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Independent Media Now More Than Ever

June 29, 2009

Ok, so we are almost half way through the first year of the Obama administration and I think enough time has passed to be able to make some observations about what has happened so far just by looking at how the mainstream news media has reported on “Change We Can Believe.”

For the first 100 days of the new administration I was tracking the coverage in the Grand Rapids Press and I could see no fundamental differences in how the reporting was done from both the local and national reporters. Politics was still viewed through a bi-partisan lens with limited perspectives and almost no verification of the claims made by those in office.

One example is how the news reported on the recent health care proposal from the Obama administration. The coverage has presented the new Obama plan as a radical reform of the existing health care policy, when in fact it is only a mild adjustment of a system that is still dictated by HMOs, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. For great information and analysis on this issue go to the website of the Physicians for a National Health Program.

In mid-June Democratic lawmakers overwhelming voted for the $106 billion war-funding bill that passed in the House. In fact, on just about every major issue that people care about the new administration has demonstrated that it differs little from the Bush administration. For some excellent non-partisan analysis of the policy positions that the new administration has taken read Paul Street’s columns on ZNet and while you are at it, check out his excellent book that was published just months before the election entitled, “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.”

It is true that there are mild policy reforms with the new administration, but the only major difference is the style and rhetoric of the Obama administration. Of course, it is more pleasant to the ears to hear the President give speeches, but if we are serious about real change we cannot be content with having a president who just speaks in complete sentences.

One tool that we so desperately need if we are to avoid being seduced by the promises of “Change,” is a vibrant, investigative and independent news media. We need a news media that serves the public interest and holds power accountable and you will rarely find that in mainstream news. We have to stop believing that CNN and MSNBC are independent news entities just because they don’t sound as ridiculous as FOX News. The reality is that when it comes to investigating power and government policies the there is little difference. We need to seek out sources that are outside of the framework of “official news.”

So, here are some recommendations for news sources that I think would be useful to look at along side of the mainstream sources. Democracy Now! offers some of the best weekday news analysis within the US. There is also GRITtv with Laura Flanders if you are looking for a daily news show that is in a TV format. Other daily sources of online news and analysis are CounterPunch, ZNet, Dissident Voice, PR Watch, Open Secrets, Rebel Reports, Common Dreams, Black Commentator, Black Agenda Report and the Center for Public Integrity.

I also try to provide regular news analysis on this site but also look at commercial media in our weekly Media Bite segments. In addition, we need more people to make their own media, not only to provide more perspectives, but to provide a counter-narrative to the dominant messages that are so pervasive in the corporate media.

If you want to make media or participate in media analysis contact Jeff Smith at

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