Media Minutes: 2004-2012

After seven and a half years, Free Press has discontinued the production of Media Minutes, its weekly headline radio newscast that examined issues at the intersection of media and democracy.
I developed and launched Media Minutes in 2004, as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois’ Institute of Communications Research. I’d left the broadcast industry in 2000 out of disgust at what it had done to stymie the rollout of LPFM, and had thought that my days as a radio journalist were behind me.
This was not to be. During my master’s work at the University of Wisconsin, I co-founded Workers Independent News, the first labor-centric radio news program to be launched in the U.S. in more than 50 years. My work with WIN caught the ear of Bob McChesney, then a professor at ICR, and when I was accepted into that program he e-mailed me out of the blue to ask whether I’d be interested in starting a similar program focused on issues of media policy and reform.
Having no funding guarantee, I jumped at the opportunity, and in the fall of 2004 I built my own studio on campus and began the Media Minutes adventure.
The folks at Free Press gave me a lot of latitude with the show. We did a conference call at the beginning of each week, where we tossed around story ideas and discussed the various campaigns FP had going on or in the works. Within the first year, Media Minutes had gained a lot of traction, breaking stories such as the Bush-era politicization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Supreme Court’s decision that threw the principle of network neutrality into the realm of uncertainty.
In addition to the weekly program, I produced special daily editions of Media Minutes at Free Press’ National Conference for Media Reform in Saint Louis (2005) and Memphis (2007), during which I had the opportunity to meet and/or interview folks like Bill Moyers, Naomi Klein, Al Franken, Janine Jackson, Danny Glover, Amy Goodman, Robert Greenwald, Boots Riley, Bernie Sanders, and FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, among many others.
I left Media Minutes in 2007 to teach (this was grad school, after all, and I needed to build experience for my newly-chosen vocation). To their credit, and in recognition of the show’s importance to the organization’s larger mission, Free Press committed to continuing the program under the able ministrations of Stevie Converse, Candace Clement, and Megan Tady. I disassembled my DIY studio and shipped all the gear to FP HQ in Massachusetts.
And the program played on for another five years, until last Friday, when Media Minutes produced its last episode.
At its peak, Media Minutes was carried by nearly 200 radio stations around the world and distributed widely online. The program became a source of its own for journalists covering media policy and activism, and often served as the venue in which Free Press spread the first word about its campaign-work.
The discontinuation of Media Minutes is bittersweet. I’m no parent, but when I heard the news it felt like I’d lost a child. I wasn’t privy to the rationale for ending the show, but I understand that there’s only so much time and energy to go around, and it’s a lot of work to put together a broadcast-quality program. Free Press itself is a much different (and much bigger) organization than it was nearly eight years ago, and the Internet’s evolved immensely over time to become the primary outlet for FP’s informational and outreach efforts.
I can’t thank Free Press enough for their support of Media Minutes over the years. They took on a grad student sight-unseen and made him part of the media reform family. Of all the work I’ve done in broadcast journalism. Media Minutes stands as one of my proudest accomplishments. I hope there’s many more opportunities for us to collaborate in the future.