Volume , Number 0
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The Celling of America
Organizing in Lawrence
Poor People's Organizing
Slippin' & Slidin'
High-Tech Transportation Workers
The Heat is On
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After Pulitzer, Graham’s Book Still Lacks Scrutiny
In the days since Katharine Graham won a Pulitzer Prize for her autobiography Personal History, media coverage has added new luster to the book’s reputation. United Press International referred to Graham’s book as a "classic." On the CNN Financial Network, a correspondent lionized the author: "By unanimous acclaim, Katharine Graham is one of the most powerful players in Washington and among the most influential women in America."
The Washington Post
Read as a memoir, the book is a poignant account of Graham’s long quest to overcome sexism, learn the newspaper business, and gain self-esteem. Read as history, however, it is deceptive.
While Graham lauds her famous friends, she portrays the Washington Post Co.—the parent firm of Newsweek and other media outlets—as a bastion of journalistic integrity. "I don’t believe that whom I was or wasn’t friends with interfered with our reporting at any of our publications," Graham writes.
But Robert Parry—who was a Washington correspondent for Newsweek during the last three years of the 1980s—can shed some light on the shadows of Graham’s reassuring prose. In contrast to the claims in her book, Parry recalls, he witnessed "self-censorship because of the coziness between Post-Newsweek executives and senior national security figures."
Among Parry’s examples: "On one occasion in 1987, I was told that my story about the CIA funneling anti-Sandinista money through Nicaragua’s Catholic Church had been watered down because the story needed to be run past Mrs. Graham, and Henry Kissinger was her house guest that weekend. Apparently, there was fear among the top editors that the story as written might cause some consternation." (In 1996, the memoirs of former CIA director Robert Gates confirmed that Parry had it right all along.)
Overall, Parry told me, "the Post-Newsweek company is protective of the national security establishment." It’s no coincidence that Graham’s book exudes affection for Kissinger as well as Robert McNamara, George Shultz, and other luminaries of various administrations who have remained her close friends.
Meanwhile, the book devotes dozens of righteous pages to the pivotal 1975 strike by Post press operators. Graham stresses the damage done to printing equipment as the walkout began and "the unforgivable acts of violence throughout the strike." It is a profound commentary on her outlook that thuggish deeds by a few of the strikers were "unforgivable"—but men like McNamara and Kissinger were lovable after they oversaw horrendous slaughter during the Vietnam War.
Media adulation for Graham has been so strong that any such criticism is apt to seem way outside the mainstream. Typically, New York Times critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described the autobiography as "inspiring." ABC’s Barbara Walters called it "inspirational." Even Time magazine, assessing the book by the owner of archrival Newsweek, termed it "disarmingly candid."
In Personal History, Graham presents many business titans as near-saints. She depicts her pal Warren Buffett—a major stockholder and board member of the Washington Post Co.—as an impish fellow whose endearing qualities include his zeal to acquire more billions.
Now, at age 80, Graham has only a loose grip on a media empire left to her son Donald Graham and investors hungry to maximize profits. Today, top executives at the Washington Post "represent the corporate conglomerate that they are," says Ralph Nader, who condemns "their lack of critical coverage of corporate power." He adds that the Post is "very much official-source journalism."
Although touted as a feminist parable, Graham’s book is notably bereft of solidarity for women without affluence or white skin. They barely exist in her range of vision. Social inequities are dim, faraway specks. The 625-page book gives short shrift to the unrich and unfamous, whose realities are peripheral to the drama played out by her dazzling peers.
chronicles Katharine Graham’s lifelong struggle to gain confidence, power, and stature among the nation’s elites. It’s certainly personal. But it’s not history.
All Hail Jerry Springer, The Latest Media Bad Guy
Many media outlets are in a state of moral outrage about Jerry Springer, the current emperor of daytime trash television.
Some critics are charging that his program—a daily presentation of violence, bleeped-out profanity, and verbal abuse—is all too real. Or, at the same time, not real enough. By indignantly accusing the show of fakery, critics indicate that they would prefer authentic sleaziness.
What airs on "The Jerry Springer Show" can be troubling. Sometimes, it may seem like a not-too-distant mirror of anguish, idiocy, and confusion. Recent titles of the one-hour program have included "My Daughter Is a Teen Prostitute," "I’m Pregnant by My Brother," and "I’m in a Bizarre Love Triangle."
Supplying plenty of material to titillate viewers, the guests tell salacious stories, denounce each other, and engage in violent confrontations on stage. Meanwhile, renowned individuals in the media business can pose on lofty moral ground and shake their heads.
A lot of high-profile head shaking occurred in late April, when ABC’s "20/20" and NBC’s "Dateline" took turns bemoaning Springer’s depravity and greed. Conveniently, both networks chose to broadcast their in-depth Springer coverage in the midst of the ratings sweeps period. Nice to have it both ways.
These days, Springer appears to be the king of TV’s amoral profiteers. But, despite his millions, he’s a little prince compared to guys like Barry Diller, the media mogul who has pioneered such televised innovations as home shopping channels.
Diller is the head of USA Networks Inc., the conglomerate that produces and distributes "The Jerry Springer Show." While Bad Jerry faces down hostile questions from journalists, Good Barry stays out of the line of fire, running his vast media empire.
