Notes on the Program for the National Conference for Media Reform

There is such an overwhelming breadth of topics and tactics on the program for the National Conference for Media Reform that I don’t think any individual can make sense of the whole thing, except perhaps Yolanda Hippensteele and Kate McKenney, who organized the thing.

Yolanda, Kate, and everyone else who worked on this year’s NCMR: Thank you.

Having witnessed and participated in the first two NCMRs (and being a New Yorker anyway), I still approach the weekend with some cynicism, but it’s clear that Free Press has worked hard to present the media reform movement in all its multifaceted glory. This conference hasn’t solved the movement’s or the organization’s problems of course, but it seems to me that it has constructively engaged many of those whom it marginalized in 2003 and 2005. And the conference is clearly the stronger for it.

The clearest example of this is Jenn Pozner’s Feminist Guide to the NCMR. Last conference, Jenn was holding up a banner asking, “Where are the women?” This year, according to her post, they’re everywhere.

A few people have asked if I’d offer suggestions of what to do at the conference, people to talk to, angles to take. The main thing I would suggest is that people find their allies early, then split up and go to sessions that seem odd or obscure, but regroup frequently. If you look at the program, the structure of the conference seems to encourage that as an arc from Friday to Saturday to Sunday.
Please do not just go to the sessions you most agree with, especially on Saturday. Get into those spaces from which you are normally excluded or absent. Challenge folks who need to be challenged. (I recognize that this is easy for me to say, since as a white man who knows the vocabulary, I can pass pretty easily.)

Also, if you see something, say something. It’s a long weekend and if you see something you think is wrong, there is time to address it constructively if you point it out. This is partly the reason for the frequent regroupings.

A great time to have small discussions or regroup with allies is during the plenaries. The plenary speakers are all great speakers, but very few of them are going to tell you anything you don’t already know. Saturday night might get interesting, though.

By Thursday we’ll have up on the Allied Media Conference site (still a little under construction) a grassroots media / media justice blog aggregator to bring together our live-blogging of the NCMR into one place. We’ll also have a chat room devoted to the NCMR. If you want to participate, let me know. (This is intended to be a bit more focused than the aggregator Free Press is using, which is basically just to tag your media with NCMR2007.) We hope it helps keep people in contact and moves the discussion forward during the conference.

Alright, some specific recommendations on the schedule after the jump. Feel free to post any questions, responses, or additions as comments, or email them to me. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does.


Friday at 1:15 pm – Okay, forget what I said about not going to the one you agree with. “Beyond Rights & Reform: Imagining a Global Movement for Media Justice Featuring You” is the place to start.


Friday at 3:15 pm – “Building & Sustaining Independent Media” is a welcome opportunity for a critically necessary conversation following the demise of Clamor and the IPA. There are great people on this panel, though it might be hard for them to speak to micro-level projects since they’re all fairly well established. Hopefully the audience will be vocal and engaged.

If you want to do media monitoring, you can learn from some great people on the “Media Monitoring as an Organizing Tool” panel. “Media & the Immigrant Rights Movimiento” includes Deepa Fernandes from People’s Production House so there is no doubt it will be an interesting discussion.


Saturday at 9:00 amI’m moderating a panel called “Owning Our Own Media Infrastructure” that Becca Vargo Daggett and I put together. (Regular Civil Defense readers will recognize in the title my penchant for alliteration.) She, Tony Riddle from the Alliance for Community Media, Wally Bowen from Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), Hannah Sassaman from Prometheus, and Steven Mansour are on it. The six of us will talk about owning our own infrastructure as powerful leverage for achieving all of the policy and accountability goals laid out in all of the other panels (not to mention the goal of delivering quality content).

If I wasn’t doing that, I might be in the “Citizen Journalism: Making an Impact in the New Media Landscape” session. It’s an important topic and I expect I’ll disagree with how those panelists frame it.


Saturday at 11:00 am – My Ethos partners, Sascha Meinrath and Dharma Dailey, along with Ethos advisor and one of my favorite bloggers Harold Feld, plus Michael Calebrese from New America Foundation and Michael Lewis from Wireless Harlem, are explaining the history and state of wireless on a panel named for one of my blog posts: “The Growth of Wireless Broadband: From Community to Municipal to Corporate.” If my blogging or, more likely, something other than my blogging has made you curious about the field I work in, this is a great introduction.

