Back to On the Road with John Tarleton

Democratizing the Media: Voices from the Indy Media Convergence

by John Tarleton
October 2000

Table of Contents

I. Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
II. Paul Chan, New York City IMC
III. Danny Schechter, Globalvision
IV. John Biello, Free Speech Activist
V. Susan Phillips, Philadelphia IMC
VI. Chad Lubelsky, Centre des Media Alternatifs du Quebec (CMAQ)
VII. "Luke", IWW/New York City IMC
VIII. Sheri Herndon, Seattle IMC

Burlington, VT.-Close to 200 journalists gathered at the Independent Media Convergence on the weekend of October 13-14 on the Trinity College campus in downtown Burlington. Most of the journalists came from the creative fringe of the media universe-community radio, public access cable TV, alternative newspapers/magazines and activist web sites. They listened to speeches from Amy Goodman, Michael Parenti and Njoki Njehu. They huddled in workshops and discussion groups to share experiences, to strategize and to try and take steps toward building a sustainable movement for media democracy in society heavily influenced by a handful of enormous media conglomerates.

"This a part of a historic battle that is already well underway," said Greg Guma of Toward Freedom, one of the event's co-sponsors. "We have to change relationships between individuals and the existing media."

The Convergence buzzed with ideas and optimism. The independent media has been a part of American life dating at least as far back as 1735 when John Peter Zenger was hauled into a New York court for insulting an official of the Crown. More recently, it has taken to the Internet with gusto, making the most of the Net's global reach and low publishing costs.

One of the most intriguing developments in the past year has been the development of the Independent Media Center (IMC), which first emerged last November in Seattle to cover massive anti-WTO protests. The IMC, which received 1.5 million hits during its coverage of the weeklong "Battle of Seattle", uses open source software and allows grassroots print, photo, audio and video journalists from around the world to all work together under the same virtual roof. The IMC has grown exponentially since Seattle. There are now 37 IMCs scattered in cities across the US and Canada and in countries around the world including Mexico, France, Italy and Israel. Globalizing from below, the IMC may have more "bureaus" than CNN or the New York Times by the end of 2001.

A contingent of about 40 IMC members from up and down the East Coast as well as Seattle and Vancouver attended the Convergence. After all the speeches and workshops were done, they decided to keep on going. Crowding into a small room across from the campus's main auditorium, they drew up an agenda, selected co-facilitators, broke into working groups, did "report backs" and inched forward in defining the values, mission and working structure of a decentralized global Internet news service. There was a hunger for a kind of meaningful, shared participation that has been a defining characteristic of the protest movement against corporate globalization.

How to increase intra-IMC coordination without curtailing the autonomy of local IMCs? Would a spokescouncil model spokescouncil model work? If so, what would it look like? How can the IMC obtain more funding and resources without becoming a professionalized bureaucracy? How can the IMC reach out beyond its white countercultural base? Should IMC try to upgrade its journalistic standards? Or, would that exclude too many people without formal journalistic training? How can the IMC keep itself as open as possible without allowing itself to be subverted by hostile groups that don't share its values? Is the IMC's orientation "anti-corporate" or "anti-capitalist"?

The questions came easier than the answers. Any decisions that could be reached would serve as recommendations to be passed along to various list serves for further discussion. 11 months into the IMC project, there was a sense of approaching new and previously uncharted frontiers of personal and collective self-expression.

What does it mean? Where do things go from here? How does the IMC's work relate to what independent media makers are doing with TV, radio and print publications? Having participated in five IMCs in the past year, I was eager to talk both with other IMC participants and sympathetic observers over the course of the weekend to find out what they were thinking.

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio's award winning morning news program. Goodman has traveled to danger zones such as East Timor, Nigeria and Peru where "the silence is the loudest". She was also at Seattle and covered this year's political conventions from the Philadelphia and Los Angeles IMCs. She spoke on the opening night of the Indy Media Convergence and encouraged everyone to become media activists. "We must become the independent media. It's something we all need to do," Goodman said. "...We are here to challenge those in power not to applaud them."

Chronicling Dissent in the New Millennium

JT: You were talking about a media revolution during your talk tonight. Could you expand on that a little bit since at this point most people are still getting their world view through television networks, the New York Times, their daily newspapers, etc.

AG: I think it's very important that there be independent media in this country and I do think that it's growing. There are people all over the country who are saying, "we're not going to view a global uprising against corporate power through a corporate lens. We want to see it through the eyes of people who are independent and who listen to people like ourselves and not like ourselves, unfiltered and not through corporate microphones". And that's what is beginning to happen.

You're getting IMC's all over the country. People with their video cameras and their tape recorders, not necessarily affiliated with a particular group, who are trying to chronicle dissent at the end of the 20th Century as we move into the new millennium.

JT: How do you see the audiences for the IMCs growing? To a large extent is it just activists talking to other activists? How do we get out of that closed shell we seem to be stuck in sometimes?

AG: (long pause)

JT: I think about this one everyday so I know there's not any simple answer to this question. But, if you have any thoughts....

AG: I think it's the majority opinion that's being expressed. I don't think this is a fringe opinion that we're talking about being covered. I think the majority is excluded from the media. I think there is resonance to just honestly, fairly covering these different events for local newspapers, for the Internet, for zines.

We're more connected to people around the world. So you have a potentially larger audience. I think we will see a resonance never seen before. So, I don't think you should just assume that you are talking to a small group of people.

The FCC, NAB and LP-FM

JT: There were recent protests out in San Francisco at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) conference. We've rarely seen that kind of protest aimed at corporate media in this country. Do you think that we will be more of these kind of protests?

AG: I think people are getting very frustrated. I think the whole movement for low-power FM is a very important one. Here you have the FCC ruling that there could be hundreds of low power stations for community groups, for school districts, so people could get information at a very local level. And, the Congress is fighting it because of the big broadcasters.

I think the more people here about that, the more they are going to challenge it. Because it's about community control. I think conservative/liberal labels break down when it comes to that. People care about being connected in their communities and having some sense of control. And, that's what low-power FM is all about

JT: Another thing with this growing protest movement is that since Seattle and Washington it seems to be increasingly marginalized in the mainstream media. How do you see the protesters avoiding the trap of having to be ever more outrageous to get the mainstream media's attention?

AG: I don't think peoples' actions should be dictated by the corporate media. I think people should get out there and express their opinions and not let the media define their actions.

JT: Talk a little bit about what you saw at the IMCs in Philadelphia and LA.

