Danny Schechter, filmmaker, journalist, co-founder of the media company Globalvision and author of the blog “The News Dissector,” will visit Ithaca College on Tuesday to screen his new documentary “In Debt We Trust: America before the Bubble Bursts.” He will also discuss with students the challenges of being involved with independent media. Staff Writer Nathaniel Weixel spoke to Schechter about why he chose to focus on debt in his documentary.
Nathaniel Weixel: What made you want to explore the debt issue?
Danny Schechter: Like everyone else, I’m in debt. I have credit card bills, I have other expenses … I realize this is an issue that affects people across the spectrum of American life, and it can actually maybe bring us together. It affects students, it affects older people, it affects people from every racial minority. I felt this film could speak to this large audience and try to offer some information about what’s behind all this.
NW: Your other works have been media critiques. Is there a media connection here?
DS: This is an issue I felt was not getting adequate media coverage. It is getting some coverage now because … [of] the housing crisis, and the issue of student loans, particularly in New York state, has become a political issue because of all the corruption that has been revealed. So I think I was a little ahead of the curve, but part of the goal here is to get better coverage.
NW: Despite the recent increase in media coverage about debt, do you think there still is not enough?
DS: Most of what has been covered is identity fraud and credit card abuses, but never what is behind it. What has been called “financialization,” [which is] the power of this credit and loan complex. They’re massive institutions that have so much control over our economy.
NW: What are you hoping the response to this film will be?
DS: We showed this film at the Rochester Institute of Technology and 1,200 students came, and all of these students had debt stories to tell. What we want to show people is A, they’re not alone, B, there’s something we can do about it, and C is we better wake up soon or we will all be like serfs. We’ll go from capitalism to feudalism in our society.
NW: You started out your career in Boston on WBCN rock radio, where you earned the nickname “The News Dissector.” How did that come about?
DS: That’s a funny story. I was writing the news for the DJs to read on the air, but my writing was kind of sloppy. So the DJ one day said “You read it, I have to go to the bathroom.” And then he started to introduce me. “Now Danny Schechter, the news inspector, and the news digester, and the news dissector!” I’d never heard that before, and it’s just sort of stuck.