Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Cap-Times and the Progressive Movement

by: Harry Waisbren

I was inspired to use my column space at the Badger Herald to write an article about internet journalism and the Capital Times transition following our interview of the new editor of the Capital Times, Paul Fanlund. In general, the phenomenon of citizen journalism and the progressive blogosphere is perhaps my greatest passion, and I plan on writing quite often about both the current power and future potential of the blogosphere. I am so confident about the impact of the netroots because I think it has already been a revelation for this country, and in time, I believe it will further manifest itself into an information revolution that will change the face of America.

For this particular article I focused on how the blogosphere is uncomparbly adept at giving voice to experts who would not be able to obtain the access they deserve in the mainstream media. This has led to quite the disparity between the mainstream media and the progressive blogosphere, where experts able to truthfully assess current predicaments as well as almost prophetically predict future complications (especially capitulations by the Democratic party) are given much more of a voice in blogland.

This is largely because of our current system where we have completely out of touch media stars constantly telling us to listen to them because of their "journalistic standards". Many times when I read these people's material I keep thinking that I could just as easily see them hosting a show on E! or writing for a tabloid as them continuing to harp on Hillary's cleavage and Obama's bowling. Now don't get me wrong, there are some incredible journalists out there, and the blogosphere is entirely dependent on analyzing and spreading the work that they do. However, the mainstream media needs to be held to account for the destruction of the credibility of their profession if real reforms are ever going to be made, and this will require major changes in how our society analyzes a system that allows for so much useless noise and propaganda. If such reforms are indeed made, both the blogosphere and the nation as a whole would be helped exponentially because of it.

This is why despite my lack of journalistic credentials I feel very comfortable giving my take about major issues of the day. I feel it is my patriotic duty to question these people, as anyone who would rather I just keep quiet about what I really think and get to the back of the political discourse bus with the rest of the silent majority in this country does not really believe in democracy, much less journalism.

I am far past the point where I am trusting of a media source only because they are referred to as a "professional journalist". Neither Thomas Paine nor Thomas Jefferson had such a title, but that did not affect their ability to do the main duty of journalism: to act as a check on government malfeasance by educating the people. Furthermore, writing online allows for the direct citation of evidence through linking, making many of these sites vastly more credible than our highly propagandized press.

If the British had our technology in 1776 I am sure that they would have had blatant government propaganda on even their most credible media outlets as well. This has become such a large problem that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers explained that this is why the Democratic party is not pursuing accountability for the litany of impeachable offenses:

On Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” on Dec. 20, Conyers said the U.S. news media has become such a problem that any Democratic attempt to hold the President and Vice President accountable might end up achieving the opposite result.

“There is a very stark reality that with the corporatization of the media, we could end up with turning people, who should be documented in history as making many profound errors and violating the Constitution, from villains into victims,” the Michigan Democrat said.

This problem is very real, and we live in very frightening times. Fortunately, there is much reason to have hope despite this, as many members of our citizenry have banded together to try to address this problem through their participation in the progressive movement. This is why my article also included a discussion of the Capital Times's transition to a 24/7 online model, as it will make it very possible for them to be an active member in this movement through involvement in the blogosphere.

I am extremely excited about the potential of this new outlet, as there are many brilliant people on this campus with opinions that should be spread far and wide. All they need is the virtual microphone that a successful internet newspaper could provide, and the free flowing nature of the internet will certainly facilitate this feat. This is because the technology of the net allows for a vastly increased amount of material that could be published, none of which needs to have length constraints for space and formatting concerns.

Any news source that is truly committed to the interests of its readers would seek out such experts, especially since almost all of the experts they typically cite have been dead wrong on the most serious issues over the last few decades. I am proud to say that giving voice to the people silenced by this corrupted media framework had been a primary goal of Forward Forum long before I arrived, and it is specifically why I was so excited to begin working and learning from John in the first place. It has been quite the experience participating on the show thus far, and I am very excited about our plans to utilize the Mad Progress blog to increase the volume on the previously silenced speech even more.

Increasing the volume on this kind of speech is also specifically why I am so excited about the Capital Times transition. In my first post on this blog, I cited Madison's vast history in progressive politics as a reason for all of its citzenry to become much more involved in the current progressive movement. I truly believe that a large and well-structured new media based internet newspaper could do wonders for our efforts to connect what is going on inside the Madison bubble to the rest of the nation, and it will also have the capacity to connect the historic work being done elsewhere to the Madison citizenry as well.

So if you haven't already, give my article a look and further consider my arguments (and please let me know what you think). Also, please begin to discern what you can contribute to the Capital Times, whether it be through reading and learning from unconventional thinkers, discussing the issues in the comment sections and creating a virtual community, or by submitting your own writing to be discussed. Despite what the media in this country have been saying, American citizenship is not a birthright: citizenship is something you do!

In these times of unprecedented turmoil in America, it is all of our duties to work together to decipher how we can progress forward. That is the true patriotism that our founding fathers envisioned America's citizens would have, and that is the true greatness that is America.

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