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Liberal Bias Debunked
Author and journalist Jeff Cohen packed the pews Monday, Feb. 12 debunking the "myth of liberal bias" in U.S. mainstream media. The event at Central Presbyterian Church in Eugene drew an estimated 150 people and included films and information booths.
|Jeff Cohen blasts
mainstream media in Eugene Feb. 12.
"If the media were truly liberal," Cohen says, we'd see numerous and prominent stories about "the bloated military budget," the implications of free trade policies, corporate welfare, and "the tax shift from the wealthy to the poor."
Cohen says we have been subjected to so much "sleazy content" and public relations passing as news that "most Americans don't know what a progressive stands for."
"American people want serious news," he says. "They want real news that affects their lives."
He blames the lack of substantive, balanced investigative reporting to consolidation, corporate influence, advertiser pressure and intimidation. The majority of media outlets are now owned and controlled by just half a dozen corporations. Producers, publishers and editors are not allowed to investigate their owners and advertisers, and reporters considered "too liberal and doing too good of a job" can find themselves unemployed. Self-censorship takes over in such an environment, he says.
Cohen is founder of Fairness in Accuracy & Reporting (FAIR), which runs a website, www.fair.org, and publishes a magazine, Extra. FAIR observes and documents trends and patterns in national media (including public broadcasting) and has found that: 1) most newspaper endorsements favor Republican candidates, 2) the Washington press corp is more conservative than the population at large, 3) conservatives are the dominant voice in talk radio, syndicated columns and TV pundit shows, and 4) most of the sources quoted in national news stories are conservative, anti-labor and pro-corporation.
What are the solutions? Cohen sees hope in pro-democracy movements, such as the massive uprising against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. He also supports the growth of alternative media, using the Internet to organize, giving feedback to journalists about their coverage, teaching "media literacy," and using "shame and embarrassment" to force media to change.
"At FAIR, we don't just mourn, we organize," he says.
The event was sponsored by Eugene Media Action, Eugene Weekly and Northwest Project, Institute for Public Accuracy. EMA's next meeting is 7 pm Feb. 19 at Growers Market, 454 Willamette.4 TJT
Matt Rossell, one of PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) top three undercover investigators of animal rights abuses, is scheduled to speak at 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 21 at the EMU's Rogue Room at UO.
Rossell began his career as an undercover researcher while working as a security guard at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Neb. He discovered a litter of kittens with bisected heads, subjects of research into congenital deafness. The experience prompted him to contact the animal rights advocacy group, PETA. Mary Beth Sweetland, PETA's research head, asked him to go undercover. In 1995, armed with a video camera and notepad, he went back to Boys Town. Rossell collected enough information to file a complaint, alleging violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Although the employees at Boys Town were eventually cleared of allegations, Rossell succeeded in shutting down the laboratory for six months.
Between 1995 and 1997, Rossell did undercover research on illegal white tiger dealers in Arkansas, Walker Bros. Circus in Tennessee for mistreatment of elephants, and Aeschleman's Fur Company in Illinois for mistreatment of foxes. As quoted in Willamette Week (2/7), Sweetland says, "I wish I could clone him," and credits Rossell as one of PETA's best investigators in the organization's 21-year history.
Rossell told WW he became disenchanted with PETA after media
rejected his research because of his association with the organization. But he continued
spying on his own. In 1998, he accepted a job with the Oregon Health Sciences University
in Portland. OHSU has been the subject of repeated protests of the center's use of
1,000 singly-caged rhesus monkeys. Rossell found evidence that the federally mandated
"environmental-enrichment program" was not working and that the male rhesus
monkeys were being subjected to a reportedly painful process known as "penile
electro-ejaculation" for obtaining sperm samples. 4 JS
Eugene's Temple Beth Israel Preschool and Kindergarten has received a $1,100 grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The grant was awarded under SPLC's Teaching Tolerance Project, which gives grants to K-12 classroom teachers for implementing tolerance projects in their schools and communities.
TBI will use the monies to expand its multi-cultural learning materials 4 books, puzzles, etc. 4 to enhance anti-bias education in its preschool and kindergarten programs.
