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Composting Important Corporate News Only Makes Sense When There is an Alternative Source

This important story: "Protest suits cost city of Portland $300,000" should be covered on Indymedia.
I think this new editorial policy is ridiculous. Occasionally, important stories are covered, and even broken, by corporate media. Yes, it would be better if an Indymedia reporter were on it, had time to do the research, and write something--but if there isn't someone to do it, why not post the story that the Oregonian did. People can read it, read the quotes from allies like Alan Graf, critique the Oregonian's editorial slant, etc. But no--it's in the compost bin. So now there is no information on Indymedia about this important news. The new editorial policy can be seen as this: No news is better than biased, corporate news. I think that's wrong.
previous discussion on this post 30.Nov.2004 13:40

no longer too curious

Funny!

I was about to post the comments on that article (see  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304811.shtml)
as a new article, and someone (kinda) beat me to the punch!

So here's the comments (related to the topic at hand)

--------------------
question to indy editors 30.Nov.2004 10:03
curious

so do you plan on composting corporate reposts like this??

of course if someone takes the time to do original reporting on this issue that's great, but what if people don't because, well (and this isn't the best example I realize) the story is pretty straightforward and people are busy with other stuff...does that mean we just don't get to hear about it on portland indymedia?

I really do appreciate the "lets have less corporate news" efforts, but sometimes reposting is just the easiest way to do things....believe me I prefer original stuff to corporate crap, but if it's corporate media vs. totally ignoring something than that system breaks down.

I get the "you can always go somewhere else" line of reasoning, but I guess I think that will ultimately just lead to people using portland indymedia less. I guess that's fine, but then we have less commentary and corrections of corporate news BECAUSE people are going elsewhere to read it (like commondreams.org) where they can't comment/correct the news. that just seems like it lessens the ammount of media criticism happening.

also, on many issues (albeit, not this one) we might not even KNOW about something without reading in the corporate media first (abu gahrib for example), so while original commentary on news like that is ideal, it often requires someone reading the corporate news 1st to even know about it. I guess I just feel there needs to be a balance, like maybe as soon as something better than the corporate news gets posted ok then compost a corporate crapola version ASAP.

---------------------------

Good Grief 30.Nov.2004 11:01
Eduardo Plata link

Absolute external rules are needed most by people without clear judgment. Curious, I get where you're going with this, but it's fruitless to try to corner a news and information source like IMC into logical packages. That's not what people come to an IMC for. I respectfully suggest that if you want clear editorial policies you visit a news source that has them. I understand the biases that lead to the composting decisions of the PDX IMC staff and am willing to accept their bias.

--------------------

re: Good Grief 30.Nov.2004 11:25
still curious

I see your point Eduardo, but this isn't just some alternative magazine that can make whatever editorial policies it wants and we the readers can choose to use or not use it in some "marketplace of ideas". Rather, this is THE alternative news and discussion site for us portland activists.

Sure people could go start some other site, but come on, what makes more sense, using lots of time and energy (not to mention dividing readership and writership) to make 10 different sites for everyone's little concerns about how editting should be done or having some community consensus (or at least a more well thought editorial policy) for one site?

Do you really think that it would serve anyone better if there was portland1.indymedia.org, portland2.indymedia.org, portland3.indymedia.org ?

I think this "love it or leave it" answer is a false dilemma...and doesn't consider the negative ramifications should everyone who feels less than en sync with the anti-corporate news policy take such advice.

This being said, portland indymedia has made it clear this is "an experiment" which is just fine with me. No way to see how it will go without giving it a try.

So we'll see how it goes. My point is only that there are some potential problems people should be thinking about and watching to see if they emerge: I'm not trying to give the people who run this site a hard time and it is good to shake things up a bit. I'm just bringing up my concerns.

-------------

yes, I'm planning on composting it 30.Nov.2004 11:28
indy volunteer link

Basically, this article is crap in my opinion and there is no shortage of people who can write about it in this community. While I think the suggestion to compost something once something better comes along is a good one I don't think it will work in practice. The reason being, as curious stated, reposting something is the easiest way to do something and hence once that is done I suspect people won't bother to do additional effort in most cases (this not being one of them as I suspect a lot of coverage of this from people in the community, which will contain far more details of the settlement).

Yes, this will force people to step up and do some more "work". If a story is important to someone they'll have to do more than copy and paste. Will that lead to less news, I'm not convinced of that. I'm no prophet but what I want is for people to tell their story, and feel empowered by doing so that it won't seem like "work" to write something but a joy to be telling their story free of the corporate filters. Everything about indymedia is an experiment, an evolution, a work in progress so I think it's best to try new things and see where they lead.

For those who feel this article is crap it's a great opportunity to write a media criticism piece.

--------------

re: Good Grief 30.Nov.2004 12:19
Eduardo Plata link

[curious wrote:] "what makes more sense, using lots of time and energy (not to mention dividing readership and writership) to make 10 different sites for everyone's little concerns about how editting should be done or having some community consensus (or at least a more well thought editorial policy) for one site?"

I vehemently support the former, especially where news and information are concerned (not to mention analysis). Consolidation of news and information sources has been disastrous for the American people. Think about it: 'mainstream' news comes from six or eight sources, all of which report the same fucking things (bias in analysis aside).

Say you follow world events because it's damned well important to you. If you read only the US press do you think you get a good cross-section? Of course not. Our press reports aproportional fake news that makes us feel good or scares us. I don't know where you go for information other than PDX IMC, but it's precisely the variety of credible (and not-so-credible) information available on the Web or short wave that allows me to form a complete (or at least more complete) picture of what's happening here and elsewhere.

PDX IMC is the best IMC for five hundred miles. I come here for street level news about the PNW in general and Portland in particular. I also use it as a place to keep my calendar current (the one element that absolutely benefits from centralization) and hook up with like-minded people. Expecting professional standards from an all-volunteer collective -especially one without expressed intention of being all things to all people- is asking too much of others and not enough of yourself.

I forgot the link to the composted story 30.Nov.2004 13:40

DJ Shadow

in case you want to check in the trash:

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304811.shtml


Still shaking my head 30.Nov.2004 13:42

me

I agree. Bonkers.

and my new comment 30.Nov.2004 13:45

less curious

eduardo and whoever else cares...my point (which may be hard to understand if you don't live in portland) is that for portlanders this IS THE local alternative news site.

when we hit the streets and encourage people to check out our side of the story we send them to portland.indymedia, when we want local events we come here, when we want to post our local commentary we post here.

So my question "what makes more sense, using lots of time and energy (not to mention dividing readership and writership) to make 10 different sites for everyone's little concerns about how editting should be done or having some community consensus (or at least a more well thought editorial policy) for one site?" is very specific to portland's. While it's great that you like the site, I guess I see this as "...for oregon" and no I don't think we would locally see the benefits from 10 more sites like this in portland. If you're not here then you have no way to access that.

Nationally, globally...sure it'd be great to have 10 more sites slightly different then this one, but this is fundamentally PORTLAND.indymedia.org not everybodyintheworld.indymedia.org

My point was/is that if we follow your advice and create 10 more news site FOR PORTLAND that PORTLAND'S energy will be dispersed and squandered.

There have been quite a few important stories I would never have known about 30.Nov.2004 14:17

if it wasn't for the reposts here

I appreciate the sentiment but it's important to look at the actual effect of the tactics you choose.

Separate page for reposts please 30.Nov.2004 16:21

pp

It makes sense to have a page for reposts from corporate media. Let your readers decide what they do or do not want to read. As many have pointed out in other posts, this is the place lots of folks come for information on what's going on in the community. How am I supposed to know there's even a story to report on if there's NO information about it to be had?

Give us credit for being critical readers and thinkers!

One question 30.Nov.2004 17:15

Bill

Does your censorship of corporate news extend to local papers not in the Oregon area? I ask this because it may be of import to repost articles from papers in Ohio about the recount. I understand that if you want to stick to a policy that you have the right to. However, there sometimes local papers, albeit very rarely, cover news that only reaches people in a certain area and therefore is worth replicating on a national site. And unless you have unlimited time, it's impossible to comb all of them. I do see that there is a risk of bias in even local papers because many of them are owned by large oligopolies. Those large oligopolies are bad. An argument for including some select corporate news is the example of how the Cincinnati Enquirer did investigative reporting into the atrocious behavior of the Chiquita corporation. However, the ownership of the paper capitulated and blackballed the reporters who took the risk of taking on Chiquita. Having worked with a local IMC which never materialized, I understand the importance of a decision made in the IMC collective, so I will not just ask you to reconsider. I just had a few questions. Perhaps the decision made by you will encourage people to only allude to corporate media info, which will require more thought on the part of the people who post here. Perhaps this will also dispell issues of copyright on some material.

seperate page? new section? 30.Nov.2004 17:16

stating the obvious

Isn't that what's happening? Because that's what it looks like to me. Want corporate media, go to the compost bin. What's the problem again?

WHO IS REMOVING THIS STUFF?!?!?! 30.Nov.2004 17:18

jayson

what are you afraid of? if your policy of deleting reposts is so stellar, why are you afraid to let people read criticism of it?

pardon me, but j.h.c.!

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304833.shtml

I'm not fighting for a fundamentalist world 30.Nov.2004 19:57

White Lilac

This previously ended up in the trash ...  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304838.shtml ... we'll see how this post fares.

Dear portland indymedia,

It really causes me grief to see you change your editorial policy for several reasons, but I'll stick to two.

1. The decision wasn't democratic. Unless I completely missed something, you did not ask the readers of this site to comment on whether or not we would support a change in editorial policy. While I have respect for the hard work and long hours you put into this project, the core working groups are but a small fraction of the readership of the site. One of the techs mentioned recently in a comment (which I can't find because the search engine doesn't allow you to search comments--a very useful feature I again request) that the site receives around 2 million hits a month, if I remember correctly. You have the power to make such a decision, but this project is supposed to be different--it's Indymedia!! You're supposed to involve your readers.

