For now, though, I encourage you to watch this video from the conference's closing keynote with outspoken feminist blogger Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards. At minute 6:11 in the video clip, I asked Edwards whether she knew her husband's stance on media consolidation, and whether an Edwards presidency would take a strong stand on media policy reform to reverse the anti-democratic effects of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 on the free-flow of independent, non-commercial, non-corrupted information that we all need to function effectively as active members of a democracy.
"John is very clear that he does not want Rupert Murdoch as the gatekeeper of information that comes to the American people. But not only was the consolidation that occurred under the Telecommunications Act bad, but then we have the FCC of this administration who is further compounding the problem. It would be John's desire to reverse all of that."
[snip - Edwards discussing the importance of localism in news and the blanding out of news in her local paper once it became a McClatchy news outlet]
"It's been very bad for democracy for precisely the reasons you've suggested, which has made your jobs even more important because you're not subject to the same consolidations, which is another reason why net neutrality is so important. So we're not allowing a single, powerful, well-financed voices to be the ones with the largest megaphones and everybody else to be drowned out. So, John has a very strong position on this. I don't actually know whether it's on the website but if it's not on the website already for you to see I'll make certain that it is, because I know it is his position."
Edwards' full response was more informed and more critical than I expected, as it is frankly all too rare for politicians and campaign staffers to know much about, or take a strong stance on, structural media problems.
But Elizabeth Edwards is not the normal spinmistress -- in a telling moment during the Q&A, a BlogHer attendee wanted to know how many other people vet and edit her posts to her blog on the official John Edwards for President website. Edwards answer: no one edits or approves her posts -- the outspoken, opinionated blogger writes what she believes, and that's that. Remarkable in this age of candidates on both sides of the aisle relying on overly scripted soundbites, tired and typical talking points and "stay on message!" party-line spin.
No wonder the Edwards campaign originally hired feminist bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan (who recently joined our community as a WIMN's Voices blogger) to run their online presence (unfortunately, the campaign did not allow them the same freedom of speech afforded Elizabeth, ending in their mutual resignations).
Incidentally, at the post-keynote closing reception at a Chicago museum, Edwards and I spoke about the multi-tentacled beast that is structural media bias. I mentioned a study shelved by the FCC related to gender and race in media ownership, and she said she was especially interested in the findings and asked me to send it to her -- which I will do when I get back to New York (I'm currently in Chicago for a speaking event and fundraiser for Women In Media & News at Chicago's independent bookstore Women and Children First on Thurs., Aug. 2 -- RSVP if you're in the area! -- and for the Yearly Kos conference which will take place next weekend, featuring various feminist blogger and media criticism panels and roundtables). Edwards' interest in this topic was palpable, and seemingly quite genuine. She understands how essential free, unfettered, independent journalism is to successful democracy.
Until the Edwards' campaign has a statement of purpose about media reform on their official campaign website I have no way to judge whether or not her husband is of similar mindset or would make media reform a priority. Fingers crossed, eh?