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The Corporate Media Need Some Competition: Time for a Labor Paper!

Unions have been wasting millions every year trying in vain to get the workers' story into the media. Forget it! It's time for them to back an independent labor newspaper to challenge the corporate media's lies.

It's time for a labor-oriented daily newspaper.

As a long-time professional journalist and labor activist, I have watched from the inside for thirty years now the constriction of the media and of the flow of information to the public--information which is critical to the function of a democracy.

We have reached a point today that half the people in this virtual Land of the Free think that it was Iraqis who attacked the World Trade Center, when in fact not one Iraqi was among the suicidal terrorists on those planes, where half the people in America believe not only that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but that the U.S. has found such weapons, when in fact there are none and were none, where half of American young people think that Social Security will be bankrupt before they reach retirement, where in fact no such thing will happen.

Important news is routinely blacked out or buried, while administration lies, such as Bush's latest whopper that "research" shows that children do better being raised in families where there is a mother and a father than in a gay household, or his much bigger whopper that the Social Security system is going "bankrupt," are simply run as fact, with no effort to evaluate their veracity,

I've been witness to this collapse of mainstream American journalism. When I broke a story (in Salon Magazine and Mother Jones) definitively proving that President Bush had a device hidden under his jacket during the three presidential debate--most likely a wireless hearing device---it was because both the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as the Los Angeles Times, had first rejected that story when it was brought to them by my source, a respected senior NASA photo analyst and astronomer.

When it comes to reporting on critical issues facing working people--the flight of jobs overseas, the security of the national retirement system, the destruction of the right to organize and join a union, declining job safety, environmental destruction, a safety net for the unemployed or underemployed--the situation is even worse. When the media do report on these topics, it is almost always from a management perspective. Attacks on Social Security are called "reform," just as the destruction of welfare was called "reform." The obvious mega-crisis of global warming is covered "even-handedly," giving know-nothing critics (including our president) equal billing with the overwhelming scientific community's warning of disaster as if it was commentary at a football game. As for covering workers' views during labor disputes--forget it. There is hardly a labor reporter left in America, so most labor stories are now covered by the business desk, which takes management's perspective as a given.

In such a situation, it is no wonder that organized labor is being left out in the cold politically. No wonder that most Americans don't even really know what a labor union is. No wonder that in many people's minds, unions are seen as little more than gangs, or at best as just "special interests."

Yet the union leadership continues to squander untold millions of dollars on publicity campaigns and publicity departments, trying to get its story told in this biased and uninterested media.

It's time to take at least some of that money and put it to much better use, by subsidizing the creation of an independent but pro-labor daily newspaper--a publication that would have its own reporters in Washington, D.C., New York, and key labor areas like Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and that would cover all the news in the country and the world from a perspective that takes working people and their viewpoints into account.

I propose that such a paper be published on-line, not on paper. Why? The cost of printing a newspaper, and of getting it delivered to millions of homes across the country, would be prohibitive, and the money would be better spend on having a crack staff of reporters and editors. These days, working families for the most part have computers and online access, so there's really no need for paper. An added advantage is that if the publication obtained a mass list of union members' email addresses, members could receive a brief news summary of the day's headlines each morning as an alert message, with a link to the publication.

Having the seed money for such a daily news journal come from the labor movement would free the publication from the constraints that have sapped the will and integrity of the corporate press. A few million dollars might seem like a lot of money to the unions, but since the many millions more spent on publicity for the most part just go into media office wastebaskets, it's really not a big new expense--just a shifting of funds to a much more productive use.

The key to the success of such a publication would be its independence. It would have to move way beyond the traditional captive labor media, and even be ready and able to write critically about the labor movement when necessary. If there were not this independence, the venture would be doomed from the start.

As an independent, labor-funded daily, however, it could compel a renewal of the competing national corporate media, which would be forced to change or be exposed as biased or worse--captive of conservative politicians and corporate interests.

