By William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com
WASHINGTON, June 17 – Black and Hispanic Americans need to be more prominent and “in positions of authority” within the media in order to appeal to a growing multicultural society, a former Clinton administration telecommunications official said Tuesday.
Addressing the Center for Social Media's conference here at American University titled “Beyond Broadcast,” Larry Irving, former chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said that blacks and Hispanics consume more media than do white Americans.
The media needed to embrace the opportunity to reach out to all racial and ethnic groups and to become “more of a brotherhood,” said Irving, currently president of Irving Information Group.
He said conference participants should engage in helping to set a well-articulated political agenda readily understandable to non-techies like their parents and grandparents. Only with a well-informed society, Irving argued, can a transformation be wrought in America's businesses, culture, and media.
Irving also said that the president elected in November must find ways to ensure that new technology benefited all Americans , regardless of race, sex and class.
Besides Irving, afternoon sessions speakers included Ernest Wilson, dean of the University of Southern California's communications school; Henry Jenkins, director of the comparative media studies program at MIT; and Persephone Miel, fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Because of changes in technology have led to turmoil within the media and media is essential to a healthy democracy, democracy in America is now imperiled, said Wilson.
Wilson, who also holds the Walter Annenberg chair in communication at USC, also blasted the public service media, like public radio and public television, for remaining “way behind the curve” for years.
Although Henry Jenkins of MIT could not attend the conference in person, attendees were still able to listen to his words due to the advances in technology.
Speaking remotely over the auditorium's speakers, Jenkins stated that participatory journalism has caused information to originate not only from the top-down, but also from the bottom-up.
Jenkins said that the Internet, and participatory journalism specifically, must cease to be a luxury of the upper and middle classes. Lower classes of society must feel empowered and be able to acquire the skills needed for participatory journalism, he said.
Persephone Miel said that old media, though not dead, is “broken” because journalism is no longer scarce, but abundant. Although bloggers are often blamed for the decline of the old media, Miel said that bloggers are neither the source of the change nor the answer for how to fix the media.
Instead, Miel said that Network Neutrality – or policies that keep Bell and cable operators from engaging in discriminatory conduct – is needed so that “wealthy, wired, white people” are not the only individuals reached and affected by the Internet and participatory journalism.