Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Press Releases: Freedom isn’t free

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Campaign-finance reformers often object to the idea that money equals speech. But even for progressives, it does indeed. "All our donations dried up" after Obama was elected, says Matt Power, producer and editor of LibertyNewsTV, a five-year-old monthly half-hour progressive news-and-commentary program based in Portland and aired on public-access channels in Maine and around the country. The program being distributed for October will be the series's last.

The election of the president who promised change suggested "the adults were in charge again," Power says, and so support dwindled for a program that often attacked George W. Bush and his policies.

For example, FreeSpeechTV, a clearinghouse for progressive videos, used to give Power $1600 a year to support LibertyNewsTV's $8000 annual budget. For the coming year, though, it offered $75, Power says. "That's a sign of the times right there."

But he's not done making videos, and has plans to create a progressive-themed series for the Web or broadcast. "We need to create different versions of reality" to show "a positive vision of what the world could be," he says. Specifically, as Marxist as it may sound, "What would make the most people the most happy?"

Power draws inspiration from Michael Moore, who he says has "managed to break out of the documentary mold" by "introducing whole new ideas that people have never even heard before."

If a donor appeared and wanted to bankroll LibertyNewsTV again, he would go right back to it. But since that seems unlikely, he's submitting all the past episodes to the Internet Archive ( so the public will be able to access them in perpetuity.

(Disclosure: I appeared on an episode of LibertyNewsTV earlier this year explaining my "Take Back Barack" initiative, which suggested that Obama was drifting to the center and even the right, and that we needed to pressure him to stay progressive.)

• WGME Channel 13, Portland's Sinclair-owned CBS affiliate, sent a news photographer to the September 13 ANTI-SAME-SEX-MARRIAGE RALLY in Augusta, armed with a handheld video camera. He didn't conceal the camera, but neither did he disclose his employer, nor his intent to broadcast the footage he shot. Turns out, it was a pretty smart move ? absolutely newsworthy moments the station aired included Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Malone declaring that it was a "duty" of all good Catholics to oppose same-sex marriage, and saying that any Catholic who did otherwise was "dissenting from the teaching of the church." The station also got Marc Mutty, the diocese's spokesman who is on leave to run the anti-same-sex-marriage campaign, to admit that people who oppose marriage equality fear being publicly identified because they might be viewed negatively for their beliefs. "In today's society, being a bigot is a really nasty thing," Mutty said on camera, unintentionally hitting the nail precisely on the head.

• And for those arriving late, I reported (with help from Al Diamon and Lance Tapley) on the AboutTown blog September 9 that Richard Connor made no money as the middle-man in a real-estate deal by which New York developer John Cacoulidis bought the PRESS HERALD BUILDINGS near City Hall in Portland and a Portland developer bought a floor of the Chestnut Street parking garage. Rather, Connor paid $6.3 million and sold them right away for that exact sum. In all, he paid $17.9 million for the real-estate portion of the deal with the Blethens, and got back more than one-third of it right away. He'll get more when he sells the Kennebec Journal building in Augusta; he is planning on keeping the South Portland printing plant and probably the Waterville offices of the Morning Sentinel.