Seventeen and a half years ago — at a time when a little-known governor named Bill Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination to challenge President George H.W. Bush — this syndicated column began.
The launch of “Media Beat” aimed to bring progressive media criticism to the opinion pages of newspapers.
From the outset, as co-writers of the column, Jeff Cohen and I challenged the news media for deferring to corporate power and for being too easy on the man in the Oval Office.
Over the years, those basic themes have remained. On a weekly basis, “Media Beat” columns criticized high-profile journalists and big media institutions for coziness with corporations and failure to engage in truly independent journalism.
No matter who was president, “Media Beat” urged the press to be watchdogs instead of lapdogs.
“When we launched ‘Media Beat’ as a nationally syndicated column, there wasn’t much progressive criticism of the mainstream
media circulating inside
the mainstream media,” Jeff recalls. “That’s what made the column unique — way before blogs and the Internet, way before Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert started lampooning TV news night after night. We exposed censored stories, examined hidden financial ties behind media conglomerates and monitored talk-show demagoguery before anyone had heard of Glenn Beck.”
Central to our concerns was the routine obscuring of truth. Jeff puts it this way: “The legendary muckraking journalist I.F. Stone lived by a truism: ‘All governments lie.’ Our column was launched and propelled by our belief that too many news outlets uncritically circulate those lies, along with the half-truths and exaggerations from those in power. Especially when it comes to foreign policy. And we criticized news outlets that make sure to neatly balance or bury truth next to official lies, so as to avoid accusations of bias — especially the dreaded charge of ‘liberal bias.'”
Jeff, the founder of the media watch group FAIR, bowed out of “Media Beat” in 1996. Since then, I’ve continued to write a column every week.
This is the last one.
After more than 850 “Media Beat” columns, I’ll be concentrating on other writing projects. In the days and years ahead, I hope you’ll make a habit of visiting me at www.normansolomon.com.
Of course, all things, good or otherwise, must come to an end. Still, I can’t quite grasp what it means that I’ll no longer be on a weekly “Media Beat” deadline.
I want to thank Jeff Cohen, one of the most insightful media critics of recent decades. We hatched this column together and worked closely on it for several years. Since then, countless times, I’ve benefited from his astute advice and insights. (You can find his excellent writings at www.jeffcohen.org.)
One of our enduring innovations, the annual “P.U.-litzer” Prizes for the foulest media performances of the year, began at the end of 1992. In the future, the P.U.- litzers will be awarded under the aegis of FAIR.
Back in 1992, “Media Beat” took flight under the wing of Creators Syndicate. I appreciate that Creators took a chance with this column and stood by it ever since.
Countless times, my wife, Cheryl Higgins, has waited for me to show up while I finished the latest column. She has encouraged me to keep thinking and writing. My gratitude to her is beyond measure.
The newspapers that printed this column deserve some recognition. Over the years — while quite a few editors cancelled “Media Beat” when it turned out to be more than they bargained for — some chose to stick with it. Notably,
the editors of the Sunday Freeman
in Kingston, N.Y., published the column every week for the entire lifespan of “Media Beat.”
Most of all, I’d like to thank the readers of “Media Beat.” Because of you, this column was worth writing.
Media criticism is a process of decoding. After we “crack the code,” we’re less likely to be manipulated by the ongoing assault of spin, euphemisms, careful omissions, semi-truths and outright lies.
When we see through media distortion — and when we become active to fulfill our hopes — there’s more potential for democracy.