Mary Shepard, Longstanding FAIR Activist With a Passion for Justice

FAIR founder Jeff Cohen writes a tribute to Mary Reed Shepard, one of FAIR’s longest-serving and most effective local activists.

I met Mary Shepard, an incredibly energeticactivist and media critic from Minneapolis/St. Paul, when she was young–about 70-years-young. “If we had a Mary Shepard in everycity,” I thought, “we’d be on the verge of (nonviolent) revolution.” Mary passed away peacefully Saturday; she was 91.

Born into privilege, she worked 24/7 fordecades for a redistribution of wealth and power away from traditional economic elites-â┚¬“which is what should happen in well-functioning democracies.

In the early years of FAIR, she was a huge inspiration to me. A moving force in Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), Mary became an instant force for FAIR. Tireless and blunt in telling local MSM outlets where they were wrong–whether on issues of nuclear weapons or Central America–I was amazed at how many journalist friends she had at those outlets.They respectedher integrity–andpassion for justice.

In the 1990s, WAMM protested a speech by NBC anchor Tom Brokaw in Minneapolis, accusing NBC of a conflict of interest in Iraq coverage because of the huge profits corporate parent GE was making on aircraft that were bombing Iraq. I’ve never forgotten Brokaw’s response when a local daily asked him about the conflict-of-interest charge: Brokaw said, according to the paper, he did not know if GE-made weapons were used against Iraq.” That’s a breathtaking admission of lack of interest in powerful institutions. Some journalists know about the dubious conduct of their parent companies and look away; Brokaw apparently knew not to look there in the first place.

Mary Shepard never looked away. She knew of the inequities and cruelties inflicted by the powerful, and she spread the word-â┚¬“in spite of the gatekeepers in corporate media.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.