So much for free speech

So the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric it cutting down its so-called Free Speech segments (and I’ll bet they’ll be dead altogether before long).

I recorded a Free Speech segment and I bet as I made it that it would never run. Reason: I talked about Dan Rather. I shot it the first week Couric was on the show. It’s now mid-November, so I think it’s now a sure thing that it won’t air. They said they were waiting for a peg. I think that peg was global cooling in hell. They also would not send me a copy of the segment to show my CUNY students (contrasting that with the version I made using the same script) because it would violate CBS policy. One is amazed that they apparently have a policy for everything.

Here’s what I was going to say on CBS but can still say here, thanks to the free speech of the blog. My 1:30 script:

The war is over. No, not that war. I mean the war between mainstream media and bloggers.
It never really was a fight – because we are on the same side. We all want the truth:
When bloggers called Dan Rather on errors in 2004, he dismissed them as partisan operatives. But when bloggers recently exposed faked photos from Beirut, Reuters thanked them.
So we are making progress.
Together, professional and amateur journalists can gather and share more news than ever. Bloggers just forced two senators to admit they were secretly blocking a reform bill. And bloggers goaded Dell and Apple into recalling burning batteries. Dell, which once ignored bloggers, now blogs itself.
See, it doesn’t hurt. Bloggers are just people talking. We are your viewers, your voters, your customers, your neighbors.
Now that we, the people, are armed with our own printing presses, old media have nothing to fear and everything to gain – so long as they’re wise enough to trust us.
Trust us to be smart; if you can’t, then what’s the point of democracy?
Listen to us and what we truly care about – and that’s not endless Jon Benet.
And let us share your best reporting: The networks should be fighting to get the most stories watched on YouTube – for those are the stories that are part of our conversation….
Just because newspapers and networks are shrinking, that doesn’t mean journalism must whither. No, we have to expand the definition of news and change the role of the journalist from oracle on the mountaintop to member of our community.
We’re in this together.

The CBS idea was doomed for a number of reasons. For one, they made much too much hooha about producing the segments; I wrote about that here, comparing the dozen or so people it took for them to produce this segment for the cutting-room floor vs. what it took for me to produce it in my den. For another reason, as Howie Kurtz reports, the rest of the CBS News structure was jealous of any seconds giving to outside voices. But most of all, it was controlling in the old media way. They had to approve what I was going to write about. They went back and forth on whether I could mention Rather. They were in control. That aint’ free speech.

For a better model — one that still doesn’t go far enough but at least heads farther in the right direction — see the BBC’s Newsnight, its major nightly news show, telling people to produce their own segments and send them in — or actually, just post them on YouTube or Blip or such and send in the link. That means that you don’t need the BBC to show your opinion; you’ll broadcast before they do. The editors will pick the best, in their judgment, and then the public will decide what makes it to air: The Survivor of News. They will get our more unvarnished, unproduced, uncontrolled voices. That’s closer to free speech.