AG: People who were very committed. Not a lot of resources but a lot of people committed to communicating in all different ways: videos, Internet, photographs, writing. It was the beginning of something very important because a lot of people have been doing it individually but now they are coming together.

JT: Do you have any ideas about what the next phase should be for the IMCs?

AG: Where do you think they are going?

JT: Beyond focusing on the big protests, I'm hoping they sink roots into the communities they pop up in. The attraction of covering a big, glamorous action is obvious. Whether these IMCs can develop grassroots and cover the day-to-day stuff remains to be seen.

AG: That's a good answer.

JT: But you're being interviewed.

AG:But isn't that what IMCs are about? Turning the tape recorder around...

Paul Chan, New York City IMC

Paul Chan is a computer artist and a social activist who teaches multimedia at Fordham University in the Bronx and moonlights at the New York City IMC. NYC-IMC began as a listserv in May in the aftermath of the against the A16 Demonstrations World Bank and the IMF. Now, it has a small office on E. 29th St. and close to 100 people are already involved in this rapidly growing IMC. Chan emphasizes community outreach, teaching local activists how to do audio and video production on the Web.

"We see ourselves as a two-headed dragon," Chan said. "On the one hand, we're resource centered for training and workshops. And another is we're a media production house where through training we get material for us to produce things."

Building a Producer Base to Build an Audience

JT: It sounds like the NYC-IMC is preparing for the long haul. A lot of IMCs have been event-based. So, could you talk about the different approaches you all are taking to make this go for the long distance.

PC: We just don't want to burnout. And for IMCs, event-based actions tend to burn people out because there's such a lull.

The issues that the event talks about stay in the community after the event. Issues of anti-globalization affect neighborhoods like Harlem and the Bronx and the Lower East Side in ways we might not be able to see at the protests. Very pedestrian things like McDonalds going up. Another Gap going up. Low-wage jobs. Things like that.

So, what we're trying to do is connect these event-based actions by actively cultivating and outreaching for groups of producers from different neighborhoods to upload onto the site. And through these outreach meetings, we've hopefully built up coalitions. And once we build coalitions, it enriches our site, which we then produce media from. It's a dialectical process of building an audience based upon building a base of producers.

JT: What's you all's relationship at this point with local New York City activists, and how do you see that evolving?

PC: All our general meetings are open. We try to have calls and different listserv messages to get them to come. We have events. We have a workshop coming up next Saturday for different activists and different groups to talk about what we do at IMC as well as how we can train them to do video and audio. So, we try to reach them first of all through training. But once we reach them through training, then we talk about editorial process, politics, philosophy. Once they're in the space, these ideas will invariably cross-pollinate.

"There's Still an Unbearable Whiteness at the IMC"

JT: New York is the most culturally diverse city in the country. So, if IMC is going to make a big diversity breakthrough, New York is as good a place as any to make that happen.

PC: That's true. But on the other hand, I think there's still an unbearable whiteness at the IMC. The anti-globalization protests that Indy Media came out of compel certain politics. There is a race stratification. Activist minority groups such as SLAM haven't necessarily come into the fold. So what we're trying to do is actively think about how to make these issues of anti-globalization local and how to feed it back into the community so that they come to us and we come to them and somehow we talk.

JT: What kind of impact did the S8 (September 8) Millennium Summit protests at the UN have on both the activist community and the New York IMC. That was the first time I saw the New York site pop up.

PC: S8 was trial by fire. We learned a lot and came together. We really learned how to work together and what worked and what didn't. It was a wonderful experience not only externally in a sense that we did media support for the protests but internally in a sense that a quick provisional structure was set up. And once it was set up, we saw where the kinks were, where we had to build and what we needed to focus on and not focus on. It was wonderful. But after S8, we all knew we can't do an event-based IMC.

JT: You were talking about the "unbearable whiteness" of the IMC. Could you talk some more about this for white activists who say, "We're trying to do something that's going to help everybody. We're trying to do good work. What is it we're trying to do wrong? Why are people so upset that we're doing this the way we are?".

PC: It's not "wrong". It's simply that movements coming out of N30 (the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle) compel a certain alliance. So, it's not wrong. It's just that we have to actively seek to diversify. It's work that we do. It's not something we have to reprimand. Because, it's only with a diversity of race and gender that we can enrich the dialogue and the idea that globalization affects everyone.

JT: How do you see the New York City IMC and its local projects fitting into the larger scheme of what IMC is trying to do and what this whole movement is trying to do?

PC: The Independent Media Center exists in two forms right now, physical and virtual. Physically as spaces for local producers and media activists to get together to develop material which goes on-line, which is the virtual IMC in all its manifestations. I think what we're trying to do here at the New York IMC could become a model for other IMCs that have both a physical space and a virtual space.

Not a lot of IMCs have physical spaces. They only exist on-line. So, they're getting together through email lists, through telephones, meeting in delis, coffee shops, whatever. We have an office and what we're trying to do is not only create a new audience for the coverage we make to support the actions and protests that have been going on either through anti-globalization issues or local social and political issues, but also actively create and develop a new breed of producers. So, we're trying to do outreach and organizing through tech workshops, writing workshops, etc. in order to produce producers for the site and in doing so create an energy and perhaps a vibe and certainly a compulsion for people to look at what we're doing.

Growing Pains

JT: Looking at the other IMCs out there, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the IMC so far? And, what are you guys going to do to build on that and learn from what others are doing?

PC: These are less weaknesses than growing pains for something that's been so new. It's incredible to think that IMCs started in November of last year. And now there are over 30 IMC sites around the world with their own autonomous way of running things. And, each IMC has to deal with their own problems.

From here in New York, it's the need to cater to a lot of different needs. Are we an activist organization? Are we a media organization? Are we a media outlet/resource center? Or, can we be all of them and still be productive and supportive of what is basically the body of this thing, which is the people on the streets protesting? How do we as media producers and activists support, cultivate, shape and inform this movement that needs and wants a voice to articulate its ideas, desires, and hopes for a more equitable society?

JT: As an artist, when you're in the streets at these protests, what would you describe as the aesthetic of this movement?

PC: It's very visual. It's wonderful to see the puppets. There's a real grammar being developed. If you look at the protest signs, they're very visual, very appealing-not only visually but intellectually. It's very witty. There's a real humor to it. I think that really adds to the enlargement of the movement.

The visual grammar and aesthetics is so important because that's how we reach a larger group of people. There's a historical, visual grammar to protest and I'm glad to see this protest movement taking hints from that history but moving beyond it as well, contributing something. It's very exciting. But, what we have to do is continually change with the times. We have to create a new visual grammar to articulate the anti-corporate movement which links into so many other movements from the past.

