JS: I was talking about a liberal equivalent of Fox News, where you had all these liberal journalists that were sort of gaga over President Obama because he was President Obama. I think you had quite a substantial amount of intellectual dishonesty from people who were holding the Bush administration accountable for actions that the Obama administration was taking from day one, and even announced on the campaign trail.
Health care is a perfect example of this. Obviously, we want to have pre-existing conditions covered. Obviously, we want young people to be able to continue on their parents’ health care plans. There are many things that are going to be improvements.
But let’s be clear here: This is a complete and total sellout to the interests of the insurance lobby by the Obama administration. This is, as Michael Moore has said, a complete victory for the ultra-capitalists. Yet, if you look on the liberal blogosphere, people like Jane Hamsher are attacked mercilessly for having the audacity to stand up and say "this is a Democratic sellout."
So you have this blind allegiance to ... what? To Obama as a man? To the Democrats as a party? To me, it’s very dangerous when you start going down the road of unquestioning support for any powerful individual or any politician. The moment you cede your conscience to a politician is the moment you stop struggling for a better society.
BD: You won this award in part because of your ability to elevate stories to front-page news in the mainstream media. Talk about independent media’s relationship to the mainstream.
JS: I’ve gotten many e-mails and phone calls from friends and colleagues where they’ll say "the New York Times just ripped of this story of yours," or, "did you see that piece in the Washington Post? They didn’t even give you credit." I’ve almost never had a reaction of anger, or saying, "why wasn’t I credited in that?" That’s not the point of this kind of journalism—editors can get mad about that stuff. To me, if the New York Times picks up on a story and puts it on the front page, that means that something is probably going to get done about it. It should be taken as a very positive thing when these corporate media are forced to cover an issue because independent journalists have driven it with drumbeat coverage.
I remember how proud I was when I saw the New York Times forced to credit Marcy Wheeler, who was an online blogger, for picking up details on the Bush administration’s torture program. They had to credit Marcy Wheeler, and put a quote from her, and cite her in their newspaper. That to me was a great moment in the recent history of independent media, because what it did was shame the corporate media. It said that a blogger with very little resources can out-scoop the New York Times on a very important story that was catching headlines at that time.
Part of what we’re doing is trying to fill the void that is left from corporate media. We either shame them, or force them to cover it, because we make it a major issue.
When my book first came out, I thought I was going to be running around the country selling it out of my backpack, which was fine with me.
What I’ve learned from doing this story is that if you go around the country, if you keep at it, if you beat the drum, if your facts are all in order, and you just keep going, you can have an impact. But you can’t give up.
We live in a very exciting time in independent media. Corporate journalists are less powerful now than they were 10 years ago, but their owners are much more powerful. Still, the journalists themselves—they’re no longer these sort of regal kings on a hill. Peggy Noonan represents a dying generation of people that pontificate from a golden palace somewhere, hoping the poor will never get through her gates.
The poor are now journalists around the world. The question is: how do we fund it? How do we keep it viable? How do we keep it credible? And that is our challenge right now.