As the years pass, the Springers are apt to come and go. They’re people who function as products. In contrast, the Dillers tend to have much more staying power—and their giant companies keep getting bigger.
Complaints about trash TV never get very far. That’s because most commentators—whether they consider themselves to be conservatives, liberals or whatever—are afraid to challenge the "principle" of the so-called free market.
Of course, the free market is a myth. Media titans like Diller or Rupert Murdoch—and corporate outfits such as Time Warner, Disney and Viacom—have a lock on huge portions of the mass media.
Do media tycoons like Diller and blow-dried hirelings like Springer just give the public what it wants? "That is the biggest fallacy in our business," TV journalist Linda Ellerbee retorted a decade ago. "That’s the argument that people on our side use to put dreck on the air."
People sitting in front of TV sets do not choose from what isn’t available. They choose from what is.
"The American public didn’t ask for trash television," Ellerbee pointed out. "They’ll watch it the same way we go out and watch a fire. It’s not all they want."
Now, as arguments fly about "The Jerry Springer Show," insights are diluted by abundant quantities of hogwash.
Yes, some of the show’s critics are "elitist." They’re put off by low-income, unschooled people who don’t have the social graces usually regarded as minimal for the airwaves.
But Springer’s defenders are absurd when they wrap his program in a populist flag. Such TV shows are caricatures. The people on stage are carefully selected to fit a script that stereotypes rather than illuminates. Relatively few Americans are "qualified" to make it onto Jerry Springer’s stage. The producers work awfully hard to find them.
Meanwhile, Springer and his bosses like to act as though they pay respect to working-class Americans by putting these parodies on the nation’s TV screens. But they’re not doing anyone a favor—except Barry Diller and his rich pals.
Diagnosis For News Media: "Diversity Fatigue"
A new term for an old problem has just emerged in the national press. We’re now told that much of the media industry has come down with "diversity <R>fatigue."
Before this malady, the story goes, the American Society of Newspaper Editors was committed to racial diversity. Back in 1978, the group set a goal of "achieving minority employment at daily newspapers that matches minority representation in the general U.S. population by the year 2000, or sooner."
Twenty years ago, when the editors did a nationwide survey, they found that only 4 percent of staffers were black, Latino, Asian or Native American. Today, the numbers look better—11.4 percent—but hardly impressive. After all, fully one-quarter of the American public is composed of racial minorities.
Never swift, the progress stalled during the 1990s. At this rate, the editors’ group will miss its announced deadline by about a century.
Of course, the American Society of Newspaper Editors could choose to redouble its efforts. Instead, ASNE has proposed dumping the goal in favor of less ambitious targets. Daunted by its own inertia, the newspaper industry is pleading exhaustion.
Media outlets, whether daily papers or broadcast networks, face many challenges. When it comes to battling for market share, there’s no sign of fatigue. When it’s a matter of struggling for a big profit margin, their eyes are always on the prize. But somehow, when racial equity is at stake, weariness is overwhelming.
In 1998, the media establishment continues to summon a great deal of energy for boosting the bottom line. But the top honchos are oh so tired of the quest for racial equity.
Let’s give credit where due: A lot of media managers can be innovative and tenacious. The colorful arrival of USA Today in the 1980s, for instance, spurred hundreds of daily papers to bring color to their newsprint with design makeovers. Frequently, presses were modernized at a cost of millions of dollars.
But diversifying the color of people in the newsrooms rarely got that kind of priority. Some sincere editors and managers, as well as reporters, pushed to bolster minority hiring. Yet the burden has worn out its welcome.
If the nation’s top editors were as committed to profitability as they’ve been to racial balance, most media companies would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.
Ironically, the retreating sounds from the American Society of Newspaper Editors came just after the 30th anniversary of the Kerner Commission Report on the causes of urban riots.
The 1968 commission didn’t simply call for integrating the ranks of newspaper reporters, who were almost all white at the time. The panel stressed the need for minorities in decision-making positions: "Newspaper and television policies are, generally speaking, not set by reporters. Editorial decisions about which stories to cover and which to use are made by editors."
These days, so-called diversity fatigue seems to be widespread. After many years of bashing from pundits and politicians, affirmative action is on the ropes. In California, state university campuses are seeing a sharp drop in applications and admissions of black and Latino students.
Whether in the media business, colleges, or other institutions, whites often embrace the illusion that people can transcend racism by ignoring it. But this "colorblind" approach has a way of being blind to the power of racism in the present day.
From the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal to the gloss of liberal Mother Jones magazine, many editors seem notably patient about racism, while patience with measures like affirmative action has disappeared.
"Diversity fatigue" is a rather euphemistic way to describe the process. If you peer through the foggy evasions, you might catch a glimpse of white supremacy: more subtle than decades ago but still very powerful. No wonder so many Americans, in their hearts, are suffering from racism fatigue.
—run by Graham for decades and still owned by her family—savored the prestigious award with a news story headlined "The Proof Is in the Pulitzer." The article said that she "undertook her project like an investigative reporter" and wrote "a book that is as much history as memoir."
Norman Solomon is an author and a syndicated columnist.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.