaps Libya, because those were murderous and violent protests.

    The only civil rights leader, since Spartacus, who actually had any affect, correctly identified the devil in the details so to speak. This was Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered before he could have achieved what Gandhi achieved. I have never read where Martin Luther King Jr. actually singled out the “lowest common denominator” root of all corruption, from the beginning of society, to this present day. We all are aware that Copernicus published his conclusions that the earth was not the center of the universe. Of course the Pope was going to burn him at the stake, if he did not recant, which he did. But I use this example, because it shares the uncogent premises that the world was flat, witches floated, and that Sovereign power could not be questioned or scrutinized by man when agents of sovereigns committed atrocities.

    The Italian lawyer, Bartolus in the 14th century, codified this theory as if God mandated that Kings or Popes, who erred or committed egregious crimes against man were doing the ultimate work of God, and could not be punished or even questioned. It developed as, Par in parem imperium non habet. An equal has no power over an equal.” So it follows that Sovereign Power was explained by the minds who believed witches floated, sea monsters swallowed ships, the earth is flat, and that evil rulers cannot be prosecuted or punished.

    All the superstitions were removed by the use of logic and science, except for Sovereign power. We common citizens, being “unequal” to our officials, explain why we have no power to use the courts to stop the abuse of power by exercising the First Amendment. “Redress” is defined by Webster.com as a form of “emotional distress.” That is what abuse of power causes, “infliction of emotional distress.” So the person who is emotionally distressed can be viewed as irrational during this “redress attempt.” Instead of the courts “protecting this right,” they use is as a means to label plaintiffs are “vexatious,” or irrational, given that some complaints are, but any complaint against the government, the government is the first to violate that protection, which is uncogent, and illogical, and not to be entertained by the courts. To show an analogy; it is like rigging a shot gun to the court house doors from civil right plaintiffs and when they open the door they shoot themselves. Very clever and affective, but unconstitutional. Seeing it as it is, would cause more deterrence than most officials could withstand. A policy like this is good for society, but bad for officials. The government, contrary to the logic of the Constitution and the Revolution, protects the government from the people, when will the people wake up and stop it! Japan was correct calling us the “slumber giant!”

    Sovereign Immunity removes citizen grievances, a so called protected right, under the 11th amendment. Therefore, the government has power over us, even when they violate our civil rights, and there is nothing we can do. Officials can be “indicted,” Bogan v. Scott-Harris, but those who do the indicting, are employed by those that need indicted. So it rarely happens, and I believe it is natural for agents who could otherwise punish overtly corrupt officials, turn a blind eye under the theory of the “code of silence” shared by prison inmates, and officials, who have becomes sociopaths themselves living in that harsh environment, day in and day out. We citizens, know this, but do nothing and there is only mock oversight. I often wonder if the ones they do indict are to open about it, or simply not team players that they want to remove anyway, just a personal opinion.

    Gandhi on the other hand, identified the problems in India, similar to our revolution as a “sovereign despotism” who had stacked the deck to the demise of native Indians. Or declaration did not use the word sovereign, but phrases like “judicial tyranny, mock trials, a right inestimable and formidable to tyrants…” are adjectives of Sovereign immunity, which cultivates corruption allowing it to blossom and flourish! The indigenous people of India could not get their day in a fair court, and were losing their culture and freedoms to invaders exploiting them. Gandhi’s peaceful protests, though violence occurred in mobs, usually British Soldiers slaughtering protesters, actually removed sovereign power. England plundered it enough, they simply walked away. When Gandhi was murdered afterward government reinstated their own version of sovereign power. Gandhi’s pending objections were dealt with effectively. Now the power that be in India can say, “It’s good to be the King.”

    In the United States, in 1793, Supreme Court Justice James Wilson ruled in favor of citizens objecting to government fraud and deceit. His opinion reflected, that when he and others, wrote the Constitution, he clearly stated, “to the constitution, the word sovereign is totally unknown.” This is the famous case of Chisholm v. Georgia, 1793. This case proves 2 days later, when congress “anonymously introduced the 11th amendment, it was in fact the most brilliant and diabolical coup that ever happened so quickly after a revolution ended Sovereign Immunity. Yet silently, with very little comment, or scrutiny by the press, Sovereign Immunity was given to all of our officials. There was however, a one caveat, officials could not wear a crown or hold a scepter. In addition, Judges had to remove their wigs, so nobody would catch on, and so far. Thus, none who could do anything about it has a clue. That is, until they become a victim themselves and a non Article III judge introduces the cold hard truth to them. This fake imposter judge is called a Magistrate, who is allowed to masquerade as a Judge, but actually openly performs the task of a defense attorney. This is a mock due process typically. Because they do this overtly in a fraudulent and deceitful manner, there is record in the courts. So far nobody is scrutinizing them except for 99.9 percent of plaintiffs cases that are dismissed, in violation of FRCP and Precedence. Eventually there will be a watchdog agency that will take these corrupt magistrates and the district court judges out for this abuse of power. Right now, Americans are still living good, and nothing will be done, but if the focus of the 1%’s realize it is the courts that are the fault, the Corporations are only allowed to do what the courts allow them to do, and the 1%’rs are chasing a Red Herring” and officials are laughing at them as fools. Plain simple trooth!. They call this excusable abuse of discretion if the appeal court overturns dismissal..

