National Progressive Media: Who’s Left?

National Progressive Media: Who’s Left?

Should progressive media outlets try to reach larger audiences
if it means watering down their political missions? A wide spectrum
of media makers and activists can’t seem to decide, writes Andrea
Buffa in the January issue of MEDIAFile, published by
the progressive Media Alliance.

‘Nowhere has this conflict been sharper than in free speech
activists’ struggle against the right-wing assault on the Pacifica
Radio Network,’ Buffa points out. ‘For the past several years, the
Pacifica board of directors and national management have been
forcing structural and programming changes in the network that they
claim will increase audience size and diversity.’

But what is it about progressive media, Buffa asks, that makes it
so hard to reach larger audiences, and forces such conflicts to
arise in the first place? ‘[C]hange doesn’t happen because of
progressive media,’ says Don Hazen, a former publisher of Mother
and director of the AlterNet alternative news
service. ‘[W]e progressives need to go beyond progressive media,
using a combination of grassroots organizing, demonstrations, the
Internet, paid ads, effective PR, and on and on, and be campaign

And Laura Flanders, host of what is perhaps the only progressive
talk show on AM radio, broadcast on Working Assets
RadioForChange, says that too often progressive media
outlets talk down to their audiences and don’t collaborate
effectively. ‘When some of Flanders’ colleagues interviewed some
regular listeners of RadioForChange–employees at a Toyota
body shop–they were shocked to learn that these people would never
consider calling in to the show because they didn’t think they were
smart enough,’ writes Buffa.

There are, however, some positive signs, particularly on the
Internet. Don Rojas, editor of the webzine The Black World
tells Buffa: ‘We should not overlook the fact that usage
of progressive websites and progressive new media in general is on
the increase.’ He points to the growth of the Independent Media
Centers (IMC), which has given media activists a direct link to the
world. The first IMC, set up to chronicle the protests against the
Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization in 1999, received
1.5 million hits in that week alone. Since then, every major
protest around that world, from D.C. to Melbourne to Davos, has had
it’s own IMC.

But ‘[p]rogressive messages… are not going to create social
change on their own,’ Buffa concludes. ‘This means that audience
members must go beyond just reading and listening; they must also
take action.’
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Media Alliance
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The Black World

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