Izzy Award 2021: Why Dissent Matters?
On April 27, I hosted the 13th Izzy Award ceremony at Ithaca College, N.Y. and talked about the issues with mainstream media and how independent journalists were making a difference.
Thank you for joining us tonight.
My name is Raza Rumi and I am the Director of Park Center for Independent Media. The Park Center for Independent Media is dedicated to promoting media produced outside corporate control and to inspire and train the next generation of independent journalists in the traditions of Izzy Stone and many others before him.
The Izzy Award is presented each year to an independent journalist, outlet, or producer whose contributions to journalism, culture, or politics exemplify the dissident spirit of I.F. Stone.
This year the judges selected three winners to share the Izzy award. First, “Liliana Segura” for her in-depth reporting for The Intercept which detailed a surge in executions during the Trump administration and explored the unbalanced impact of capital punishment on people of color which has led to a new push to abolish the death penalty in the United States;
Tim Schwab for his three-part series in The Nation which explored the concealed operations of The Gates Foundation and raised significant questions about the power that billionaires wield over public policy and global health; and the non-profit outlet Truthout, for the insightful series “Despair and Disparity: The Uneven Burdens of COVID-19” which is comprised of over 200 articles covering the political, environmental, economic, and racial aspects of the pandemic.
As the United States and the world struggled to deal with a deadly pandemic and the economic downturn, the media were expected not only to inform people, but also become a voice for voiceless. Sadly, corporate media, including those marked as “liberal,” were busy denigrating an individual and sensationalizing the rising number of deaths amid the pandemic, which has now reached over three million globally. Such narratives more often than not hide the underlying causes of wide-ranging inequities facing the country.
The brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of a racist policeman also exposed the other pandemic, i.e. racism, for which no vaccine has been invented yet. Floyd was just one of over one thousand people killed by police in 2020. After his street execution in May, the country remained in turmoil through the summer. Even now, an individual’s punishment, however significant, is no antidote to the structural layers of racial injustice that afflict America. Amid these dark times, independent and adversarial media continued to tell us stories not given due importance in the mainstream.
Our winners tonight uncovered how the rich and the powerful continue to profit through such turmoil, often ignoring those on the margins of society, such as prisoners, inmates, low-income communities, and the homeless. As the richest grew in power and wealth, U.S. unemployment peaked at 15.9 million people last April and nearly six-hundred-thousand people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2020.
Among other injustices, the disturbing increase in federal executions during the Trump administration’s final months went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.
Stellar reporting by Truthout, The Intercept, and The Nation, among many many others filled the major void created by the mainstream reproduction of an iniquitous class system. This is why we are so lucky to have courageous people and outlets that carry on the rich history of dissent in the United States.
At the end I would like to thank Jack Powers, Dean of the Park School of Communications whose support to our center is vital. I must thank my colleague Prof Ari Kissiloff, for providing the technical support that allows our virtual events to run, Brandy Hawley who has been with the Center for years; Jeremy Lovelett and Hannah Brooks for their invaluable support.
And last but not the least, Adelaide Gomer, the President of Park Foundation whose generous support makes the operations of this center possible.
Read a report in The Ithacan here.