"Your Political Perspective Depends on Who You Identify With"

JT: How did you become motivated to make independent media and become involved in these kind of activities? Why is it important enough for you to put in all these extra hours doing this work when you already have a full-time job?

PC: I think I can answer that anecdotally. In New York, when you walk down the street you see people sleeping on the sidewalk. You go into delis and see people who are tired and overworked. People begging for change on the street. You yourself not having enough money to support yourself. I suppose your political perspective depends on who you identify with and who your friends are. When you see your friends suffering, you feel like you have to do something. You can't ignore it any longer. Political perspectives come from the recognition that we are connected in a very social way and that our problems can change, that their human not natural.

It's not natural for people to be hungry. It's not natural for people to be angry. It's not natural for people to be oppressed based on certain economic and social motives. As an artist, the way that I can contribute is to provide an aesthetic sense of where the movement is, what is the movement, how do we visualize the movement, how do we talk about it in a visual form. But I think for all of us as writers, photographers, artists, the fundamental question is, "Is this all there is? And, can things change?" When you identify with people who are suffering and could be better, your answer has to be, "Yes, things have to change. Whatever is necessary to do that is gonna be ok".

Danny Schechter, Global Vision

Television as Sellovision. Images overpowering ideas. Corporate and government propaganda posing as news. Danny Schechter, formerly a producer at ABC and CNN and news director at WCBN in Boston, has grappled with these problems during his 30 years as a journalist. He is the author of The More You Watch, The Less You Knowand The News Dissector. Schechter has launched alternatives like Globalvision, which has produced award-winning human rights TV shows,and most recently the Media Channel, a web site linking more than 520 affiliates.

"I joined the media to spotlight the problems of the world," Schechter said. "And, I came to see media as one of the problems of the world."

Strengths and Weaknesses of the IMC

JT: You've done a lot of high quality media work over the years. Could you talk about what you see as the strengths and the weaknesses of the IMCs that are currently popping up all over the place?

DS: We've highlighted and supported and promoted the IMCs because we're really impressed with the energy level, the spontaneity of it, the involvement of so many people who passionately care about issues and writing about their own experience. When an action is underway, it's the prime source for what is actually happening. And in that respect, it's very good.

There are three areas I worry about. One is the kind of self-righteousness that can come about because we are on the right side of these issues and all these other mainstream media assholes are defending the system and so we see them as our enemy rather than as people we can talk to, learn from in some instances and get information to. So, one thing is attitude. Trying to be a little bit humbler and a little bit more willing to reach out because the message and the information is so important and it's important that as many people get it as possible.

The second area I worry a little bit about is what's called journalistic standards, though I don't hold to any holy view of this like the New York Times is the embodiment of all good. But, being accurate, trying to be fair in our reporting, not reporting stuff you don't know to be true, or if you don't know it to be true, indicate that as much so that people can trust in the credibility of what's on the IMC sites. A lot of time you're not sure what's opinion and what's reporting. I think there has to be some attempt to separate the two in some way so the audience knows what's what.

The third is a little bit harder reporting and investigation on the part of journalists. Really try and do more than just one source. It's easy to go out and talk to somebody and get one point of view. But sometimes it's good to know something about the documents, the background of a particular situation, who the experts are and the like so that the reporting is up to the same standard as the activism. The (current wave of) activism is revitalizing all activism. The IMC journalism is not as advanced maybe as the activism or as creative, yet. But, I think it's getting there.

"Let's Try and Be a Little Bit More Intergenerational"

JT: What are some concrete steps that IMCs can take to develop a little bit more mature journalism?

DS: Well, let's try and be a little bit more intergenerational. Let's link with people who've been around for awhile doing this and want to be supportive. And maybe we can learn from you. At Media Channel, for example, we would like to be linked to from all the IMC sites. We would like to link to all the IMC sites. That's one very simple thing.

Get some independent opinions on what you're doing. Go to people you respect. Ask them to critique your sites. Just like I asked you to critique mine. Let's see if we can learn from criticism and acknowledge some of the controversies, that some of the issues are controversial and that people have more than one point of view on them. Let's hear all the debate. It's interesting.

JT: Talk a little bit more about the project you are working on and why it is you've chosen to go a more independent route instead of trying to participate in the corporate media.

DS: I joined the media to spotlight the problems of the world. And, I came to see the media as one of the problems of the world. So, I felt like we needed a site that was dedicated to monitoring media and analyzing what the media is doing; alerting people to the role media plays in globalization for example. Getting media under the microscope of activism. And, that's what I'm trying to do. Media Channel started with 50 affiliates and now we have 525. We're not for profit. And we share the values of the need for change that the IMCs do.

John Biello, Free Speech Activist

John Biello is suing the radio network he loves. Pacifica Radio, the nation's first listener-supported radio network, was founded in 1949 in Berkeley, CA. by Lew Hill, a World War II conscientious objector. Now, Pacifica's national board is facing three lawsuits; one of them from listeners like Biello, another from its Local Advisory Boards (LABs) and a third from dissident members of the board itself.

Long a bastion of left alternative thinking, Pacifica has been engulfed since the mid-'90s by a protracted leadership struggle between a national board (with close ties to business and government) that wants to move the network toward more upscale mainstream programming and grassroots activists who want the network to remain faithful to its original mission.

Pacifica has powerful FM stations (now worth an estimated $400-500 million) in five major urban areas-Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, New York and Washington, DC.-as well as 30-40 affiliates scattered around the country. Biello says he is trying to help stop the destruction of a "national treasure".

"A radio network like Pacifica cannot be replaced at this point by the Internet," Biello said. "We need to work together."

The Hijacking of Pacifica

JT: Jack, you talked about how the real problem with Pacifica isn't personalities but structure. Can you expand on that some more? What are some of the structural dynamics driving the Pacifica crisis, both economic and political?

JB: The reason I say there is a structural crisis is that the board of the Pacifica National Foundation is being used for purposes that directly contradict their stated reason for existing. The board's structure has been taken over by people whose agenda does not match that on which Pacifica was founded.

JT: It seems like everything going on at Pacifica right now seems to be running counter to this growing trend of media activism and democratizing the media. Where do you see this going from here when so many people are demanding more accountability from the media and the Pacifica board is going the opposite direction?

JB: That's an interesting juxtaposition. You just saw a tape where the director of the Pacifica National Board, Mary Francis Berry, was confronted publicly and she was claiming that there was a cabal interested in taking over Pacifica, when she in fact is a key representative of a group that is subverting the stated by-laws of the Pacifica National Foundation. So, it seems as though we've entered the bizarre world of the Wizard of Oz.