The standard retort I expect to receive is 'Get involved!' 'Stop bitching, get involved!' 'Don't hate the media, become the media!' If it isn't abundantly clear, I AM INVOLVED! Reading this site regularly and making thoughtful, substantive comments to features and newswire articles is at the heart of making this site work. It's just as necessary and vital as the job the techs do and the job the editorial collective does. Think of us readers as the William Safires and op-ed authors that can offer our humble insights and analyses, not as some pale-faced mouse-clicking cyberboors that are lazy, apathetic, or uninvolved. We're arguably the best part of the site: we're a major reason why portland indymedia is different from other indymedia groups. Try reading commentary on a half-dozen other Indymedia sites and you'll see why readers come here.


2. It's just plain stupid, even on its face. (How's that for inflammatory rhetoric! But I'm serious.) Here's why:

a) it offers less choice to readers. Corporate media articles posted here are often relevant to many of us readers. They have already passed through someone's filter for their newsworthiness, relevance, possible biases, and the like. If there's a story about fees on public lands (still a hot issue this week), maybe someone will have posted it here. This saves me the time of having to read multiple news sites, sort through all the junk (there's junk on every site, not just indymedia), and find information relevant to me. I use indymedia as my primary source of news. It's like a news portal that saves me precious time and energy.

b) it paints the world with a broad brush, something we're all tired of. 'With us or against us' is what I'm sadly hearing from individual indy drones that speak out. 'Go read your news elsewhere, it doesn't belong here.' I'm weary of others telling me that their world is black and white. Mine has a lot more greyscale and occasional bursts of 64-bit color. I don't have any absolutes in my world and hate seeing them in this one. Christians who cover lady Liberty with lust in their hearts, vegans who live in wooden houses (plywood usually has animal products in its glue), editors who draw arbitrary lines in the sand--it's all fundamentalist ideology I want to avoid.

c) it will not increase original authorship of stories. Do you really think that if someone barely has time to post a corporate newspost to the newswire that they have time to research the same information and write a separate piece?

d) it does not value the concept (let alone the practice) of journalism. Would you tell Seymour Hersh, Vernon Jarrett (founding member of National Association of Black Journalists), Sam Day (bombshell H-bomb story), or Mike Salinas (queer activist journalist who did first piece on Act Up)--to name just four--to their face that their work is not acceptable to post here because they got paid to write it? By this logic social workers should be despised, because their state or nonprofit paycheck compromises the care they give to their clients, public defenders should be shunned because their state paycheck compromises their ability to fight hard for their clients, and public school teachers should be exposed as the leeches they are because they are more concerned with the latest round of contract negotiations than they are about their students. None of these examples likely received money from a for-profit corporation, but I'm assuming the issue is compromise, not profit. (Otherwise we shouldn't work at Freddy's or Wal-Mart because we're the lemmings that make other people "their" money.) I don't see journalists who get a paycheck from a corporation as inherently good or bad--they are getting paid to practice their art.

A restatement of this point: As an alternative to reposting corporate articles, I've seen indy drones encourage people to write original works for the newswire, even if they are only a few sentences long. If you think for a minute that a few-sentence regurgitation and plagiarizing of someone else's article passes for the kind of journalistic integrity that I expect of Indymedia, you thought wrong. A well-written article takes a long time to research, draft and tweak until it is a piece that you could be proud of. Most of us don't have that kind of time or that kind of interest. Ignoring corporate media altogether seems supremely arrogant to me. Our resources and capabilities just aren't there yet, even for the relatively narrow range of stories that Indymedia focuses on. To ignore corporate media is to ignore thousand of stories and people from around the world. When was the last time you saw an Indy reporter interview Bush? Kulongoski? Katz or Potter?? Members of your neighborhood association?

e) there's no evidence that these articles are overwhelming resources. Disk space is cheap. I don't see anyone saying that carrying corporate media articles is an unbearable financial burden for the group.

f) it is intellectually insulting and demeaning to your readership. Do you really think we believe everything we read in the corporate media? Of course not, that's why we're at Indymedia in the first place! We understand you don't like corporate media--neither do we. But it is not without any value at all. Why there's always dangers associated with a steady diet of propaganda, it is important that we as activists know what the basic media perspectives are on stories that are important to us.

I'm sure there are more reasons, but as I am not a corporate reporter, I can't afford to polish this story. Let's compost some of the corporate articles, the ones we would have composted all along that violate the first nine editorial criteria. Leave the others alone.

Check the compost 30.Nov.2004 20:21

resist the rulers!

there's some intriguing stuff in there! And thanks, White lilac, for reposting your composted post above.

It seems... 30.Nov.2004 21:17

Tony Blair's dog

that saddly, pdximc has been infiltrated by people
bent on destroying it.

The nick "indy volunteer" seem to be especially
active in the composting.

Something is very wrong when people have to go
dumpster diving for the news.

Is this the end?

"corporate" vs. "non-corporate" 30.Nov.2004 21:24

me

I re-post this comment - from the 2 + 2 = Five  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304698.shtml story thread, and again at the Indymedia, why did you compost my article??????  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304705.shtml story - that I had made,

in response to an Indy Volunteer's comments (mainly relating to leftist-oriented 'bulletin board' sites such as AlterNet, CommonDreams and others which do carry wire service news sources) on the actual 'definition' (if it's possible to have an absolute one) of 'corporate' and 'non-corporate' news, and editorial decisions taken therein:

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304698.shtml#156099
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304705.shtml#156104

"The thing about some of those sites" 29.Nov.2004 23:12
yes,

I am fully aware that web sites such as AlterNet, CommonDreams, truthout.org, whatreallyhappened.com, informationclearinghouse.com, and several others serve as "supermarkets": bulletin-boards of reposted corporate-wire-service news stories - in addition to their role as original news and investigative reporters.

but in actual fact, many of those corporate news stories - of the kind re-published and networked via the above-mentioned sites, from original sources such as IPS, Agence France-Presse, BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, Independent, Asia Times, and others - can be VERY ENLIGHTENING and valuable on breaking news and certain issues,

especially when the US Corporate Media main/primary sources - e.g. CNN, ABC, CBS, NYT, AP etc. - have clamped-down or utterly refused to report on or carry a story, or reporting on that particular event, in any form at all.

in fact, many of these stories that US Corporate Media clamps down on are DOMESTIC U.S. events (not Iraq/Afghanistan news) such as vote fraud/voting machines news, which no one even hears about on the internet until they go to one of the b specific home page web sites as listed above - either "supermarket" AlterNet/CommonDreams, or original 'corporate' source IPS/Guardian/Asia Times etc. -

or, here on Indymedia, as a further re-post.

THAT is why - at times, and in selected cases - a 'corporate' news source story re-posted, even via the above "supermarket" sources to Indymedia - can be valuable.

an effective U.S. Mainstream Media Blackout on an issue or event can be partially subverted, through Euro/Asian 'corporate' wire source redistribution, via Indymedia. Getting the information OUT THERE should be the main priority in such cases.

Sometimes the information NEEDS to be more widely distributed, via Indymedia. and sometimes the source of that information - valuable, relevant, and timely to the activist community - emanates from a 'corporate' vendor.

just Black/White Blanket Labeling of all news as "Corporate" or "Non-Corporate" is too rigid and inflexible an editorial decision.

Shades of gray exist, and must be acknowledged and made amends, in order for true freedom of information to exist via Indymedia.

especially in these times of ever-increasing U.S. Mainstream Media corporate consolidation.

 http://www.public-i.org/telecom/report.aspx?aid=405

number of corporations controlling US mass media, 1983-2004
number of corporations controlling US mass media, 1983-2004

I don't think this is going to work 30.Nov.2004 22:52

George Bender

The volunteers who run this site are trying too hard to make it fit into a vision they have, instead of letting the site be what it is, what the readers want it to be.

Writing is work. I agree that we need more good writers outside the corporate framework, but if we want them we are going to have to pay them for their time and effort. So why don't we just do that? Take up a collection through this website and hire someone, for example, to cover state politics from a leftist perspective. Establishment newspapers are not doing a good job.

There is a lot of crap on this website that I could do without, but it isn't in reposts of corporate news, it's in comments from the obviously brain-dead who do not understand reality no matter how many times we explain it to them. They just keep posting the same crap over and over again. People like Matt Marriott. Feel free to compost anything he writes. Also those periodic reports on what is going on in some trailer park, articles about chemtrails, etc. Portland IndyMedia should not be a home for the mentally ill.

Hear, Hear, George!! 30.Nov.2004 23:16

more

but if we paid them, they'd be professionals, and that would not jive witht he anarchist vision thing. So fuggitaboudit!

reponses 30.Nov.2004 23:17

indy volunteer

Tony Blair's dog:
"that saddly, pdximc has been infiltrated by people bent on destroying it."

Well, if so it happened long ago (before most people here were reading and posting to this site) by deep cover agents and has wasted a lot of tax-payer dollars. Which is to say, the current discussions and actions include people who have been around and involved for several years, as well as those who haven't.

"The nick "indy volunteer" seem to be especially active in the composting."

No, I haven't been at all active in composting as of late. I have been active in dialogging. It's important to me to share my vision. I have been active with indymedia for over a couple of years and I'm still interested in the same goal I have always been interested in: empowering people to create their own news and tell their own stories. I feel that the prevalence of corporate media on the internet to be counter-productive to accomplishing that goal. So now it's time to try something different. In my opinion, this is how we grow and evolve: we try new things and evaluate how well it works for us.

"Something is very wrong when people have to go dumpster diving for the news."

Yes, perhaps it's time for people to create their own news instead of relying on others to do it for them.

"Is this the end?"

No.

--
White Lilac:

Great post, why don't you make it an article instead of a comment?

--
if it wasn't for the reposts here:

"I appreciate the sentiment but it's important to look at the actual effect of the tactics you choose."

Yes, that is important and it is what I have done. But part of the problem is realizing what the another person's goals are. My goals are not to work on a media clearinghouse site, nor a discussion site, nor a blog. I could do any or all of those things but they have no interest to me. I want to do something different. I want to encourage a new paradigm, a way of thinking that people will know that they are the only one's who can tell their story and hence should do so. So now, as always, we'll see what happens.

--
pp:
"Give us credit for being critical readers and thinkers!"

I give the readers of this site all that credit and far more.

--
me, Bill:

You raise 2 important and related issues: foreign and small local media.

I'm not interested in checking each post to see if the paper is owned by a large conglomerate or publishing empire. In many cities there are small locally owned papers and I don't think I would compost articles from them. Remember like all of our "policies" we merely make the statement that we reserve the right to compost articles, not that we are bound to do so. And issues covered by local papers often do not get picked up by the larger mainstream media. Of course, this in itself is reason to write an article about how that issue was reported in a certain paper and not picked up by the larger mainstream media.

When this issue was first proposed several weeks ago foreign corporate media was explicitly discussed for the reasons that have been mentioned here: often reporting of events in the US are better covered by the foreign press and blacked out here. A great story by gregpalast comes to mind where he reports on the payoff to keep George Bush Jr. out of harm's way during the vietnam war. It was reported in the UK in 1999 and still has not been reported in the US. But again, this is often all the more reason to write something about a story that is not being covered and then link or copy the story. Though a straight reposting this story, as it's straight from Palast's site and not, to the best of my knowledge, even published by corporate media would also be fine:
 http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=365&row=0

So, again, we are asking people to step up, just a little, and spend 5 or 10 minutes writing their thoughts about an article. If people are unwilling to find that time to push forward with alternatives than perhaps there is little that can be done to bring about more substantial changes.

--
George Bender:

Well, perhaps my faith is misplaced but right now I feel the talents of our readers are not being fully expressed. I believe whether it works is solely dependent on whether people are willing to embrace an alternative and do just a little work to bring it into existence. So perhaps you are right and this isn't going to work, but it could work, and that's all the reason I need to try. I think that if we gave up on our visions because so many would prefer the status quo, we would live in a bleak world.

indy volunteer 30.Nov.2004 23:58

George Bender

You might try the carrot instead of the stick.

I agree with your goal of having more articles written by readers instead of people who work for corporations, I just disagree with your strategy of composting corporate articles. Often they're the only source of important news.

Instead, I suggest contacting local political groups, nonprofits, etc., and ask if they could find a volunteer to write regular articles about the issues their groups focus on. I know from working with various groups that it's difficult to find anyone who is willing to write something, but you could try. Activists run into this problem when we try to put out newsletters, publish websites or moderate email lists.

The problem is that writing ability is not common, nor is the ability to find information and analyze it. If you just want street reports about what happened at a demonstration you can probably get that from your average reader. But if you want an intelligent analysis of why the state legislature is cutting safety net programs and killing people, and what the alternatives are, you need a competant journalist. Likewise for city issues. So, again, why don't we just hire one? That would add a lot to the value of Portland IndyMedia. I'm poor, but I would kick in a few bucks.


response to George 01.Dec.2004 00:34

pdx indy workerbee #6082

First off, i love your posts, George. i'm always happy to see 'em. You got great things to say, especially to the damn Democrats.

Secondly, i want to respond to: "The volunteers who run this site are trying too hard to make it fit into a vision they have, instead of letting the site be what it is, what the readers want it to be."

This site has not been "what the readers want it to be" -- that is, basically unmoderated -- since October 2002. That's when, in the wake of the Oct. 5 Peace Rally, the trolls descended. Since then, pdx indy worker drones have taken a heavier and heavier hand to keep the site functional, which is to say, not over-run.

Think of it like the Shire, protected by the Rangers. Most of the time, you don't even know what's being kept out. Hidden comments, remember, don't appear in the compost. Other posts (which could be legally troublesome) go past the compost bin into complete ether. It's some ugly ugly shit, and a lot of it, that doesn't get in front of your eyes, George, at least not for very long.

Corporate reposts weren't always as common as they've become. It seems like the sElection brought them on. They've definitely increased in number, and have been overwhelming non-corporate-reposted material. A lot of readers have been complaining that the site is not as useful as it once was, what with all those reposts. So, for those readers (who tend to be organizers, not just readers) making this change IS what the readers want it to be.

As for your suggestions re. outreach to different organizations -- that goes on constantly, and has since the year 2001. That's partly why so many people post. No, not every group or effort in town has been approached, but many many have. Not everyone's interested in indymedia, btw, because it is *so* free-form (not edited for spelling, crude language, etc.).

As for your comments about "competent journalists", well, there's another side to that. The side that says writing, like art, must be taken back from the writers and artists, and returned to the hands of ordinary folks. By not editing people's work for spelling/grammar, etc., pdx indy worker drones respect people's voices as they use them. There's a recognition that authenticity and honesty count for more than form. There's plenty of fucking well-written bullshit out there, George, as i'm sure you know. As for cogent analyses of things like the state of social services in Oregon, stories like that *have* been posted, by people who knew what they were talking about, and could say it well.

No, the answer is not to hire a "professional". The answer is to destroy the lie of professionalism and empower everyone to know that their ideas and their voices are legitimate without school and training. A degree ain't gonna show you Truth, George!

(p.s., i've got a writing degree. fuck that noise. i didn't get good until i trained myself out of that shit.)

the "official" announcement 01.Dec.2004 00:38

pdx indy workerbee #6082

portland indymedia exists "for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth". The Indymedia movement sprang out of the WTO Protests in Seattle in Nov. 1999 as a way for real people to share their news without a corporate filter. Indymedia activists recognized then what is even more clear now: that mainstream media is owned and controlled by the same forces that build bombs and make wars, that cut down trees and slice off mountaintops, that kill animals and genetically alter plants, and that perpretrate and profit from racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression. That is, corporate media does not merely empower the repression and lies of the status-quo; it is part and parcel of the status quo itself. The need for Indymedia is greater than it has ever been.

Five years after Indyemdia's launch, over 160 Independent Media Centers are set up around the globe. Each has taken its own approach to the Indymedia concept. For example, here in Cascadia, the portland indymedia website has operated for over two years on the concept that center-column features should not be the sole territory of a small, exclusive group of writer/editors who carefully massage and vet each word, as happens at most IMC sites. Instead, center-column stories on the portland site are always created from stories posted to the open publishing newswire. These articles are featured word-for-word, with no editing or "correction". "Editing is lying," the Beats claimed. Maybe. But surely having someone else edit your work runs the risk of destroying it. That is avoided on the portland indymedia website.

The portland indymedia website has definitely succeeded in terms of providing an outlet for "radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth". The amount of original content on the portland site is much higher than on many other IMC sites. Local stories have been broken here, important events have been announced (and even organized), and vital ideas discussed. Still, success always leaves room for improvement, and hence the portland indymedia website will now experience an essential next step in its evolution.

Since Saturday, Nov. 20, a new criteria for composting articles has appeared in the site's editorial policy. Now, portland indymedia worker drones reserve the right to hide any newswire articles that are "reposted from corporate media outlets". These, and other hidden articles, can be found in the compost bin.

Naturally, some people will complain about this. One could draw the metaphor of addicts having their fix taken away, except that the drug in this case, Corporate Media, is just a few clicks away, somewhere else on the internet. At least for the time being. The goal for Indymdia, and for many other activist projects, is to be part of creating sustainable, alternative methods and communities that will eventually make destructive, mainstream institutions and corporations irrelevant. "Uno otro mundo es posible", they call out from the Global South. Indeed, another world is possible, but making real breaks from the current one are necessary if we are to succeed. As long as people lean, crutch-like, on the corporate media, that much less energy is going into the creation of a truly alternative media.

Indymedia was never intended to be a one-stop-source for all news. Without the poison of corporate media, the portland indymedia website will now have a much better signal-to-noise ratio, and will perform better as a media source for the creation (not reposting) of "radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth" (which the corporate media doesn't publish, anyway).

To help clarify, here is a list of examples of the types of articles that are original and non-corporate. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should hit most of it:

  • your report from any event (local or not), including but not limited to: protests, lectures, meetings, community gatherings. (Can be audio/video/photographic in nature; text not necessary though some words are needed to anchor a center-column feature, if that's what you're going for.)
  • your analysis of any current issue whether local, national or global.
  • your review/critique of a book, movie, tv show, newspaper/magazine article.
  • announcements/calls-to-action, for events or campaigns ("come to this protest" or "please write letters to these people re. this subject")
  • press releases from activist organizations or parties (i.e., the latest from Hanford Watch, the Green Party, any forest defense effort, political prisoner support)
  • original articles like any of the above REPOSTED from other non-corporate sources: other indymedia sites, other altnernative news sources (KBOO, the Alliance, Portland Communique, the Peaceworker, or national/global equivalents), zines, personal blogs. So, REPOSTS ARE OKAY, just not from corporate media.
The last one is the greyest area. Certainly, the Oregonian, KOIN, CNN, New York Times, etc. are corporate. CounterPunch.org, on the other hand, is decidedly non-corporate, with no advertisements except for books by their own featured writers. So a Jeffrey St. Clair article would remain on the newswire if someone reposted it. It's doubtful it would be featured to the center column, since CounterPunch already reaches a large audience, but it wouldn't be composted. The gray area between is where things will have to be worked out over time on a case-by-case basis until some clearer philosophy can emerge from practice.

To end this essay, here are some thoughts about corporate media from one of the pdx worker drones. It's a bit flippant in tone, but spot on with the points it makes.

I get sooooooooooo bored of reading through a bunch of boooooorrrrrrrring corporate media reposts just to find one thing that is original and relevant. Corporate media articles are fucking boring. They all come from a perspective of "the norm", "business-as-usual", etc. Even when they are a sensational piece, the voice behind them is always this sort of emotionless robot that is just reinforcing the status quo. Corporate media does not challenge my perception of reality. It does not inspire me to do anything. It just puts me to sleep.

[C]orporate media is a filter. It is a normality filter through which the public is made to view the world. The whole idea of "non-biased," or "objective" journalism goes against the very nature of what it is to be humyn. By attempting to look at things in a null-emotional state, we only desensitize ourselves to things toward which we would do better to be sensitive. They are trying to put us to sleep, to lure us into complacency. Humyns have invented a monster called "the system". It is composed of many organs, including the various corporations that exist, the governmental structures that we use (or more appropriately, that "use us"). If it is a plant, then the philosophy and process of capitalism is its photosynthesis. The corporate media structure is one of the tools that this unemotional monster uses to keep us humyns programmed into the sort of emotions that it can use to manipulate us. The only way we can overcome this manipulation is by refusing to view the world through its filter. I read somewhere that advertising works on you even if you are aware of its influence, and in fact that false sense of being "in on the joke" and therefore immune to its psychological manipulations is one of the factors marketing geniuses rely upon to succeed with their ads. And as we all know, corporate media is just another form of advertisement.

By getting rid of corporate media on our site, we are not "filtering out" a voice, we are ridding ourselves or a filter imposed on us by the hundreds/thousands of misguided fools who repeatedly spam us with corporate bullshit. An AWFUL lot of the corporate shit on PDXIMC is cross-posted garbage shit about some boring goddamned thing that was important to some individual 3000 fucking miles away who wants to feel special, so they repost the shit to every open-publishing site that will take their crap. Whatever. Sorry, not meaning to be mean, but fuck that.

I'm not saying I'll never repost, as on occasion I have, for example I transcribed a few 2600 articles here and there in the past. But that's shit you can't get anywhere else online, and their publication is "user-written", meaning that they take article content from readers who send it in. In my opinion, that quallifies them as open-publishing. I think in the future though, I will take the effort to write my own article and cite info from theirs rather than regurgitate it. I digress. Whatever.

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Other pdx indymedia worker drones will hopefully chime in on this post, to fill the picture out more completely. i am merely workerbee #6082, only one drone in the busy hive. :)



"A degree ain't gonna show you Truth" 01.Dec.2004 01:29

me

no, it isn't.

but George and others have an excellent point about **well-written** and **readable** original stories.

in a former full-time career I was a book publishing editor. During and after that, I've continued to do various freelance writing and editing, mostly nonfiction.

I've learned that TRANSMITTING INFORMATION CLEARLY - which in my opinion is the most important function of Indymedia (even level with or above "passionate telling of truth", poetry excluded) in this ever-more-homogenized sea of US corporate media disinfo - is a hard-won and hard-learned SKILL.

you can't just BLAB,

BLOG,

or

BLURT

your info/message/"truth" onto the world wide web, or onto Indymedia.

you have to be clear, cogent, and concise.

to the point, and even profound.

Example? one of the best regular posters of this kind of original material, who comes to mind immediately, is Gary Sudborough (search his name using the 'Author' field).

'nuff said.

pdx indy workerbee #6082 01.Dec.2004 01:48

George Bender

"As for cogent analyses of things like the state of social services in Oregon, stories like that *have* been posted, by people who knew what they were talking about, and could say it well."

Yes, I've seen a few good articles in the few years I've been reading this website, but not much. Mostly, as far as state politics goes, it's just a vacuum. These are life or death issues for me and a lot of other people, and it bothers me that there is so little knowledge or interest on the part of the Oregon left. We can't afford to be this ignorant.

And yes, I know I should write it myself, but I haven't found any good way to get the information. I can't afford to camp out in Salem. There is also the question of time and energy. I'm already overloaded with volunteer work for various political groups.

One answer might be organizing workshops for amateur journalists like us, to help us learn how to find information we need. I do believe there is a place for professionalism, if you can remove the corporate editor. No one is born knowing how to do investigative journalism.

I also think that the left expects too much for free, and we ought to be willing to pay our hardcore activists. I see groups falling apart because people get burned out, trying to do their job plus be an activist in their spare time.

re. to George Bender 01.Dec.2004 09:12

pdx indy workerbee #6082

You said: "I also think that the left expects too much for free, and we ought to be willing to pay our hardcore activists. I see groups falling apart because people get burned out, trying to do their job plus be an activist in their spare time."

i totally agree. If not with money, then with in-kind support, the people who try to devote as much of their time/energy to activist causes certainly need more support. How to do that gets tricky, though. Whenever material support is involved, you feel like you owe the supporter something. i've felt that myself, from people who have kicked down whatever for a particular project; i'll have thoughts like, "well, should i do it this way or that way, so as to please or not displease them?" That's not an argument against finding ways to make activism more sustainable, it's just an acknowledgement of one of the difficulties.

As for your suggestion re. "organizing workshops for amateur journalists": that's a great idea. Folks have talked about doing that before, but haven't been sure the best way to do it. i know there was more talk about that during the discussion about implementing this new policy, though, so people are cognizant of the need.

'Cause you're right. There ain't enough local coverage of important stories. A big part of the struggle, though, is not sharing skills with people; it's making people see they already have the skills. i definitely know people who are good with words who downplay their own talents, or feel nervous about getting out there. This is the empowerment that must occur, and making the site as open as possible to them is vital. Most articles with grammatical/spelling "mistakes" are perfectly readable and understandable -- that is, they are successful at "TRANSMITTING INFORMATION CLEARLY", as "me" says above.

Also, unfortunately, there are great communicators out there who want to go for "the big time" and they don't deign to contribute their words to a non-paying, "not real" gig like indymedia. That's snobbery, frankly. Do you want an audience or not? You've got one with this site. But i digress...

Thanks for writing, George!

liked White Lilac's and George's comments; beware 'lefty rightists' 01.Dec.2004 13:55

imcista

I liked White Lilac's and George's comments, though George, if you still think chemtrails are a myth I'd like to know why (preferably on another thread)! One of the charms of the site is helping to work through and self-analyze one's own mental blocks on information, I have always thought.

