When (political pundits) pronounce what the future
has in store for us, it comes in the form of definitive
decrees, shaped with the tone of authoritative certainty.

Glenn Greenwald

Post media reporter Paul Farhi recently explained the increasing reliance of 24 / 7 cable news networks mixing coverage of breaking news with the opinions of a range of pundits and “experts”, many of whom are journalists, columnists and politicians.

For younger news consumers, he explains that decades ago this was considered taboo among reputable TV news organizations. and the underlying economic drivers of this lamentable development. This has long been something media literate news consumers have been aware of, and is one of the most compelling reasons media education needs to be widely taught in the U.S., and public media needs to be strenghened.


my eyes glaze over:
used for saying something is so boring
or complicated you cannot be bothered
to think about it or try to understand it


The Federal Communications Commission, usually referenced by its acronym as “the FCC”, is one of the most important, yet least understood of government agencies. Just pronouncing its name induces MEGO and is a major factor in the public’s lack of understanding of what it was established to do. Reading through the Wikipedia explanation of the FCC serves to reinforce this phenomenon.

It is therefore well worth the effort to read this excellent summary by Michael Tomasky explaining how long standing FCC rules to protect diversity of TV ownership, public debate and service to local communities are about to be eviscerated with the looming FCC approval of right wing Sinclair Broadcasting merging with Tribune Media.

Understanding how this, and similarly complex issues like net neutrality, before the FCC affect public life is fundamental to the need for 1) critical media literacy to be taught in the U.S.; and 2) public service media to be strengthened to help citizens better understand the crucial role of public discourse in a healthy democracy.






A major new Knight-Gallup survey of Americans shows citizens “believe that the media have an important role to play in our democracy — yet they don’t see that role being fulfilled.” The summary of the Knight Foundation report is worth reading.

Buried in the analysis about the ten main reasons for this is the astonishing finding that NPR and PBS are much less trusted by Americans than Fox News.

How could this possibly be? The answer is both simple and revealing: relatively few Americans rely on public media as their main source of news and information. The central theme of the Media Stewards Project articulated in this blog is that most citizens have scant awareness of how dominant commercial media are in the US, and how weak and marginal our public media sector is compared with nearly all other advanced democracies.

A related major theme of the MSP is that the US is at least three decades behind countries with robust public media systems in systematically teaching media education and critical media literacy in their public schools. There is both great irony and major lessons to be learned in these contextual realities related to the current low state of public trust in media. Critical media literacy is too rarely discussed on NPR and PBS, which in turn are main sources of news and information for too few American citizens.





Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person or a
group of actors to erode another’s confidence in their own
consciousness by repeatedly signalling to the targeted person
that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual
surrender of critical thinking by the target.


A Google search of the words “gaslight” and Trump” will yield a long list of articles explaining how the gaslight effect has become a hallmark of the Trump administration. Of countless examples, the most recent would be explanations by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for President Trump’s claims he and his family will not benefit at all from the tax reform legislation being prepared for his signature.

An understanding of the history and various definitions of gaslighting would help citizens better comprehend the threat of authoritarian influence the Trump administration poses for our democracy, eloquently expressed by Bill Moyers in one of his last TV commentaries.That President Trump not only lies on an unprecedented scale but apparently does not comprehend this trenchant critique of what he is doing only compounds the threat.

Psychologist Hilde Lindemann argues that reasserting moral agency when confronted by the systematic lies associated with gaslighting requires what she calls narrative repair. As this blog argues, strengthening independent public media and teaching critical media literacy are necessary steps in comprehending and facing this new threat of authoritarianism Hannah Arendt identified long ago, and creating the narrative repair our democracy must find a way to generate.



In a recent interview with Mickey Huff of Project Censored, prominent Canadian public intellectual Henry Giroux remarks how difficult it has been over the years for him to discuss his ideas via American broadcast media, including PBS and NPR. Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, two prominent American commentators with critical political perspectives, how have made similar comments for decades.

All of them articulate the pernicious effect of corporate domination of the media and the undermining of public education which has left American citizens vulnerable to feelings of isolation, fear and authoritarian control. What Henry Giroux, in particular, has long argued is that civic education is essential to democracy, and requires a robust public sphere not dominated by commercial interests, a major theme of the Media Stewards Project.

In a program addressing The Truth About Post-Truth, Paul Kennedy of CBC Radio interviews Giroux, who is a professor of English and cultural studies at McMaster University; Jason Stanely, a professor of philosophy at Yale University; and Kathleen Higgins, a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. Together they make a solid intellectual case for the critical role educated citizens must play if democracy is to avoid slipping into authoritarianism.

The need for a robust public service media system and universal critical media education, neither of which we have, has never been more apparent. Giroux’s latest books, “America at War with Itself” and the forthcoming “The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism,” further strengthen the case for both.




Little noticed in the steady barrage of “breaking news” stories regarding the growing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election are Trump administration plans to completely defund public broadcasting.

Supporters of public broadcasting have mounted a little noticed campaign online, Protect My Public Media, to help explain what public media is and encourage citizens to contact their Congressional members to resist these draconian cuts.

Unfortunately the vast majority of Americans have little idea how little public funding support there is for public broadcasting is in the U.S. compared to other advanced democracies:

By comparison, the online website Our Beeb hosts an extended, robust debate about the cultural importance of the BBC and what the proper level of funding support should be. The contrast is worth considering among those who value public service media facing major funding cuts here and abroad.


