In response to:

The End of News? from the December 1, 2005 issue

To the Editors:

Someone at the The New York Review neglected to take the red pencil to Michael Massing’s rambling piece “The End of News?” [NYR, December 1, 2005], which jumps from pillar to post yet suffers stunning errors of omission. The End of News? There’s more critical news out now and the big bad bogeyman Rush Limbaugh can’t put a dent in it. We could start with the nationally renowned Democracy Now, the critical news radio show ably led by Amy Goodman which covers in a week more underreported stories than The New York Times and probably most left journals combined. And it’s podcast, on satellite TV, community television, and the Internet. What about low-power community broadcasting? Air America Radio? What about indymedia? What about ethnic and minority media which have mobilized communities overlooked by the so-called progressive media titans that rarely look beyond their race (white) and class (privileged)? Are young people not getting the word? he finally asks. Hey, there’s a vibrant on-line network of young activists in the green movement, anti-globalization, pro-women—and check the turnout at the national conference for media reform! The days of the Gray Lady as News God may be numbered, but news itself? Not as I read it!

Lisa Vives

Executive Director

Global Information Network

New York City

Michael Massing replies:

In August 2004, I received an e-mail from Lisa Vives, who identified herself as the director of Global Information Network, “a distributor of national and international news with a developing world perspective,” and who invited me to speak at a screening at her office of the film Outfoxed. That morning, she informed me, she had heard me on Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now discussing my New York Review articles about the press and Iraq and thought it would be worthwhile for me to talk about the subject with the journalists from the ethnic and minority press who would be attending.

And so on a late summer night I found myself in a tiny, cluttered office on the seventh floor of an industrial building on West 29th Street in Manhattan, speaking to a small group of activist-journalists. Of course there was no question of compensation, but I’ve now received it anyway, in the form of Vives’s obnoxious letter. She must have seen my article in a garbled summary on one of her activist Web sites, for her comments suggest a total misreading of my piece. I did not address the question whether there exist critical news sources for activists intent on finding them. That seems self-evident. Rather, my article described the various recent developments that have contributed to an increasingly hostile climate for traditional news gathering. I outlined the closely coordinated network of right-wing radio talk shows, cable TV shows, media monitoring groups, religious broadcasters, and bloggers that, together with profit-driven corporate owners, have caused mainstream journalists to become more cautious and less skeptical. I also cited studies that show that young people are losing interest in the news—a point that few people in the news industry now contest.

Vives cites no evidence to back up her own claim on this point, beyond referring to some vague “on-line network of young activists.” Nor does she provide any information about the size of the audiences reached by community broadcasters, the ethnic and minority press, and “indymedia.” By all accounts, they are quite small. As for Air America, Vives seems to have missed my reference to it in my piece, and my observation that its daily audience “is puny compared to that enjoyed by the right.” I do agree with Vives on one point—that Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now does an impressive job of calling attention to stories overlooked by mainstream news organizations. I only wish that more people in those organizations listened to it.

This Issue

March 23, 2006