The National Conference for Media Reform kicked off today with a rehash of corporate media’s recent and familiar failures—lapdog reporting during the run-up to the Iraq war, the contrived “balanced” coverage of the climate change debate, and the infiltration of Pentagon “message force multipliers” into network and cable news shows, to name a few.
But as fun as it is to lambaste the likes of Rupert Murdoch and his corporate cronies, this conference isn’t about licking the wounds of the past. Rather, speaker after speaker intoned, it’s about looking to the future, harnessing a building movement for media reform, and ensuring the same mistakes aren’t made again.
“In this day and age, we want to be good at reaction, but we need to be much better at proaction and vision,” the Ruckus Society’s Adrienne Maree Brown told the crowd gathered for the conference’s opening plenary. To that end, Brown’s group works with disenfranchised communities to empower them as media creators instead of media consumers. Those previously bereft of media outlets, like young people of color, get to tell their own stories—through low-power FM radio, zines, web zines, video blogs, you name it. The idea here, says Brown, is that communication is action.
“We’re very comfortable on the margins, holding it down,” Brown says. It’s time, though, to move beyond the comfort of the choir.
Today’s movement is well poised to do that, according to Lawrence Lessig, renowned Stanford professor, author, and chair of the Creative Commons project. “Now is the time,” he said “that we understand the issues better than they do.” Lessig gives media reformers an eight-year window—during which they’ll grasp new media’s tools better than the legislators brokering media regulation—and in that time the movement has to secure a free and neutral internet.
Lessig’s issue is congressional reform, freeing the mechanics of government from the vice grip of lobbyists and corporate influence through his new organization Change Congress. Media reform, he says, is central to that mission. And there to back him up on that was Keith Ellison, Democratic representative from Minneapolis, who roused the crowd by telling them that their efforts ripple in the halls of Congress, when they make their voices heard.
“Welcome to the beginning of a great movement in our country that is all about the common good.”
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