Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Real Public Media

by John T. Spencer

The Radio

"They seem to lack a unified message."

Really?  I heard that phrase twelve times over the course of two mornings on NPR, which implies that unity can only occur through a set of specific talking points and a hierarchal structure.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of democracy, social media and what a grassroots movement is all about.

I'm not a reporter.  I get that.  But I noticed quite a few signs with words written on them.  After reading the words, I noticed people were angry about the bailouts, angry about the corporate take-over of public institutions, upset about the Supreme Court allowing corporations to be treated as people.  Sounds to me like a unified message that there is an oligopoly, plutocracy and kleptocracy running America.

Then again, I'm not a "real" journalist.

At one point, a reporter (not someone being interviewed) said, "they haven't seemed to figure out why they are protesting."  I've never known anyone who protests just for the hell of it.  I doubt anyone said, "Dude, there's gonna be awesome bongo drums.  I don't care about why we're protesting.  I'll risk being arrested because those bongo drums, my God, they sound great."

The Take-Home

I still like PBS and NPR (someday I'm going to meet Terri Gross in person).  However, I need to remember that while they might be the best of mainstream media, they still pale in comparison to the real public media.  We are in a new era where information is instantly accesible.  Who covered the Occupy Wall Street protests first?  (Or for that matter, who paid attention to the Tea Party first?)  Who video-taped police beating folks who were exercising their First Amendment rights?  Who covered and helped produce the Arab Spring movements?

The Occupy Wall Street movement is proving that the public is the true public media.  We are the citizen-journalists.  What this means for teachers is that if we want true social studies, we need to teach students to think well about civics and social justice.  Students need to move beyond memorizing facts and into the bigger issues of understanding context, distinguishing between facts and opinions, analyzing language, reporting accurately, expressing one's voice respectfully and understanding the bias of both the medium and the message.

Mobile devices have created the Pocket Journalist, where students can access, create, mix and analyze information as it is happening.  I can complain about the bias in public media, but my time is better spent helping develop a more informed, accurate and meaningful public media within my own context of the public education system.

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Note: For the rest of this week and all of next week, you can buy any of my books for one dollar.  You can get all five of them for a price of a venti latte.  Oh, you'd rather have that venti latte?  Okay, I don't blame you entirely.  


  1. Your name might not be as cool as Cokie or Anderson, but you are the media.

  2. Thank you! I have been screaming this to anyone that will listen, and frankly those that won't, as well. The reason they paint them as lacking a message is because OWS is a direct threat to their current state of operating.

    I have been contemplating doing a project with some of our local protesters, this post has given me a nudge to follow through on that idea. I need to be the media.

  3. I agree, but I think they feel both threatened and confused. I would love to see you do a project, Roderick.


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