Free Press has begun distributing a call for sessions for their upcoming conference. I just finished reading the lengthy guidelines and, to be honest, the read made me want to not submit a proposal. The tone and content are pretty negative.
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.
The primary way to do that is through that proposal submission form. I plan to help draft proposals on wireless broadband, license redistribution, and something along the lines of the “Is this what democracy looks like?” discussion from the AMC, as well as a handful of powerful speakers. (Limit two proposals per person.)
A secondary way is by submitting a suggestion for a topic or speaker, which I definitely plan to do, as well.
The deadline for submitting proposals is really soon: August 15. I hope they extend it past Labor Day. I’m sure they have a difficult and lengthy review process they need to start, but August is tough and the proposal form is intimidating.
A third way to shape the conference could be through the outreach committee, or The OC. I understand Free Press plans to form one again this year.
Last year, they formed a committee of five people to assist in outreach and scholarship allotment. The five people were myself, Malkia, Lian Cheun from Center for Third World Organizing, Val Benavidez from the League of Young Voters, and Tony Riddle from Alliance for Community Media. We each received a stipend for our work, a scholarship budget of our own, and a say in distributing the balance of their scholarship funds.
I think The OC did a good job in getting people to the conference, but we and Free Press came up short in providing support to folks once they got to St. Louis. There was a lack of relevant content and friendly spaces.
I believe Free Press recognizes that, but members of this year’s outreach committee will be well placed (and funded) to advocate that FP apply the same process of affirmative action to the presenters as they do to the attendees.
That’s key because right now there are some who doubt that the conference is for them and would not want to be in a position of convincing people to attend. I think there is, in fact, some divergence in the movement, at least from what I see moving between Free Press circles and the Allied Media Conference constituency. (More on this in future posts to this blog, I expect.)
Personally, I figure if you plan to attend at all, you should submit a proposal. Because you know what they say: if you don’t vote, you don’t count.