Starsuckers is a feature documentary about the celebrity obsessed media, that uncovers the real reasons behind our addiction to fame and blows the lid on the corporations and individuals who profit from it. Made completely independently over 2 years in secret, the film journeys through the dark underbelly of the modern media. Using a combination of never before seen footage, undercover reporting, stunts and animation, the film reveals the toxic effect the media is having on us all and especially our children. Chris Atkins presents Starsuckers as a series of five lessons on fame in the modern world: how children are persuaded that fame is something they want, how television and the media reinforces the importance of celebrity and the efforts to attain it, how the mind and body reinforces our need to follow the activities of well-known people and strive to join their number, how the press became addicted to celebrity coverage, and how the art of promoting fame has led to celebrities and their handlers controlling the press instead of the press having say. Along the way, Atkins demonstrates how celebrity news with no basis in fact gets into print, why newspapers will run press releases almost verbatim, how parents will eagerly sign away the image rights to their kids, how certain mass scale charity events end up helping the performers far more than the causes they designed to support, and how publicists keep accurate but unflattering stories out of the news.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

HuffPost Gets BIG $hot in the Arm

Online Investigative Reporting gets a shot in the arm – the Knight Foundation to Support The Huffington Post Investigative Fund with $200,000.

Posted on on December 22nd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Knight Foundation to Support The Huffington Post Investigative Fund

Washington, DC – December 22, 2009. As part of its ongoing support for investigative journalism, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announces a grant of $200,000 to The Huffington Post Investigative Fund. In making the contribution, the Knight Foundation joins the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Markle Foundation and The Huffington Post as key supporters of the venture.

“The Huffington Post Investigative Fund is experimenting with a new way of providing important journalism, functioning as a non-profit that draws audience from a popular for-profit,” said Eric Newton, vice president of Knight Foundation’s journalism program. “It’s a worthy test of a new idea, and since we really don’t know how investigative reporting is best supported in the future, an interesting experiment.”

Based in Washington, D.C., The Huffington Post Investigative Fund has a full-time staff of 11 and a budget of $2 million. It is headed by executive director Nick Penniman, formerly the publisher of the Washington Monthly, and executive editor Lawrence Roberts, formerly the investigations editor of the Washington Post. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, chairs the nonprofit’s board. Collectively, its staff members have won more than four dozen major journalism awards, including multiple Pulitzer Prizes.

“We’re thrilled and honored to receive Knight’s backing,” said Penniman. “In these times of great upheaval for the news industry, Knight Foundation is helping us blaze a new trail for how you finance, create and distribute investigative journalism.

Said Arianna Huffington: “Knight’s grant is an important milestone in the young history of The Huffington Post Investigative Fund. We’re incredibly grateful to Alberto Ibargüen and Eric Newton of Knight Foundation for their passion for championing innovative solutions in the face of the crisis facing investigative journalism. Everyone who understands the vital role good journalism plays in our democracy is looking for ways to preserve and strengthen it during this time of great transition for the media, and Knight is playing a lead role in this effort.”

“The Huffington Post is an ideal partner for Knight Foundation. They are entrepreneurial and care passionately about meeting the information needs of communities,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “As a media leader, few are as innovative as Arianna Huffington. She believes in freedom and practices it. She believes in journalism and has hired outstanding investigative reporters and editors. And she believes in the power of technology to change the world for the better.”

“It’s also extremely important to us to partner with Atlantic Philanthropies in supporting The Huffington Post, as it was to partner with the Houston Endowment on the Texas Tribune or the San Diego Community Foundation in supporting the Voice of San Diego,” added Ibargoen. “These collaborations are essential as we look for the next sustainable model for the delivery of news people need.”

The Fund’s mission is to be an online innovator of investigative reporting by merging the classic watchdog function and traditional values of the press with the best tools of new media. Since its operations began in the early Fall, it has produced more than 50 stories, including 20 videos. Highlights include an investigation of a top subprime lender showing how fraud was at the heart of the housing boom and bust; a three-part expose of how the credit rating companies have fended off regulation from Congress and the SEC; and a project shedding light on inequities in denials of health insurance claims, reported with help from citizen journalists. The Fund has also completed multiple citizen journalism and “distributed research” projects and collaborated with other nonprofits on various stories, including the Center for Public Integrity, ProPublica and the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Through open-source publishing, any content the Investigative Fund produces is free for anyone to publish at the same time that it’s made available to The Huffington Post. The relationship helps the nonprofit distribute its reporting to a larger audience than it is capable of attracting on its own. In addition to The Huffington Post, more than 40 other outlets have republished the Fund’s pieces.

“We’ve built a first-rate staff of veteran investigative reporters and up-and-coming journalists,” said Roberts. “Having Knight’s support is an exciting endorsement of our efforts so far and of our potential.”

Knight Foundation’s $15 million Investigative Reporting Initiative was announced this year at the annual convention of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization, the nation’s leading group of investigative journalists. Grantees under the initiative include News21, the Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity and the Texas Tribune.

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