Changes for Media Access Project, And For Me Personally.

As everyone not living under a rock has heard, the spirit of change is now sweeping through Washington like a broom enchanted by a lazy animated mouse. Who are we at Media Access Project to resist change? Heck, we bloody well lead change, we make change. We are change agents. We — well, you get the idea.

So what changes will happen at MAP?

1) After 10 years, I will leave Media Access Project, effective January 31, 2009.

2) After more than 30 years as President and CEO, Andrew Jay Schwartzman will become Legal and Policy Director. Andy will handle policy, and MAP will hire a new CEO to handle administrative and fundraising duties.

3) Associate Director Parul Desai will have an enhanced role in the organization going forward.

Why? Because, bluntly, we need to prepare for a very different world. Make no mistake, the telecom policy world still needs MAP — perhaps now more than ever. As I repeatedly stress, anyone who thinks that we can just elect the right people and go home needs to think again. The new Administration, despite what I believe is a very real and strong ideological affinity for our issues and a reasonable skepticism for the blandishments of incumbents, will need a powerful progressive movement to keep it moving in the right direction. MAP will continue to sit at the tip of the spear on media and telecom reform, pushing against media gatekeepers and fighting for an electronic media that lives up to its potential for Free Speech and innovation.

But we can’t do that by staying the way we’ve always stayed. We need to take a deep look at ourselves and ask some hard questions about how we avoid the trap of fighting battles that no longer matter, in ways that no longer work. We have spent the last 8 years in opposition, fighting to hold back some really wretched policies and swimming uphill to create new opportunities for independent voices. Whatever the Obama Administration brings, I gaurantee it will not be anything like the Bush or Clinton years.

Which is why I have decided to move on, or at least give up my job at MAP. I still love this field, and strongly believe in the Progressive movement (including my belief that it is a movement and not a mob). But the time has come for me to move on to something else, although I have no idea what that something else will be (anyone with any thoughts on the subject, don’t hesitate to write). I have a book contract with Ig Publishing for a book on building the modern progressive movement and developing an alternative to the Gods of the Marketplace (I like to think of it as what Naiomi Klein forgot to write about in The Shock Doctrine, the part where people figure out how to get a better system in place). that, of course, will not pay the bills (especially as it will not actually get published until the fall of 2010), so I expect to do some consulting for awhile until I figure out what else to do. I’ll add that if anyone can figure out a way to make this bloging stuff pay, I would love to know it.

In answer to the inevitable question — yes, I’d love to work for the Obama Administration or do something worthwhile on the Hill. And like every other Democratic policy wonk, I’ve filled out the form at change.gov, so they will know where to find me if they decide they can use me.

But even without a job waiting for me, and despite my general satisfaction with my job at MAP, I feel the time has come for me to move on. Cliche as it sounds, I need a change and I cannot think of a better time for one (other than this pesky recession), given how the policy wonk world is undergoing one of its rare ferment moments when the possibility of sweeping away the established order of things seems breathtakingly real if we have the courage to sieze it and dare to do something utterly different.

I may regret it. But I think not. I like to think I’ve done a lot of good doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I also like to think I’ll find other ways to do good and interesting things as well. This feels right, and I would be false to myself if I refused to take the risk.

Stay tuned . . .

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21 Comments

  1. Best of luck to you in whatever the heck you decide to do next, unless you join Google’s lobbying shop, or the Kevin Martin congressional campaign, of course.

  2. Harold, your advice and counsel will be sorely missed. Hopefully the dice come up right for you. I understand the need to roll them once in a while…

  3. mattw says:

    Good luck!

    Visit Seattle if you find yourself wandering.

  4. Rich Brown says:

    I know it’s scary to pull yourself out by the roots but sometimes that’s what has to be done. Lifestyle changes of this magnitude are, I guess, always a mix of good and bad; I lift my mug (coffee at this time of day) to the good bits.

  5. Bob says:

    Wow dude. Change is a coming. That’s big times.

  6. JohnStJ says:

    Here’s one voice raised in the hopes that your new status will result in greater participation in the issues you raise here rather than less!