Doomsday-ClockThe media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.

Even if the [the press] successfully investigates the Trump government and publishes Watergate-style revelations, those truths will emerge into an atmosphere that is organized to defeat them and ignore them and belittle them.

  • NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen

. . . we need to rebuild media literacy in the United States because . . . trust has been so eroded.

  • Huffington Post Editor Lydia Polgreen

On January 26, 2017, the “doomsday clock” established in 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to inform the public that the earth faces imminent disaster was moved to two and half minutes until midnight, indicating the greatest peril facing humanity since 1953.

Explaining their decision in the New York Times, scientists Lawrence Kraus and David Titley wrote

Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.

This recent discussion by respected journalists about the news emergency associated with Donald Trump becoming president amounts to a compelling case for citizens to learn more about media / news literacy as a response to this precipitous threat to our democracy.



How about if we merge a little Charlie Rose, a little Oprah, and a little me all together. And we serve that up as an hour? Wouldn’t you watch that?

Megyn Kelly

When you mix fiction and news, you diminish the distinction between truth and fiction, and you wear down the audience’s own discriminating power to judge.

Bill Moyers

Megyn Kelly leaving Fox News where she was earning $15 million a year to join NBC News for a similar salary was recently a front page story in the New York Times. The test referenced in the headline – Megyn Kelly’s Jump to NBC From Fox News Will Test Her, and the Networks – is essentially twofold: 1) Will she integrate easily into a less partisan, more mainstream news organization?  2) Will she be worth the considerable investment involved? Not mentioned was her occasional lapse into racist demagoguery.

Left ambiguous is whether NBC News, after spending so much on Megyn Kelly, will be in a stronger position to help citizens understand the critical issues facing the country associated with the new Trump administration, starting with the ramifications of immediately repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, with or without a plan to replace it.

Sixty years ago, the public interest obligations of commercial broadcast journalism were taken much more seriously than they are today. News was not expected to make a profit, and news anchors were not paid outlandish salaries. When local TV news and the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes started making lots of money in the early 1970s, the role of celebrity TV journalists became associated more with making money than informing the public.

Citizens with critical media literacy skills are aware of this history and need to be mobilized to hold both commercial broadcast journalism and social media accountable in the new era of post-truth politics. Not an easy task, but something that Bernie Sanders is now calling for.




wsj-trump-re-voter-fraud-222Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2016

Well, Doctor, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?  
A republic, if you can keep it.
Benjamin Franklin, 1787


Post-truth, adjective
Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective
facts are less influential in shaping public opinion
than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
Oxford English Dictionary word of the year, 2016

Rarely have fake news websites received so much attention in the 2016 presidential election and days leading to Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.  As a consequence, many commentators are newly addressing the serious challenge to the role a free press plays as a critical check on public malfeasance.

Despite explanations regarding the failure of the media to hold Donald Trump accountable for his many exaggerations and contradictions, citizens are left feeling powerless to do anything about it, especially if they have deficient critical media literacy skills.

Never has there been a better moment for citizens to play an active role in understanding how commercial media both profit from and encourage our new state of post-truth politics, and begin to do something about it.

Such as contacting the Wall Street Journal about their failure to provide critical coverage of his false claims of voter fraud and potential massive conflicts of financial interests as President. Or thanking Buzzfeed News and PRI for their coverage explaining how teenagers in Macedonia make money generating fake news stories appearing on American social media websites.

Critical media literacy education (CMLE) is suddenly something our democracy needs to take more seriously. Were Ben Franklin around to comment, he would surely agree.


trump-5-5-5The question I’d have when it comes to the media is how do we create a space where truth gets eyeballs and is entertaining, and we can build a common conversation?

Barack Obama interview with Bill Maher

President Barack Obama described the current problem with the media to Bill Maher just days before the 2016 election this way:

When I leave here, one of the things I’m most concerned about is the balkanization of the media where you’ve got 800 stations and you’ve got all these websites. People have difficulty now just sorting what’s true and what’s not. If you don’t have some common baseline of facts, you know, we can have a disagreement about how to deal with climate change, but if we have a big chunk of the country that just discounts what 99 percent of scientists say completely, it’s very hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.

In his view, the imperative of the media is to reach a wide audience, to attract attention as the means to pay for itself. Unfortunately, this conflicts with respecting baseline facts and telling the truth. It certainly does in the realm of commercial TV and cable news, but not in the realm of non-profit, public service media. The distinction is worth examining more closely.

Since public media do not rely on this kind of advertising revenue to exist, they are not driven to grab the attention of viewers and listeners as a set up to see and hear spot ads for which commercial TV and radio are paid by their sponsors depending on the size and demographics of the audience, calculated minute by minute.

Obviously public media need resources to create their content via donations, subscriptions, grants, and a variety of subsidies, but they do not rely primarily, if not solely, on advertising revenue. As Katrina vanden Heuval makes clear, commercial media too often ignore difficult and important subjects because they do not cater to the audiences they want to reach and are generally much more costly to produce.

Like President Obama, most citizens think funding news and public affairs programs is mainly done through advertising that requires large, engaged audiences of the kind Donald Trump was able to deliver throughout the 15 month election season. As previously mentioned, this narrow thinking has perilous consequences, and is too glibly referred to as the “free media” Donald Trump was such a master of exploiting.

Citizens with critical media literacy skills understand these distinctions. Unfortunately, few do, apparently including President Obama.