Why NeighborMedia Matters

Why NeighborMedia Matters

The urgent need for citizen journalism in America

Have you turned on the morning TV news lately? If so, you found lots of reasons to be afraid—burning buildings, gun violence, armed robberies, car accidents, beatings and abductions, all not far from home! Oh yes, and lots of advertising. Not just in between segments, but as actual news segments.

My stepson sings in the Boston Children’s Chorus, which was contacted by Good Morning America last week and asked to submit a video of the chorus singing “Let It Go.” Haven’t heard of it? It’s a song from the latest Disney movie. So with the expectation that BCC singers would be featured on the news, I turned on the TV.

First I caught the local Channel 5 “Eye Opener,” which was indeed just that. As part of their morning news, they informed me that Taco Bell is launching a new breakfast taco this week, and three anchors actually took time to discuss it. This made me wonder how much money Taco Bell paid Channel 5 to be newsworthy. I wrote to the station to find out, but didn’t hear back. I mainly wanted to know how much money our local farmers’ markets would need to raise to be covered on the news.

Apparently GMA issued an all-points-bulletin for videos of happy people singing the Disney song. Submissions were compiled into a montage of adorable children across America singing what was described as “a phenomenon.” This was directly followed by a live version involving hundreds of people outside ABC in New York, solo singers, the NY City Children’s Chorus, and figure skaters. The words to the song were displayed on the screen so all of America could sing along. Shamefully, even the morning anchors, George Stephanopoulos included, were required to sing the song on camera.

Why? Because Disney owns ABC and can exploit people across the country to promote its new movie.

Mainstream news media has been bought and is now willing to sell whatever it’s paid to sell. And it’s not just corporate buy-outs and advertising dollars that have compromised the media.

The US now ranks 46th in the world for press freedom, below several former Soviet states. According to Reporters Without Borders, the US dropped 13 places this year, in part due to federal crackdowns on whistleblowers like Private Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who at great personal risk chose to lift the veil of secrecy on critical issues of public interest. National security currently trumps our right to know in this country, and the penalties are severe enough to suppress reporting.

So with mainstream media becoming a farce, credible paid journalism can only be found on public radio and public television, both under constant threat of reduced funding because congress has also been bought by corporate interests, and has forgotten what public interest means.

Which brings me back to NeighborMedia. If you don’t like mainstream media, then help us build citizen journalism in Cambridge. NeighborMedia is a collection of residents who care about our community and want to share stories that inform and inspire. In exchange for articles, participants are given free media training at CCTV and access to cameras, equipment, and studio space.

Each journalist brings their own interests and expertise to their work, and this diversity generates a wide range of stories and perspectives. If you’re concerned about surveillance, check out Saul Tannenbaum. If you want to know more about local candidates and elected officials, check out Susana Segat. If you’re wondering how climate change will affect Cambridge residents, check out some of mine. Posts can be political, provocative, informative, or simply remind us of the beauty that's all around if we would just slow down enough to notice.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be part of the new media than passively suffer the daily barrage of fear mongering and product placement that the news has become.

NeighborMedia offers a way for citizens to take action, speak out, and improve the media landscape. And frankly, I’d much rather hear what you have to say than just about anything ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX is peddling.

Comments

What a fantastic article! Your analysis of mainstream media is right on. I wish for many, many more citizen journalists to join your ranks, and create a new media that truly reflects our community. Keep up the great work, Sarah!

Right on target, Sarah! Thank you. Even public broadcasting has its faults...the lack of diverse voices is shameful. Citizen journalism is what will keep alive news that matters.

Sarah! This is citizen journalism at its best. Plus, your lede is fantastic. Congrats!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Good job Sarah, I love it.
Just recently, I found out that David Koch is a trustee at WGBH and has given millions to public television. Makes me wonder what I can trust over there. CCTV and Free Speech Television may be it for untainted media.