A website or other resource which would research and publicize stories which aren’t making it into established newspapers was suggested today during a caucus of some 100 journalists.
The journalists caucused in a moderated session at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis. The session was moderated by Linda Foley, president of the The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America.
Jessica Lee, a writer at Arizona Indymedia in Tucson, Ariz., urged fellow reporters who are having trouble getting stories printed or broadcast to contact their local Indymedia organization and offer the story to them. “The commercial media is paying attention to Indy Media,” said Lee. “The New York Times and the Washington Post picks up stories from Indymedia. “If you face a brick wall, publish to our sites first and then go to your newspaper so it can get onto two sites, but your newspaper won’t take control of your story,” said Lee.
Lee’s suggestion was picked up by other commentators during the 90-minute give-and-take session, including Roldo Bartimole, a newsletter writer from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “Undermine those people that are stopping you. Undermine them by telling your story.”
“I’d like to second, or third the motion to create a place where you put all the things,” said Brecken Chinn Swartz, a TV producer at the Voice of America. “This could become a very exciting thing.”
Journalists need to support each other, said Foley. “When there are stories about media diversity that need reporting, make sure they get in print. We should get stories about media atrocities or media grievances aired or run.” And when journalists are ganged up upon by people in power, including politicians, “we need to support them.”
“The vast majority of our peers working at corporate daily newspapers are not here,” said Matt Peiken, an arts and feature writer at the St. Paul [Minn.] Pioneer Press, a Knight Ridder Corp.-owned daily. “A lot of reporters and a lot of editors are afraid,” said Peiken. “We need to go back to our newsrooms and tell people about this conference and the possibilities out there of what we could be doing.” Peiken said reporters should not be afraid to take positions in stories that are values based, not politically partisan. “Journalism is now being driven by profit, it is not being driven by the story.”
“I don’t think we as writers are having a problem coming up with these issues,” said a California based reporter. She said the problem was that editors don’t want to run the stories.
Linda Chue, of the Independent Press Association, asked how many journalists in the room had dropped their membership in the Society of Professional Journalists. “I am profounded disturbed that SPJ is not taking any kind of leadership position on these issues that we are facing," she said, asking others with similar concerns to speak with her.
Michael Stoll, of the Grade the News project in San Francisco, urged journalists to be open to criticism. “There is a lot of defensiveness from journalists from anybody coming from the outside and criticizing,” Stoll said. “There is a sense that this is a fraternity that we all have to circle the wagons and defend ourselves from these non-journalists. I think that is the wrong attitude and most of you don’t have that attitude coming to a conference like this. Don’t be a defensive when a blogger calls you up and says ‘I want to talk to you about what you wrote.’ There are all these horrible stories about what owners are doing to beat back journalism. Don’t be silent about it. Leak it to a blogger.”
Sandra Padgett, of Defuniak Springs, Fla., described herself as a non-journalist but an active Democrat who became enraged by what she saw as partisan coverage in her community’s newspaper. She said she and other Democrats began boycotting the newspaper’s major advertisers. Three of them are nearly out of business now, and “eventually I will buy his paper,” she said. “That is the way to hurt them.”
Other conference blog coverage -- HERE.
Link to upcoming STREAMING AUDIO/VIDEO.
Link to Democracy Now! story on community broadband.
Link to Pacifica Foundation's coverage of St. Louis conference.
Link to daily Media Minutes audio reports on the conference -- HERE.
Institute for Public Accuracy links to available media-reform contacts: