Archive for Indymedia

Want to read my writing? Check People’s Production House

In order to simplify my life and give the company that pays me the full value of my work and energy, I will now be posting to my blog on the People’s Production House website. RSS feed coming soon.

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Hot new group blog from Southeast Michigan

Back in January, I described the blog explosion coming out of Southeast Michigan. Now the region’s social justice newspaper, Critical Moment, has launched a new group blog syndicating local, radical blogs.

Check out, bookmark, and alert others to Critical Bloggers.

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Democratizing the Beltway talk shows

In media reform as in most political endeavors, direct action gets the goods. You don’t like the questions the corporate media are asking the decisionmakers? Ask ’em your own questions.

The big news in the DC news biz every week is who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows – Face The Nation (CBS), This Week (ABC), and Meet The Press (NBC). Those shows send out a press release with the lineups every Thursday.

Competing news agencies send interns or other rookies to sit outside of the corporate media studios in case the guests want to make any statements after the interview. There’s a microphone stand set up outside; sometimes the guests stop there on their way out of the interview and take some questions.

Those other news agencies don’t send more seasoned reporters because they don’t expect to get any of what they consider useful footage there. Also, this all takes place on a Sunday morning when many of their employees would rather be in bed.

A couple of months ago, some enterprising media activists joined the post-talk show gaggle in order to ask the questions no one else is asking. The project is called The Washington Stakeout and is the work of DC Indymedia veterans and Sam Husseini, best known for his work with the Insititute for Public Accuracy.

If you check the site, you can see the Stakeout asking questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons of John Edwards and about pre-Iraq war intelligence of Colin Powell.

Washington DC is basically a series of concentric boxes, each one designed to keep you from thinking outside of its borders. It’s refreshing to see this kind of imaginative yet straightforward media activism in this town.

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Reflections on the National Conference for Media Reform

WireTap graciously accepted an article I wrote about the National Conference for Media Reform. In it, I survey the relationships between Free Press and some of the groups that have been marginalized at past conferences. This year’s conference was different. Sort of.

I also recommend reading DeeDee Halleck’s assessment:

To achieve media justice we need to raise our level of commitment. Next Media “Reform” Conference needs to speak of strategies that go beyond internet petitions to Congress. An authentic movement needs to march and to encourage the sort of non-violent civil disobedience that helped to open the airwaves for low power FM.

DeeDee’s labels and mine – who or what is media justice or media democracy – don’t exactly match up. This might be because she is discussing the history of the movement up to early 2003, where I cover the media reform conferences that started in November 2003.Perhaps the divisions I describe came about later, after Indymedia simplified the path to one type of media organizing and Free Press co-opted the grassroots energy that fought off media ownership deregulation.

Under the heading “Media Justice History,” DeeDee describes a multiracial network of organizers using civil disobedience and direct action to fight corporate media, resisting pressure from reformist white men to use more mundane tactics.

There are important successes to learn there, ones I admit I am still fairly ignorant of. (I wasn’t even doing the movies on a roof in Brooklyn thing when they were “marching against the moguls” in 1996.)

As I wrote after the 2005 NCMR, however, I think we need to recognize more subtle divisions in our community. Seeing merely a distinction between media revolution and media reform, at least at this point, gives too much credit to the revolutionaries. It creates connections among them that don’t exist in reality, but that should – that must if we are to win.

It also locates the division at the level of tactics. There is a good side to that: by highlighting the absense of certain ones and advocating for their increased presence, you can promote a greater diversity of tactics, which this movement sorely needs right now. On the other hand, the antiglobalization movement was filled with examples of people who thought that more radical tactics equalled more radical politics. They don’t.

So I ask you to take the time to read my piece on WireTap (it’s kind of long, I know) and I encourage you to read DeeDee’s post (we’re all so lucky she’s started blogging) and then to work through these and related ideas on your own or with your friends and colleagues. And then publish them online.

I’m very excited to see Reclaim the Media hosting a conference reportback and discussion with Andrea Quijada in Seattle on January 29, for example. I look forward to hearing what comes of it.

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The SEMI Blog Explosion

If you know, then you know. But if you don’t know, Southeast Michigan is witnessing an explosion of thoughtful, radical, wonderful blogging.

They are personal without being insular, political without being didactic, and readable without being chatty. Each is everything a blog should be and their numbers are growing.

This post is my meager attempt to thank them for sharing and preserving their brilliant thoughts and inspiring experiences.

For starters, Jenny just launched Greater Detroit and Rachel recently started For Lack of Better Words. Their initial posts about staying and leaving are really poignant. (Very much set my mood for a post last week.)

Jenny and Rachel are both organizers of the 2007 Allied Media Conference, along with Mike, whose blog, omnicrisis, is going strong.

In addition, wsoft.heart has exploded out of the gate, posting every couple of days since starting a couple of months ago, offering great analysis of prop 2 and updates on the work of the DAY Project.

