Local Media Blackout in New Orleans
By Jason Neville
December 4, 2008 | Posted in IndyBlog , National
In the years following the collapse of the federal levees after Hurricane Katrina, activist Malik Rahim was busy organizing one of the most influential recovery organizations in the Gulf South. The organization he founded and currently leads, Common Ground Collective, was gutting houses and providing medical and legal services to tens of thousands of New Orleans residents.
His work was so prolific that it was featured on 60 minutes, ABC News, Democracy Now!, and a host of other shows.
“I’m from New Orleans, and I stayed here after the flood to serve my community, at a time when neglect from the federal government was as chilling as it was apparent,” said Rahim.
Even the local paper in New Orleans the Times-Picayune featured him in an article after the storm, stating that his work was “so far- reaching that it has brought over 10,000 volunteers to New Orleans since the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.”
But the media coverage ended once he decided to run for office this fall.
Malik Rahim is one of three challengers to face incumbent Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, who, despite facing 16 counts of bribery and being caught with $90,000 in marked bills in the freezer of his Washington home, is poised for re-election on December 6.
The other two challengers are Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao and perennial Libertarian standard-bearer Gregory Kahn.
In an effort to unseat Rep. Jefferson, the paper has waged a campaign to promote Mr. Cao while imposing a blackout on any coverage of Mr. Rahim by referring to him in passing as a “little known” or “minor” candidate.
“Its been shockingly egregious—even for those of us in the Green Party accustomed to being ignored by the mainstream media,” said Christian Roselund, Media Coordinator for Malik Rahim. The reporters assigned to cover the congressional campaign have refused to acknowledge Mr. Rahim’s work—and have even gone as far as to selectively report on his fundraising totals to undercut his support.”
Roselund points to a recent Times Picayune article reporting that Mr. Rahim had raised only $2,000 by early October and that some of it was from corporations. In fact, Mr. Rahim’s campaign had raised more than $20,000—all of which was from individuals since the Green Party does not accept contributions from corporations.
A reporter from the Times Picayune admitted that for Mr. Rahim, they only included the donations of $250 or more in their calculations, leaving out tens of thousands of dollars. For the Times Picayune- endorsed candidate, Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao, they included all donations, including loans he made to himself, to inflate his totals.
“Like Barack Obama’s campaign, we’ve raised a tremendous portion of our funds from individual donors making small contributions,” said Robert Caldwell, campaign manager for Malik Rahim. “Selectively ignoring donations for Malik, while counting that same level of donations for another candidate isn’t just sloppy reporting. Its intentional distortion.”
The Times-Picayune’s sister website, Nola.com, even published a “story” that Joseph Cao had joined Facebook, the social networking website. It then published the content of Cao’s first message: an invitation to a fundraiser for him, complete with details of the event and the website where readers could RSVP.
When Caldwell wrote a letter to the editors at the Times-Picayune regarding the suppression of Malik’s campaign, they rejected it on the grounds that it was too supportive of a particular candidate.
“It’s not just bad for democracy,” said Robert Caldwell, Campaign Manager for Mr. Rahim. “Its bad for the profession of journalism. The Times-Picayune could write an editorial every day promoting Cao— but to intentionally dismiss Malik who had been featured prominently in the same paper prior to running for office is disgraceful and a violation of journalistic ethics.”
Caldwell said that the campaign would focus in the final days of the campaign to mobilize supporters to flood Times Picayune’s reporters and editors. “But we’re not losing sight of our main goal,” he added. “We’re in this to build the Green Party and offer voters a credible alternative to a corrupt machine Democrat or a Bush-McCain Republican. The stakes are high in New Orleans.
Caldwell said that grassroots supporters are outraged with the poor reporting of the Times-Picayune, but the campaign would not lose sight of its goal. “We’re in this to build the Green Party and offer voters a credible alternative to a corrupt machine Democrat or a Bush- McCain Republican. The stakes are high in New Orleans.”
For more on Malik Rahim’s Congressional campaign, see http:// http://www.votemalik.com.