How President Sanders is going to defend journalism from Wall Street looting, billionaire influence and corporate control
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“Journalists should understand that Bernie Sanders isn’t against journalism. He’s against a profit-driven corporate system that has long stymied real journalism and is now destroying the entire industry.” - Journalist Daniel Denvir
On Tuesday, Bernie became the first and only 2020 presidential candidate to release a comprehensive and detailed plan to reform the media and strengthen the free press. The plan — which you can read here — is designed to protect journalism from Wall Street looting, billionaire influence, corporate control and Donald Trump’s authoritarianism.
First, some background: Bernie has worked for decades to halt media consolidation and protect independent media. He was one of only 16 House members to oppose the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which accelerated consolidation. He has also consistently spoken out against efforts to weaken media ownership rules.
We are now living through the results of deregulation: reporters are facing mass layoffs and journalism is being starved of resources.
In his Columbia Journalism Review article outlining the plan, Bernie proposes concrete policies to strengthen antitrust enforcement, deter mass layoffs and increase investment in programs that fund local news gathering. Having publicly supported journalists’ efforts to unionize, Bernie’s plan would also strengthen journalists’ efforts to collectively bargain with corporate employers, and protect reporters’ independence from ownership’s influence.
The plan is getting rave reviews. The Huffington Post said Bernie’s “plan presents a dramatic and novel effort among the Democratic candidates to better protect a free press, a far cry from Trump’s blistering criticism of anyone and everyone critical of his administration.”
Northwestern University journalism professor Steven Thrasher said, “All journalists ought to read Bernie Sanders’ very good CJR essay.” Reporter Aaron Gordon said, “This is one of the sharper elucidations of the journalism crisis in America I’ve read, and easily the best of any politician.”
Of course, bad-faith critics have tried to equate Bernie’s criticism of corporate media with Trump demonizing the press. But that’s, well, bad faith. Consider this key passage in the CJR article to understand the thrust of Bernie’s media reform agenda:
Trump’s authoritarian bullying of the media is totally unacceptable and it must be denounced and rejected. But let us be clear: that alone will not solve the journalism crisis. Moreover, a further expansion of oligarchic business models in the media industry could make matters worse.
After all, TV networks that rely on $4.5 billion a year of pharmaceutical ads may be thrilled to sugarcoat our current dysfunctional health care system—but they will never provide a consistently fair hearing for something like Medicare for All, even though polls show that a majority of Americans support such a proposal.
Corporate media organizations sponsored by fossil fuel industry ads may gladly provide a platform for guests who insist that our current oligarchic economy is just great, but as studies show, the same outlets often downplay or omit coverage of the climate crisis that those advertisers are helping create.
And news outlets owned by Disney and Jeff Bezos may happily tout Disney films and Bezos’s plans for space exploration, but we cannot count on them to consistently and aggressively cover workers’ fight for better wages at Disney- or Bezos-controlled companies. In fact, in one instance, we saw that The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, tried to punish a reporter because he spoke out for better wages at the newspaper.
We need to rebuild and protect a diverse and truly independent press so that real journalists can do the critical jobs that they love, and that a functioning democracy requires.
As longtime journalist Daniel Denvir noted: “Journalists should understand that Bernie Sanders isn’t against journalism. He’s against a profit-driven corporate system that has long stymied real journalism and is now destroying the entire industry.”
Bern after reading,