Unfortunately for them , this is the hot time slot with
– “
Independent Media Around the World: Polymorphous & Translocal,
There Is No Media Justice Without Women: Models for Feminist Media Action,” which has an incredible lineup;
Faith Communities & Media Reform,” and
Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media” (likely the most popular in this time slot with Josh Silver, the ED of Free Press; Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Pete Tridish from Prometheus; and Betty Yu from Manhattan Neighborhood network).

The “Independent Media Around the World” session, along with the more NGO/policy-oriented “Global Information & Communications Policy” in the morning slot, is a great example of Free Press responding to criticism about not having an international perspective in this national conference. We’ve got a lot to learn from other countries regulatory frameworks and grassroots media tactics.


Saturday at 2:30 pm – Make the Music with Your Mouth, Kid: Hip-Hop Activism for Media Accountability” with my neighbor and friend Rosa Clemente from R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop, Invincible from Detroit, Davey D of Hard Knock Radio, Malkia Cyril from Youth Media Council, and Brotha Los, a hip-hop artist I’m not familiar with but who keeps some pretty incredible company so he’s gotta be good. And Adrienne Maree Brown is the moderator!

Washington 2007: An Inside Look at Media Policy” will give a good general overview of the policy issues currently under discussion in the Beltway. If you don’t hear your issue mentioned, make some noise.

There’s also “Bridging the Digital Divide,” another instance of an important topic where I expect I’ll disagree with how the panelists frame it.


Saturday at 4:30 pm – Adrienne’s also moderating a panel of three of the most brilliant organizers-using-media that I know: Jenny Lee from Detroit Summer and the Allied Media Conference, Shivaani Selvaraj from Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project and the Media Empowerment Project, and Kat Aaron from People’s Production House. Even without all of the other sessions, parties, and speeches, I’d travel to Memphis just to hear them discuss “Independent Media as an Organizing Tool” for an hour and a half.


Sunday at 9:00 am – I’ll be “Envisioning the Future of Independent Media,” but there are a number of options. If you want to learn about the FCC, Media Access Project is offering “A Guide for Beginners & Tips for Experts.” And the “Toolkits Show & Tell” will give a good sampling of grassroots organizing efforts.



  1. I know it’s lame to plug your own workshop, but I’d really encourage people to come out to the Get Radio! workshop, Saturday afternoon at 4.30, in the Sultana/River Bluff room.

    Why should you come hear Prometheus speak? Because there’s one last shot — one more chance in a generation — for people who want their own community radio stations to apply for them. And we want to tell you about it.

    The FCC is going to open up a licensing window for free full power FM stations sometime this spring. If we have anything to say about it, hundreds more civil rights groups, farmworker organizations, independent media makers, housing rights activists, and community organizations will get their own radio stations. But the FCC is only going to open the window for 5 days, and they won’t tell us when. So now is your chance to get ready to apply.

    The Get Radio! workshop will cover the basics of how to find out if you have an available station, who to talk to for help in filling out your application, and how to connect to a robust and growing national and international movement of brilliant community radio activists.

    If you can’t make it on Saturday, please come to take two of this workshop, not in the program, but hopefully etched in your mind in Room L13 on Sunday at 8am.

    If you can’t make either of these places, please visit the National Federation of Community Broadcasters or the Prometheus Radio Project booth on the exhibit floor. That’s where we’re going to be able to actually check out people’s hometowns — and if there is likely an available station there — using our engineering software and kickass maps that analyze every mile of the lower 48 states to see where there is likely an available station.

    And if you can’t meet up with us at all in Memphis — and we hope you can — go to to enter your zip code and see if you have an available station. You’ll get a detailed email with instructions on what to do next. And we’ll call you back.

    With love and solidarity,
    Hannah Sassaman
    Prometheus Radio Project

  2. Hannah – Everyone should definitely promote their own workshop. Why go through the trouble of doing it if you don’t think everyone should show up?

    The full power license window is a unique chance to own a very important piece of infrastructure. If you think you even might have a shot at it, you should learn more about it.

  3. Jim Zackey said

    The 2007 National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis (10-12 January) will also feature the “Media That Matters Film Festival,” the premiere showcase for short films. Participants will examine why when media messages are constructed, sometimes truth hits the cutting room floor. Why a watchdog like AIM chose to forego a befitting opportunity to publicize its 2006 documentary. Could there be some reasons to shy away from a possible screening before 3,000 media activists from across USA?

    A scrutiny of “Terror Television: The Rise of Al-Jazeera and the Hate America Media” through the lenses of accuracy, verifiability and authenticity may help to establish if the actually documentary practices and reflects the ideals of accuracy profess by its makers. There may be some intriguing reasons why any jury members didn’t approve this documentary. Readers may find some at

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