Media Lens – The Mainstream’s Best Kept Secret
In January, we published the first Media Lens book, ‘Guardians of Power – The Myth Of The Liberal Media‘ (Pluto Books, 2006):
Our first print run of 2,500 sold out within four months and the book was reprinted in the summer.
The response from readers and reviewers has been overwhelmingly positive. Peter Wilby, former editor of the New Statesman magazine, described the book as “awesomely well researched. All journalists should read it, because the Davids make a case that demands to be answered”. (Wilby, New Statesman, January 9, 2006;)
In the Morning Star, Brian Precious wrote:
“I really cannot do justice to this superb, devastating book in such a small space. It is not merely excellent, it is outstanding. Buy it. Read it. Use it.” (Precious, Morning Star, January 23, 2006)
The book was also reviewed in the Australian newspaper, The Age, where Jeff Sparrow noted that the authors “expose the fundamental contradiction between, on the one hand, our need for information about the world and, on the other, the need of media conglomerates to deliver returns to their shareholders”. (Sparrow, The Age, April 29, 2006)
A reviewer in the Daily Yomiuri, one of Japan’s most respected newspapers, pointed out that: “the part Media Lens and other Net-based organizations are playing in redefining the media’s role is too important for the public, and the media, to ignore – and not just in Britain”. (James Hardy, Daily Yomiuri, March 12, 2006)
Park Chung-A wrote for The Korea Times that the book “offers a good insight into how corporate media ownership is a major obstacle to balanced reporting”.
Although our book mentioned the South Korean media in just a few paragraphs, the writer was reviewing a Korean translation that is already available. (http://search.hankooki.com/times/times_view.php? term=edwards+cromwell++&path=hankooki3/times/lpage/culture/200609 /kt2006090120262210980.htm&media=kt)
An Arabic translation is also on the way.
By contrast, not only has Guardians of Power not been reviewed by any national British newspaper, it has not been so much as mentioned by them. This despite the book’s huge number of challenges to reporting and commentary by the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, the Telegraph and the rest. And despite many a transcript of what Jeff Sparrow in The Age described as “inadvertently funny exchanges” with the likes of Andrew Marr of the BBC, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Observer editor Roger Alton, and columnists Nick Cohen and Jonathan Freedland. Journalists who, Sparrow noted, “confronted by Media Lens’ relentlessly polite emails, react with complete befuddlement”.
It is hardly that the book is of no interest to readers of the country’s ‘quality‘ press. And we know from our own inboxes that Media Lens is widely read by journalists themselves. In June, we received an aggrieved email from the BBC’s world affairs editor, John Simpson, demanding justification for something we had written in a Media Alert in November 2002! Having detailed what he considered to be our malign omissions four years earlier, Simpson asked:
“Above all, I’d like you to answer my main question: did you just forget to mention these things, or did you hide them from your readers on purpose?” (Email to Media Lens, June 13, 2006)
We responded on June 14.
On September 12, this remarkable email arrived from the BBC’s Hywel Jones:
“It has come to my attention that you criticised my reporting of the bombing of Baghdad in the pages of the New Statesman. In the interests of transparency, could you provide reasons for your remarks about my reporting?”
We searched our archives and found that we had indeed mentioned Jones’s reporting, in a single sentence in the March 31, 2003 edition of the New Statesman. We asked Jones why on earth he was responding to this comment three years on. He replied:
“I only found out about it now.”
We believe these responses are testament to the power of honest argument in a culture all but drowning in corporate compromise. Why else would senior journalists give a damn about the opinions of a couple of writers on a tiny internet website?
Three Cheers For Norway’s Medialupe!
Simon of the excellent alternative media site SchNEWS (www.schnews.org.uk) wrote to us last month:
“I would guess that you guys are at least partly to thank for the slight improvements to Indy/Guardian type coverage over the recent years. Leafing past the car and cheap flight ads, I now more regularly read articles that I think wouldn’t be out of place in SchNEWS – and that can’t be a bad thing.” (Email to Media Lens, September 29, 2006)
John Pilger commented to us recently of mainstream journalists across the spectrum:
“There’s barely a cigarette paper’s width between all of them. What you and David have done is revealed their true role – a monumental achievement.” (Email to Media Lens, October 2, 2006)
Elsewhere, the admirable Stian Danielsen has announced the launch of Norway’s Medialupe (http://www.medialupe.no) – a media watch site inspired, Danielsen tells us, by Media Lens. Medialupe writes (surely without the need for translation):
“Vårt prosjekt baserer seg på Propagandamodellen utviklet av Edward Herman og Noam Chomsky, samt metodikken til David Edwards og David Cromwell i Media Lens.” (www.medialupe.no/?page_id=2)
At time of writing, similar serious initiatives are brewing in Ireland, India and Australia.
Quite a few people seem to believe that Media Lens is a substantial operation with activists coordinating our media insurgency from a busy office in London, or perhaps from a high-tech underground bunker. In fact, all the media alerts are written and edited by just two people working from their respective homes on England’s south coast. Over the last three years, David Edwards has been able to work almost full-time on the project thanks to small grants and ongoing donations and subscriptions from readers. David Cromwell, however, continues to work on Media Lens entirely in his spare time. In addition, webmaster Oliver Maw keeps the website and email lists ticking over for a token sum.
Our lack of resources – primarily our inability to work full-time on the project – is an increasing frustration to us. There is so much more that we could be doing: covering more topics in more depth, challenging more journalists, giving talks and interviews, working on a second book, assisting activists in other countries to follow our example, and raising funds. Many of these opportunities to expand what we’re doing we simply have to turn away for lack of time and energy.
Funds permitting, our aim in 2007 is to support David Cromwell in taking a part-time sabbatical from his job at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, allowing him to devote half his time to Media Lens. Our hope is that this extra input might give us the push we need to transform Media Lens into a completely full-time operation.
If you value what we’re doing and would like us to do more and better work, please consider sending a donation. There are various methods by which you can donate, either as a one-off payment or on a regular basis.
Many thanks to all our readers for their words of support and donations over the last year – they are very much appreciated.
David Cromwell, David Edwards and Olly Maw