It was no surprise to see some mention of the WPVM debacle in your year-end review ["A Lot to Say," Dec. 30, 2009]; but it was surprising that the mention was one-sided — and misleading.
At the MAIN board meeting your selected quote referenced, the volunteers' spokesperson, Edwin Shealy, was asked to substantiate his claim that the freedom of volunteers had been violated. He could not.
In a candid, follow-up e-mail a few days later, Mr. Shealy reiterated his inability to cite specific examples. Instead, he cited "a psychological reality, not a news-like objective reality — they [the volunteers] perceived it," he wrote, "so for them, it was real, whether an observer standing there saw it or not."
Citing the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, Mr. Shealy concluded: "For a woman hearing voices, the voices are the dominant reality, tho a journalist might see nothing and perceive the situation as normal and stable. Hence, perception is reality — the reality of, from, or by the psyche."
This psychic reality was manufactured by a few volunteers who had long wanted to separate the radio station from MAIN. With the oxygen of publicity provided by Mountain Xpress, they used the suspension of one of their leaders to attempt a formal separation. As the publicity legitimized the psychic reality, unwitting individuals — like Mr. Shealy — were drawn into the power play.
Volunteers at our radio station had more than five years of complete freedom (including the recruitment and hiring of the station manager) despite claims to the contrary. Your reporting never once questioned or attempted to substantiate the claims made by this handful of volunteers.
Manufacturing psychic realities is the essence of propaganda. At the national level, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News use the oxygen of publicity to sustain the Birther, Tea Party, and global warming-is-a-hoax movements. Repeated "news" coverage legitimizes and allows psychic realities to gain traction and grow.
Real journalism challenges and reveals perception-is-reality propaganda in order to help a nation — or a community — find an objective basis for public discourse, debate and problem-solving.
— Wally Bowen
Mountain Area Information Network