I as well don't think that a strategy of negative reinforcement is goint to get you to the collective goal here of more 'imcistas.' Certainly it keeps the trolls away though it doen't raise imcistas. It just keeps trolls away.

There's a lot of growth to go through for an imcista, and I think reading select corporate posts are part of it. I agree that the full reader-writership phenomena is a process of encouragement by being innundated by sometimes what on first glance is superfluous information. However, THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WAY OF SYNTHESIS OF THE INFORMATION for the desired imcista faciitation without the process of wading through and thinking through a ton of stuff that is presumed to be unorganized.

What I like about the PIMC is that there is a collective of people all working on being imcistas, and they bring bits of corporate media information that is important to them to ponder about.

So I guess I am concerned like several others above that we are trading the openness and a faciliative context FOR synthesis back to the false dichotomy that the IMC editor above refers to above (the 'readers' vs. 'actors' lie) that I think this whole IMC project is meant to explode in the first place? into something that already presumes to come across as provding the 'one grand truth synthesis' for you. I think this should remain an 'imcista nursery'. And that means having access to collective nuggets brought here from wherever, regardless of source. Personally, I don't think that corporate reposts are all that bad, particularly for people with different levels of time on their hands. All it requires is simply not reading it, instead of composting it.

I agree on troll policing. However, like a Bush strategy, if you are lazy you start calling and labeling everything you dislike 'corporate repost' or 'not creative enough'; and then your whole worldview becomes a police-mentality or a negative enforcement mentality in the face of hot complaints, and in the face of that, if you use the "love it or leave it" right wing comment from the 1950s, you are simply using Bush strategies under a different discourse....

You can become rightists strategically in the 'name of leftism, bioregionalism,' etc. or whatever'... Watch you avoid a slippery slope.

Beware lefties with strategies identical to righties.

it's not a question of "being bad" 01.Dec.2004 15:51

indy volunteer #742

It's a question of belonging. What is indymedia "independent" of? Many things, but mostly it's the corporate influence that pervades our daily existence. If volunteers do not accept money from corporations, or allow advertising, then why would we want to see corporate influence in the very heart of our work? Corporate media simply does not belong here. Promoting corporate media and relying on corporate media is not what I'm interested in supporting. Now we will see, will people flock to other indymedia sites where corporate media is allowed? That's what was threatened when the site created the compost bin in the first place. And yet people still chose to return because a policy that people railed about turned out to create the environment that people really enjoyed and felt was effective. Will this decision be the same? I suspect so but only time will tell. So, instead of spending a lot of time complaining, which is not to say you shouldn't complain and make your points and criticisms because they are valid and interesting, why not spend some time writing. Let's see where this takes us. I'm not going to try to be "right" and I hope others feel the same. George Bender said it well when he said, "I don't think this is going to work". Well, I feel that it is going to work; and no one knows for sure what will happen. Now I want to put those feelings aside and keep working while remaining inspired and excited about that work.

forgot one thing 01.Dec.2004 15:54

indy volunteer #742

I forgot to add that not only does no one know what will happen by taking this path, no one will ever know unless someone walks it for all to see. Sometimes I want to stay focused on that; if we don't try new things we will never know what works and what does not work to reach our goals.

corp. posts not a Trojan Horse invasion, only a fun pinata to bash around! 02.Dec.2004 00:05

imcista

"Corporate media simply does not belong here. Promoting corporate media and relying on corporate media is not what I'm interested in supporting."



I'm not convinced simply by that statement that it prooves that corporate media doesn't belong here--particularly when the point of bringing it here is the deconstruction. Corproate media is omnipresent in the world. Only by tackling it head on as part of the collective IMC experience is going to be a positive agenda in my opinion. Besides, I don't think (quoting the above) "promoting corporate media" is what people were doing by bringing it to the newswire. LOL. It's sort of like a pep rally or a puncturing of the pinata to get the few nuggets out of it, and beat the rest of its useles paper carcass to a pulp. ;-) I'll miss the pinatas. It's rather empowering to simply post something like "this stuffy MSN article is so totally bogus, etc.". Part of the IMC experience is finding our strength and enjoyument through the daily challenges, instead of feeling swamped by it. The attitude that such posts are "swamping and onerous" is mentally draining--this attitude taken by the PIMC collective it seems is very different from the way I looked at it, when my attitude has alwasy been that it was rather fun party atmosphere and it was hardly work or ornerous at all, with all the help from the reader/writers in their commentary.

On the other hand, yes, I do think you are correct (or rather I see the validity of it) in not trying novel things is silly. However, the humility to undo something and go back to where it was is a harder lesson to learn because of human hubris.

I think the change may, if used in a "Scalia-like" way, have a tendency to perpetuate the old elite dichotomy of editors vs. writers/readers--which is not part of the IMC goal. That is one of the rationales why I think is regressive to the IMC goal of a nurturing nursery for imcistas who can battle on their own unprotected, since they are daily fully 'innoculated' to corporate ir-reality and helped out by their peers in deconstrcting it. I see the lessening of that collectivity work in progress if more of the discrimination and use of judgement of posts are handled away from the newswire 'public' itself.

Thanks for listening.