Alternative Culture Articles
October 29, 2000
Organizing Independent Media
news is full of reports about media giants gobbling each other up to
create even larger companies. This consolidation of mainstream media is
giving us less diversity in news reporting. Because these corporations
are under pressure from stockholders who expect earnings to increase
quarter by quarter, and since their revenue comes mostly from
advertising, the news they report cannot help but skew toward a
pro-corporate viewpoint. As a result alternative viewpoints are rarely
heard in mainstream news media.
By Royce Carlson
In November of 1999 the beginning of a new age for independent media
occurred when the first Independent
Media Center was founded for the purpose of covering the
protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. The mainstream
media covered the few violent outbreaks. The IMC covered the viewpoint
of the protesters and the police brutality against protesters. It was a
great success. Since then Independent Media Centers have been cropping
up in cities around the world.
A few weeks ago alternative media people gathered at a conference in
Burlington, Vermont called "Building
Independent Media: Strategies for Change." It was a day and
a half of speakers, workshops and roundtable discussions on the
challenges independent radio, television, newspaper, journalists and web
media organizers are facing in their quest to make alternative reporting
on current events available to more people. The conference covered such
The IMCís and the Movement;
Roadblocks for Indy Media, Internet and Television, Low Power FM Radio,
Breaking Through Censorship, and more. I was involved in some of these
workshops and here is what I thought was the most important point
generated by the conference.
If you look at the history of activism since the 60ís, you can see
a distinction between the way the right wing activists operate versus
the way the left works. The right funds media and activism and
the left finances primarily the activism with media as a afterthought.
Because of this difference, the right produces a more organized and more
powerful effect. The mainstream political figures seem to always be
trying to appease the right. Why? Because, even though they are a
minority, they have a loud and clear voice. As a result of the Vermont
conference, this difference in strategies is now clear and it is also
clear that funding to try to achieve progressive changes in government
must at least equally go to creating and supporting independent media
along with the financing of the activism itself.
What has been happening during the current renewed wave of protests
against the corporatization of government is that the mainstream media
does not report the messages that the protesters are trying to get
across. There were substantial protests at all three presidential
debates this past month. If you got your news from network television
all you heard about, maybe, was that Ralph Nader was refused admission
to the first debate. This was very frustrating to the protesters. They
feel forced into direct action in order to get coverage and, when they
finally do get mainstream media attention, only the
"unruliness" gets reported and their message is still not
heard. Itís time for the left to organize and support its own
independent media and do an "end run" around the mainstream.
How to do the "end run" was largely the overall theme
behind the conference. The discussions on the success of the IMC, how to
produce and stream audio and video on the Internet, how to finance
independent media, how to effectively link the hundreds of progressive
news sources to present a powerful and coherent media voice were all
very important. This was a good beginning. I say beginning because a
weekend conference was long enough to raise the important questions but
not long enough to produce anything but the most general solutions.
Still, I felt it was a very successful event and I mentioned to the
organizer of the conference, Greg Guma of Toward
Freedom, that it would be great if this kind of conference could
happen soon in other regions of the U.S.
This past week I found out that Dr. Peter Phillips of Project
Censored is organizing a West Coast Independent Media Conference
and Exposition for April of 2001 in San Francisco. I am excited that
this is happening. There is a bright new future for indy media and
activism and it couldnít come at a better time. There is a lot of work
to do to keep the mega-corporations from totally running our governments
and our lives.
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