Everything that they are saying is the opposite of what anyone who is looking can tell is true. They suggest that people of color don't support Pacifica. Meanwhile, they have fired or forced into resignation several hundred people of color nationally. Forced them out of local stations. They claim that the local stations are producing "specialty information". Yet, that results in KPFA (Berkeley) and WBAI (New York) raising a million dollars a piece, 17% of which goes to fund the Pacifica National Board. The contradictions are just too numerous to mention.

They've made themselves less accountable to the people who donate to the stations. What they are now doing is defending against three simultaneous lawsuits which are attempting to hold them accountable for their actions. So on the one hand they are saying, "we want to be more accountable for our actions" and on the other hand they are defending themselves against three lawsuits that say they are taking very real actions that make them unaccountable. So, it's a very interesting contradiction.

Radicals vs. Corporate Liberals

JT: One person was asking earlier how much of this is a situation of basically young and old radicals vs. corporate liberals and '60s sell-outs vying for control, and that what is happening at Pacifica mirrors the homogenization of Left politics under the New Democrats of the Clinton Era.

JB: There's not a divide between one audience and another audience. The reason the lawsuits have been filed is that people of conscience are concerned that people who seem to have no conscience are taking over the assets of the Pacifica National Foundation either with the intent or the objective of selling the assets and liquidating these assets for whatever reason. Whether it's a political reason or an economic reason the end result is the same: the Pacifica Network will no longer exist.

JT: I didn't mean a divide in the audience. I meant the contending parties.

JB:That isn't what the issue is about. The issue is about people who are calling for an adherence to the original mission of the Pacifica Network and for an adherence to their own by-laws before they were changed by the existing members of the board.

JT:What do you hope to find during the discovery process that this lawsuit will trigger?

JB: My guess is that we'll find memorandum and communications between various members of the board and various members of the business community that indicate their interest in liquidating the assets of the Pacifica Network for either personal or corporate gain.

The Power of Radio

JT: Switching away from Pacifica, as a media activist what's been your impression over the past 11 months of the strengths and the weaknesses of the Independent Media Centers and where you'd like to see them go from here?

JB: The strengths of the Independent Media Centers are that they have people on-site witnessing things and then publishing without passing through the filters of corporate editorial process, that they don't have an agenda based on profit, that they have an agenda to pursue based on their political leanings or their interest in providing public access media.

The weakness is essentially the same thing. There is no editorial process. So the person who is consuming what they see on independent media sites has to do their own editing of what they read. Some of that we can tell is extremely accurate. Multiple reports by eyewitnesses on the scene. Some of the stuff we see is largely conjecture and rumor. Some parts I read and say, "this is clearly nonsense" and I ignore it. It's important for people to do their own editing and recognize their reading an unedited stream. What more robust form of democratic media can we have?

JT: What were your motivations and interests that led you into media activism and specifically into being so passionately concerned about Pacifica?

JB: I saw the power that radio can have on people because your imagination fills in for things that would otherwise be given to you on a platter by television. Radio has the power to reach people cheaply and in multiple languages.

JT: You were saying during your talk that the CIA, wherever they are operating, has getting a radio station as one of its first objectives.

JB: We should learn from our opposition. They believe radio is important. And so do I.

JT: This January the FCC gave limited approval for licensing low power stations. That's been kicked around in Congress and apparently shot down for the moment. What do you see as the potential for low-power FM in the coming years and how that could complement everything you all are doing to keep a viable Pacifica on the air?

JB: It seems to complement it directly because people who don't have a lot of money can create their own radio station and reach other people who don't have a lot of money and gather together their forces to create a unified social movement to teach social change. So, low-power microradio is a crucial element. Just as the distribution of low-powered radios is a crucial element. Or, the distribution of low-cost computers. The idea is to get the power of the technology to the people. That way, they can distribute information to others and together be able to take effective action.

Susan Phillips, Philadelphia IMC

The Philadelphia IMC was a beehive of activity during the week (July 29-Aug. 4)of the Republican National Convention. While 15,000 accredited journalists from around the world gathered to cover the Republicans, hundreds of mostly young people poured into the streets with pens, notepads, tape recorders and video cameras to chronicle the turbulent protests that swirled around the carefully scripted convention.

Susan Phillips was one of the writers and editors for The Unconvention, a daily paper that the IMC published during the convention. She has remained involved with the Philadelphia IMC as it tries to become a permanent alternative news source in its community.

Beyond the Republican Convention

JT: There was a really energetic IMC in Philadelphia during the Republican convention. Talk a little bit about where the Philly IMC has gone since the end of the convention.

SP: Right now, the print group is still meeting regularly. We're still planning to come out with a newspaper. We haven't figured out if this is going to be a monthly newspaper. But, that's what we're hoping for.

We're still covering the issues around the R2K events. The video group is working on a documentary about court solidarity. Also, the audio team is working on getting together a webcasting station. That's practically the projects going on right now. We've also been talking about proposals for a structure, mission statements, getting ourselves a space.

JT: Has there been any general drift about how people feel they want to structure this thing?

SP: Generally, with the print group, we want to emphasize getting out the paper. And that's not exclusive of what other people want to do. It's different from providing a public access space for people to come and make their own video. There's people who want to get a space together so they can have equipment and people can access the Web and access video. But, we're still hashing that out. Nothing is solid.

JT: What kind of alternative media is there in Philadelphia? What kind of gap are you trying to fill? And also, what were the origins and history of Philly IMC leading up to when it took center stage in late July?

SP: I wasn't around for the origins of it. But as I understand, people got together and decided to put together an independent media center when they found out the Republican Convention was going to happen in Philadelphia. There were lots of meetings and lots of discussion about what to do and what not to do. I became involved in May with the print group.

There's two daily newspapers in Philadelphia that are owned by the same company. And, they are very bad. At the beginning of this century, there were dozens of daily papers.

There's two weekly papers that sort of compete with each other about covering cultural events, and they kind of fancy themselves as more progressive and "alternative". And, sometimes they really do come out with some really good stories and features. But by and large, when it came to covering the Republican Convention they were abysmal, I thought. In fact, after the Republicans went home there was commentary in one paper that lambasted the protesters and just trivialized all the issues they were talking about. They're really like the other papers. They may have a little more latitude and sort of consider themselves hip. Really, they also depend on their advertisers. So that's the fate of alternative media in Philadelphia. There's not much going on.