  7. Good luck in your new endeavors, Harold, whatever they may be. MAP is losing an irreplaceable resource!

  8. Congratulations and best wishes!

  9. Harold,

    This is sad news. I’m sorry to see you leave MAP. It was a pleasure to work with you in the media democracy movement.

    I certainly hope the movement as a whole (and this blog in particular) still sees you as a (reasonably active) participant. Your contributions have been valuable, particularly your blog which I have always found to be an informative and helpful read.

    You mentioned an interest to “developing an alternative to the Gods of the Marketplace”. You might be interested to know that a recent book I contributed to, entitled Real Utopia, is all about this. You can check it out here:

    http://www.akpress.org/2008

    Take care.

    Mitchell Szczepanczyk
    http://www.szcz.org

  10. Tim Schneider says:

    Harold,

    I doubt you’ll end up far from these issues, but your work has been an inspiration to me personally and a valuable resource to those in the community who are (understandably) frightened to wade into the depths of an FCC rulemaking.

    Thank you, and good luck.

  11. Brett Glass says:

    I suppose this means that your friends Susan and Ken — for whose lobbying organization you have done much free lawyering — are returning the favor by appointing you to a post at the FCC. I guess that’s the way it works inside the Beltway. We can only hope that whatever influence you do have on telecommunications policy in the future is not harmful to small businesses, to competition, or to broadband availability, as it has been thus far.

  12. Matt Stoller says:

    Good luck, Harold.

  13. That “Ken” thing was a joke, right Brett?

    Anyhow, Chairman Feld deserves a honeymoon period like any other FCC boss, and we can start kicking him after the passage of a respectable period of time. Maybe he’ll ask you to lead a task force on Workers’ and Peasants’ Rural Wi-Fi Collectives.

  14. bj says:

    Ya know, Harold, I did suggest in the comments of one of the blogs about different positions that would need filling that you would be perfect as the Tech Czar, but since it seems O has filled that one, I think it would be interesting to see on the other side of the table at the FCC!

    Oh, and I don’t know if you’ve seen this (pdf alert!):
    http://energycommerce.house

  15. publius says:

    Good luck — but plz plz plz don’t stop blogging!! This is an invaluable resource, though i don’t know frankly how you keep it up.

  16. Dan says:

    I concur with bj: Harold for FCC Chair!

    🙂

  17. Bunnie Riedel says:

    Harold, you are fabulous, I’ve always enjoyed your commentary and wisdom. Keep in touch!

  18. Brett Glass says:

    Richard, you’re correct; slip of the fingers. (My business is very busy these days — our customers love us — and if I get any time to lounge at a cybercafe it’s a fleeting luxury. People WANT THEIR INTERNET and want it yesterday. If our small, wireless ISP were regulated out of business, there would be a LOT of unhappy people in this valley.)

  19. The Obama team made the same mistake, calling Kevin Werbach “Ken” in its initial press release about his appointment to the FCC transition team. If they’d called Susan Crawford “Barbie” it would have made for a good chuckle.

    So I’m now wondering what Chairman Feld will do for the Wireless ISPs of the world. Some sort of mandate for the L3’s of the world to give you the hookup would be helpful, one supposes.

  20. Inez Gonzalez says:

    We cannot discover new oceans until we have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
    – Muriel Chen

    Harold,

    Congratulations on taking the leap! We look forward to continue partnering with you and wish you great success in your future endeavors. Your counsel and friendship has been invaluable to NHMC.

  21. Mike Weisman says:

    Harold, I am sad to hear that you will be leaving MAP, but I am excited for the future, because I know that great new challenges await you, and very soon.

    I often like to tell the story of the city of Sodom as a metaphor for for the last 12 years, and our battle to build a progressive movement. God told Lot that he would save the city if Lot could find 50 righteous men… Lot could not, and he tried to do a deal for 40, then 30, then ten, and so on. Some commentators say the city would be saved if Lot could have found just one righteous man. Harold, you have conducted yourself as that one righteous man, who by example and perseverance, saved the city. Each of us can be this righteous man, and you have showed us the way, by your quiet dignity, your compassion, and your insight.

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