Independent Media

excerpted from an article

by Peter Phillips - Project Censored

The U.S. media has lost its diversity and its ability to present different points of view. Instead there is a homogeneity of news and a regurgitation of the same news stories on every channel and headline. Our corporate media outlets in the country spent hundreds of hours and yards of newsprint to cover Bill Clinton's sexual escapades and ignored many important news stories in the process. This amounts to structural censorship of the news.
Mainstream media tends to disregard news stories that affect the working people of our country, the 75% of us who are blue and white collar workers surviving paycheck to paycheck. Corporate media ignores the relevant questions for working people about why the value of our labor has on average declined for 25 years, why health care costs are so high, why housing is unaffordable, why we can't afford to send our kids to public colleges, and why our taxes keep increasing while corporate profits are at all time highs.
Working people in the United States are disillusioned with politics and tired of the entertainment junk being pushed as news by the national media. When over half the people don't vote, it is not because they don't care, but more about not knowing the issues or recognizing differences in candidates. Our media is not covering the issues that affect the lives of the majority of Americans. The solution to a mainstream media that is out of touch with the needs and wishes of the American people may be alternative / independent media.

Although alternative / independent media sources in the U.S. are still small and underfinanced, they offer a hope for the future. They can be a key element in a social movement that empowers working people in the U.S. to take control of their government-corporate power structures for their own betterment. "Free the Media" can become a real rallying cry that will allow the emergence of what the new democratized AFL-CIO calls "Common Sense Economics," an economics that unmasks corporate wealth exploitation for the betterment of working people.
We have to begin to reach the 200 million working people and work our way up from there. Microradio is a good start, but is under attack by the Federal Communications Commission. We are close, however, to local community activists being able to download or use as sources news stories from the Internet and have enough good solid news material to fill a weekly progressive local newspaper. Small teams of peace center activists, environmentalists, civil rights workers, political activists, school teachers, labor organizers, college students, and working people can, and I believe will, start the publication of thousands of newsprint publications for distribution in the cities, towns, and neighborhoods of our society. Some will sell advertising, some will work from their convictions. As Media and Democracy activists, we have to help them find each other, share materials, and literally make it easy for them to put out high quality interconnected news publications locally nationwide.

Unfortunately, some of our best liberal-leaning national weekly / monthly news magazines tend to see themselves as in competition for a small group of left-wing intellectuals and rarely follow-up and reinforce news stories that are printed in each other publications. While I think we can encourage students and working people to read The Nation, Mother Jones, Z magazine, The Progressive, Covert Action Quarterly, In These Times, Toward Freedom, Dollars and Sense, iF magazine and many other important high quality news sources, this will only be a small part of creating a new democratic news and information system in the U.S. What if national progressive news publications released their best articles after publication for free re-publication in alternative news locals? Given that local micro-press editors will seek to include stories that are interesting to and important for their constituency, it would seem that this would encourage a broader section of working people to consider opting for The Nation instead of Time magazine.

We can mobilize the necessary resources to build and expand a Media and Democracy Movement, by sharing news stories and reinforcing and expanding national alternative press publications through selective re-publication at the local level. Additionally, we could easily facilitate Web sites that would allow thousands of writers, scholars, and activists to post their work and make it available for local progressive newspapers to download and publish. A populist army of diversified news and information gatherers and publishers is ready to emerge. Not all in agreement, not lockstep within a ideological framework, but working people finding access to their own voices.
Back in the late 1970s, the nation's beer supply was dominated by a half-dozen companies. In the early 1980s in Chico, California, two young entrepreneurs started a shoestring micro-brewery called Sierra Nevada Brewing. They, along with other micro-breweries in the U.S., transformed the quality and diversity of beer consumption in the United States. Now, brew-pubs abound, and even the major breweries now have their own micro-beer look-a-likes.

If it can be done with beer, we can transform the news and information systems in the United States with micro-presses, desktop publishing, microradio and alternative Internet connections, and modify the diversity and quality of the media forever. We don't need to capture more than 3 to 5 percent of the local market share of news consumers before the media will take notice and begin to reform itself. That is when we will need to be ready with suggestions and legislation that will make their willingness to accept change a permanent transformation.

Millions of people are turning away from mainstream media news, questioning the dogma of a corporate owned press, and trusting more in alternative news and information from sources like the Alternet, Project Censored, Noam Chomsky, Mike Davis, and Howard Zinn. Gary Webb's popularity in the country rose as The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times tried to dismiss the CIA-Crack-Contra connections. The Internet and alternative sources, heard by millions, mobilized the necessary political pressure that resulted in the CIA's admission to their knowledge of Contra drug dealings during the 1980s.

As media and democracy activists, we still need to work on making it easy for small-circulation editors to download news stories without having to obtain copyright permissions from hundreds of different sources. For progressive activists, all that is needed is an Internet-connected computer and you can being accessing important alternative news sources. You don't need to write and produce a full 16-page weekly newspaper on your first try. Build up to it. Find local sponsors and network with community groups anxious to have their stories told in the local press. Fill your pages with quality news stories and op-ed pieces from alternative sources all over the world.

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