NCMR: Envisioning the Future of Independent Media

Envisioning the Future of Independent Media

Moderator: Linda Jue, Independent Press Association
Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy
Wally Bowen, Mountain Area Information Network
Roberto Lovato, New American Media
Kathy Spillar, Ms. Magazine



These are pretty smart individuals, but the panel didn’t quite gel, in my opinion. They brought out ideas that were maybe too big to fit in an hour and a half on a Sunday morning.

The case Jeff Chester makes has an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them air about it. And for all of its high rhetoric, his plea seems oddly narrow: a for-profit Indymedia.

Wally Bowen gave a similar presentation to the one he offered on our panel, except he highlighted the work of, MAIN’s nationwide ISP, and offered to share revenue from it with any referrers.

I understand that Linda Jue basically had to tell the story of the IPA’s life and death, but that’s obviously not the future. Neither is the history of Ms., but the model of a foundation or large organization publishing a proven movement magazine is worthy of examination and repetition.

Roberto Lovato from New America Media was quite the cup of coffee, though. (DeAnne Cuellar handed him some information about the Allied Media Conference, so hopefully that will be a step towards increasing the participation of ethnic media, particularly from the midwest.)

One thing on the panel as a whole: As a rule, whenever you’re going to have a discussion about the future of anything, you have to include young people. And if you hear yourself say something like, it’s all about the young people, the best thing to do is stop talking and find one of them and start listening.

More detailed notes below. mp3 here



Jeff Chester – the industry’s vision of our future is digital dreck.

We’re not going to have media that supports widespread social justice unless we do it ourselves.

We need a strategic intervention and it needs to be a commercial intervention.

The vision they have the future is to be able to be at every point of the distribution system. It’s about making a buck.

We need a widespread movement to create a web 2.0 environment that makes revenue and supports our people.

We have to be where the young people are. We gotta be out there to influence young people, who already think the online world and offline world are one.

read, publishing 2.0, Zlick [?]

The next big economic investment will be at the community and city level for social networking, local search will be huge. There is an opportunity to create hybrid business models. We have to create these services that are sustainable. We should try to shape this new media behemoth to make a saner world.


Wally Bowen, MAIN

We’re media activists, but we’re sending our money to media corporations. MAIN helps people spend their money locally, keeping our dollars in our community.

Struggle to get the word out about our model because we’re not in DC, we’re rural, but it’s a model from the New America Foundation

We need to bring community wireless down into the lower, more usable bands.

FCC docket 04-186 “White Space”

Comments until January 31

We can use new spectrum for more than just a hotspot. We can send a signal up to 20 miles out.

Community radio stations, public access stations should all be their own ISPs.

MAIN uses wireless connections to distribute content across their multiple platforms to build an audience.

We got to create collaborations.

We want to share revenue., national ISP, offers hosting, colocation. Indylink will share revenue for every referral.


Kathy Spillar, Ms. Magazine

How do you create media that impacts social justice.

Brief explanation of how the Feminist Majority Foundation came to own Ms.

We view Ms.’s role as advocating ideas and strategies and impact policies to improve people’s lives

Key role in strengthening and buildng the feminist movement.

Women have very little ownership of our own media.

If we tried to start the feminist movement today, we couldn’t get our message out without owning our own media. Then we had things like the fairness doctrine. And the media covered the movement, even if only to ridicule it, but that still helped it grow.

Over 56% of women self-identify as feminist. The younger the more likely.

We’ve captured the hearts and minds of the public, but where do we go from here?

You can create a new groundswell around an idea, a new strategy, an analysis. Then you can impact the mainstream media. You can use Ms. Magazine to impact the public discourse and eventually decisionmakers.

Example of their exposé of the Mariana Islands. They didn’t stop with publishing: got on radio, held protests. Eventually the coverage of the Abramoff scandal started addressing the Mariana Islands along with all of the other issues. In the recently-introduced minimum wage bill, there’s an increase in the minimum wage for the Mariana Islands and there will be hearings in the Senate.

Owning our own media is important. We’re developing our web platform. We’ve got to own our own media to have an impact.

We’re part of the Media Consortium, trying to do for ourselves what the corporate media does.

Support independent media. Become a member of the Ms. community.


Roberto Lavato, New America Media, the largest “ethnic” (though we’re all ethnic) media
Speaking as an individual.

First, congratulate you on separating yourself from the partying riff-raff [ahem].

New America founded by Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking people who realized they could impact their media by coming together.

We’re a trade association to build joint advertising platforms with offices around the country, including soon Atlanta. The South is part of any strategy to fundamentally change the United States.

We also share content across language groups to foster communication across communities. The future of independent media has to look something like that.

I don’t want to present myself as a minority because then I’d have to guilt-trip you about this conference and approach you as a professional Brown person, which I’m not (any more). Instead as a fellow traveler, soldier-in-arms.

Our society in US is more similar to the de facto dictatorship of El Salvador, where I’m from, then ever before.

I want to talk about language I left activism to commit to the word. I want to talk to you about two words, Media and Reform

[told he has three minutes left]

The media is global. People in Latin America have racist attitudes towards Africans in part because of the exportation

Reform is anathema. It needs to leave and it needs to leave quickly. You need to get outside of this nation-state.

The future of independent media

The language and practice of media reform is inadequate to addressing the totalitarianism-lite, the el-salvadorization of the United States.

Take inspiration from Oaxaca, where when the media didn’t serve them, they took over the radio station.

We need to ramp up the militancy, a word that has gone out of fashion that we need to bring back.

Maybe take some inspiration from Hugo Chavez’s dealings with Verizon.


Linda Jue

George Washington Williams fellowship helps find and promote people like Roberto.

Asks for hands of former IPA members.

Gives a brief history of IPA, born out of the spirit of and need for collaboration coming out of the Media and Democracy Congress. Describes some of the programs they ran.

We made the case that it is possible to publish on eco-friendly paper.

My programs were aimed at making sustainable writers and editors to work in independent publishing and journalism, to help diversify.

IPA introduced into the foundation world the whole notion of supporting infrastructure for independent media.

We fellowshipped Roberto, Protap Chatterjee [sp?]. Campus Journalism Project.

When we acquired Big Top, we were severely under-capitalized. We couldn’t cover the lag-time in the cash flow.

There was also tension between social advocates on the staff and people who came from the corporate publishing world. These issues could have destroyed the organization on their own. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see how that turned out.

The founders and others are considering relaunching something like the IPA, but without the newsstand distribution arm, which was the tail that was wagging the dog. There’s a need for it.


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