Sunday, October 19, 2008

Grassroots Media Convergence at Rice:Grassroots media convergence reminds us that we are all reporters.

posted by Free Press Houston @ 4:40 PM

Last night a grassroots media convergence was held in the Rice Media Center. Many groups had tables and sold or gave away publications that carry information that we can't get from corporate sources. The night opened with a short education for everyone present on how to use the IndyMedia site, and the recurring theme among all the speakers was that everyone is a reporter, that this is no time to be a passive audience. On that note, the first presenter, Brian from t.e.j.a.s showed how, with a laminated card from Pacifica Radio he was able to get onto Galveston island when the residents still couldn't. Calling ourselves media gives us powers.

All of the speakers presented stories that corporate media was able to ignore until pressure from below or a convergence of events brought the information into the mainstream. Hadasa Hill of Spread magazine, for example, talked about how "Spitzer-gate" suddenly brought intense focus on sex workers. Suddenly Fox and CNN were calling their magazine looking to talk to a high priced call girl. One thing that eventually came out of the experience was a "Sex Workers 101" reference page taking a first step towards teaching the mainstream media how to speak with respect about the people who make their living in that field.

Jordan of Left Turn magazine showed some of the power in YouTube, screening videos by 2cent Productions out of New Orleans and by a group of roommates in an apartment under seige in Beirut called "From Beirut... to those who love us". It was written with a tragic but tough awareness that both "the world is watching" the bombing by Isreal, and nobody is watching, nobody is smelling the gunpowder where they are holed up hoping their water will last except them. Isolation and the possibility to share it with anyone who looks it up on the internet.

On this theme, Zinn of SOS Broadcast on the Pacifica network (Wednesdays 3-5 on 90.1) pointed to the real key: PROMOTION. If we're just reading each other's magazines and they aren't getting distributed, it doesn't move our movements.

Jesse Mohammad of Final Call talked about the ground-level organizing around the Jena 6 that began long before any major public figure was involved. Eventually the major networks realized that, while they had initially been able to say "not our problem" about the incident, the grassroots organization around it had made it too big of a story to ignore. Of course, once the giants did begin to get involved, the families found themselves pulled between a bunch of egos fighting about what famous people were going to hold what signs and stand by which parents. It created division. The Jena 6 story held a major message of hope because of the power of "regular people" organizing, but also a warning that once it goes big, we have to be prepared to wield our power without falling in a trap. He went on to describe a recent and terrible incident, the dragging death of Brandon McClelland in Paris, TX. Again, the early coverage by grassroots movements forced the mainstream media to cover a story they thought they could sweep under the rug by focusing solely on Ike, letting the government pay for the funeral and get him in the ground fast. He cautioned, "This is nothing to play with. Information is warfare." And so, don't let success go to your head and don't fear failure. "It ain't you-- it's something else that's in you."

His final word before the night wrapped up was that if there's no follow-up, there's no movement. We have to keep the pressure on and find ways to act to take control of the narratives that everyone is hearing.


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