    The only people, who learn this, are those who file civil right actions. The government typically settles out of court. The immunity question considered by layman jurors, due to tradition, is never explained in the light above, which is the truth of how it began in the USA. The 11th amendment overturned the Revolutionary war and made it moot. It effectively swapped the owners of who controlled the right to abuse power and have a legal defense that would arbitrarily and capriciously give officials a constitutionally protected right to act corrupt, and not be held libel.

    So protest away, our official are laughing at you all the way to the bank! Better strategy is to repeal the 11th amendment. Otherwise your children’s children will take your place at the community park, and nothing will change.

  4. Ray Bishop says

    I don’t worry about it. If the media does not provide honest and important reporting on events they will provide the opportunity for people like Sharon and Dick who will. In that case we will soon have a new main media system.
    Thanks Sharon and Dick

  5. says

    Sharon,

    This latest story of yours is a great example – and gives great reasons – why your and like efforts are needed and valued. In recent years I have given up on TV and mass media – and likewise stay away from newerfangled overdosing distractions like Facebook too – not only because they are restricted and slanted and biased but because – above all – they don’t respect my precious and limited time or (in the case of Facebook) value my privacy.

    We have to encourage ordinary folks – mainly by our personal examples – to wean themselves from the outdated notion that they can or should trust mass media to give them the most relevant news in manageable time. This is all part of encouraging folks to take charge of their own lives, not be passive potatoes who live to be entertained by someone else. Of course this active take-charge outlook on life may not sit well with our local entertainment industry, but it really does suit our friendly local physical and cultural climate.

  6. says

    Right on, Sharon. (OK, so I’m an unreformed ’60s activist and still use “right on!”) But, the concerns you raise are improtant and need to be answered by the media–not just some media but all media. Your online newspaper is one way we can learn what the establishment mass media can’t or won’t tell us. Occupy Wall Street (and LA., and dozens of other cities) shows that the people aren’t just the radical right, but all people. And they have a voice. Stay strong!

  7. dooner says

    Well put. If LA’s Media took 10 seconds out of every 10 minutes of “Jackson Doctor Trial” coverage they could run a full hour of Occupy LA stories every day. Unfortunately, the local news has decided that I MUST care about that ridiculous story that will have absolutely no impact on my life and should not care about a movement to improve the country for 99% of Americans.

    The movement should get a boost of coverage today – Thursday, October 13th – when the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AND Occupy LA take to the streets downtown to protest The Gas Company’s refusal to give its employees a FAIR contract. These are the workers we are counting on to keep us safe and prevent incidents like last year’s pipeline explosion in San Bruno from happening in LA.

    The Rally will begin forming at 4PM in Pershing Square and the march will step off at 5:00

  8. says

    Don’t wait for the media. They ain’t coming. Take your cell phones and do your own interviews. Then post them online. If I had advance notice of the LA events I would have filmmed them. I did this in 2009 for the healthcare movement ( http://gothealthcaremovie.com ). I will do the same for this movement if I can get out there. The media sucks anyway. I saw an interview of a guy in a tie at the BOA rally in LA where the reporter says ‘I see you’re a working man. What do you think of this?’ the guy reponded with “they should all get jobs.” Then the reporter goes on to demean the movement saying that they tried to cash an oversized checked for millions, and that did’t work. No shit. The media are the enemy. Don’t even bother. Do it yourself. I am also interested in compiling clips that others shoot into a larger film.

  9. Lauren Steiner says

    Excellent article, Sharon. I was looking to see if there are any bills in Congress to try to enforce the FCC regulations that broadcasters operate for the “public interest, convenience and necessity” but couldn’t find any. I was at a panel at a recent conference where someone mentioned the importance of citizens speaking out at the time of license renewal. This would be the time that the people could press this case. Anyway, for a more detailed study of this issue, I refer you to Dave Marash’s research on this as described in this article.
    http://www.savethenews.org/blog/11/10/04/field-reporting-going-going-gone

    At the very least, people should be calling their Senators and asking them to vote no on this resolution that has been proposed by some corporate hardliners in the Senate. The resolution would destroy existing Net Neutrality protections and strip the FCC of its authority to protect Internet users from carriers that seek to block our right to speak freely, connect with one another and share information on the Internet. This is the only medium left where serious reporting is being done. We must fight to keep it free and open.

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