‘Democracy on Deadline’

The power of the media as a make-or-break element in a functioning democracy sets the foundation for a journalist’s struggle to seek out and report the honest truth. But how does the role of a free press factor into the vitality of a free society?

These concepts are examined vividly in the exceptional documentary, Democracy on Deadline by director Calvin Skaggs (Go Tell it On the Mountain) and co-producer Jed Rothstein. The documentary puts the audience in the position of several of the world’s finest journalists, complete with candid interviews and not-seen-before-in-America footage that is in one way reminiscent of Control Room, the 2004 documentary on the Arab-language satellite network, Al Jazeera International.

The filmmaking and production of “Democracy on Deadline” is outstanding, mixing uniquely regional experiences with candid exchanges and graphic footage over the course of two hours. In one memorable instance, the audience is literally in the back seat of a car driven by Ha’aretz correspondent Gideon Levy, delayed at a checkpoint at the West Bank border crossing. This is not business as usual, we’re assured, when Levy gets on his cell phone, enraged that the border guards were not previously notified and waiting for him to cross with American journalists in tow.

“Democracy on Deadline” examines issues and struggles regarding press freedom around the world through an examination of six unique (and high-profile) case studies in progress. The film profiles various journalists in different settings — all taking relatively radical approaches to reporting and exuding a vociferous enthusiasm for their responsibilities as guardians of democracy.

In one segment, Dana Priest of the Washington Post is followed by a camera as she works security insiders (watch quicktime video) at what appears to be a press event regarding the status of detainees in December 2004. We watch Priest at her desk taking notes as she digs deeper and deeper for dirt on her CIA black prisons article, nearly a year before she would publish the core piece in her package that landed her a Pulitzer.

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Updates: The Small Print, Annenberg Radio

More lovin’ for The Small Print Project today, this time from The Consumerist!

Viacom workers have to agree that Viacom owns anything they ever make in the “universe,” in, “perpetuity.” Use of the Yahoo! Toolbar expressly prohibits use of the technology to operate nuclear facilities.

Inane end-user-license agreements and waivers such as these are put in the stockades on a new blog, The Small Print Project.

In other news, I’ve begun posting radio pieces on Annenberg Radio News, including my profile of L.A. Derby Doll Puncherello and the original dog whisperer.

The MPAA’s Boy Scout Propaganda

When they’re not clearing brush, tying knots and starting fires, the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles are being imbibed with honor-thy-copyright-loyally flim-flam. No joke.

boy scout mpaa copyrightOddly, no byline on this tight report from the AP’s boy scout beat:

“Working with the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles, we have a real opportunity to educate a new generation about how movies are made, why they are valuable, and hopefully change attitudes about intellectual property theft,” Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement Friday.

Contact Victor Zuniga, head of Boy Scouts LA to find out the nature of these “merit badges.”