Media critic, author to speak at SUNY New Paltz

NEW PALTZ — Jeff Cohen, the founder of one of America’s first media criticism groups and the author of a recent book on his experiences inside cable television news, will speak at the State University of New York at New Paltz at 5 p.m. on Nov. 14 in Lecture Center 108. The event is free and open to the public.

In his talk, titled “What’s Wrong with Corporate TV News,” Cohen, a Woodstock resident, will take his audience on a personal tour of TV news and corporate media. Few media critics have been afforded an intimate, on-the-job view of the outlets they condemn, but Cohen worked successively for CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

Cohen’s most recent book, “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media,” published in 2006, recounts his years working as a Progressive commentator on the three top cable news networks. In each case, he found that the networks did not want a truly liberal voice and tried their best to keep liberal commentators under strict control.

Cohen’s book is both “very funny and scary,” commented New Paltz journalism professor Robert Miraldi. As the control of TV news increasingly has come under corporate control, Dr. Miraldi said, Cohen’s experience shows how diversity of opinion can be squelched.

Cohen founded the media watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) in 1986. He served as the group’s executive director for a number of years and later on its board of directors. Upon taking a full-time job with MSNBC in May 2002, Cohen stepped down from FAIR’s board. Before joining MSNBC, he was a regular commentator on CNN, often acting as the liberal voice and co-host on the network’s “Crossfire” program.

Cohen then played a similar role on Fox, the conservative news channel that gave him, perhaps surprisingly, more time to comment than CNN. He was a regular panelist on Fox News Channel’s “News Watch.” At MSNBC, he was a senior producer on Phil Donahue’s nightly news program and an on-air commentator.

Over the years, he has been a frequent guest on national TV and radio, including Today, Larry King Live, Donahue, C-SPAN and National Public Radio. He has been quoted on issues of media and politics in such publications as the New York Times, Washington Post and TV Guide, and his columns have appeared in such dailies as USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Miami Herald. For four years, he co-wrote the weekly, nationally syndicated “Media Beat” column with Norman Solomon.

In 2003, he was the communications director of the Kucinich for President campaign.

Cohen is the author and co-author of four other books, including “Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News” (1997); “Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News” (1995); “The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh’s Reign of Error” (1995); and “Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits” (1993).

Besides exploring the insides of corporate media, Cohen’s talk will highlight what he sees as the good news in today’s media environment: the boom in independent outlets on TV, radio and the Internet.

The speech is sponsored by the Journalism Program, The Department of Communication and Media and the College Foundation.