Advertisements everywhere I look aren’t only reminding me thatthis Sunday is Mother’s Day, but also sub-consciously guilttripping me into buying lots of stuff for my moms. I love my moms,and despite the stress, anger and guilt it causes, I also lovemedia. TV, newspapers, films, magazines, CD’s – bring it on. Mymoms give me much more love than the media, but here I be – a mediajunkie – and I’m not alone. Like PSU media literacy instructor andformer Vanguard editor Jil Freeman says, we all “marinate inmedia.” How tasty we become depends greatly on the ingredients ofthe sauce.
News media are a large ingredient in the marinade. You don’tneed a college degree to know that the commercial establishment or”mainstream” news media aren’t top shelf ingredients. Academiccriticisms are fine in the classroom, but criticisms of the newsmedia I often hear on the playground include lack of depth,overabundance of crime and “if it bleeds it leads” story selectionand good old propaganda.
A basic understanding of the news as a commodity within afree-market capitalist system helps to explain most of thedownfalls. It doesn’t take a radical Marxist to figure out why (bythe by, happy freaking birthday Karl Marx, without you we wouldn’tknow how bad things are). Certain stories, or angles of thosestories (showing pictures of dead Americans, criticism ofcorporations and government to name a few) challenge the status quoand are believed to discourage mass consumption of the product. Noconsumption equals no consumers to deliver advertisements to whichmeans no advertising revenue, a less marketable product and fewerinvestors in the corporation controlling the news organization. Thecommercial news media is here to stay, doing what it does and asthe FCC loosens ownership rules each year, fewer and fewer (nowless than ten) large corporations make a lot of money.
Boycott the establishment media if you want, start your ownmagazine or move to a cave. No one wants to be bland and underinformed, so many people also turn to alternative, oftennon-commercial, media for information. One of these sources is thePacifica Radio network’s daily news program Democracy Now!, thelargest public media collaboration in North America, broadcastingon over 220 radio and television stations. The show is hosted byone of the most dedicated and inspiring journalists to ever tell astory, Amy Goodman. She is speaking this Saturday in support of hernew book, “The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians,War Profiteers, & the Media That Love Them,” at the BaghdadTheater. To get the truth to viewers, Goodman and the DemocracyNow! crew put themselves in the line of fire during conflicts,speak to people the mainstream media rarely do and ask toughquestions. The result is informative, shocking, emotional reportsof unprecedented depth. There’s no attempt to sex it up with crimereporting, consumer product profiles or puppy stories – just goodjournalism.
Goodman’s dedication is moving, and it shows when she speaks.The short documentary film she’ll be screening on Saturday,”Independent Media in a Time of War” is equally powerful. Itcontrasts the independent, alternative media coverage with themainstreams, and also discusses coverage of Vietnam and how itaffected public opinion and helped end the debacle.
Goodman says that one of her goals is to go where the silence isand fill it, to give a voice to the voiceless. In many respects,she’s a motherly figure. She empowers citizens, tells those untoldstories out of an honest caring for the struggle of the voicelessand is critical of injustice, inequality and war. This compassionembodies the true spirit of Mother’s Day as represented by itsfounders who wanted much more than flowers.
The first proposition for Mother’s Day in the United States camein the late 1850’s by Appalachian homemaker Anna Jarvis. Sheorganized “Mother’s Work Day” to raise awareness of poor healthconditions in her community. Then in the 1870’s Julia Ward Howe, aBoston poet, pacifist, suffragist and author of the lyrics to the”Battle Hymn of the Republic,” organized a day encouraging mothersto rally for peace, since she believed they bore the loss of humanlife more harshly than anyone else.
Mother’s Day became an officially recognized national holiday in1914 after Jarvis’ daughter, also named Anna successfully lobbiedthe Wilson administration.
Contrary to what the advertisements in the commercial media tellus, Mothers would rather have peace, love and respect than morestuff. The spirit of Mothers day is embodied in these words fromJulia Ward Howe’s 1870 “Mother’s Day Proclamation:”
“… Say firmly:
We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy andpatience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs …”