Jose Antonio Vargas, December 2011
In a public lecture and smaller early evening Q&A session, Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas led passionate discussions about immigrants in the U.S., media coverage of immigration, and his personal story first told in June in a New York Times Magazine essay: “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” The earlier session focused heavily on the role and social responsibility of journalists in the Internet era to go deeper and give voice to the voiceless. Both events emphasized dialogue, with dozens of attendees joining the discussion.
After falling in love with journalism in high school (where he came out as gay), Vargas worked or interned at various dailies, ending up at the Washington Post, where he covered the role of social media in the 2008 presidential campaign. He wrote about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington D.C., which led to a documentary “The Other City.” He was part of the Post team that won the Pulitzer for its coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. He later was a senior contributing editor at HuffingtonPost, where he helped launch its Tech and College sections. In 2010, he profiled Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg for The New Yorker. When he came out this summer as an undocumented immigrant, he cofounded the nonprofit DefineAmerican.com.
Photo Credit: Graham Hebel '13
Susan Faludi, September 2011
In a public lecture and a Q&A session with Park Scholars and other students who’d studied her work, author Susan Faludi dissected the media myth-making that erupted in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Faludi analyzed mainstream media attempts to blame 9/11 on “feminized men” and the feminist movement; she drew parallels between the post-9/11 era and myth-making that surrounded early conflicts in U.S. history between European settlers and Native Americans. The public lecture was titled titled “9/11: Myth, Media and Gender” and was inspired by her latest book “The Terror Dream: Myth and Misogyny in an Insecure America.”
Susan Faludi’s first book was the bestseller “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.” Faludi’s articles have appeared in many publications including Harper’s, Ms. and The Nation; she won a Pulitzer Prize when she was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Josh Fox and “Gasland,”Nov. 2010
On Nov. 2, Josh Fox brought to campus his much-discussed, award-winning documentary about gas drilling: Gasland. Meeting with students before the screening and with a large public audience in Emerson Suites after, Fox explained his cross-country odyssey that led him from theater director to filmmaker and environmental advocate. He was joined at both events by Craig and Julie Sautner, Pennsylvania residents-turned-activists who are featured in Gasland and whose water was contaminated by drilling.
This engaging, personal documentary has been instrumental in the growth of the movement questioning the safety of the gas-extraction practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Gasland aired on HBO in June, and led to Fox appearing on such programs as The Daily Show. On campus, Fox discussed everything from the film’s impact and his filmmaking choices to the steps needed to amplify the debate over fracking, when moneyed interests would like to blunt that discussion. Both Fox and the Sautners expressed a commitment to keep speaking out on the issue in the face of powerful opponents. As Fox rushed off to a fracking protest in Pittsburgh, I.C. students gathered in a corner of Emerson to discuss organizing around the issue in Ithaca.
Photo Credit: Mathea Millman
Daniel Ellsberg, Oct. 2010
One of the most important whistle-blowers in history, Dr. Daniel Ellsberg appeared on campus on October 20 to discuss the importance of independent, skeptical media and whistle-blowing. Repeatedly, he addressed the issue of courage – the willingness of those with inside information of wrongdoing to risk their careers and freedom to inform the public. Ellsberg had risked life in prison in 1971 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers – a secret study detailing the lies of a succession of presidents about Vietnam – to the press. It led to a landmark Supreme Court decision on press freedom. The Nixon White House illegally wire-tapped him and burglarized his psychiatrist’s office.
Ellsberg met with students for a lively afternoon Q&A session and then addressed a large public event in Ford Hall, following a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary: The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. On the issue of endless unwinnable war, Ellsberg drew parallels from the Vietnam era to today. He repeatedly discussed the new communications technologies that allow quicker, more anonymous release of documents to the public. The morning after his appearance – where he signed dozens of books almost until midnight – he received a call from WikiLeaks.org urging him to rush to London to attend its news conference on the release of the “Iraq War Logs,” nearly 400,000 once-secret documents.
Photo Credit: Lauren DeCicca
"Tom Tomorrow"/Dan Perkins, Sept. 2010
In a change-of-pace from print-journalist speakers, Dan Perkins offered a visual presentation tracing his career and evolution as an alt cartoonist. Under the pen name Tom Tomorrow, he expanded his weekly “This Modern World” strip into alternative weeklies and online (CredoAction, Salon.com). The presentation – which included cartoons, animations, a Pearl Jam album cover and wacked-out ads from the past – produced continuous laughs. As Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening has said: “Tom Tomorrow will both fuel your rage and make you laugh at the sneaky bastards in power – my highest compliment.”
In an earlier Q&A session with students, Dan discussed the difficulties faced by indy content producers in the current economic and media climate. While the Internet has been a boost to his research and outreach (ThisModernWorld.com) and creative efforts in animation, it has undermined the ability or willingness of alternative weeklies to pay for cartoons – his bread and butter. He’s also been hurt by conglomeration of once independent weeklies into chains; in one fell swoop last year, Village Voice Media famously dropped his cartoon from a dozen weeklies. Silver lining: it led to the “Backspacer” album cover.
Photo Credit: Allison Usavage
Naomi Klein, April 2010
In her public lecture to a packed Emerson Suites and an earlier Q&A session with Park Scholars and other students who had studied her latest book, Klein discussed her work over the years, the crisis in media, and the importance of independent media in light of the weaknesses and biases in mainstream media. She discussed some funny incidents in her relations with mainstream outlets, while acknowledging some of the serious reporting found in the business-oriented press. She began her public lecture by discussing how she’d left her laptop in the plane earlier in the day and was able to retrieve it within minutes of leaving the airport – thanks to a passenger on the plane sending a Tweet into the universe. . .that reached pal Jeremy Scahill.
Klein has pioneered in independent coverage of the global economy and corporate power. Her international bestsellers – The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (2000) – have been translated into dozens of languages. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s and writes a globally-syndicated column for The Nation and The Guardian. She co-produced a feature documentary,The Take, on economic justice in Argentina.
Photo Credit: Debra Friedman
Laura Flanders and Josh Silver, March 2010
In a dynamic joint presentation, journalist Laura Flanders and media policy expert Josh Silver discussed “Independent Media and Critical Journalism: How Do We Get There?” Flanders, the host of the daily (web & satellite) GRITtv show, spoke eloquently of the linked nature of independent media in the Internet era, and how new inexpensive media technologies are allowing independent journalists to do high quality work and reach to broader communities. GRITtv is a success story in alternative TV news programming – featuring experts and issues generally ignored by corporate media. Before launching GRITtv, Flanders was a host on Air America and publc radio.
Silver, the co-founder and director of the preeminent media reform group Free Press, stressed the importance of media policy battles to strengthen independent journalism and public broadcasting, and to preserve the openness of the Internet through “Net Neutrality.” He pointed out that other democratic countries spend from 15 to 75 times more per capita on public broadcasting than does the U.S. – and noted that the decline in the number of journalists covering government combined with the increasing number of corporate lobbyists was a formula for corruption.
Photo Credit: Allison Usavage
Farai Chideya, March 2010
In her public lecture and a Q&A session with students, Chideya addressed the growth and impact of social media in the context of decreasing diversity in mainstream news media. As a veteran journalist (Newsweek, MTV News, CNN, ABC News) and an early blogger (PopandPolitics.com), she expressed optimism about citizen journalism and the increasing number of people (“prosumers”) who are producers of content and not just consumers. “As a media maker, I’m able to make sense of a world that doesn’t always make sense,” she explained. When citizens produce media, “you change your relationship to the world -- you can be an actor instead of just being acted upon.”
Chideya has written critically of mainstream media portrayals of African Americans and people of color -- including her book Don’t Believe the Hype. Audience members who were loyal listeners of News and Notes – the daily show on African-American issues hosted by Chideya – expressed disappointment that NPR had terminated a program that was offering voices and issues not heard elsewhere. Read report in Ithacan Online.
Sandra Steingraber, February 2010
In an inspiring public lecture, author/ecologist Steingraber discussed the responsibility of journalists and media in this era of ecological crisis. She discussed the environmental causes of cancer and other diseases, punctuating her talk by reading from her powerful articles and columns. She focused on three areas in particular: endocrine disrupters in the environment; childhood obesity and increased risks of disease; and health risks that can result from natural gas drilling. Steingraber ended her public presentation by showing a trailer from the documentary based on her landmark book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment. In a dinner gathering with communications students, she warned that courageous journalism and personal wealth don’t usually go hand-in-hand. She discussed her love of science and poetry – and the many writers who have inspired her, including Rachel Carson who wrote Silent Spring. The Sierra Club has referred to Steingraber as “the new Rachel Carson.”
