[Imc-communication] What is Indymedia?

bruno at indymedia.be bruno at indymedia.be
Thu Jun 9 01:55:16 PDT 2005


also some thoughts I would like to share..

deva wrote:

> This is excerpted from a post regarding Belgium. (IMC-Belgium & the 
> conflict with the local IMC's in Belgium.)*
> *It is itself taken from a statement by SF indymedia which can be 
> found here (http://sf.indymedia.org/imc_news.php)
> While I find the disdain expressed towards 'bloggers' offensive (the 
> bloggers of the world have done far more for truth over the past 5 
> years than all the wire services and commercial media outlets off the 
> world combined), it does reflect an effort to define a vision for 
> Indymedia... and it does point towards some needed self criticism.

No dissing meant :) (really). We found the statement by sf (and the 
comparison with blogs) a good way to make a 'distincion' (= to show the 
difference, not to qualify one as better than the other) between 'media 
by and for activists', and 'alternative media for a broader public' 
(public is an interesting notion here, because it -as far as I 
understand the english word- implies an involment/activity/initiative 
from the people visiting/using/being indymedia). Blogs are created to 
voice people's/groups opinion (more and more they're used in a 
journalism context), and they are fantastic tools for that imho. But 
blogs often only reach people who are already interested in the things a 
blog talks about. We want to go further than that and reach more people 
with people's stories.

> I agree that many local imc's end up being the voice of the editorial 
> group of that collective. I know in Portland, 3 years ago, I and 
> another person, wrote 50-75% of the center column features. While we 
> did a good job, and wrote many excellent stories, it was troubling to 
> see that pattern. That led to discussion, which led to the decision to 
> no longer have the editorial group write features, but rather to 
> 'feature' any original, local writing posted to the site. We felt that 
> this took away the exclusive power of the editorial group and put it 
> in the hands of anyone who took the time to report on local events. In 
> other words, we felt this more accurately reflected the mission of 
> Indymedia to empower people to "become the media".
> I would say this experiment is an ongoing success as the great 
> majority of featured stories on the Portland site, now come from 
> people I do not know, from the broader community. I think this 
> approach addresses the concern expressed by both SF and Han of Belgium. 

Yeps, that's also how we work more and more (featuring interesting posts 
rather than writing up features linking to overviews). Of course 
sometimes we still make overview pages, for instance when there's a big 
event and lots of people publish media about it, ..

We also actively try to involve as many people as possible in media 
making. We give workshops, make a point about organising briefings 
before demos, ... We see this way of working results in a pretty active 
community of people contributing to the website. A next step in this is 
to make compact/easy to understand how-to's about video/audio/text 
production, so people can find out more by themselves, to provide them 
with tools to produce media.

> Where I disagree with their vision, is in Indymedia becoming, in 
> effect, a worldwide professional news service. I do not believe 
> Indymedia should attempt to compete with the 'professional' sphere, 
> but rather stay close to the earth, down on the ground, with the 
> stories of people and their struggles for justice and have as its 
> primary purpose, to empower people to make media and to tell their 
> stories, not to become another news organization which encourages 
> people to passively consume what it produces.

I fully agree with what you see as the primary purpose of indymedia 
(empowering people and telling their stories to support them in their 
struggles). However I do think indymedia has the potential of finding 
its place as an  alternative for traditional media. This concerns a lot 
of things: the media  (mostly websites in the case of indymedia) design, 
the way stories are written and presented, the way you organise content, 
.. But it's also about not pushing your own opinion as a 
(media)-activist, but rather to voice people's/groups'/movements' 
opinion and stories, even if one as an activist does not agree with that 
(that's a very important lesson we learnt). We also learnt that 
interviews are very useful for this (that's why we do so many of them).

 I don't want indymedia to become another news organisation which 
encourages people to passively consume what it produces either .. We 
think (well, we hope:) it's possible to find a way to stay close to 
indymedia's roots of that primary purpose, and to build a medium that 
reaches a broad public. That's what we want to work for the following 

> When I look at the SF site design, I appreciate the clean look, but it 
> also looks aloof, above people. It encourages to me, the same gap as 
> regular commercial media. It feels elite, as if I need a degree in 
> journalism to participate, if I am encouraged to participate at all.

we're busy working on a new design for our website 
(http://indymedia.be/zap), which is a next step in this evolution 
(coming from 'media by and for activist', going to 'alternative media 
for a broader public'): it looks more like a classic news website, 
providing a clear structure, but still making it very clear that this is 
a participatory/open publish medium that relies on what people contribute.

> I also appreciate a clear expression of where someone wants indymedia 
> to go. I may disagree with that vision, but I see much pushing and 
> pulling in Indymedia, which has at the roots differing visions. Often 
> those visions are not clearly articulated, but they continue to color 
> interactions in the background.
> For the analogy, I say Indymedia is a ship. It is afloat and that is a 
> fine accomplishment right there. I do not see it particularly going 
> some where because we agree it should be afloat, but not where to 
> steer it. What is its future?
> Should it be seen as a bunch of small boats tied together in a giant 
> floating raft? There is a sense of wanting to stop any individual boat 
> from moving far for fear it might disrupt the strength from all the 
> boats tied together. While there is some strength from all the boats 
> tied together, if there is no agreement on where they would 
> collectively go, then one boat paddling in one direction, is canceling 
> out another boat paddling in a different direction. If all the boats 
> are going to stay tied together, then is floating with the current 
> enough? or does there need to be a more refined agreement on where to 
> move?
> Some thoughts

> deva
> portland imc contributor

-- bruno

> On Jun 4, 2005, at 11:41 AM, han at indymedia.be wrote:
>     2.4 Mature beyond the weblog
>     "A weblog (or blog) is a website run by one or more
>     people which provides personal 'news', commentary and
>     links, updated frequently, usually displayed as one
>     paragraph after another in chronological order. Many
>     Indymedia's are best described as collaborative 'blogs'
>     produced by IMC editorial groups with an additional
>     anonymous, moderated bulletin board system (BBS) called
>     newswires.
>     This reality conflicts with Indymedia's broader
>     potential: an international networked wire service of
>     amateur, professional, and independent journalists and
>     media producers dedicated to in-depth, on-the-ground
>     coverage of deeply significant news and events. We
>     believe SF-IMC and the network-at-large needs to be
>     less about small clubs of friends running a weblog and
>     tackle the challenges of being a global, non-commercial
>     media network. We want to kickstart a shift towards
>     maturing into a real media network that can compete
>     with any of the best wire services in the world."
>IMC-communication mailing list
>IMC-communication at lists.indymedia.org


"(...) people who are concerned about human rights issues, issues of 
social justice, the environment, need to understand that unless you 
change the media you never really ultimately are going to change 
anything." -- Robert McChesney

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