Can Local Journalism Rewire Democracy?

July 30th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-07-30%2Bat%2B10.22.11%2BPM.pngFor journalism, it may be the best of times and the worst of times. The national media seems more vibrant than ever. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, as well as the cable news networks are thriving For these outlets the transition to digital was painful, but somewhat successful.

For local news, the story of what happing in your neighborhood, your school board, your city council, is a very different story. Thousands of local newspapers and local radio stations have shut down. The economics of the enterprise has proven to be unsustainable, and even large regional papers in places like L.A., Chicago, and Miami, have proven to be problematic at best and striped by hedge funds at worst.

All of this begs the question of whether our political, cultural, and social divide stems from the top, as is assumed, or whether the hollowing out of the news in our communities, something that should be bringing us together, is at the heart of what’s wrong.

It was the great NY Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who said that there is no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets. His comments remind us that locally, there is only the common community interest. Take that away and what’s left is all the bad stuff.

This is with Washington Post media columnist and former NY Times public editor Margaret Sullivan examines in her new book Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy

My conversation with Margaret Sullivan: 

Do We Have The Strength and Wisdom to BEGIN AGAIN?

July 26th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-07-26%2Bat%2B10.47.21%2BAM.pngIt’s rare that the laws of physics and our ideas of race and politics find common ground.Newton’s third law of motion says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The American story of the struggle for racial equality seems to be subject to that law.

As the Founding gave way to the Civil War, and reconstruction to Jim Crow and segregation, and the civil rights struggle of the ’60s gave way to law and order and Richard Nixon, the election of our first black president would give us Donald Trump and where we are today.

One wonders what it is, particularly around the subject of race and the desire to establish a truly multiracial democracy that drives these contradictory reactions.

Equally, what toll does this whipsawing back and forth take on our democratic experiment, it’s people and those left behind when the moral weather changes. It’s no wonder we are anxious, angry, and exhausted

That just the surface of Professor Eddie Glaude’s new book Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

My conversation with Eddie Glaude Jr.

The High Cost of Free Speech

July 24th, 2020

free_speech_zone_rose_bowl_1088x725-700x470.jpgWe seem to be facing a time when the speech police are everywhere, a time when even the majority of progressive people simply seem to be losing faith in the value of free speech, all the while seeming to want to narrow the words that we can use.

“Don’t you see,” George Orwell wrote in 1984, “the whole of newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. In the end,” he says, “We shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.” Just what does free speech mean? Is it under threat today from the left and/or the right? Why is it also about safety and why are our colleges and universities front and center in this debate?

To talk about this I am joined by one of the intellectual guiding lights of the discussion of free speech, Professor Stanley Fish.

My conversation with Professor Stanley Fish: 

Christopher Dickey: A Remembrance

July 20th, 2020

233_1094114_hr.jpgChristopher Dickey reported from war zones and published many books, including a powerful memoir about growing up with his father, the poet, and author James Dickey.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dickey several times over the years, usually about geopolitical hotspots around the world. Places where his unique reporting skills enabled him to see not only the politics but the cultural heart of what he was reporting on. His reports and books were more than just words and analyses.

However, our most memorable conversation and one I share here was about his memoir Summer of Deliverance. Memoirs, have over recent years, become a genre onto themselves. What Dickey uniquely does is to turn the tables and actually report on himself.

My conversation from September of 1998 with Christopher Dickey.

The Unexpected Role of Feminism in Mass Incarceration

July 15th, 2020

gruberhomepage.jpgWe regularly go through paroxysms of demanding law and order. It's a form of political rhetoric that while it has roots all the way back in the 16th century, is with us once again today.

In our contemporary history we watched Nixon in 1968, New York in the 70s and then were was 1994. A time when the law and order obsession seemed to reach some kind of peak

Rudy Giuliani had become Mayor of New York, the Simpson case shined an arc-light on domestic violence, California passed “three strikes,” and Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.

It was a kind of perfect storm of both enforcing law, protecting women, and injecting steroids into the business of mass incarceration.

How this ultimately worked out for women, and the broad impact of these efforts on the criminal justice system is a subject that University of Colorado law professor Aya Gruber tackles in her new book The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration.

My conversation with Aya Gruber:

Without Newt there is no Trump: How we Got Here.

July 11th, 2020

0bd7a4c3-7442-4e30-8751-7c5dff359eb4-truDonald Trump’s presidency was not an immaculate conception. Rather, the result of 30 years of increased hyper-partisanship, the reshaping of the Republican party, the rise of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio, Robert Ailes and Fox Television, and Newt Gingrich. They all contributed to the pugilistic style of American politics. But perhaps Gingrich did the most damage.

It’s arguable that if Gingrich hadn’t come along, others would have picked up the mantle of this style that lead us directly to where we are today. But Gingrich was uniquely suited to the moment.Julian Zelizer tries to answer in his new book Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party

Understanding him, maybe a big part of that question that gets asked every day, amidst death, unemployment, and anger, how did we get there. That’s what historian and professor

My conversation with Julian Zelizer:

Is It 1968 All Over Again?

July 10th, 2020

Kerner_Report_67_Riots_1088x725-700x470.Then, as now, there was pent-up frustration, which boiled over, particularly in many poor black neighborhoods setting off riots that rampaged out of control. At the time, many Americans blamed the riots on what they saw as misplaced black rage and often vague outside agitators.

But in March 1968, the Kerner Commission Report turned those assumptions on their head. It declared that white racism, not black anger, was at the root of American turmoil. It talked about bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination that all combined to ignite the fuse on the streets of African American neighborhoods.

 “White society,” the presidentially-appointed panel reported, “is deeply implicated in the creation of the ghetto.” “The nation,” the Kerner Commission warned, “was so divided that the United States was poised to fracture into two radically unequal societies, one black and one white.”

Today, there is only one living member of that commission, and he also happens to be the oldest living current or former United States senator. He was once a candidate for president to the United States. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He served for two terms as a senator from Oklahoma. He is Senator Fred Harris.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Senator Fred Harris:

 

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