Fear & Loathing in a newsroom near you

"To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction." So said Sir Isaac Newton, arguably the smartest person who ever lived. His wiseness was talking about physical science, not social science. Nonetheless, we lesser mortals are always tempted to marry the two, looking for portents in one to apply to the other.

We do so at our peril. However, Newton's point regarding equal and opposite reactions does seem to have non-scientific application in the decidedly esoteric area of human aspiration.  Whenever some self-important lout tries to stifle free expression, it surfaces somewhere else.

Red China may have killed (figuratively and literally) all dissenting voices, but it cannot control the wide-open Internet if the country  hopes to modernize. The dictators of Indonesia and their neo-fascist fellow travelers in Japan, Singapore and Korea have found out that you cannot have a free economy without human freedom, workers' rights and a diverse press.

As William Safire aptly put it in the New York Times, freedom is indivisible. Controlled economies attempting to operate in a human rights vacuum simply collapse. (Then, they expect the U.S. taxpayer to bail them, at which point the full moon rises and I morph into a fiscally conservative Republican.)

Freedom requires checks and balances, a free press and robust debate. Otherwise, freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. Which brings me once again to a beleaguered TV program entitled "Fear & Favor in the Newsroom."

It was produced by true freedom fighters, Beth Sanders and Randy Baker, hosted and narrated by legendary Pulitzer Prize winner ("The Good War") Studs Terkel. Alas and alack, the show has had a devil of a time clearing PBS stations. PBS!  All this time I thought public broadcasting was created to allow alternatives to packaged goods TV here in the land of the free.

"This is the story the corporate media won't report, which is why it is so important that 'Fear and Favor in the Newsroom' gets the airing it deserves" says Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter Susan Faludi, author of the womens' rights bible, "Backlash."

Fear and Favor has two segments of particular interest to Nevada. It tells how the PBS News Hour watered down a story on low level nuclear waste dumping. It also shows how then-NBC News President Michael Gartner zapped bloody footage of the Gulf War.

He was not alone. The American media found the 1991 war a surprise ratings hit and unanimously decided to manage the news like any other series.

Anything which proved that our smart bombs were dumb and that the Patriot Missile missed most of the time was simply not allowed on the air. And so Gartner spiked footage showing dead women, bloody kids and broken bodies. This from a longtime newspaper publisher who himself went on to win a Pulitzer. With Desert Smurf II in the offing, Fear & Favor gains renewed importance. Our kids are going over there to kill and die once again.

Fear & Favor tells how the New York Times canned Pulitzer winner Sydney Schanberg ("The Killing Fields") after he wrote a column exposing local corruption. Northern Nevada's KNPB TV-5 graciously scheduled the show (9:00 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27), because a certain obscure newspaper writer and some of his friends in organized labor asked them to. It's taken that kind of an effort in just about every market in the country.

Just as other countries are learning the value of liberating their media, ours are becoming more and more controlled. CBS News, which lied to us about Vietnam even with Walter Cronkite on the air, spoke not one word of Picabo Street's spectacular Gold Medal Super-G run on the night it happened. They could have aired it as it occurred, but chose to wait 24 hours to better serve their advertisers.

Where media control is overt overseas from Bosnia to Beirut to Beijing, over here it's more subtle, most often accomplished by omission. What you don't know, you don't miss. Most talk radio stations are run by rich guys soliciting ads from advertisers who look and think like them. Consequently, hate radio came into being to cater to their prejudices.

But human aspiration to self-expression can never long be suppressed. Which brings me to a guy named Steve Dunifer, the nation's number one pirate radio purveyor. He found me on the web and called to say he's heading for Las Vegas in early April to make noise at the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention. He's especially upset that they're inducting hate radio guru Lush Rambo into the broacast hall of fame.

Many of us are angry that the public airwaves were given away to private profitmongers earlier this century. We got angrier still when Pres. Clinton and VP Gore did ditto with the Internet and high-definition TV spectrum.

Dunifer has done something about it with a network of low power pirate radio stations across the land. He intends to leave a transmitter in Gomorrah South for the use of whichever activists want it.

So far, he has made his attempt to take back the public airwaves stick in court. (See

Do yourself a favor. Fax, paper-mail and e-mail this column to people you know, then figure out ways to take back the public airwaves of your town. More next week.

Be well.  Raise hell.

FEAR AND FAVOR REDUX: Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 1-6-2015 Sparks Tribune


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 2/15/98.

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Copyright © 1982-2015 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 46-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. He is producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as first vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano moved to Nevada's Daily Sparks Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in them parts ever since.
Whom to blame: How a hall-of-famer's hunch birthed the Barbwire in August of 1987
Tempus fugit.

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