St. Louis forum criticizes corporate grip on media

ST. LOUIS — Nearly 80 people attended the Missouri/Kansas Friends of the People’s Weekly World’s third annual “Working Class Media and Democracy” forum held at the Friends Meeting House here Oct. 20.

Forum speakers included Bernie Hayes, the author of “The Death of Black Radio”; Pepe Lozano, reporter for the PWW; and Lori Reed, former reporter for Take Five magazine. Denise Lieberman from the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition moderated the event.

Lieberman opened the forum with a brief introduction on the connection between media and democracy. “Media is supposed to check the power of the government,” she said. “But what does it mean when the government and the media are controlled by multinational corporations? It means that our democracy is weakened, that ordinary, working-class people aren’t getting the whole story.”

Reed, who now works for the American Friends Service Committee, spoke about the media’s role in the community, especially the African American community. Noting the recent closing of the 15-year-old magazine Take Five, which accented local issues and community involvement, Reed said the void it has left “hasn’t been filled yet.”

Reed also told participants about an articles she worked on uncovering police brutality in St. Louis, adding, “The corporate media isn’t doing anything to challenge police brutality.”

Lozano told participants that “the People’s Weekly World is continuing my father’s legacy.” Rudy Lozano, a labor organizer and immigrant rights activist from Chicago’s Mexican American community, helped elect Chicago’s first and most progressive African American mayor, Harold Washington, to office in 1983. Tragically, Rudy Lozano was assassinated in his home shortly thereafter. Many believe the assassination was politically motivated.

Pepe Lozano also talked about the Iraqi death toll, which now stands at 650,000 civilian dead, and the Bush administration’s continuing lies. He said, “The war has cost us $300 billion and close to 3,000 U.S. soldiers’ lives.”

Lozano added, “The PWW keeps us informed.” He urged the audience members to subscribe.

Hayes spoke about his more than 50 years in the radio industry. He said, “I wrote ‘The Death of Black Radio’ because mainstream media disregards the Black community. It projects what is profitable, instead of what is positive and uplifting.” Hayes also criticized certain types of rap music that denigrate women and reinforce negative stereotypes of violence and drugs in the Black community.

The midterm elections and changing control of Congress was discussed throughout the evening. All panelists took questions from the floor and urged everybody to support working-class media like the People’s Weekly World.

Representatives from The Newspaper Guild/CWA, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and other unions attended, as well as peace activists, community leaders and students.

The forum raised over $3,000 for the People’s Weekly World national fund drive and garnered three new subscribers.

tonypec @ cpusa.org Jocelyn Cochran-Biggs contributed to this article.