LucidAmbition, whose been online for a while, has reignited, making sense of his day-to-day on the blog.

Kate doesn’t blog about the local very much, but she can (and does) go toe-to-toe on Irish politics with anyone.

And, I have to say, blixx mixes his politics and cooking even better than Kat does, at least on the blog.

Invincible offers updates through her MySpace on her peripatetic life in music and organizing.

There are many more, like BlackatMichigan and The Upsidedown House, that I don’t know as well and probably even more that I don’t know at all.

With all this, Brownfemipower still takes the cake.

Many of these folks read early then-Michigan blogger Rob Goodspeed. And you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the Michigan IMC experience on at least some (myself included) of these bloggers (just, as Chris Anderson argues – thank you, Chris – you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of Indymedia in general on blogging in general).

But I think you can trace the SEMI blog explosion directly to BFP and the community she has helped build up with the Women of Color blog ring. Without her analysis and advocacy, many of these folks would probably have remained convinced that blogging was a medium exclusively for white men with inflated egos (like yours truly). Thanks to her work and it’s constantly expanding ripples, that presumption seems to get less true every day.

The incredible and beautiful part of reading all of these blogs is how they are all so personal without a hint of the self-obsession that pervades the blogosphere. Everything is seen in context and the context is Detroit.

They are also in conversation with each other, linking and commenting, in such a way that a real sense of the city emerges. I hear there are plans for a PhillyFuture-style project, aggregating blogs from the region, hosted by Critical Moment.

I can’t wait.

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The Fourth Annual NYC Grassroots Media Conference: Media and Movements Beyond Borders

Registration opens today for the fourth annual New York City Grassroots Media Conference, which will be held Saturday February 24, 2007, at New School University.

This is the best example I know of a local media conference and one of the most vibrant days in the whole media activism calendar. While appealing to people from throughout the northeast, it does an excellent job bringing the city’s diverse independent media together and framing our work in the context of a global movement for justice.

Here’s more from the website:

This Year’s Theme: Media and Movements Beyond Borders

Media and Movements Beyond BordersGrassroots struggles for justice are usually rooted in their geographic locations. Yet—from police brutality on the streets of Queens to government repression in the plazas of Oaxaca; from homelessness and displacement in the Bronx to the rise of slums in Lagos; from hunger and poverty in East New York to famine in Kenya; from wiretapping and police surveillance in our communities and military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan—there are apparent connections in the ways people all over the world negotiate and counter similar forms of oppression and injustice.

This year, the NYC Grassroots Media Conference seeks to ask: What are the common threads inherent in our global struggles for social change and how does the media contribute to our understanding of the root causes of injustices faced by world communities? From educating ourselves and our government leaders to spreading our messages and recruiting broader and more diverse constituencies into our campaigns, media is central to the struggle for social justice. Therefore, the fight for better access to and representation in the media is essential for advancing peace and justice both at home and abroad.

Join us for the 4th Annual NYC Grassroots Media Conference as we explore these connections and strategies and work together to demand a media system that will link ourdiverse communities, connect local and international struggles, and fight for social justice across boundaries and beyond borders.

You can get involved by submitting workshop proposals (deadline 1/15 and adherence to the political framework of the conference is very important), submitting film or artwork (deadline 2/2), advertising in the program (by 2/2), reserving a table (by 2/2), volunteering, or simply attending (early registration until 2/22). The conference is Saturday, February 24.

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The Closure of Clamor Magazine

If you are a subscriber to Clamor Magazine, you will receive a letter this week announcing that it is going out of business. The letter says, in part:

We’re writing to you today because we’ve decided to stop publishing Clamor. We set out to create an independent magazine that would bulldoze borders, defy dogma, and inspire instigation. We wanted to create a magazine that extended the vibrancy of the underground zine community to a larger general audience and share the enthusiasm and energy we saw in our fellow do-it-yourselfers. We intended to redefine the progressive magazine. And while we feel like we accomplished those goals at various stages, one goal we never fully realized is that of making Clamor economically sustainable.

… The obstacle of servicing old debt on an otherwise sustainable project while also negotiating major shifts in the magazine industry have proven too burdensome for us to continue publishing. But effective movement media doesn’t need to last indefinitely to be successful. We’re confident that many people have been inspired to do great things after reading about others doing the same in Clamor. We know this because we’ve been consistently inspired by the stories of struggle and triumph in Clamor. And while we’ll miss that, we’re also confident that there are independent media projects being born at this very moment with even greater promise.

Always respectful of the people who have made the enterprise possible, the publishers – Jen Angel, Jason Kucsma, Nomy Lamm, and Mandy Van Deven – told the editors, then the current writers, then the subscribers, before offering a statement to the public on the website, which should come next week. The next step is to start talking to their creditors.

