Making a Difference

In Boston, indy media takes simple steps and tests relationships

In Boston, many of us see indy media as a counter-institution, challenging the corporate press and forcing them to cover things that they normally wouldn’t. IMCs are beginning to force a perspective that is not necessarily corporate filtered. For example, reading the Boston Globe recently, I saw an entire article about puppets used by activists in Peru to challenge the government. I was shocked, but this is what we’re beginning to see.

We’ve also heard that the IMF and World Bank are starting to talk about issues because of the activists out in the streets. What came out of the corporate press after the A16 protests in Washington, DC, was something to the effect that activists were definitely having an impact on their response to the AIDS problem in Africa.

A strong example of how indy media is doing appeared in the Industry Standard, a mainstream magazine, during the Republican National Convention. The reporter said that while 15,000 corporate press people were sitting around, not doing anything, the best journalism was coming from the Independent Media Center. We’re obviously doing something right.

One of the things we considered in Boston, because so much independent media is already there, was not to say they should follow our lead. Instead, we’ve said that we’re here as a resource. What will help us work together? Radio people in Boston are already networked, and produced amazing programs during the October 2000 events. Many municipalities around Boston have local cable access stations, but they don’t necessarily share the coverage they produce. So, how can we work with them? We’re building those relationships with stations and some newspapers.

Another goal was to help activists talk to the press, and with resources. We had a mainstream section in our IMC. They could send out blast faxes, accept and make press phone calls. We didn’t hold press conferences for them, but they had full use of our facilities.

Perhaps the IMC should develop a section that serves as a liaison between the activist community and the press. Many groups are very small and don’t have time to make contact with press, which can be extremely important to getting your message out. How do we provide that resource? Is that a role we should fill, or should we just train them to deal with press?

We’ve also talked about creating a network of journalists to cover local issues and events. Boston is one event or lecture after another. We’ve thought about establishing a dispatch center in Boston. Various outlets could use footage, but there’s currently no way to get journalists to all the events and coordinate that.

Doing some simple things would help, like creating a press list of local outlets in the area. Or helping people write press releases and talking points. The latter is key when people are in the streets or holding press conferences. Or teaching them how to talk to the media, and why sound bites are important. A news sheet is also a possibility. We tried this at the Nader rally and it seemed to get a response.

Linda Setchell works with Cleanwater Action in Boston and has been part of IMC efforts there since Biodevastation 2000. A biotechnology organizer, she helped set up an IMC for the October 2000 presidential debate in Boston.