Saturday, February 10, 2018

In The Pay of Foundations: How U.S. power elite foundations fund a `parallel left' media network--Part 2

In The Pay of Foundations—Part 2

How U.S. power elite and liberal establishment foundations fund a “parallel left” media network of left media journalists and gatekeepers.

Within New Left Movement anti-war activist circles in New York City prior to the 1980s, it was considered morally and politically contradictory and hypocritical for individuals on the U.S. left, who claimed to be working to build a grassroots-based U.S. left anti-war movement in political opposition to the U.S. power elite, to rely on grant money from foundations--like the Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation—of this same U.S. power elite to fund their “Movement” work projects. In addition, individuals on the U.S. left who were into middle-class professional “Movement careerism,” left celebrity/”Movement media super-star” status-seeking, individual monopolization of radio-tv media and left-wing microphone access, censorship or exclusion of dissident grassroots anti-war New Left viewpoints or individual “Movement empire-building” entrepreneurial work projects and “Movement profiteering, were generally seen as acting in an undemocratic and politically contradictory way.  As the radical feminist journal Women In Revolution reported in its Summer 1970 issue, the Class Workshop was formed “as a reaction to the oppression working class women experienced in the Movement” and proposed a radical feminist media strategy “in the interests of most women, not in the interests of the privileged few who want to make it on our backs.” Among the media strategy proposals made by the Class Workshop in 1970, for example were the following:

“Anyone who appears in the media is to be drawn by lot from her group. No one is to participate in the media alone…No member of a group can appear as an independent feminist…No individual or group can earn a living by writing or speaking about women’s liberation…Anyone who wants to write should write for the Movement.”

Yet for over 20 years, Democracy Now! accepted foundation money from U.S. power elite foundations and was mainly hosted and produced by just two professional upper middle-class journalists: Amy Goodman and a columnist of the New York Daily News mainstream newspaper  (and former Philadelphia Daily News mainstream newspaper columnist), Juan Gonzalez.

A daughter of Multimillionaire New York City real estate developer Bruce Ratner (whose personal worth was estimated to be $400 million in 2017), Lizzy Ratner, worked at Democracy Now! from September 2001 to July 2002: and, after subsequently being hired to be a senior editor at The Nation magazine, noted in a May 2005 article in The Nation, titled “Amy Goodman’s `Empire’,” that “Goodman grew up in the cozy middle-class suburb of Bay Shore” on Long Island, “her father was an ophthalmologist” and “her mother was a social worker and teacher of women’s literature and history.”

Like her older brother, journalist David Goodman, Democracy Now! Productions president Goodman is a Harvard graduate, who received a Harvard-Radcliffe B.A. in anthropology in 1984.  Not long afterwards, according to the “Amy Goodman’s `Empire’” article, “Goodman landed an apprenticeship” at WBAI-FM and “started out making documentaries, then moved to covering local news stories, and two years later she was running the WBAI newsroom.”

According to WBAI’s Australian-born and raised program director between 1989 and 1994, a former Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist named Andrew Phillips, after immigrating to New York City in late 1975, he “introduced Amy to WBAI in 1985” when he “was teaching radio documentary production at Hunter College.”

While “running the WBAI newsroom” in 1987, “Goodman encouraged” David Isay “to produce his first radio piece,” according to the “Amy Goodman’s `Empire’” article. The same May 2005 Nation article also quoted Isay as saying that "for the first couple of years, Amy was the person I learned everything from.”