See Ithacan report
Rich Lowry, November 2009
Longtime editor of the independent conservative magazine National Review, Lowry presented an engaging public lecture titled “Death to ‘Legacy’ Media: A Defense of New and Independent Media.” He reviewed U.S. press history – highly partisan and opinionated through most of our country’s existence – to argue that the blogosphere is more rule than exception. After lauding today’s more free-wheeling media environment as a fulfillment of classical liberalism, he listed a half-dozen ways that the new media terrain better serves the American public, including more audiences being served; a more open, small ‘d’ democratic system allowing easier entry for start-ups; and greater diversity of story selection. In his lecture and a smaller Q and A session with students, Lowry discussed the increasing influence of independent media – including National Review, which according to Lowry, “exists to make a point, not a profit.”
See event photos
Arianna Huffington, November 2009
Huffington met with IC students for a lively Q & A session on the future of journalism. The Huffington Post co-founder spoke of “a golden age for news consumers,” with bright prospects for young journalists despite an uncertain future for print newspapers. She also did a public lecture as 2009 Park Distinguished Visitor on “The Modern Journalism Paradox: The Best of Times Amidst the Worst of Times.” PCIM cosponsored her visit.
Huffington criticized mainstream journalism for largely missing the two big stories of the era: the Iraq invasion and the financial meltdown. She pointed toward a “hybrid future” where traditional media embrace the strengths of online media – “transparency, interactivity, and immediacy” – while new outlets adopt the best practices of old media: fairness, accuracy, high-impact investigative journalism.
See Ithacan report.
See event photos.
Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, September 2009
In two public presentations and several smaller gatherings with IC students, award-winning filmmakers TIA LESSIN AND CARL DEAL screened and discussed their work – including Trouble the Water, the 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary feature about Hurricane Katrina. In moving, often funny discussions, they explored the “Agonies and Ecstasies of Independent Filmmaking,” and their body of work: features, shorts and TV segments on issues of racial justice, human rights, war and peace.
They were producers on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Tia and Carl also presented examples of censored work and screened tragic/comic excerpts from Moore’s TV show, The Awful Truth, as well as portions of a Bill Moyers’ segment on post-9/11 detention/deportation of Muslims, and Tia’s documentary short on garment sweatshops, Behind the Labels.
See event photos here.
Matt Taibbi, February 2009
MATT TAIBBI is as hilarious a speaker as he is a writer. Speaking to a large crowd in Emerson on “Independent Journalism Amidst Conformist Media,” Rolling Stone‘s politics writer detailed his career as a journalistic rule-breaker – while editing the eXile in Russia or covering U.S. politics. Taibbi urged students to find their own voice and challenge journalistic conventions.
Having met with Park students much of the day, he began his remarks: “For me, it’s both sad and inspiring thing to see some of these bright, idealistic young people who want to go into the business of journalism. It’s inspiring because you all seem so committed to wanting to tell the truth, and tell important stories. And it’s sad because you’re about to enter a business that is sometimes only tangentially about telling the truth.” Taibbi won the 2008 National Magazine Award for commentary.
See event photos here.
Jeremy Scahill, December 2008
JEREMY SCAHILL addressed a packed Park Auditorium and identified a key attribute of an independent journalist: heart. He spoke of his evolution from activist for homeless people to volunteer at Democracy Now!, and ultimately to best-selling author and Polk-Award winner for Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
With Amy Goodman, he won his first Polk Award for the radio documentary, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship. He’s been a regular contributor to Democracy Now!, The Nation and Real Time with Bill Maher.
See event photos here.
Josh Marshall, September 2008
JOSH MARSHALL keynoted the inaugural symposium of the Park Center for Independent Media. Founder of the Talking Points Memo/TPM Muckraker blogs, he won the 2008 Polk Award in legal reporting for relentless coverage of the politically-motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys by the White House. That coverage led to Congressional hearings and the ultimate resignation of the Attorney General.
Marshall spoke on “The Growth of Talking Points Memo and the Importance of Independent Media.”
Read a condensed version of the speech.
See event photos here.
Rory Kennedy, January 2008
RORY KENNEDY, award-winning documentary filmmaker, was our inaugural speaker. Kennedy is the co-founder/president of Moxie Firecracker Films, Inc. Her impressive body of work tackles some of our most pressing social concerns--poverty, domestic abuse, drug addiction, human rights, AIDS and mental illness--and has garnered numerous awards and been featured on HBO, A&E, MTV, Lifetime, The Oxygen Network, Court TV, TLC and PBS.
See IC View's report on Kennedy's visit to Ithaca.
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