J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

AMC in Bowling Green: Panel One, Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

Posted by chanders on June 24, 2006

I’m at the Allied Media Conference in Bowling Green for the third year in a row … and somewhat (though not entirely) sadly, the last one to be in Bowling Green  for at least a while (it’s moving to Detroit). Instead of live blogging the entire thing, I figured I’d take some notes in interesting panels and post them more or less verbatim. If anyone from the conference is reading this, please remember that these are my off the top of my head notes … they may not be entirely complete or exact. Feel free to comment or correct me in the comments.

Panel One: Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

From the descrip[tion: We are moving into a new era of participatory communications – cell
phone cameras, blogs, myspace, YouTube – where the line between media
producer and consumer is disappearing. In that sense, part of the
independent media mission has been accomplished. Yet with all of this
access and direct interaction, we seem to be living in an increasingly
undemocratic society with worsening racism and class oppression. This
panel will examine new models for media activism that go beyond
reporting to the integration of media and organizing in the movement
for social justice.

Shivaani Selvaraj, Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project
Francesca Fiorentini, WRL / Left Turn
Susana Adame, Radical Women of Color Bloggers, INCITE! Network
Betty Yu, MNN

Moderator: Joshua Brietbart

What was the problem with independent media you identified before you began your media work, and how have you tried to fix it through the work you’ve been doing?

Selvaraj: Media mobilizing project, closed collective within the Philly IMC. Still quite new, still trying to figure out how to talk about what we’re doing.

No one who is at the core of this project has a history of doing IMC work; prejudice against Indymedia, have had bias against it: “white, isolated from the people and issues I’ve chosen to care about.”

Doing this project within IMC was both accidental and deliberate. Inheriting an Indymedia history yet trying something new.

Closed collective within an open structure ‡ “energizing tension.”

Adame:  Blogging: Seems to be the perfect place to create safe spaces for women of color … yet, blogging is not a blank medium, there is actually a really strong structure there that women of color have had to fight against and battle against; there are not “no rules” … cultural structures and rules are very much in place.

Fiorentini: Going beyond reporting. Why does the term reporting seem awkward to Left Turn? LT does not consider itself a media outlet that much. Not coming from a journalism background, and the workers at LT are not worried about being journalists so much.

Reporting ‡ Distances the subject and the object. The reporter is not the reported upon … the reporter swoops in and observes. Print media is especially difficult, because there are established print magazines that can be very exclusive.

Left turn creates a space for intra-movement dialog … also very difficult to set up in a print media context.

Yu: MNN / Save Access Coalition. Schism between media justice activists, independent media makers, and social justice organizing. Also, there is no accountability of independent media makers to their community.

Additional problem with the save access campaign ‡ too inside the beltway. Need affected communities to take control of the public access fight.

Breitbart: Themes.

1. How independent media can come from communities and be accountable to them?

Brietbart: Creating space? How do we redefine space?

Adame: How did white male culture create the blogging culture and technology that excludes women of color? Example:
a. Linking. Paradox. No one links to alternate perspectives; either established communities or the communities themselves, and when there is linking there is usually an influx of hate mail, etc.
Create a bloc. More than a “single individual of women of color” (the lone individual  needed to change and challenge these perspectives.

Some discussion about how to balance the need to be inclusive and how to balance the needs of individual communities. “Need to center our experiences.”

Space within the blogosphere.

*** Nubian (find this blog): I’m not going to change what I have to say just because I want to “appease white supremacy.”

Shivaani: Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Coalition is half white and half people of color.

Media is only a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Media for what? Information for what?

Why do women of color not blog? “I don’t have anything to say.”

Chris’ Comments:

Theme: Retrenchment and re engagement.

Women of color, social justice organizers are facing a system that promises an “unlimited freedom” that can lead to justice; nevertheless, the freedom of the digital internet is not unlimited and may paradoxically be responsible for larger inequalities. Some form of reorganization is needed, whether in “reality” (MMC within Philly) or virtual within the internet. Once some form of internal solidarity has been achieved, there can then occur a process of re-engagement?

Chris: But how and when do the re engagement half of the equation occur? What happens if one occurs and not the other?  Which is more important?

Susana answers: I had a long dialog with someone on my site who called himself “poor white boy” and who portrayed himself as totally opposed to what we were saying. The key in dealing with, dialoging with, and in some productive way coming to terms with him was:

1. Having white allies who constantly engaged this guy and got him to a point where we felt like had something in common with us – ie, poverty.
2. Could then utilize our strong, organized POC community to continue the conversation.

a. this could never have occurred offline
b. this also never could have occurred without being organized in the way that they already were online

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