Free Press media reform panel answers the question: "Is journalism dead?"
Journalism is dead: That seems to be the familiar refrain among the public these days.
But last night, a panel of practitioners and free-press advocates at a preview event for the National Conference on Media Reform taking place in Denver next month, begged to differ. In their view, journalism is alive and well, but coming from unlikely places (and funding still looms as the primary problem).
The panel convened for a discussion titled "The Perfect Storm: Democracy in the Age of Big Money and Big Media" in the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria campus.
Panel members included Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, a media-reform organization; Susan Greene, a reporter for the American Independent News Network; Nancy Watzman, a Denver-based consultant to the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency advocacy organization; and Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez. David Sirota, author and political commentator, moderated the panel. The evening also featured brief remarks from Michael Copps, former commissioner of the Federal Communication Commission and currently a special adviser to the national Common Cause organization.
Aaron opened the event by introducing Copps and lauding his work with the FCC during his eight-year tenure as a commissioner.
Elena Nunez, executive director of Common Cause, speaks about the influence of money on the 2012 presidential campaign.
"He had the crazy idea that the public airwaves should actually belong to the public," Aaron said.
And indeed, Copps spoke passionately about returning the media to the public, addressing the increasing creation of media monopolies through consolidation and the negative influence of unchecked political spending on journalism.
Copps spent the majority of his time with the FCC focusing on acquisitions and mergers, and his message was simple: Piles of cash have destroyed the ability of journalists, and the media in general, to function in their role as watchdogs.
"We have to figure out a way to put some controls on big money," he said. "We probably have 25,000 to 30,000 reporters walking the street looking for a job rather than walking the beat."
The rest of the panel echoed Copps's sentiments, as the tone of the discussion ranged from outright frustration with the lack of media-outlet diversity in Colorado to a feeling of cautious optimism about the future of journalism in the state and beyond. Sirota pointed to the Denver Post as the main media source in the state. Whatever the Post reports ends up on the radio, he said, and that leads to a dearth of dissenting opinions and comprehensive coverage.
Michael Copps talks about his time as FCC commissioner and the influence of big money on media.
On the other hand, Aaron said, even if Sirota is right, the public needs to respond, and that, in turn, could lead to potential solutions for putting journalists back to work.
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