Columbia U. President: We Need an NPR-Beeb-Jazeera in the U.S.!

Lee Bollinger is author of a new book entitled Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century. He is also president of Columbia University, home of arguably the most prestigious journalism school in the United States. Given what we've come to expect from people with his general professional profile, Bollinger's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal should come as no surprise. But that makes it no less stinky:

The institutions of the press we have inherited are the result of a mixed system of public and private cooperation. Trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown—a risky proposition with a vital public institution hanging in the balance.

Ironically, we already depend to some extent on publicly funded foreign news media for much of our international news—especially through broadcasts of the BBC and BBC World Service on PBS and NPR. Such news comes to us courtesy of British citizens who pay a TV license fee to support the BBC and taxes to support the World Service. The reliable public funding structure, as well as a set of professional norms that protect editorial freedom, has yielded a highly respected and globally powerful journalistic institution.

There are examples of other institutions in the U.S. where state support does not translate into official control. The most compelling are our public universities and our federal programs for dispensing billions of dollars annually for research. Those of us in public and private research universities care every bit as much about academic freedom as journalists care about a free press. [...]

To me a key priority is to strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena. In today's rapidly globalizing and interconnected world, other countries are developing a strong media presence. In addition to the BBC, there is China's CCTV and Xinhua news, as well as Qatar's Al Jazeera. The U.S. government's international broadcasters, like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, were developed during the Cold War as tools of our anticommunist foreign policy. In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S.

This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters. The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let's demonstrate great journalism's essential role in a free and dynamic society.

Bollinger's idea was greeted with the derision it deserves from Jeff Jarvis, Nick Schulz, Michelle Malkin, Mark Tapscott, Steve Bartin, and Cassy Fiano.

Reason on journalism bailouts here, including "All the President's Newsmen," below:

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  • ||

    It would serve this guy right to have them implement his ideas just in time for a Palin Huckabee administration to take over the media. Something tells me he would immediately discover the virtues of a government free media.

    Seriously, how do these clowns write this crap with a straight face?

  • ||

    Because they either actually believe it, or think the people reading it are too stupid to see the obvious bullshit in it.

  • ||

    I guess they just think they should be in control of everything at all times. the thought that maybe someone else might be in charge once in a while never occurs to them.

  • JB||

    Lee Bollinger = shit-licking cum-stain.

  • ||

    The PRC is not the country I want to emulate when it comes to the nature of the American press.

  • International News Viewer||

    Hey look CNN and Fox News are on my television. Holy Crap! But those don't get public support so they must not really exist.

  • ||

    There are examples of other institutions in the U.S. where state support does not translate into official control. The most compelling are our public universities and our federal programs for dispensing billions of dollars annually for research.

    I bet he was singing a different tune when Bush blocked stem cell research funding.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    +1

  • Paul||

    He's certainly no stranger to receiving political pressure:

    But this case is important, because the type of protest took on a different character than the receipt of irate e-mails from members of the public and alumni. In this case we received a letter—that is to say, Lee Bollinger, Columbia’s president, received a letter—from 104 Republican members of the House of Representatives asking that Professor de Genova be fired. de Genova, the letter said, “has brought shame on the great institution that Columbia University is. As an assistant professor, de Genova has not yet earned the promise of lifetime academic employment. We hope that you will take steps immediately to ensure that he never gets it.” It is deeply troubling that nearly a quarter of the members of the House of Representatives should have such a profound misunderstanding of the basic principles governing a university—in particular, the process of self-policing through application of organized skepticism that actually worked at Columbia in this case through the criticism of this speech by colleagues.

    Yet, according to Lee Bollinger these are the same public officials that supposedly command the wherewithal to govern a news organization.

  • JB||

    That would be Federal stem cell research funding.

    There was still plenty of investment and breakthroughs in the private sector.

  • ||

    "In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S."

    What a tragedy it is that we don't let our government propagandize its own people. How do people this stupid get to be heads of great universities?

  • Jerry||

    In general, when people talk this stupid, they're in it for the federal grant money. Just some lip service for his friends in government.

  • Jordan||

    We should totally look to Xinhua and Al Jazeera for inspiration!

  • ||

    Regardless of the funding sources, the World Service is good quality (not so much BBC Int'l on the TV) and Al Jazeera borders on excellent (at least the English version).

    With the latter, you definitely need to pay attention to their blind spots, though (Israel mostly - though even then, they have Israeli officials on on all the time to attempt to explain something or other). Frost Over the World is pretty good shit, too, partly because David's getting old and grandfatherly, which can lead to amusing results.

