Book Interview with ZNet

(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, Our Media Not Theirs? What is it trying to communicate?

Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media is about the crisis of media in the United States and the growing movement to reform the media system. John Nichols and I make the case that the media system is the result of explicit public policies, the system produces terrible outcomes for democracy, and it therefore is crucial for the public to organize to change the policies that produce the media system. We argue that media reform is part and parcel of the broader democratic movements against neoliberalism, and, ultimately, will only succeed as part of those movements. One of the three chapters shows how rapidly media activism has emerged around the world as part of the anti-neoliberal political movement. We argue that it can and must happen in the United States as well.

(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?

John and I wrote the book together, and it was a revision of our 2000 book It’s the Media, Stupid! When that book sold out the publisher (Greg Ruggiero at Seven Stories press) asked us if we were interested in revising it. After tinkering a bit John and I realized that so much has happened in the past two years that a few revisions would not suffice. So we ended up pretty much writing a brand new book, and one that is quite a bit longer. Much of the book’s argument came from a long piece on media reform that John and I wrote that was published in The Nation in January 2002. John and I are very close friends so we like writing books together because it gives us a chance to spend time together. I have collected a lot of material from my teaching and other research projects that we could draw upon. John has done a zillion interviews in his capacity as a political writer for The Nation. We had a lot to work with.

(3) What are your hopes for Our Media Not Theirs? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?

Our hope is that the book will contribute to the media reform movement, and progressive politics in general. It will convince progressives of the importance of the matter and it will convince media activists to think in larger terms about their political project. The book is written for a popular readership.

I already consider the book a success; just writing it forced me to think about the issue very closely and it helps me in my writing, teaching and political work every day. The book will be a huge success if it can help jump start media activism in the United States. To that end, we have introductions by Ralph Nader, Barbara Ehrenreich and an especially wonderful one from Noam Chomsky.

Robert W. McChesney
Your Man in Urbana
Institute of Communications Research
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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