R2K Fallout

JT: What's been the local fallout in Philly the last couple of months since the end of the protests and the mass arrests?

SP: There's been a lot of fallout in the activist community. There's a lot of talk about what they did right and what they did wrong. My sense is that initially people were shell-shocked and their morale was pretty low and they were worried because people were facing felony charges. And, there still are people facing felony charges. But, I think with the ensuing court solidarity and support amongst people who were put in jail and people coming together and helping each other my sense is that morale has improved.

But, there is still an enormous amount of fallout. For instance, during the Prague demonstrations on September 26 there were support demonstrations all over the world and in cities in the United States. But, there weren't any in Philly. And, I think one of the reasons was people were still dealing with the effects of having so many people put in jail and high bails and heavy charges made against them.

JT: Are the police still trying to implicate the IMC as being a co-collaborator in these protests because it dispatched its reporters out to cover the breaking news?

SP: As far as the IMC, there's not really been any direct police harassment since the Republican Convention. There's probably infiltration. There's probably surveillance. But, aside from being mentioned in the State Police report about the supposed IMC surveilling of police, which is kind of hysterical, nothing has happened. No charges have been made against anyone in the IMC. Nothing has come out in court about the IMC.

Creating an Alternative Voice

JT: How did you first become involved in independent media and why is it important enough for you to put all this time into it?

SP: A friend I did videos with asked me to get involved and invited me to come to this party and find out what was going on. I'd always been an activist and a writer but I never had combined them in this way.

One of the reasons why I think it (the IMC) is so important is because our media is so distorted. As an activist, I've never been one of those people who are like, "we've gotta convince the media to be there. We've got to convince the media of our story". I've always felt it was kind of useless, kind of like voting for the Democrats.

For me, it makes perfect sense to make your own media, to make your own movement. I do think it's so important. People who are even superficially progressive and used to be radical or people who were arrested and are now in their 40s and 50s in Philadelphia really were very critical of the activists and I think a lot of that had to do with what they were reading in the press. Even they were susceptible to that kind of propaganda.

I think everyone is. You have to work really hard not to be susceptible to these messages that are pounded into your head constantly. One of the ways I do it is I just don't even listen to the news. The level of media literacy in this country is really abysmal. People just absorb these messages that keep coming to them without critically thinking. That's not to say they don't have that capacity. It's just that they've never been presented with any kind of alternative.

The Independent Media Center movement is really important in creating alternative voices accessible to as many people as possible. I think that's essential to any kind of radical movement. Information is power and people need that information in order to analyze situations that are going on not only across the globe but right there in their own neighborhoods and how the oppression and problems they are facing in their own neighborhoods is related to people far away who have similar problems.

Chad Lubelsky, Centre des Media Alternatifs du Quebec


Chad Lubelsky is helping to coordinate CMAQ, a Montreal-based cousin of He previously worked as an assignment editor for KRON-TV in San Francisco, where his interest in social issues was not well-received.

"I found very much what scholars talk about that when you enter a culture you very quickly adapt your morals to go with that culture," Lubelsky said.

CMAQ plans to cover the Summit of the Americas next spring in Quebec City. Thirty-four heads of state from every country in the hemisphere (except Cuba) will gather from April 20-23 to try and jump start negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), which has been dubbed "NAFTA on steroids" by its critics.

Globalization, according to Lubelsky, has been an important issue in French-speaking Quebec for decades. The Quebecois played a key role in torpedoing negotiations on the Multilateral Accord on Investment (MAI), which were held in Montreal in May 1998. Lubelsky expects they will resist the FTAA as well.

"People recognize what's at stake," he says. "People want to know what's going on and they get informed and then they act...There's no reason to think that it's not going to be the same in Quebec City."

Bringing Together Alternative Media

JT: CMAQ isn't under the IMC label but it appears to be doing a lot of similar things. Can you talk about what CMAQ's plans and aspirations are and what kind of niche it is trying to fill in Quebec?

CL: Our plans are actually very similar to what the IMC's plans are. We have similar objectives, similar goals and we are reaching out to similar people. At the moment, we have a different interface. I guess that's a bit of a shame. I suppose some of our objectives are a little bit different in that the main language in Quebec isn't English or Spanish. So along those lines, we have a little bit of a problem with the IMC. But, we're definitely interested in having partnerships with them.

In terms of what we hope to do in Quebec, we hope to bring together all the different alternative media and also to provide a platform for people to upload work they've been doing and eventually as well to put on training sessions and workshops as some of the other IMCs have been doing. One thing we don't want is to just be event-based.

So, in April 2001 there's a big hemispheric meeting of all the leaders except from Cuba to form a free trade zone in the Americas, FTAA. We're working up to that but we don't want it to be just centered around that. There's a lot of other things going on. There are a lot of other globalization issues. So, we see CMAQ as a way to begin preparing for Quebec City and to be a key element in the protests in Quebec City but then also to continue afterwards.

An Alternative Culture Inside an Alternative Culture

JT: What's the situation with the alternative media in Quebec right now? Describe it a little bit and put it in a bit of comparative context with what you see down here in the United States.

CL: When you talk about Quebec alternative media, you have to talk about the English and the French media. There are those who would argue that by the sheer fact that French is a different language all French speaking media is alternative.

People in the French corporate media will have a different take than the rest of the North American media. And then, there's the French alternative media, which I would say is very, very strong, especially considering the population. Quebec has always had a very nationalist bent. Some would say revolutionary. Just for that sheer fact alone, there's always been a strong, strong access to information and more access to ways to publish these ideas. It's been strong in Quebec for a long time and will continue to be so.

JT: How have the people in the Indy Media movement tried to deal with the English-French separation? How much of a hurdle has it been, both linguistically and psychologically?

CL: Linguistically, it's not that much of a problem because at least inside Montreal a lot of the French people speak English and a lot of English people speak French. So, that's not the real issue.

The problem comes up for example when we're talking about globalization and things of this nature. A lot of the French independent media people will say, "well, part of this is that Quebec needs to separate from Canada". Then, of course, on the English side people will say, "no, we don't need to do that". So when people start staking clear ideas on the whole separation issue in Canada, it can be very, very polarizing. When we don't do that, there's more opportunities for reapproachment.

JT: Can you give some concrete examples of how globalization is an important issue to people in Quebec?

CL: Globalization is a huge issue inside Quebec. I would say that it's been an issue since long before it became an issue elsewhere in Canada or the United States simply because there are 7 million French people in a sea of 300 million English speaking people.

