Bill Moyers spoke at the National Conference on Media Reform early this morning. His message was more motivational than investigative. His message was peppered with language that sought to empower attendees. "You are not alone," he said, after a demonstration in which he asked each person to stand up and meet the person on either side. It was a new role for a man who has produced "Buying the War" and other investigative documentaries produced by public media. But there was still a strain of more typical Moyers-style criticism. "We now know," he said, "that a neo-conservative is someone who sets a house on fire and then six years later boasts that it cannot be put out."
Moyers is something of a lifelong maker of public media, there at its inception and a survivor of the many attacks on its editorial independence for being "too liberal." He highlighted the nature of web media today, where the line between editorial and advertising is becoming blurrier and less defined. Already, he noted, advertisers are buying keywords in news articles ("Do we think they'll buy keywords like 'health care reform'?") It is something Moyers said is being called "communi-tainment." Moyers is right to point out the failings of for-profit media, but it is also certain that a true democracy needs not just public media, not just non-profit media, not just commercialized media, but all of these. When they are in balance, they will call one another out on their failings.