  • ||

    Al Jazeera is decidedly less anti-American than either the BBC or CNN International.

  • ||

    True, I guess. I'd say BBC (TV) is really the only actively anti-US one, though. CNNI wasn't too terribly bad until they essentially turned it into AC360 and Larry King plus a couple of Asian business shows.

    Plus, AJE has Teresa Bo. Yum.

  • ||

    AJE's coverage of the Iraq war was pretty good. They didn't pull any punches on either side. Their coverage of the Al Quada atrocities did a lot to turn the Muslim world against Al Quada. Not that they intended that. They just told the truth about what was happening.

  • ||

    I didn't really get turned on to it until after most of the war action was over, but they're still hitting it pretty hard on all sides and they even have an hour weekly show dedicated to the politics of postwar Iraq hosted by a fiery Iraqi dude who pretty much eviscerates everyone.

  • ||

    That sounds good. i will have to watch that sometime.

  • ||

    I was in Spain a few years ago and Al Jazeera was one of the English-language news stations, so I left it on, and was amazed at how professional it was. After all the screeching by the right about it, you'd think they were burning babies draped in American flags, but it was way better than any of the US news networks.

  • ||

    To ignore ideology for a moment, you have to give Al Jazeera credit for at least COVERING a wide swath of events. (and I would posit, actually doing a good job of asking questions that make SENSE).
    I look at American news and I make the comparison to European and American cars in the 70's - the Americans - no disc brakes, no fuel injection, but first at gloss and glitter.

  • ||

    Amazing what happens when you just cover whatever is going on rather than trying to make the facts always fit the narrative.

  • ||

    Back a few months ago, they really exposed the Egyptians for their complicity in blockading Gaza at the Egyptian border. They barely touched on Israel through it all (probably because Israel was the assumed bad guy), making Egypt look really, really bad.

    They had extended scenes from the walled crossing where Palestinians were launching rocks at Egyptian soldiers and the soldiers were firing over their heads - which did nothing. The Palestinian security forces tried to quiet things down but pretty quickly gave up.

    Pretty raw, and pretty ugly.

  • BakedPenguin||

    AJE's coverage of the Iraq war was pretty good. They didn't pull any punches on either side.

    That's impressive, considering the US bombing of their Iraq offices.

  • ||

    Maybe so. But I didn't think their coverage was bad. It could be that they were just incompetent propagandists. Maybe they thought showing all of the dead bodies would turn everyone against the US. What happened was, they were already as anti-US as they were going to get so showing the bodies made them anti-Al Quada.

  • ||

    Did AJ and AJE share offices in Iraq? Might be a real difference there.

    From people I know fluent in Arabic, the Arabic version of AJ is significantly more anti-infidel and pro-religious propaganda, where AJE is almost spookily straight and has almost no hint of religiosity.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I don't know. I'd assumed they would share office space, from a cost efficiency vantage point.

  • ||

    How can one watch Al Jazeera in the US? Is it available on satellite TV?

  • ||

    You can get it ala carte on most providers, AFAIK, but it'll cost ya. If you have a local MHz network channel (usually a subchannel of your PBS affiliate), they run periodic bits which are usually the half-hour cycling news updates from the Washington and Doha desks.

    I think DirecTV has it on FSTV, which looks otherwise overwhelmingly annoying lefty, and maybe on another of those ultra-compressed, high-number channels that is like a public affairs thing.

    If you want the round-the-clock version at a viewable and listenable quality, though, go to aljazeera.net/english and click on the LiveStation link. You can get the low-quality feed for free in perpetuity and get all the shows.

    Their website does a pretty good job of embedding entire documentaries and regular shows and of using YouTube for the rest.

    They really do a damn good job of reporting on the US (they have a huge Washington bureau) and the rest of the Americas (which is obviously missing from domestic sources).

  • ||

    I think it's now widely available in Canada through some means as a full-time channel. A couple of months ago, one of their Canadian anchorettes was welcoming Canada.

  • ||

    The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    So, what you're saying is that you have no idea at all how this thing works.

  • ||

    What would they call a state-run newspaper? Pravda is already taken.

  • hmm||

    Obama World News, Editorials, and Discussions

    OWNED

  • ||

    +a lot

  • ||

    hmm wins the thread.

  • ||

    He'd never dare cross Oprah in that way. Yes, her new television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, is OWN.

    I'm not making that up.

  • ||

    And after Sarah Palin wins the Presidency, it would be:

    PWNED

  • hmm||

    That's just silly.

  • Fluffy||

    Palin should be the service's first page 3 girl.