What's going on in the States is welcome. But in Quebec this has been going on since the 1960s. Issues of American cultural imperialism or hegemony strike very close to home in Quebec. There's a huge, huge resistance to it. Part of that is that Quebec has its own culture industry. We have our own films, our own television programs, our own radio. And, it's all done for a relatively small audience. And, it's truly different than what you will see in the rest of Canada.

Preparing for FTAA

JT: Do you anticipate that people in Quebec will enthusiastically embrace this counter summit and protest around the FTAA?

CL: I think, yes, the people of Quebec are going to embrace it, just from talking to people on the streets.

Montreal is a big, big university town. Per capita, we have more students than Boston. There's a lot of students inside of Montreal. In general, we're more politically aware because so much of our existence revolves around politics. People recognize what's at stake. People want to know what's going on and they try to get informed and then they act. There's a history of acting based on knowledge...There's no reason to think that it's not going to be the same in Quebec City.

When the MAI (Multilateral Accord on Investment) was meeting inside Montreal (May 1998), the Quebecers were key in getting it stopped because they shut down the Sheraton Hotel where they were meeting and they were one of the first people to get the idea to just stop the meeting. And, I think we're going to see that again in Quebec City but only in much bigger, bigger numbers. At the moment, we're coordinating hemispheric networks to get people to come up and to really fight this thing. It's gonna happen.

Sparky the Cat

JT: To go a different direction, why does doing independent media matter to you? How did you first become involved?

Independent media matters to me because I used to work in the corporate media.

JT: Tell us more.

CL: I was an assignment editor at a television station (KRON-Channel 4) in San Francisco, the NBC affiliate which I hear is now no longer the NBC affiliate.

I found it a very, very frustrating experience. I have a pretty in-depth academic background and I went to work at the news. I've always been pretty socially aware and I thought, "OK, maybe I can change things from the inside because institutions can be very, very intimidating to deal with on the outside". And on the inside, I found very much what scholars talk about when you enter a culture, you very quickly adapt your morals to go with that culture. I found that happening and even when it wasn't and I voiced oppositional ideas, they were quickly squashed.

Just a quick example. There were a series of residential hotel fires in San Francisco. These residential hotels mostly had homeless people living in them. In one of those fires, we had some dramatic video of a cat falling out of a fourth floor window. The cat survived. Then about three weeks later we get a press release saying that the cat, Sparky, was now coming out of the hospital, if we wanted to come take some pictures.

I said, "OK, we'll take some pictures of the cat. But, it might also be a great idea to do a follow up on the homeless people in the street". And people said, "No, nobody's interested in that". We weren't going to do it.

Another time, they had just released statistics saying that even though the American economy was beginning to grow, the gap between rich and poor was increasing. I said, "let's do a story on this". And they said, "Now we can't. It's too complicated". And I said, "I don't see how this is too complicated for television. We have video. We have audio. We have everything you need to explain the story. How can it be too complicated?". And I was told, "Well, it's not very visually good. We can't do a story like that".

Things like this led me to believe that working in the corporate media just wasn't the way I wanted to go.

"Luke", IWW/New York City IMC

"Luke" (who asked not be identified by his name) is a veteran labor organizer and a member of the International Workers of the World (IWW). The IWW, a radical labor union which is "dedicated to preserving democracy by overthrowing capitalism", enjoyed its heyday in the early 1900s before it was suppressed by the US government during World War I. It has had a modest resurgence in recent years. Patient, soft-spoken and unrelenting in his critique of capitalism, Luke urged younger IMC members not to backslide into "reformism" as they built up an alternative media system.

"I would like to make it perfectly clear there is no reforming," Luke said. "Ultimately, there's no way to make capitalism compatible with community. The two are at odds with each other."

The IMC and Labor

JT: How would you like to see the IMCs cover labor and labor-related issues not only in a grand, abstract way but also in their communities? One of the ironies of picking up the daily paper is that it always has a business section but it never has a labor section that talks about those issues or provides a kind of quality journalism describing the lives and aspirations and difficulties of people who go to work every day.

Luke: Everybody works. Or if they don't work, they are unemployed or in jail. The media has every interest in suppressing the importance of work to capitalism.

The threat of real unions-not business, bureaucratic, service model unions-but unions of workers themselves in control of their own circumstances is an enormous threat to capital and of course it is sanitized out of every quarter of our world. Issues like democratic control of the means of production, health care, child care, and the reduction of the work week to 30 hours are totally obliterated from our imaginations at this point.

I think the IMC can do a great job of bringing to light those struggles and making them front and center in the kind of work we do. And by doing so, making these discussion more common.

JT: What is the organizing process used at the IWW and what are the goals that you all are pursuing?

Luke: It's highly democratic, worker-to-worker organizing. It's a do-it-yourself union. The dues are low. The effort is on building solidarity and democracy among workers. Right now, we're trying to organize several shops in New York.

The IWW model of industrial unionism across trade lines is very effective and very dangerous. So, a lot of effort has gone into developing business model trade unions and avoiding the dangerous notion of cross-trade unionization. Organizations of trades with asynchronous contracts at particular job sites pits one worker or one trade against another. Whereas if everyone is organized together with a common adversary, they'll strike together. They'll shut the business down. They'll get their demands met. Anything that's effective is virtually illegal in terms of labor.

The other thing about the IWW is that it's a revolutionary union. It's not reformist. It's not an employment agency for the capital class. Most unions are. Most unions are deeply invested in the success of capitalism.

The reason we have a relative amount of labor quiet in this country is that the success of most pension funds comes out of the success of the stock market. So, workers very much support the exploitation of Indonesian workers in order to make their retirement more comfortable. But, they don't know that. The IWW doesn't support large pension funds. It doesn't provide that. It's goal is to organize workers in order to transform capitalism not to sustain it. Two different strategies.

Forming More Stable Networks

JT: Looking into the future, what do you think will become of this movement against corporate globalization and the IMCs that both cover and help to stimulate it?

Luke: I could say what I would like to happen. I would like to see the culture workers in the IMCs and the technology workers view what they do as an actual service and organize appropriately with or without money. I would like to see them form more stable networks that can have a deeper effect on the communities they work in.

I think we have to pay a lot of attention to the structure of the IMC itself; that we set up very clear but democratic structures for the IMC to operate on. The equipment should be collectively shared and owned in some respects, especially on the local level. On the continental level, the sharing of resources and networks has to become a little more clear and discussions of incorporating are not necessarily bad. If we could approach it the right way, it could offer a lot of help.

JT: You're talking about 501c3 status?

