Thursday, December 01, 2011

Media Rants: The 2011 TONY Awards

The 2011 TONY Awards 
Media Rants  
Tony Palmeri

from the December 2011 edition of THE SCENE
Every year Media Rants presents TONY Awards for outstanding communication in the public interest. In 2011 Wisconsinites made history, taking direct action to hold public officials accountable in ways not seen since the Vietnam War era. The Occupy Wall St. movement (now spread out nationally), along with Ohio voters’ resolute rejection of Republican Governor John Kasich’s union busting measures, followed the lead set by Badger State activism aimed at reining in Scott Walker. Citizen action was THE STORY of the year.
With few exceptions Wisconsin’s corporate media in its coverage of and editorializing about THE STORY failed to operate in the public interest. Big media’s addiction to what New York University’s Jay Rosen calls “the view from nowhere” and “he said, she said” journalism resulted in pathetic attempts to draw moral equivalencies between the protesters and the governor. The good news is that we’ve not been bamboozled: even after being fed generous portions of corporate media enabling of Mr. Walker, a November poll showed that 58% support his recall, including 24% of Republicans.
TONY Award recipients for 2011 all made meaningful contributions to THE STORY. When democracy and decency are eventually restored in Wisconsin, it will be because of the collective efforts of people of integrity determined to halt the backward slide of a state whose motto is “Forward.” That kind of determination can be found in this year’s TONY Award recipients. Drum roll please:
*Best Mainstream Report: Ben Jones’ “Under the Dome in the Wisconsin Capitol, Protesters Build A Community.” Mr. Jones’ piece appeared in the February 24, 2011 AppletonPost-Crescent. Instead of speculating about the protest motives or filling his story with irrelevant attacks from opponents in the name of “balance,” Jones simply told the truth about what he witnessed in the Capitol. Anyone wanting to know “what democracy looks like” should read this piece.
*Best Framing of THE STORY: Bill Lueders’ “Walker’s War.” Mr. Lueders’ piece appeared in the February 24, 2011 Madison Isthmus. In one of the most passionate pieces of writing I’ve ever read, Lueders more than any other pundit captured the real travesty of Mr. Walker’s policies: pitting of family members against each other: “What has been fomented in Wisconsin is a rupture among ourselves, one that will ensure acrimony and contention for many years, perhaps decades. The dispute will be not just between Walker and his tens of thousands of newly impassioned enemies, but between the state's citizens; worker against worker, neighbor against neighbor, family member against family member.” Lueders concludes correctly that “None of this was necessary, none of it is justified, and none of it can ever be forgiven or forgotten.”
*Best Investigative Report: The Center For Media And Democracy’s ALEC Exposed. In this thorough and disturbing report (go to CMD posits that “Through the corporate funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so called ‘model bills’ reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations. Through ALEC, corporations have ‘a VOICE and a VOTE’ on specific changes to the law that are then proposed in your state.Virtually every piece of major legislation emanating from the Walker Administration and GOP legislative majority has ALEC origins.
*Best Game Changer: Ian Murphy. An independent writer for the Buffalo Beast (, Mr. Murphy took on the persona of right wing billionaire David Koch and managed to get connection via phone to Scott Walker. Walker’s conversation with the person he thought was Koch represented a game changing moment in Wisconsin politics. When the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank listened to the call he heard in Walker an ‘unprincipled rigidity’ that sees politics as tribal blood sport featuring a ‘never-ending cycle of revenge killings.’” I’m generally not a fan of “gotcha!” politics, but Walker’s musings on the tape are so horrifyingly Nixonian that it’s difficult to get mad at the exposure method. Don’t be surprised if excerpts from the call figure prominently in recall election ads early next year.

*Best Independent Video: Sam Mayfield. In June Ms. Mayfield and her colleague Alex Noguera Garces were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for filming protests in the Capitol building. Ms. Mayfield deserves a wider audience not just because of the arrest event, but because she’s made some outstanding videos that give voice to all sides of THE STORY. Check them out at her “Sam Land” blog (
*Best Speech: Michael Moore’s “America’s Not Broke.” On March 5th, 2011 documentary film maker Michael Moore delivered a rousing speech in Madison. Understanding the meaning of THE STORY, Moore praised the citizen activists for arousing “a sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America.” He passionately pointed out that what’s broke is not America or Wisconsin, but “the moral compass of the rulers.” And he prodded the mainstream press to publicize one simple fact: “Just 400 Americans, 400, have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.”
In 2012 THE STORY will be the recall of Governor Scott Walker. We know that the mainstream media will not likely tell it in the public interest. Therefore we will continue to need TONY Award types to keep telling it like it is.
Previous TONY Award recipients can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Tony Palmeri ( is a Professor of Communication at UW Oshkosh