Stateside: Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit (2)
Stateside With Rosalea Barker
Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit, Part 2
Alternative media reporting the panelists at the opening plenary session of the Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit on Saturday, January 26, 2008
The director of Project Censored, Peter Phillips, one of the organizers of the summit, set the stage for the second day by likening the alternative media to the boutique breweries of the 1980s. At that time, the only beers available to the American public were those made by huge companies using impure ingredients and questionable processes. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's products were made using the German guidelines for purity that have been in force there since the 17th Century, and consumers quickly developed a taste for a superior product.
Peace activist and contender for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's seat in the November election, Cindy Sheehan
The first panelist to speak at the plenary session was Cindy Sheehan, who received a standing ovation. Apologizing for not being able to stay long because of illness, Sheehan said she became known through the independent media on both progressive and conservative websites. Referring to the lack of coverage of important issues in the press, Sheehan said Pelosi "took our Constitution off the table," and that impeachment is not a fringe issue--it's a remedy.
Peter Dale Scott, coiner of the term " deep politics", pointed out that the top income level of society controls the money and therefore the media. That top income level is just 1 percent of 1 percent of the US population, and their incomes have risen 400 percent in recent years. "Since the time of Jefferson," Scott said, "nobody has been able to change that situation." Furthermore, "There has never been a unified civil society in this country. There are wounds that go right back to the Civil War." The allies of the independent media are the truth and the Internet, and "we are strong because we are diverse, and we must not lose sight of that."
David Lindorffof thiscantbehappening.net said he always tries "to be as certain as I can about what I'm writing and also suggest a way to go forward." Too much conspiracy-theory thinking leads to people not even wanting to look into the issues because they feel "oh, we're f***ed." Most of the people in control are "stupid and bureaucratic" and Lindorff doesn't believe there's a "systematic operation". He suggested finding good people in the corporate media and "pushing [the story you have] in", and also looking to union papers as a news outlet that gets into the hands of millions of people.
An antithesis to Lindorff's point of view was that of David Ray Griffin, who had been introduced earlier as "a conspiracy theorist" to much applause. Referring to the current ecological crisis the planet is experiencing, Griffin said that "unless the truth about 9/11 is exposed, there's very little chance of [the crisis] being solved....9/11 is the ultimate act of murder and treason." 911truth.orgwas one of the co-sponsors of the summit, and throughout the weekend there was a tension between those who felt that unless that one issue was dealt with, nothing would come of any attempt to strategize the independent media, and those who wanted to focus on a wider view.
A much needed change of pace in the delivery came with David Cobb's spirited speech. He was the Green Party's candidate for President in 2004, but now works with Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County to educate people about how communities can seize power back from corporations, which in the US have the same status as individuals. "During the Sixties and Seventies, this country was in a velvet revolution," he said, and the activist movements of that time "changed the hearts and minds of America, but they didn't solidify it into power." To which someone in the audience replied, "They assassinated the leaders."
Television producer Kristina Borjesson at the Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit
Editor of Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of the Free Press, and award-winning television producer Kristina Borjesson , introduced some practical aims for anyone wanting to create an independent media that is taken seriously. "You need to put people together who are good at things," she said, and throughout the summit pushed for a standards and practices codebook for reporters. Of the standards and practices used by networks she said, "you could drive a Mack truck through the errors in reporting." Moreover, the important stories need to be covered "relentlessly".
Toni Whiteman of LinkTV , who was another panelist feeling off-color, said "we have to learn to speak to the people we want to reach. They have a very short amount of time that they're open to the news" due to their busy lives. Part of alternative media's effort should be directed at "educating people to be receptive to the truth and to recognize it when they see it." LinkTV is available by cable and satellite in 30 million homes in the US, and on the Internet.
Another former television producer, Danny Schecter, self-styled "news dissector" said he saw three issues that the independent media has to raise. First is what he calls " the 50-state Katrina "--people living in debt. Secondly, there is a lack of collaboration, a lack of attempts by different independent media groups to reinforce each other. Finally, we need to get beyond Iraq and look at other global problems as well. "Connecting and cross-promoting is what makes issues highly visible," Schecter said.
The final panelist, Barbara Trent , director of The Panama Deception, a 1992 Academy award-winning documentary, suggested that for films there is no substitute for having an activist in each town who can be used to build interest in the film and a community around the issues it raises. Her film was in 35 towns at once, ran for nine weeks, sometimes in multiplexes, and made more money that the Hollywood films showing at the same time. Trent expressed disappointment that, with the opportunities the Internet now affords, some groups with large mailing lists aren't more willing to promote the work of independent film makers. Even if they just did a three-monthly newsletter reviewing new films, that would greatly help.
Part 3 will be a summary of the News Source Development sessions and the outcomes of the summit.