  • ||

    Maybe so. That approach seems to be working pretty well for that party over in the Czech Republic.

  • hmm||

    A Columbia Jschool degree prepares you to make sweeping judgments on markets and economic matters.

    Let's demonstrate great journalism's essential role in a free and dynamic society.

    By making journalism less free and dynamic. Seriously the level of stupidity exhibited here could only come from the upper levels of academia.

  • ||

    there are some things only an intellectual could believe, for no common man could be so stupid.
    George Orwell

  • Spartacus||

    Dude, they're journalists. They cover everything, so they have to know everything. Kind of like elementary school teachers.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Reason is going to miss the gravy train not getting onboard with this government/press collaboration thing at the ground floor (mixaphorically speaking). If you don't want to find yourselves at a disadvantage, I would get some practice holding my hand out if I were you guys.

  • Ska||

    Uh, you don't remember the whole liberty's torch graphic?

  • Matt||

    The comments in Jarvis' piece probably sum up the arguments against an "American World Service" - the BBC is an institution over there, and there are a multitude of reasons its allowed the leeway it is. And like Timon said above, you need to be able to pick out the motivations in the reporting.

    Look at how Obama is fucking with the White House Press Corps. You really don't think the "American World Service" would do the same thing?

    For an educated guy, Bollinger sure is dumb.

  • Obama||

    The White House Press Corps needed fuckin'

  • Warty||

    This may be the best Onion video ever.

  • ||

    That is almost too realistic to be funny.

  • ||

    http://corner.nationalreview.c.....QzYThhMjg=

    This one is pretty good to. But not as good as the one you link to.

  • Maverick||

  • hmm||

    The country also is tops -- or has been No. 1 -- in searches for "sex," "camel sex," "rape video," "child sex video" and some other searches that can't be printed here.

    What in the hell can be worse?

  • Warty||

  • Kiwi Dave||

    that video was just a rip off of the better version by Charlie Brooker:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtGSXMuWMR4

  • Warty||

    He is pretty spot on about our news.

  • hmm||

  • ||

    I would ask this clown one question:
    How much does he believe the press briefings of the White House (in 2005????).
    Because that is what his theory amounts to.
    I don't even believe myself 95% of the time, and I only believe myself 5% of the time because I'm not nearly as cynical as I should be.

  • Fluffy||

    I think it should be obvious to everyone that this guy cares a lot less about press freedom and government neutrality in the marketplace of ideas than he cares about maintaining enough job opportunities in journalism for his university to continue to attract students.

    Seriously, that's all that's in play here. Fewer big-money journalism jobs = fewer people willing to pay megatuition to attend Columbia J School = less prestige for Lee Bollinger.

  • ||

    Yeah. The are getting desperate. I would love to see what would happen if Sarah Palin came out and said we need to spend a few billion to ensure the major media stays alive. I bet the tone of the coverage of her would change pretty quick.

  • The Gobbler||

    That's a fine idea.

  • Terry Michael||

    The thing that caught my attention in Comrade Bollinger's piece was this laughable assertion: "There are examples of other institutions in the U.S. where state support does not translate into official control. The most compelling are our public universities and our federal programs for dispensing billions of dollars annually for research."
    You have to laugh out loud at that. On what planet does he live? Eisenhower warned us of the threat of government funded research in his farewell address, overshadowed by the "military industrial complex" part of the speech. Colleges get government "research" grants, with huge administrative overhead funds, if they march lock-step with conventional so-called "peer reviewed" wisdom. No better example than Il Duce Anthony Fauci, who for 25 years has manipulated with an iron fist hundreds of billions in NIH grants for the HIV=AIDS paradigm--no dissenters need apply. (See my writing on this subject at:
    http://www.terrymichael.net/Ht.....eport.html

    Not only does the money we taxpayers are forced to give to NPR and PBS have transluscent left-liberal strings attached, the whole justification for 1960's-1970's "public" (your taxes) support was undermined when communication satellites and then the internet wasted the argument that only behemoth, evil corporations could set up content networks.
    Let NPR and The NewsHour end their beg-a-thons and their pretense of "corporate sponsorships" and start taking advertising. There is a clear market for what they produce, or Washington policy wonks, left and right, wouldn't slaveishly tune their Sirius-XM's, FM dials, and LCD TV's to the "serious content" of Morning Edition and Jim Lehrer (both great--but neither of which should get my tax dollars!)

  • Matt||

    It should probably be noted that NPR gets a significant minority of their funding from tax money. I'm not sure about PBS. Somehow I don't think either are going under if we pull the government funded rug out from under them.

