Monday, August 24, 2009

Talk Radio Hosts are Not Journalists

Dear SF Peninsula Press Club:

Below is the letter I sent to the head of ABC News. I also sent something like this earlier to the Iraq Ambassador and the Iraq Foreign Minister who was trying to drum up business in Northern California.

When it was announced that Lee Rodgers was going to be in the Bay Area Broadcasting Hall of Fame I thought that either people don't listen to his show on KSFO or they agree with him. I'm hoping the former.

When I point out these horrific comments below to people I often find the response is to justify and rationalize them. The response from people in the media is especially strong. I believe this is because they instantly put themselves in the position of the person being criticized and think about how to defend them as if they were journalists and the government was attacking their First amendment rights.

1) Rodgers is not a journalist. He doesn't provide factual corrections, he doesn't even bother to do the "he said, she said" "balanced" views of the weakest of modern journalists, yet he is given all the protections of journalists such as legal protections from slander and defamation as if he was a reporter from the New York Times. All of the protections, none of the responsibilities.

2) When advertisers pull their ads they are not the government limiting the host's "free speech" they are exercising their rights to place their ad dollars where they feel appropriate. They can follow their own internal policies that say, "We don't advertise on stations where the hosts are racists or call for the massacre of entire groups of people."

3) Calling for the violent death of others because of their nationality or race is qualitatively different than stating your dislike of the policies of the President or your Conservative political opinion. I also don't use the phrase 'hate speech' because as you know the right likes to conflate the generic definition of hate with the legal definition of hate speech. This is a conscious decision to confuse the issue and dilute the legal term.

I understand the media's desire to protect journalists who have strong opinions from economic pressure from special interest groups, after all, the right has been doing this to journalists for decades. The pressure has been going on for so long that I think there is an internal moderation that has happened which has lead to some journalists becoming pseudo-stenographers where every story has two sides even when one side is a lie. But as I said earlier, radio hosts are NOT JOURNALISTS. They may be part of "the media" and they often do some of the tasks of journalists, like interviewing public officials, but their goal is not to get to the truth or even to present both sides.

The letter below outlines some of the reasons why the media have a hard time covering the violent rhetoric, racism and bigotry of talk radio, including the issue of media consolidation.

The people at ABC News (TV) and ABC Radio (Citadel Media) have read this letter and listened to the audio clips. However because of their continued interlocking relationships they will not act. Partly this is because Rodgers is still seen as an asset and not a liability. The ABC Network continues to have its own brand tainted by a man who calls them liars and accuses them of journalistic malpractice. I suppose they can handle the slander and name calling, but to stand by while he calls for the genocide of the people of Iraq is really unconscionable.

In 2007 I gave local, national and international journalists an excuse to cover the violent rhetoric coming out of KSFO. It was wrapped around two news hooks (fair use/copyright and advertisers leaving). I have attempted to give journalists and media another excuse to cover this story, but it lacks news hooks. I understand this, but is frustrating to have the modern day equivalent of Hutu Power radio broadcasting out of San Francisco. In 2007 I said that this kind of talk reinforces the views of people who will act violently against others. In 2009 we have seen violence from right wing extremists against the left. And while the hosts didn't pull the trigger, to deny their moral culpability in this violence is to deny the power of radio to call people to action.

Just how many people need to die until this becomes clear again?

I know that when the blood is on the podium or on the church floor the right wing radio hosts and cable tv hosts will deny responsibility. The management will deny any role. Of course they won't accept their role, that would involve them potentially losing revenue via a civil lawsuit. It is up to others in the public or responsible media to call them out. I want to remind people that even though the talk radio host will claim you are trying to silence them, dissent does not equal censorship. There are differences between first amendment rights and speech that incites violence on publicly licensed, commercially-supported broadcast radio. Just how many people need to die until this becomes clear again?

Will ABC Radio do anything?
Will ABC Network do anything?
Will Citadel Broadcasting do anything?


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Blogger Johnny said...

Do you support the right of "artists" to place a crucifix in a glass of urine and call it "art", protected under the right of "free speech"? Do you support the "hateful" burning of the American flag as free speech? Do you support the right of a filmaker to show the "then-current-president" as an assasins' target (complete with movie-goers cheering)? Then you must support talk radio's right to offer alternative viewpoints employing the same type of hyperbole, also under the guise of free speech. Good for just the goose?

10:44 AM  
Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Congratulations, Johnny!

You just earned your F.E.D. (False Equivalency Degree)

Now kindly go back to pissing your shorts and begging Dick Cheney to spy on Americans so that the terrorists under your bed won't get you when you fall asleep tonight.

5:19 PM  

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