Subsequently, Isay produced a radio piece for corporate and foundation-sponsored National Public Radio [NPR] in 1989, was given a “Livingston Award for Young Journalists” money grant by the Molly Parnis Livingston Foundation (whose grant money was obtained from the profits of a fashion designer’s New York City garment industry firm) in 1990, and set up his own “non-profit” media firm Sound Portraits Production in 1994—the same year he was also given Guggenheim Fellowship money (from the foundation whose tax-exempt wealth originally came from money the Guggenheim family obtained, historically, in the late 1800s and early 1900s by owning Kennecott Copper, Anaconda and Asarco mines and smelters, utilizing cheap labor and making windfall profits from the lifting, refining and marketing of metals during World War I).  A July 1, 2003 Transom article that Sydney Lewis edited, titled “David Isay and Sound Portraits,” quotes Goodman’s former colleague as recalling in 2003:

I’ve been doing radio since a year out of college – fell into it through a series of strange, wonderful, serendipitous events that happened over a 24-hour period, and never turned back. I was fortunate to get a [U.S. government-funded] CPB [Corporation for Public Broadcasting] grant early on, so had the time to make stories that I could use to snag more CPB grants. I…eventually formed a non-profit so I could get foundation money (only CPB gives to individuals, everyone else gives to non-profits). The Company started to grow and it’s the best thing that ever happened….”

After forming his “non-profit” Sound Portraits media firm “so” he “could get foundation money” in 1994, Isay’s then-Brooklyn-based radio segment production firm was given a $50,000 [equivalent to over $76,000 in 2018] grant by the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation to fund his “StoryCorps” oral history project--one year after the Carnegie Corporation of New York foundation gave Pacifica its $25,000 grant to launch Goodman’s Democracy Now! radio show. Three years later, Goodman’s former colleague at WBAI was given a $500,000 [equivalent to over $717,000 in 2018] individual MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 2000--payable in $100,000 chunks a year in each of the following five years.

 As David Plotz noted in a July 7, 2000 Slate website article, the then-$4 billion MacArthur Foundation “ is the estate of John D. MacArthur, a skinflint who became the second-richest American” and “his son Rod grabbed control of the trust after John's 1978 death and pushed the genius project.” Plotz also described the secretive and undemocratic way recipients of the MacArthur Foundation’s big money individual “genius grants” are chosen:

“…Several hundred talent scouts, whose identities are secret, suggest nominees to the selection committee. The committee, whose members are also secret, covertly gathers dossiers on the nominees and selects two-dozen-odd winners….”

In 2003, the same year the Sound Portraits Productions was renamed “StoryCorps,” the MacArthur Foundation gave the StoryCorps media firm of the 2000 MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Isay a $75,000 [equivalent to over $100,000 in 2017] grant “in support of StoryCorps.” The following year, “to help create a cash flow reserve fund,” another grant of $50,000 was given to Isay’s “StoryCorps” by the MacArthur Foundation; and in 2006, yet another $200,000 [equivalent to over $245,00 in 2017] in MacArthur Foundation grant money was shifted to Goodman’s former WBAI colleague “in support of general operations” of his StoryCorps media business. In addition, five more MacArthur Foundation grants, totalling $2.6 million, were collected between 2009 and 2016 by StoryCorps; prior to Isay’s media firm being given a $1 million grant by the Rockefeller Foundation in October 2017. In the Rockefeller Foundation’s October 26, 2017 press release announcing this $1 million grant to StoryCorps, Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah claimed that ”Our partnership with Story Corps’ is `one small step’ toward rebuilding trust among the American people through transparency, respect and candor” and “We can think of no more appropriate a partner to fund in this effort than Story Corps.”

As the 2005 “Amy Goodman’s `Empire’” article recalled, “in 1990 Goodman headed over with fellow journalist Allan Nairn” to East Timor for the first time and, during her second trip to the Indonesian military-occupied island country in November 1991, “she and Nairn were nearly killed in a massacre of at least 271 Timorese” by Indonesian soldiers that became known as the Santa Cruz Massacre. Also in 1991, the MacArthur Foundation, that began subsidizing Isay’s Sound Portraits Productions in 1997, also gave the Pacifica Foundation, whose WBAI News Department Goodman headed, a $5,000 [equivalent to over $9,000 in 2018 dollars] grant “to support a radio documentary on East Timor.” (end of part 2)

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