personal reprtback for indy folks about the National COnference on Media Reform.

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
Mon May 16 00:34:45 CDT 2005

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 <>, 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.


If you appreciated this report, I recommend you also read those from bht, betsy, Kat, Michael, and ali t.



  1. […] I’ve talked to a number of people who didn’t have such a great time at the last conference. (Read my and others’ reportbacks.) Some are discussing how to effect change in the conference style or content, including who gets to speak. […]

  2. […] To not do so undermines the work of the OC and blows opportunities to strengthen the media movement. For example, I think we did a great job attracting Indymedia activists, especially women and from a wide geographic range, to the NCMR in St. Louis. That was the main purpose of including me on the OC. But I and Free Press both failed to create an environment for constructive engagement and Indymedia, Free Press, and all of the conference participants were the worse off for it. The situation for youth of color participants was certainly worse, but I didn’t have direct experience with that. […]

  3. […] I wrote after the 2005 NCMR, however, I think we need to recognize more subtle divisions in our community. Seeing merely a […]

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