I envision a newspaper that would be so relevant to American workers' lives, covering not just politics, economics and labor, but sports and entertainment too, that it would be read every day, replacing the daily paper in most households.

For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .

homepage: homepage: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

add a comment on this article

A Labor Media Strategy is very much needed! 07.Feb.2005 11:47

labor media activist

With the current on-going nation-wide discussion about the future of the AFL-CIO and organized labor it is VERY IMPORTANT that a Labor Media Strategy be a part of this discussion and become an integral part of future plans.

We not only need a good daily newspaper, but radio and TV, too. A national television channel for working people - now, just imagine that, the time has come...

My favorite places to find news daily about the labor movement are here:

LabourStart
 http://www.labourstart.org

Workday Minnesota
 http://www.workdayminnesota.org/

Online Newspaper 07.Feb.2005 12:57

Messenger

It is immensely needed!

PLEASE GO FOR IT - and keep us informed on your progress. You may find financial backing from some of us, too.

Good idea 07.Feb.2005 14:02

Moor

And, these organs could be used to disseminate ideas, create dialogue amongst different factions of the left, promote discussions about fundamental principles, provide forums for alliance building, and serve as focal points for the formation of a political platform that could seriously challenge the Republican/Democrat lock on electoral politics in this country. What is needed is a Labor Party that can address the economic needs and social aspirations of working people in a way that will get their attention and keep it.

Independence 07.Feb.2005 16:57

George Bender

"The key to the success of such a publication would be its independence."

Yes, and how would you get that if it were labor funded? I have mixed feelings about labor unions. I believe they're about the only hope, except for minimum wage laws, for poor people. On the other hand, they often seem to be just about preserving the jobs and wages of middle-class people. And the Democrat status quo. SEIU's attack on the Oregon Nader campaign was filthy and outrageous.

All that said, if you can make it work I would support it. I'm sick of the American left ignoring economic issues.


another left paper? 08.Feb.2005 09:03

working stiff

There are certain ideas that while good, may have outlived their usefulness. Working people need to control their own media, and most importantly, it needs to be relevant. What makes corporate media so irrelevant in terms of real news is that it is designed to appeal to "the masses" and as such is a tool of advertizing, paid or otherwise, and a tool to fulfill the need of the State and the Companies. A labor paper designed on this same model is a replication of these means, only for the "common good", but in reality already has well entranched competition. We cannot fight alienation though alienated means. Plus the thought of the feeding frenzy from every left sectrian marxist grouplet to get "their piece" of the labor daily for the party line makes me feel icky.

Sucessful labor papers always complement labor organizing. There are shop floor newsletters, and there are networks of news on the web that can be disseminated to the job with these connections to actual activists on the job. That is how media will inspire more of us to fight the Horse's Shit from the right and the left, and build worker power and control. We haven't lived in a print dominated information system for about 60 years (which is why the FCC was sure to keep radio out of the hands of the left via the Radio Act in the 20's). The fact that we are moving back toward some print is through the multimedia of the web. Folks without computers do not have access, which is why the shop floor communication tools and organizing are so necessary.

I think a comprehesive website linking to all labor news sources in all languages is much more democratic. Indymedia fills much of this role, though only a handfull of indymedia sites really push the labor component of struggle, with is reflective of a larger problem of the left. maybe this can be addressed within the indymedia community, instead of reinventing the wheel.

A Thought 08.Feb.2005 10:19

Fred

Any discussion about a labor paper must include white collar as well as blue collar elements. Since the traditional distinctions between "working class" and "middle class" are becoming more blurred as a result of the "war-on-wages," focusing the vision on and restricting the effort to the "shop floor" is unnecessarily marginalizing and would exclude millions of workers. These types of organs of communications already exist and are hopelessly compromised and controlled by Democrat labor bosses. More comprehensive organs are needed in order to inform the diverse nature of the US workforce, both in its specificity and generality. A national paper for the working person is not a bad idea - but funding it and keeping it afloat would be very difficult in this current political climate.

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