Originally posted to the Internet here in the form of an email to the IMC-US discussion list. Links to additional reportbacks at the end. [Personal note: I didn’t typo the title. bht did.]
Joshua Breitbart breitbart at indymedia.org
Mon May 16 00:34:45 CDT 2005
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I need to write something more general breaking down the media reform movement and how I think Indymedia related to it, but for now I'll just describe the independent media caucus that bht wasn't at. I agree with bht that day two, Saturday, was the big day. A lot of people were starting to get pretty fed up not just with Indymedia not being discussed at the conference but with the absence of space for horizontal networking. bht, Betsy, and everyone who staffed the table and Jessica from AZ and others who stood up and spoke during various sessions did great work, but they were going against the grain. I had been thinking we should boycott the independent media caucus because it was at the same time as the caucuses for women, youth, people of color, and journalists. What a farce. But Jessica, Carly from SD and Sofia from Boston wanted to use the caucus to discuss our frustrations. So we rollled on the caucus. Eric Galatas from Free Speech TV had been asked by Free Press to coordinate the independent media caucus. We talked about it a while ago when he asked for suggestions on possible facilitators of breakout sessions. But he went ahead and derived an entire agenda on using independent media to spread the message of media reform. Since a good third of the people in the room were Indymedia people, that immediately raised hackles. Then Alice Myatt, a well-respected media consultant, solicited input from the room on what people wanted to get out of the discussion and the conference. That was a little better. But then Eric brought up Craig Aaron, Communications Director from Free Press, and Harold Feld, a lawyer and senior vice president of Media Access Project <www.mediaaccess.org>, which argued the case, known as Prometheus Radio Project v. the FCC, that halted the 2003 deregulation. They started by talking about their suits and how important they were for talking to politicians. Then they talked about their media policy victories and what independent media could do to amplify their messages. For at least 10, maybe 15 minutes. Emily from Michigan finally spoke out, saying she felt we had been duped because what was billed as a caucus was in fact a presentation. She expressed gratitude for the work of the suit-wearers, but said we had been listening to those types of discussions all weekend and should not have to give up any of the hour and a half devoted to actual discussion for more of the same. At that point, the room broke up into smaller groups by medium. We removed ourselves and began to discuss what to do. We decided to meet back in the room an hour later, after the so-called independent media caucus was over. Notes and possibly media from the meeting will be available soon, but it basically went like this: + what do we want to discuss? (half the suggestions were about the conference, half were about other Indymedia issues; we prioritized the immediate issues and did not get to the other items) + bitch session on the conference and reformism + proposals for action, which boiled down to: publicize Indymedia through flyers and setting up terminals in a public area for people to post + concerns about the action: other people at the conference, in particular people of color working on issues of media justice, were also marginalized at the conference; the real problem was not that media reform didn't prioritize Indymedia, but that it did not prioritize issues of oppression inherent in our media system and any action we might take should address that issue and be done in consultation with and leadership from those activists. ==== this was a fundamental disagreement so take note ==== + at this point, people who wanted to make connections with media justice activists and consult on Indymedia plans of action left the room to do so + the remaining people in the room consensed on the action and began to move towards implementation As it turned out, although the disagreement on how to proceed was (and remains) really deep, our separate actions turned out to be complementary. Some of us covered a little ground with media justice activists while others showed people attending the closing plenary how Indymedia works, helped people publish their comments to the St. Louis IMC site, and engaged people in discussion on some of the problems with the conference. That's what I love about Indymedia. In the same amount of time allotted for a "caucus," we went from critique to action, overcoming serious disagreement by respecting a diversity of tactics. That's one of the things Free Press could learn from Indymedia. There is a lot more to report on, including the criticisms of Indymedia within the conference - particularly on issues of diversity and representation - and how people responded to them, the bags with Indy papers that bht alluded to, plus the whole CAPCR fiasco (which is featured on stlimc and us.imc). Overall, I would say that we acted appropriately and within our capabilities. We have a clearer conception of the media reform movement and how to approach it. And we had a good time. Josh