Petaluman a media literacy crusader

Mickey Huff isn’t distracted, despite everything he has on his plate. He’s actually laser-focused.

The Petaluma resident and leading media scholar is currently on the front lines of the war against fake news and disinformation. As the 2020 election nears, the stakes could not be higher.

“We need to teach people how to think critically,” said Huff, 48. “I want people to have a healthy news diet.”

A professor and writer, Huff is co-author with Nolan Higdon of the new book “United States of Distraction: Media manipulation in post-truth America (and what we can do about it).”

The premise of the book is that the free press in American has been derelict in its duty to investigate those in power and inform the public. Corporate ownership and profit-driven media has led to opinionated journalism, further straining our polarized society. Somewhere along the way, facts and truth have been distorted.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Huff, a father of two. “If you give people the tools to think critically, they will see things differently.”

Huff is hoping to share these critical thinking tools as he tours the country talking about his book and an accompanying documentary, “United States of Distraction: Fighting the fake news invasion.” Huff’s message is not all doom and gloom, though. The “and what we can do about it” part is an uplifting call to action for better media literacy education.

“We can right the ship,” he said. “We can teach media literacy in the early grades.”

Huff’s crusade to make a more informed citizenry comes on top of his day job on the faculty at Diablo Valley College, where he is co-chair of the History department and interim chair of the Journalism department. He also lectures on communications at Cal State East Bay and is working on setting up a media freedom center at the Hayward campus.

In his spare time, Huff is the president of the nonprofit Media Freedom Foundation, and he is the director of Project Censored, which publishes an annual anthology of the top censored stories and media analysis.

Just off the press, the “Censored 2020” edition “scrutinizes the looking-glass logic of the corporate media - where imaginary threats outweigh real existential crises, privacy is a luxury, and consent must be manufactured at all costs - and it celebrates the work of independent journalists and news organizations who courageously refocus our vision on the type of news we need to act as engaged community members and informed citizens,” according to the publishers.

In support of Project Censored, Huff also hosts a weekly radio show on Berkeley’s KPFA, which is broadcast to about 50 stations nationwide.

Huff, who also plays music, moved to Petaluma with his family eight years ago from Berkeley.

“Petaluma is fantastically active politically,” Huff said.

It’s also fertile ground for his media literacy message, which is why Huff is taking his next project to the local level. Starting next fall, as the election heats up, Huff is slated to host a monthly lecture series at Lagunitas on media and politics.

If he has any down time, Huff is hanging out with his wife and kids.

“I don’t sleep much,” he said. “I work a lot. I’m just interested in helping people as best I can.”

(Contact Matt Brown at

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