Posted by: Nathan Dinsdale | November 7, 2011

And now…three minutes with McChesney

It was hard for me to read McChesney this weekend without drawing parallels to the commentary of late CBS News personality Andy Rooney. Both share a certain curmudgeonly analytical style and a tendency to focus more effort on complaining about a given issue than offering any tangible ways of resolving it.

Aside from Rooney’s gruff everyman appeal, a primary distinction between the two is that McChesney growls about the hobbling of public broadcasting (chapter 9), the dilution of the First Amendment (chapter 10) and the neoliberal commercialization of communication (chapters 11-14) instead of baseball, computers and the cotton in pill bottles.

You know what makes me mad? McChesney is largely spot-on with his deconstruction of “The Political Economy of Media” and yet, heretofore, he offers few constructive ideas for how to address the media’s ills. It’s a borderline defeatist position that many (if not most) people seem to share. The glass isn’t half-empty and it’s not half-full. It’s cracked and leaking profusely.

While I wouldn’t necessarily argue against McChesney’s analysis, I would point out that there are plenty of examples that provide a counterpoint to the doom and gloom. One element of the “New Economy” is the rise of social media and “citizen journalists.” While this can be problematic on many levels, I think the potential for genuinely democratic communication is undeniable. And, for whatever issues that “neo-liberalism” has wrought, independent and impactful media have risen up in recent years within the ostensibly free media market. Most notably, ProPublica.

Discussion questions:
What long-term impact do you think the Citizens United case (in which the Supreme Court declared that a corporation is a “person”) will have on the “extension” of the First Amendment as McChesney describes it?

Where does a non-profit, investigative journalism organization like ProPublica fit in McChesney’s vision of a neoliberal New Economy?

For those who lament attacks on public broadcasting, what, if any, responsibility do individual citizens have to support those outlets financially?

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