Luke: Stuff like that. There's a lot more that could be done technologically with the IMCs. For instance, audio and digital files could have abstracts and descriptions of what they are and be put in a database to be searched. That requires another level of technological sophistication and centralization.

That raises questions of how we get the IMCs to be sustainable. Volunteer to be sure but where necessary supported financially as well. A lot of people have different views. I'm more sympathetic to the volunteer aspect of it just out of fear of bureaucratization. It's a subtle trade-off. Also, a lot of people who are involved have vague ideas of what democracy means.

"There's No Way to Make Capitalism Compatible with Community"

JT: In what direction would you like to see those ideas clarified?

Luke: I would like it to be perfectly clear there's no reforming. Ultimately, there's no way to make capitalism compatible with community. The two things are at odds with each other. There's no painting a smiley face on capitalism.

People in the IMC have to be very clear about what their project is; that it's a revolutionary project not a reformist one. Having said that, I think the strategies and tactics we use daily will probably embrace reformist projects like the Nader project as a transmission belt into society at large. You can't move someone from A to Z in one step. Using strategies and tactics with a clear end vision of revolution is different than with an end vision of reform. I think a lot of folks aren't particularly clear on that.

I often detect a kind of friendly, bourgeois liberalism from people who haven't encountered the effects of capitalism and may have in fact benefited from it. Many of the people involved are quite privileged. The level of the education and the equipment being used reflects that privilege.

It's a lot to ask people who have benefited from the System to go about dismantling it, though I feel in their hearts that's what they want to do. They're feeling that there's ways to make capitalism friendlier or more compatible with community, which I don't think can happen. I'd be curious if someone had a plan that could convince me it could.

Thoughts on Anarchism

JT: How do you feel about the anarchic approach and philosophy of many of the people who are involved in the IMC; the emphasis on consensus process, spokescouncils, things like that. How do you approach intermingling with that kind of philosophy?

Luke: From my perspective, I arrived at the position I am now primarily through anarchism, through Bakunin, Kropotkin and a whole host of others. I tend not to share the hostility that most anarchists have toward Marxism. And, I certainly don't share it coming back the other way from Marxists. It's foolish to ignore Marx. His critique of the dialectical method is phenomenally powerful.

JT: I guess I was asking about the vanguardist idea of making social change vs. the direct democracy, egalitarian ethos that is deeply embedded in the IMC.

Luke: The socialist organization I'm involved with is a grassroots, democratic organization. It's not a vanguardist organization. I myself would never subscribe to a vanguardist position. I think that's a huge mistake that many socialist governments have made. Much of what I find very exciting about the IMC's activities right now is their commitment to grassroots organizing.

One problem I've encountered is with people who suffer from youth. Their incredible enthusiasm is beautiful and wonderful but at the same time there is a na´vetÚ that consensus can solve all problems.

Consensus is extremely useful and meaningful in reaching certain types of decisions at certain scales. What is meant by "direct democracy" is pretty vague from what I can understand. If you're talking about a room of 20 and a limited decision, consensus is a very easy way to arrive at it. If you're talking about a congress of 500 and you have divergent points of view, consensus becomes difficult.

Voting and consensus and other approaches have to be employed at the right point. That's being true to the goal of self-rule and being conscious of certain types of efficiency in decision making. It's a balance. The trick is to pay close attention to distributing power to as many points as possible; not allowing entrenched hierarchies to develop and take control. If you pay attention to the larger issues of consolidation of power, the ways of making decisions can become less doctrinaire.

Community IMCs

JT: Talk a little bit more about how you see these IMCs, which began with mass demonstrations in Seattle and Washington, D.C., becoming more of a presence in their local communities?

Luke: I think that the covering of mass demonstrations from the perspective of the demonstrators is necessary. It has allowed a far wider audience to see what these demonstrations are about. So, the demonstrations have been very good for raising the general consciousness.

At this point, we need to pay more attention to what the IMCs can do in their local communities. In New York at least, the prevailing sensibility is to use the IMC to enable people to find their own voice by offering the IMC's power and capabilities to other coalitions and groups that share a revolutionary perspective. There's an idea of allowing people to make their own literature and write their own stories and in doing so help folks clarify what they want and how they can go about doing it.

"60, 70 and 80-Year-Olds Have A Lot to Say and Contribute"

JT: There was a lot of talk again this weekend about the need for more diversity in the IMCs, especially the need for more people of color. One of the things that struck me was that at 40 you were one of the oldest people in the room. Do you have any suggestions about how IMC can reach out to older people, many of whom have been through quite a lot of social movements themselves, and go beyond being a largely youth project?

Luke: As the IMCs become more stable and shift from covering the flashfires of mass demonstrations to being the deeper more durable community projects that everyone wants, you will find that the IMCs by necessity will have to find ways of bringing in wisdom and older voices. 40 is old by some standards. But, a lot of 60, 70 and 80-year-olds have a lot to say and to contribute. And, I think we will see a more diverse spectrum in the coming years.

I think age is less consequential than racial and gender issues. Right now, the biggest demographic problems at the IMCs is that they tend to be stemming from a middle and upper middle class, largely white background having to do with their privilege.

Having encountered this technology for years as kids, they have the creativity to figure out a way to utilize it to empower themselves. And now, the idea is to share it with other communities. The trick is to not ask people to join us but for us to find out respectful ways to join other struggles and then cross-pollinate them with the capabilities that the IMC has.

Unfiltered Journalism

JT: With the IMCs, there's some professional quality journalism that goes up there. At the same time, there's a liberating quality in that people enter at all different levels of experience and the IMCs aren't hobbled by the idea that journalism has to be done one certain way.

Luke: One of the things that is interesting is that as the cost of technology and distribution drops the content can shift from professionally to personally produced and bypass the standard filters of corporate media. The really threatening thing is that for the first time people are finding ways in large numbers to distribute information and concerns from many individuals to many individuals with a minimum of censorship.

That has pitfalls with accuracy and things like that. However, the ability to cheaply get the message out and to have multiple viewpoints and to do that simultaneously is an explosive situation. As the entry cost to the Internet and the costs of computers drops, the effect of that will continue to increase.

The Double Bind

JT: Do you foresee at some point a government crackdown on this kind of activity? How long do you think this can go on pretty much unrestrained?

Luke: Of course the government is going to crack down. But, there's a little bit of a double bind.

