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Going dumb by thinking young
by Andrew Barbano
May 01, 2010 | 669 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’ve gotten consistent heat of late from KNPB TV-5 for decrying the cancellation of “Bill Moyers’ Journal.” We’ve been playing word games for a couple of months over the following item which I included in an e-mail bulletin.

“I heard from a union man this morning that PBS is canceling ‘Bill Moyers’ Journal.’ Is there a better reason to support local, non-commercial, non-corporate community radio and television? Help me raise $40,000 toward a dollar-for-dollar match for northwestern Nevada’s community radio-TV center (SNCAT).”

Turns out that not only has Moyers gone away as of last Friday, but so has the other investigative reporting show he enterprised, “Now.”

So, who did what, with which and to whom? Moyers announced his retirement, stating that he wants to do other things as he approaches old age.

“I want to disabuse those of you who fear that we are being pushed off the air by higher-ups at PBS pointing to the door and demanding that we go. Not so,” Moyers wrote.

Did Moyers cancel himself? Apparently yes and no. The man himself provided a clue in Friday’s farewell when he commented about “Need to Know,” the single hour which will replace both programs: “Hosting ‘Need to Know’ are two journalists with the fresh perspective of their generation and solid accomplishments in print, broadcasting and web reporting.”

Translation: Moyers’ shtick skews too old and corporate sponsors want to reach the 18-49 hot consumer group. PBS execs obliquely babbled about “revitalization” and “the need for something fresh and new.”

Everything comes back to serving the needs of corporate marketing and propagand ... er, public relations.

The new show will apparently be mostly clips from the previous week’s online gatherings. That’s nice, but no one has Moyers’ prestige and clout to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous corporate fortunes.

“Now” host David Brancaccio recently noted that has “stolen” the bedrock of newspaper financial stability: classified ads. (Our indestructible Big Nickel abides!)

He added that without classifieds, who is going to fund reporters going to city hall to cover what we can’t do for ourselves?

Brancaccio talked about “a perception of an online shift” in the news. He added the oft-stated asterisk that most online news has its origin in old-fashioned newspaper journalism.

We are fortunate in these parts. We have two dailies and a hardassed weekly covering a lot of stuff, although the corporate filter over at Gannett West always colors the equation.

We also have Sierra Nevada Community Access Television cablecasting and webstreaming wall-to-wall live public meetings. A statewide legislative network may finally launch next year so that you may watch your Legislature in action (and your lawmakers’ inaction) on your TV set rather than online. About one in three households do not have computers.

Granted, SNCAT is currently only available to digital victims of Charter cable like me but that will change and it’s not enough. With all due respect to the American Civil Liberties Union, which always argues that the answer to onerous speech is more speech, we have apparently passed the point of diminishing returns.

The Pew Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania did a study a few years ago. They found that people who get most of their news via Lord Rupert Murdoch’s multifarious and nefarious Fox outlets are the least informed of all citizens. Worse, they are so arrogant that they think they know the most. The best informed are people who expose themselves to a variety of sources.

I think I see an equation here: Arrogance plus ignorance equals tea baggers, who don’t even know that the Boston Tea Party came in protest of a tax cut.

Over the past 30 years, the splintering of media has eroded democracy. The Reagan landslide of 1980 was greased by religious radio stations. It took Democrats a dozen years to track down the source of all the false and libelous rumors that destroyed the careers of six Democratic U.S. senators, including Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, D-Wisc.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Orwellianly named Moral Majority propagated the lies with direct mail hit pieces and the chicken coop was delivered into the hands of the pre-Fox foxes.

I can’t say I blame PBS for defending its turf and wanting to “youngerize” its audience. PBS is certainly not doing its job in this market. KNPB recently published figures for its website, touting “over 5,500 unique visitors per month, over 13,000 page views.”

My flagship website,, does double the unique visitors and six times the page views in a garden variety non-election month. During the legislative session or as balloting approaches, my numbers geometrically increase. Why?

I can only venture that I consistently kick ass and most of the time they don’t. And my only consistent promotional medium is this here little Sparks newspaper.

The solutions to the problems of print and the tune-outs of TV are obvious but big institutions seem incapable of seeing them. They thus deserve the bitter fruits of their flailing and failing labors.

Stay tuned.

Worthy Cause Alert

The Reno-Sparks NAACP holds its annual Freedom Fund Banquet on May 22 at the Peppermill in Reno. For ticket and sponsorship information, go to or contact me.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan, second vice-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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