Thursday, December 30, 2004


[UPDATE: January 31, 2004 -- President Bush announced a tenfold increase in US aid, pledging $350 million.]

For perspective: the $35 million dollars in aid that the US has committed to tsunami relief efforts equals the cost to America of fighting the Iraq War for little more than three-and-a-half hours.

How does this compute?

According to "Project Billboard" the War has cost America more than $157 billion thus far. "Cost of War" more conservatively puts the number at $147.6 billion (as of 6:00pm EST, 12.30.04).

America has been at war in Iraq for approximately 654 days. So, taking the more conservative number above, that means:

654 days X 24 hours = 15,696 hours;

$147.6 billion cost / 15,696 hours = approx $9.4 million/hr

In actuality, the war may now be costing America much more than $9.4M per hour, Jeff, my accountant friend from Grand Rapids, points out. That's because the above calculation is based on straight-line averaging. "In fact, we have more troops deployed today than we did a year ago," Jeff writes. "I would say the actual hourly cost right now is probably closer to $12 M or more."

Go figure.

[Added knowledge: Though often annoying in a condescending humanist kind of way, Nicholas Kristof occasionally gets it right. Exhibit A: This article on American stingyness]

The Cloak Descends

One of the worrisome trends we'll be following at mediacitizen is the increasing loss of government transparency at the hands of bureaucrats tasked on high to cloak gov't activities and withhold gov't records from journalists and citizens. Bush Administration officials justify their new secrecy as part of the ongoing war on terror, but mediacitizen believes this is just another smoke screen intended to defang the Freedom of Information Act and strip Americans of their right to know. For more on this, read Eileen Sullivan's recent piece in the Federal Times. Also read Susan Stranahan's good overview at CJR Daily

" . . . .the secrets guarded by those in Washington don't only involve Star Wars programs run amok, or abuses of civil rights in a time of war, or poor management of an agency vital to national security. Denial of access to information of all sorts is growing 'at an epidemic rate,' according to Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley."

Those leading efforts to defend the public's right to access include Lucy Daglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Read her report at

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Bloggers Take Up Effort To Help Tsunami Victims

MediaChannel affiliate Paola di Maio was caught on Phuket as tidal waves slammed into the island's beaches. With little more than four liters of water and an internet connection she has rushed into the information breach, launching a blog that has proved to be one of the best single sources for information on relief efforts across South Asia.

Biting the Media's Hand, and Demanding Air Time

Colleague Danny Schechter is profiled by Chris Hedges in today's New York Times. Pity Hedges fails to mention, which Danny founded and runs with me. Though not surprised by the Times' snub, I wonder if it's related to the many unflattering pieces we have run over the years. like this and this and this and this and this.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Nipples Fire Up Media Backlash

Media for Democracy gets a mention in this brief roundup by Dan Rubin at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Also appropriate attribution to friends Jonathan Rintels, Jeffrey Chester and MediaChannel "blogger in chief" Danny Schechter. The takeway on this:

The year 2004 drove a few more well-placed nails into the coffin of Big Media. Newspaper circulation continued to decline, as did the television networks' audience -- viewers turned to cable stations. Radio lost listeners and stars such as Bob Edwards and, soon, Howard Stern to satellite upstarts. The technologically savvy programmed their iPods and TiVo boxes to create their own programming playlists and TV grid.

Welcome to MediaCitizen

The few massive corporations that dominate the modern media landscape are driven by profit making, and not by a desire to provide the balanced journalism and programming that a democratic society requires. The emergence of Fox News Channel, a network that has staked its success on the promotion of highly partisan and opinionated news personalities, has sparked an industry-wide shift from hard news to hyperbole and "infotainment."

Is the public served well by news outlets that project and reflect opinions rather than present facts and new information?

What we are really witnessing is the fault lines of a media industry in turmoil -- what many are calling a "post-journalism" period, where mainstream media reporting is more about packaging and entertainment than about information sharing.

The ongoing consolidation of Big Media has sparked a widespread public backlash; more and more Americans are calling out for a media system of their own, one that responds to diverse needs and involves them in civic discussions about our democracy.

MediaCitizen is an investigation of the new media frontier, a place where people can take control of their digital destiny.