SPLC looked at several factors in determining which organizations would receive funds. One was the acceptance of diversity and peacemaking efforts of the group. TBI offers a Jewish-based curriculum but is inclusive of all people. Of the 50 or so families with children who attend the Wee School (ages 2 1/2 to 3 1/2), preschool (ages 3 1/2 to 5), and kindergarten (ages 5 to 6), a variety of religions and nationalities are represented. Languages spoken at home of the enrolled children include Portuguese, Norwegian, Italian, Swiss German, Arabic, French, Spanish, ASL, Hebrew, and Chinese.
The diversity of the student body is honored, while at the same time commonalities are emphasized.
"Anti-bias goals are central to our work," says TBI Director Bonnie Robbins. The children are taught to get along with each other, listen to each other and develop conflict resolution skills.
This year, the school has implemented a new program called "Second Step," which includes empathy training, impulse control and anger management.
Teachers pay close attention to see that children treat each other fairly and they address small matters that are related to bigger issues. "Not allowing boys to come into the clubhouse, or saying you don't like somebody because their eyes look mean" are some of the situations Robbins says teachers pay close attention to.
"You can say 'I don't want you to hit me again' but you can't say 'I don't ever want to play with you again,'" says Robbins.
Another aspect of the program the project wanted to see addressed was the community service the organizations provided.
To that end, TBI is offering its list of non-biased materials to other organizations. Robbins found some of the titles on a comprehensive list compiled by Mother Kali's bookstore; she found others while attending a national conference and she is seeing that that information is distributed through the preschool director's organization in town.
The funds were also granted for materials suited to specific needs of particular learners. In this case, all of the materials used by the children and all the images shown to the children, including dolls, posters, books and puzzles, are multi-cultural and non-biased.
Robbins calls TBI's mission, which includes teaching kids a more inclusive view of people and helping them break down stereotypes, "some of the most important work we can do in fighting for a fairer world for all people." 4 AS
Late winter always brings a slate of high-powered speakers, workshops and conferences to Eugene. Check our Calendar section each week for details. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:
* William Strauss, co-author of Millennials Rising, Encore Theater, and Eugene Opera will explore the new generation of 18-year-olds from 7 to 9 pm Sunday, Feb. 18, at Churchill High School Auditorium on Bailey Hill Road. Eugene Opera will be performing songs from a new teen musical about this generation written by Strauss. Tickets at the door at $1 for students $5-$10 for adults.
* Marshall Rosenberg, creator of the process known alternately as Compassionate Communication and Non-violent Communi-cation, and author of the book Non-violent Communication: A Language of the Heart, will be presenting all-day workshops at Unity of the Valley in Eugene Feb. 23 and 24 and a free introductory evening Feb. 23.
* Registration is now available for the 18th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the UO School of Law March 1-4. More than 3,000 students, attorneys, activists and scientists from all over the world are expected to attend. Keynote speakers include Ward Churchill, Terry Tempest Williams, Julia Butterfly Hill, David Korten and justice Paul Stein. The new website this year is www.pielc.uoregon.edu/info.html
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In 1964, following her first year as a PE teacher in Shelton, Wash., Ruth Koenig worked as a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi. "I was there for the month of July 4 it was intense," she recalls. "It set the tone for the rest of my life." Koenig came to Eugene in 1966 to further her education, then taught for seven years at Monroe Junior High. She became coordinator of community education at Lincoln School in 1974. "It was the heyday of community school programs," she says. "We started the community gardens on North Polk, began a recycling project 4 we had pre-schools, day care, and senior activities." Koenig has been active in Central American relief activities since the Contra War of the '80s 4 last summer she traveled to Nicaragua to help rebuild a hurricane-ravaged village. When budget cuts felled community ed in 1994, Koenig found a new calling as coordinator of Eugene's Stream Team, harnessing volunteer labor for water-quality improvement projects. "There were 4,000 to 5,000 people involved in the five years I was there," she estimates. "It was wonderful."
-- Paul Neevel
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