  • Paul||

    Why then, do they scream like stuck pigs whenever there's a threat to end their public support?

    Long have I tired of the argument that essentially argues against itself:

    We only receive a pittance, a mil of our funding from the government!

    You can't take our public funds away! We'll cease to exist without it!

    If it's an insignificant portion of their funding, then end it. Then they avoid the perception of being politicized entirely.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They should also give up the ghost of "no commercials". It's bullshit - they have commercials, even if they are more subdued than most. Also, why is a week long begging session considered more dignified than having commercials?

  • BakedPenguin||

    And I just realized I basically repeated Terry Michael's last paragraph.

  • T||

    Doesn't feel good either, I bet.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Meh. He wasn't wrong. I agree with Michelle Malkin once in a while, too. It's the argument that matters, not the person.

  • ||

    When you make a deal with the Devil, you are always the junior partner.

  • ||

    who for 25 years has manipulated with an iron fist hundreds of billions in NIH grants for the HIV=AIDS paradigm--no dissenters need apply.

    Not to mention all the Flat Earth, Intelligent Design, and Perpetual Motion Machine research that the government refuses to fund. Viewpoint discrimination!

  • marlok||

    They also don't tend to fund studies that challenge the "Mycobacteria = Tuberculosis" paradigm.

    Anway, I knew when I saw his name that somewhere in his post, which started out fine, there would be some mention of his difficulty accepting that the cause of AIDS is HIV.

  • Paul||

    In Seattle, the city government doesn't have enough money to keep the streets paved.

    Putting aside the whole creepy-factor of having your press run by your government, why do these Public Sector Journalism boosters think that once the government is running your newspaper, that it will no longer be prone budgetary pressures?

  • hmm||

    I know of small downs that let their streets return to gravel to save money.

  • hmm||

    Seattle is an earthy bunnyhuger mecca. They should like gravel earthy roads.

  • Kiwi Dave||

    I know. I can't believe he included them.

  • Paul||

    The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need.

    If Bollinger and I can agree 100% on what "news we need", then I might support his idea.

  • ||

    The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence dependent on government funding that can provide the news we needed to keep the government funding coming.

  • ||

    Many, if not most, of Lee Bollinger’s various policies as president of Columbia are deeply disturbing. Where is the libertarian, conservative and Republican blogosphere on the issue of EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE in the case of Columbia University? Columbia got the state of NY to declare that a large swath of property just north and west of the Columbia campus is blighted. Using eminent domain, property owners in that area will now be forced to hand their land over to Columbia so the university can continue their plan to destroy the rest of West Harlem. The big kicker: Columbia was the largest property owner in the area deemed blighted!!! In other words, Columbia bought up a bunch of land, let it go to shit, then had the state declare the whole area blighted and forced unwilling property owners to hand over their property to the state so the state can give it over to Columbia. FUCKED UP SHIT. Where is the conservative media on this story?!

  • Bollinger||

    That's not the news we need.

  • Paul||

    Where is the libertarian, conservative and Republican blogosphere on the issue of EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE in the case of Columbia University?

    Right here?

  • ||

    Reason isn't really conservative media.

  • Jordan||

    You might want to re-read that quote.

  • marlok||

    For some conservatives talking about it, this is what I found in 10 seconds:

    http://article.nationalreview......sh-ponnuru

    http://old.nationalreview.com/.....170926.asp

  • jtuf||

    Only someone stuck in the Ivory Tower echo chamber could believe that universities are unbiased. Today's acadamia is just a cheerleader for the state.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Bollinger is the epitome of the Cape Cod liberal. Someone should build a wind farm next to his place and blow him out to sea. Talk about striking a blow for academic freedom!

  • Michael||

    Such news comes to us courtesy of British citizens who pay a TV license fee to support the BBC and taxes to support the World Service. The reliable public funding structure, as well as a set of professional norms that protect editorial freedom, has yielded a highly respected and globally powerful journalistic institution.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  • Michael||

    And, of course, this...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqG4ysu2ksU

  • Spartacus||

    Because it bears repeating:

    When you depend on politicians for your livelihood, your livelihood will be determined by politics.

  • ||

    Trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown

    If by "unknown" he means "the long established status quo that everyone knows completely" ...

  • ||

    Before being too critical of CCTV, the network from China, people should watch it a bit. We get it on satellite, but it is sometimes available on cable in the U.S. Their coverage of international news for me is far more balanced than say MSNBC, the Obama network. Their coverage of international events is also much more comprehensive than the sound bites we are used to on U.S. television.

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