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Stateside: Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit (3)

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit, Part 3

See also... Stateside: Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit (2)
& Stateside: Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit (1)

Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the themed breakouts met three times and I followed the News Source Development theme. Resource people spoke briefly at the start of each breakout and then participants could ask questions or offer their own take on the subject. MP3 CDs of most of the Santa Cruz summit are available from

A recurrent theme of our breakouts was the need for alternative news sites to attain credibility by providing good, accurate reporting. Another theme was that the term “mainstream media” is a misnomer if people equate that with corporate media, because the real concerns of mainstream America are being better addressed in the “alternative media”—but that term is too often associated with opinion rather than reporting.

Brad Friedman said he often hears the question, “Why should I trust you? You’re just a blogger.” To which he replies, “DON’T trust me! Make me prove it. But at the same time, don’t trust the Washington Post, the New York Times, Associated Press. Make them prove it too.” News matters, he said, your opinion doesn’t. “Break news!” If you have your facts straight, take your story to where you can get it, including the corporate media.

One of the whistleblowers of the FBI failures prior to 9/11, Colleen Rowley, said that there’s no way to strategize to break into the mainstream media. The important thing to ask yourself is, “How can I get my message across?” She thinks that “the opinion aspect is good to try to encourage and empower people to do something.”

Linda Milazzo, who has a blog on Huffington Post, said it was important for alternative news writers to “support credulity, support the truth amongst each other,” and that “if we are ever going to be considered credible, it’s our responsibility to get to the writers of wrong reports”.

Many speakers from across the range of media—radio, Internet, community television, magazines, alternative press—stressed the need for not getting personal, but personalizing the story so that it catches the audience’s interest at the level of our shared humanity.

Another big theme was the lack of financial support for the alternative media. Lenny Charles of International News Net World Report joked that “the richest guy here has gas money to get home” and pointed to the success of the Libertarians at raising funds—for example, for Ron Paul’s presidential bid. “There must be ways to create parallel media on the cheap”, perhaps establishing an alt newswire service. “Think outside the browser,” he said.

Later in that session, an audience member suggested that “We’re all too old to understand. Young people have formed peer-to-peer networks. Throw away the old models. Emulate the young people.” Certainly, the summit was top-heavy with older folks seeking to relive their glory days in the movements of the Sixties. The term “albatross in the room” came to my mind as a description of what makes it so difficult for the progressive movement to get over itself.

As to the financial side of things, Richard Greene, who hosts a daily show on Air America Radio, which is the progressives’ answer to conservative talk radio, pointed out that it costs more than a million dollars to be in some media markets but it’s not expensive to be on the Internet. Some advertisers have blacklisted AAR.

Bill Densmore, of the Media Giraffe Project suggested some ways to sustain information delivery and development: advertising, sponsorship, patronage, subscription and per click. He also noted that it’s important to “build up a reservoir of trust” in reporting, always attributing your sources so people can verify what you’ve written.

During lunch on the third day, presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and Bob Fritakis of each spoke, firing up participants for the final stretch of the summit. “All of the hopes and dreams that we have for our country… depend on us working collectively,” McKinney said. “Can you imagine what a country we would have had with Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King as President and Vice President?”

“The new jackboots may be shinier, but that’s what they are,” said Fritakis, not shrinking from using the F-word to describe the current political situation in the US—fascist. “We are the ones at this moment in history who are recording what is actually happening.”

The major outcome of the summit was the formation of a national planning committee to work towards setting up a daily core newswire—not commentary—featuring national, world, regional, and local stories of such good quality that they will be picked up and used as broadly as is the information from traditional newswires such as AP and Reuters.



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