Waldman challenges technology’s reach at Parker Lecture
Written by Gregg Brekke
October 3, 2011

Steven Waldman speaking at the 2011 Parker Lecture Sept. 28, in Washington, D.C. (Photo Liz Roll)

The 29th annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunication Lecture and awards was held Sept. 28 at the Washington Post Conference Center in Washington, D.C. The event honored three communication professionals for their contributions to improving access and inclusion in media technologies.

The event honors the communications legacy of the Rev. Everett C. Parker, who in 1959 founded the faith-based media reform organization, the Office of Communication of theUnited Church of Christ, Inc.

Four awards were given at this year’s lecture:

Newton Minow Award
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of former FCC Commissioner Newton Minow's "vast wasteland" speech, advocating on behalf of the public interest in television programming, OC Inc. awarded the Newton Minow Award to retiring FCC Commissioner Michael Copps for 10 years of work at the commission in support of the public interest and the goal of preserving diverse media voices in the United States.

Donald H. McGannon Award
Given to Joseph W. Waz Jr., former senior vice president of external affairs and public policy counsel of Comcast, for his work to promote opportunities in the cable industry for young women and persons of color.

Everett C. Parker Award
Presented to Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, for his work to promote diversity in the programming, news coverage and hiring of mainstream media organizations, particularly on behalf of Hispanics.

The Parker Lecture keynote address was delivered by Steven Waldman, special advisor to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and principal author of the FCC's Future of the Media report. Waldman was the co-founder of Beliefnet.com, the largest multi-faith website on religion, and served as its CEO from 2002 to 2007.

Waldman drew a close comparison in the motivation of both journalists and religious leaders – the search for “the truth” and the attempt to answer the question, “Why is the world this way?”

He cautioned against a personally disassociated approach to either pursuit while acknowledging the need to engage technology as a means to gather and distribute information to others.

“Both news and religion leaders have come to realize they must focus not only on ‘the word’ – but on the community,” said Waldman of the recognition that technology solutions do not completely meet the needs of information and spiritual seekers. “The best houses of worship realize that a strong individual relationship with the text is not always sufficient. It’s also crucially important that congregants share the journey with each other – exchanging information, ideas and support.”

Waldman recounted the demise of many journalistic outlets and the inability of existing media companies and their reporters to provide comprehensive coverage, especially for local news. To that end, Waldman called for the government’s role in ensuring universal access to the Internet, where much local news now resides – outside the traditionally FCC moderated mediums of television and radio.

“As the Internet transforms media – bringing tremendous benefits to those who can use it – we need to make sure that everyone can reap the benefits,” he said.

The 2011 Parker Lecture was sponsored by Comcast – now offering Internet Essentials – an affordable access solutions for low-income families with school-age children, Google, Kelly Drye, the UCC's National andGlobal Ministries, and the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, among others.

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