J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

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Blog Set Up For 2005 NCMR

Posted by chanders on May 10, 2005

There has been a group blog set up for the National Conference on Media Reform 2005, in St. Louis, which I’ll be attending along with dozens of other of my compadres from the NYC Indy-media scene.  Not sure yet if I’ll be participating in the group blog yet, as I am currently sans laptop and may have trouble actually contributing anything. But it looks like it will be a hot spot for people to rant and rave about the conference. So check it out.

Also, the St. Louis Confluence, which is affiliated with the St Louis IMC, is putting out a special collaborative issue for the conference, with a special spread in which independent media makers sound off on their relatonship with the media reform movement. Here’s my entry:

Every progressive organization in the country, so the argument goes, should make national media reform its “second issue.” The success of other liberal reform efforts, it is argued, largely depend on re-democratizing an increasingly corporatized and commercialized media.

This argument is good one, and its resonance has led to the genesis of a nationwide movement for media democracy. That said, though, I would argue that there are other progressive groups who shouldn’t make Federal media reform their first issue, or there second issue …. or maybe not even their third or fourth issue. Ironically enough, those “other groups” include grassroots media activists and local community producers.

This isn’t to say that this burgeoning “independent media movement” should oppose federal efforts. Indeed, they should support them as best they can. But should they devote an excessive amount of organizational time and energy to national media reform efforts? No.

Grassroots media groups are, more often than not, extraordinarily fragile creatures—short on time and money, running largely on the fumes produced by political passion. To argue that these groups must do more on a policy level is to misunderstand both their ideals and the areas where they can be most effective.

Instead of worrying too much about the ins and outs of federal regulatory bodies, grassroots media groups should spend more time reaching out to their own constituencies—that is, downward, to the grassroots. Local community organizations, especially those addressing issues of race and poverty, are still woefully underrepresented in the independent media universe. The way to win these groups over to the cause of independent media production is not to turn our eyes to Capitol Hill; it is, instead, to go where the people are, to facilitate the narratives of the dispossessed. This kind of work isn’t easy. Indeed, it is often a grinding and depressing business. But it is vitally important.
Media reformers and independent media groups should work together when they can, and should always remember that they are allies in a long struggle. But they should also remember that they are, in many ways, quite different animals. And that’s ok

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