The irony is that the government developed the Internet through the DARPA Net. There were some very clever people involved and there concerns were basically to make the Internet into a large neural network. It was designed to reroute itself around nuclear attack so that communication would stay up during war. The beauty of the Internet is that the very things that brought it into existence are turning out to be useful to people like ourselves. It becomes very difficult to cut out a piece and remove it when that piece is replicated in a thousand different sites.

The government of course is attempting legal strategies to control content and roll back First Amendment rights. At the same time, they need to have secure transactions for commerce. And they have to begin to tolerate higher levels of encryption in order to satisfy people with security concerns. That same stuff becomes very useful to us in terms of communicating with each other.

Probably the most exciting development is the first steps Napster has taken and moving from that into Freenet or Gnutella, which basically decentralizes into tens of thousands of servers around the planet. So, everyone has a front porch they've set aside to act as a virtual server. People swap files in an infinite number of places. These distributed networks will make it increasingly difficult for the government to shut down ISPs (Internet Service Providers) because of objectionable content. That has to be very threatening to people in power.

JT: You were saying there was another development recently besides all the stuff with Napster and Gnutella.

Luke: Freenet. Napster is still, essentially, a centrally controlled system. But with Freenet, the more subscribers the larger the network becomes. Anyone who has 100 megabytes to spare suddenly becomes a distributing server. There's discussion about the IMCs being able to fragment or mirror their information in so many places that it can't be brought down, which I think is exciting.

Internal Struggles

JT: Besides the possibilities of what the government might do to derail the IMC project, what are the potential problems we could have of derailing ourselves?

Luke: The boogeyman of the government and the FBI and the CIA is a real sexy issue. But, in my opinion the real problems are internal and have to do with group psychology.

I think the biggest struggle will be among ourselves. These loose knit coalitions can work very nicely during limited amounts of time. But when you try to build more durable, effective structures, you encounter personal histories, future desires, differences of opinion, all kinds of stuff. Figuring out a way to work with that is the main challenge.

The IMC and the Corporate Media

JT: Many of the people involved with the anti-corporate globalization movement are highly media savvy. They understand spin and staying on-message and using good visuals. How much do you think can ultimately be gained from all this? How do you think over the long haul the corporate media is going to respond to these protests? And, how much impact will IMC have on the way corporate media portrays all this?

Luke: You're going to see a Disneyfication of the IMC model. Like the Monkees in the '60s were an Establishment creation to distract attention from more revolutionary rock bands. With Disneyfication, you will probably see a lot of lip service being paid to empowerment and involvement but the actual issues will be severely curtailed.

The IMC is a resonant idea. Millions of people have logged onto these sites. Yet, capital has a way of grabbing all kinds of stuff which threaten it and then assimilating it within its own strategies. The Nike commercials. Benetton ads. Advertisement is like an amoeba that just sucks things in. There are folks out there dreaming of ways of neutering the threat of it while utilizing the process in order to increase their wealth. That's inevitable. We'll probably have that effect on mainstream media.

As far as changing mainstream media and making it more democratic, that's not going to happen unless we change capitalism. Capital cannot tolerate democratic input. It can only tolerate it to persuade people they have power when they actually don't. So, we're not going to have any real effect on corporate media. It will maintain itself as the dominant model. What we can do is develop a media system outside, over and underneath the mainstream media.

Sheri Herndon, Seattle IMC

Sheri Herndon is the former news director at KCMU Public Radio in Seattle. She was one of the original organizers of the Seattle IMC which sprang up in the fall of 1999 to cover the WTO protests. The Indy Media movement has exploded since then. Hopeful and energetic, Sheri was constantly on the move during the convergence—speaking, planning, organizing. I was only able to catch up with her on Sunday afternoon after she sprained her ankle during an anarchist (no scorekeeping, players constantly changing teams) ultimate frisbee game. Despite being in a lot of pain, she talked for a few minutes about the IMC.

Paradigm Shifting

JT: Global communications networks. 40 IMCs popping up. Where do you see all this headed? We're only 10 months into this but it sounds like you have a long-term vision.

SH: I totally have a long term vision. And, I don't think it's just me. I think it's a huge collective of people. I just happened to be at Seattle at the right moment at the right time for a historic shifting of energy. I think what we are seeing wasn't something that we really had planned or even had a concrete intention about. But, what we did is create a space for something that is critical and essential for us to really shift not just Seattle, not just the United States but really the world to something that is democratic and participatory and is about radical healing and social change.

One of the things this really offers is the possibility of a decentralized global communications network, which we've never had. And this is because of the technology being there and because of how the Internet can be used and how it's so decentralized and so accessible, even though there are still questions of access for a lot of people. We can take content and information and empower people to tell their own stories.

Right now, we have 30 active sites active sites and 10, 15, 20 sites in the queue. And the expansion into the Global South is happening rapidly. People have said that, "They can take it (the Net) back. The commercial interests and the corporate capitalist interests don't want us to have it." And that's true they don't. However, the collective spirit of the people who designed the Internet is embedded in it. So, when you try to take that design and tweak it for your own interest and change it into something else, the design itself does not want that. So, it can't even really support the kind of capitalistic efforts.

JT: The geeks outwitted the Pentagon.

SH: Exactly! And, we fortunately got to put it on their budget. They developed it for us with a lot of geeks out there doing their amazing good work. So, I'm not really afraid of it being co-opted.

Gandhian Journalism

JT: When you all met last fall, what did you all envision? How did you see it unfolding then?

SH: I think the intention was to create a vehicle so that the independent grassroots media makers could have a place to do their work. It was as simple as that. We were fortunate enough to have some money come in to support that and a space. So, I don't think we had in mind where it was going at all. It was really an initial step of, "let's create a space for people, an infrastructure so when people come into this they will be able to do their work and be empowered and create a peoples' multimedia newsroom."

JT: 10 months into this, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses so far in the way the IMCs are functioning?

SH: The strengths are really apparent because of the phenomenal, exponential growth. There has not been a space for people to do this kind of reporting and journalism in other channels. I think it's pretty obvious to people what the strengths are. I would say the weakness is that because the growth has been incredibly fast we are just getting to the point where we are structuring ourselves in a really decentralized, empowering way for people.

JT: Where do you fall in the discussion about whether IMC is an agitprop arm of a social movement vs. IMC trying to do high quality documentary journalism?

SH: I think they are complementary. Gandhi talks about different forms of activism. And, the true journalists are as a much a part of the movement as people on the front lines. I think that's really important. We're not trying to create a big distinction between the two. However, I think the people who focus their lives on doing really good journalism and quality information and education; that's something we need to get better and better at and I think our time is coming for that as well.

John Tarleton has participated at IMCs in Seattle, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York City.

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