Last spring, UAA music professor Philip Munger decided the show must not go on. Munger’s cantata “The Skies are Weeping,” which commemorated an American activist killed by Israeli action, was scheduled to debut with a performance by UAA music students, but was cancelled after a contentious public forum.
Munger shared his experience during a paneled discussion of censorship on Sept. 27 in the Fine Arts Building. The well-attended event was sponsored by a group of UAA faculty in conjunction with the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week.
Munger said self-censorship was the reason he cancelled the performance. He said concerns about how the students’ lives could be affected by being involved were too big to ignore.
“I had already been able to look up my name as a supporter of terrorism,” Munger said. “I was guaranteed by the people that were sending me mail that this would happen to all of the students involved.”
Munger said that kind of labeling could have serious repercussions.
“There was a possibility that all 24 students, within a couple of years would never be able to fly on an airplane again in their lives.”
Munger was joined on the panel by four media professionals: Steve Heimel, a former broadcast journalist with the Alaska Public Radio Network; Rhonda McBride, a reporter with KTUU Channel 2; Mike Doogan, a former columnist at the Anchorage Daily News and Steve Lindbeck, an associate editor at the Anchorage Daily News.
The panel focused on self-censorship and corporate influence over what gets printed or broadcasted.
Heimel warned of pressures put on journalists by people with agendas.
“If you know what is good for you, you better watch out what you say,” Heimel said. “That is self-censorship.”
“Each of us are not well defended these days,” Heimel said. “Our bosses will not necessarily stand behind us.”
McBride is a former public radio and television reporter. At the forum she questioned the integrity of public news sources because they are largely funded by corporate underwriting as well as state and federal legislatures. She said public stations hesitate to broadcast anything that might jeopardize their funding,
Doogan used to have a weekly opinion column in the Anchorage Daily News. He said funding can play a role in what news the public receives.
“Money talks,” Doogan said. “And what it says in large part is that there is a lot of things we don’t want to know.”
Chris Klint, a senior journalism student at UAA, said he enjoyed the panelists’ personal anecdotes.
“In terms of personal experience from people you know, people of good character whose judgment you can personally trust, that is the kind of thing that I think everyone heard tonight,” Klint said.
“This was actually probably more instructive than some of the classes I’ve taken.”