free press

fpbye

New Adventures

Today is my last day at Free Press.

After seven years fighting for more diverse, independent media, quality journalism and all people’s rights to connect and communicate, I’m moving on to a new adventure.

It’s a tough time to leave. The work Free Press does is profoundly important right now.

I started at Free Press the same month the first iPhone was released. In the seven years since, media has become interwoven into our lives in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Our computers have moved from our desktops to our pockets, and technology is far more personal and intimate today than ever before. Our movements, our politics, our news and our communities are being transformed by creative people and unexpected technology. And through these tools, people are creating, collaborating and participating in media and journalism every day in ways few of us imagined seven years ago.

However, at the same time we also face a range of new threats to freedom of expression and the open Internet. From net neutrality to mass surveillance and media diversity to mega mergers, Free Press has been fighting these fights for a decade. And I know the organization has big plans for the next decade, especially at the intersection of press freedom and Internet freedom.

The team at Free Press is second to none. They are some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable people I’ve ever worked with. I’ll miss the work, but I’ll miss the team more than anything.

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Fighting for Our Rights to Connect and Communicate in 2014

In my first months on the job here at Free Press I traveled to Chicago and did a bunch of workshops all over the city about media consolidation. I was pretty new to media policy issues, and spent most of the time listening to community members talk about why the media was a life and death issue for them.

I listened to them talk about not hearing anyone who sounded like them on the radio, not seeing any issues that they were struggling with in the newspapers, and constantly seeing their community misrepresented on the evening news.

But I also heard from amazing organizers working in youth radio, journalists who were helping residents start their own newspaper, and digital activists working to connect more people to high-speed Internet access.

These are the stories that still motivate me today. These are the kinds of stories that inspire a lot of the work we do here at Free Press. And I’m lucky to work with an incredible team of people everyday, who inspire me with their passion, smarts and tireless work.

Free Press has been at this for ten years, and I believe this is a turning point. We’ve had one of our most successful years ever, but we have much bigger plans. Some of our biggest fights to defend press freedom and Internet freedom are ahead of us. (more…)

FCC Moves to Beat Back Covert Consolidation

In a rare move, the Federal Communications Commission has thrown a wrench into a company’s plans to consolidate.

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FCC has intervened in the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan to buy seven TV stations from Allbritton Communications. The agency asked Sinclair to “amend or withdraw” its plans to sidestep ownership rules that limit how many stations one company can own.

Earlier this fall, Free Press pushed the FCC to block this deal, citing Sinclair’s use of outsourcing agreements and shell companies to skirt the rules. In new research, we revealed how Sinclair and other companies are using all kinds of shady tactics to grow their empires at viewers’ expense.

In response to our report, Sinclair argued that it “completely complies” with the law. However, it would seem the FCC disagrees and is raising significant concerns about this kind of covert consolidation. (more…)

What Does It Mean to Be a Media Ally Today?

Last week I received the Lew Hill Media Ally award, named for the founder of Pacifica – the first non-commercial community funded radio network. Hill’s pioneering vision for nonprofit, community supported media in America is a constant inspiration in the work I do advocating for the next generation of public and noncommercial media our communities need. The media landscape has shifted radically since Hill founded Pacifica, but the need for fiercely independent journalism remains. Given that fact, what does it mean to be a “media ally” today?

Below is a version of the remarks I gave at the awards ceremony, hosted by Press Pass TV. (more…)

Your Actions Should Be Your Credentials

Today’s celebration of the 220th birthday of the Bill of Rights comes after three months of journalist arrests and press suppression in cities across America — the most recent of which happened just this week. When the NYPD arrested a group of photographers, live video-streamers and other citizen journalists at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City earlier this week, it rekindled a long smoldering debate over who is a journalist.

The people arrested were all aligned with the Occupy movement, with some serving on the Occupy Wall Street media team, but based on videos and first-hand accounts they were primarily there to bear witness and cover the events. In fact, over the course of the Occupy movement, in many cases when police kept other journalists at arm’s length, the only video and reports coming out of Occupy raids were coming from these kinds of citizen journalists.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The question “who is a journalist” has been raised often over the past two months as reports of press suppression and journalist arrests have spread from city to city. See, for example, the debates here, here and here. I’ve already described my views on this in relation to my own work monitoring journalist arrests at Occupy events: “I decided early on that I wasn’t going to quibble about who is a journalist, and who isn’t. My goal was to account for anyone who was clearly committing acts of journalism when they were arrested.”

But, tangled up in the debates over who is a journalist are very real legal debates about who is given press credentials and what protections those press credentials provide. In general, the press credentialing system is broken — a poor fit for the media landscape we find ourselves in. The courts have already ruled that, as more people gain access to the tools of reporting, “news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.” If the question is not who is a journalist, but rather, what are the acts of journalism that should be protected, then we need to rethink what a “press credential” actually is. (more…)