The possibility of closing the magazine was discussed back even before I became a consulting editor in late 2001. Jen and Jason would have had to close up shop after just the first few issues had they not gotten the line of credit from Sky Bank (which is still Clamor’s biggest creditor besides the founders themselves).

It was one of those next few issues that I saw on the rack outside the entrance to the Clovis Press, a bookshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that no longer exists (replaced by a cheese shop). I was so taken with it that the first thing I did when I moved to the midwest a couple of months later was call Clamor HQ and ask if I could help.

Michael Simmons, in telling The Nation in 2001 about his favorite media sources, called it “the best periodical to come out of the antiauthoritarian Battle of Seattle generation.” That sounds like a good way to start describing Clamor’s place in the annals of independent publishing.

Clamor Magazine was also a fine, collective accomplishments of the zine world and, more generally, of those who believe in participatory media. Clamor published over 1000 writers and artists in its 7-year, 38-issue run. Some historian should check to see if that’s some kind of record.

Clamor spread the word about a lot of important stories and to a lot of people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard those stories. The Internet notwithstanding, chain store newsstands and those one or two channels on satellite TV are pretty much the only way to broadcast challenging political ideas into unfriendly territory.

In my view, the challenge of serving as a point of entry for both new writers and new readers while also speaking to a devoted base of supporters proved too much for the project.

That is not to detract at all from the business challenges described in the letter to subscribers. Publishing a magazine is an expensive operation and almost impossible to sustain without an external funding source. For Clamor, whose publishers never had personal wealth or ready access to rich folks like many on the coasts do, the only external funding source they could find were small business loans and credit cards.

Independent publishing gets even harder when your primary advocate, the Independent Press Association, is failing to pay you what it owes and failing to keep your magazine on the newsstand. Clamor’s closure is a black eye for the IPA.

(I don’t think it really compares to the recent closure of the irreverent LiP magazine since that publication never got past being a vanity project, Jenn Whitney’s article on Indymedia notwithstanding. The NewStandard, which is also facing major financial challenges, is an online outlet with a completely different business model.)

My hope is that emerging media projects, as the letter suggests, will step up to take on more of the three very important tasks Clamor took on: providing an outlet for new writers; politicizing new readers; serving as a forum for established activists.

Wiretap, for example, is an ideal place for new writers. As it grows increasingly independent from Alternet, I think it is becoming a great place for anyone to publish. It’s online and not in print, but the world wide web is probably the right place for first-time writers. And it pays.

From my admittedly limited perspective, Left Turn is currently the premier printed forum for inter-activist reporting. Reborn for the global justice movement (the rebranded and renewed antiglobalization movement), it has a more specific politic than Clamor did and cultivates writers more intentionally. That makes it more limited in some ways, more focused in others.

The editors of Left Turn maintain strong and principled alliances with the people, organizations, and campaigns reported in its pages. It’s less likely than Clamor has been, however, to have those stories of small or unsung victories. It’s those stories, the ones that seem random until you get them all on a page together, that gave Clamor its voice-in-the-wilderness quality for so many people – that, the consistent DIY-you-can-do-it tone, and the serious midwest pride.

That’s the thing we’ll be losing most dramatically with the closure of Clamor: the ability to reach new people with an honest, accessible voice. As far as I know, no one is really doing that for young potential activists now that Clamor is gone. (I sometimes call this the NCOR problem: what to do with the thousands of eager, young, and – in the NCOR case – white folks now that you can’t just tell them to go to the next big protest.)

Clamor didn’t do it perfectly, but that’s a critical task that someone needs to do. Maybe The Ave, assuming it’s still going, could do more of that, or Punk Planet – it’s useful in some ways to divide the task into hip hop and punk, though that combination may have been what gave Clamor some of its threat potential. Still, giving people information in a palatable format is different from plugging them into ways to take action.

In an organized movement, entry point organizations like Indyvoter, Movement Strategy Center, and Students for a Democratic Society would take responsibility for publishing a magazine to attract new people. They might not see it that way and publishing is resource-intensive no matter who does it, so I don’t expect they’ll be taking it up anytime soon. But without some coordination and a shared sense of obligation, no one will be able to sustain such a project.

Movement media rarely emerges from such a process, of course. Indymedia is the rare exception. Usually, a small group starts a publication, people take to it or don’t, it lives for a while, then dies when the money runs out (which usually happens in the first year), or when the political situation changes, or when the publishers’ life situations change.

All three of those things seemed to happen to Clamor at the same time. It’s sad, but fine. It was a good run. The Allied Media Conference and the online infoSHOP direct, two projects born from Clamor that actively support other media projects, will continue.

So when the letter to subscribers says, “there are independent media projects being born at this very moment with even greater promise,” that is in no small way thanks to the infrastructure, inspiration, and advice Clamor’s publishers have provided us over the last seven years.

Please see this Emergency Message from Clamor Magazine

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