The Blind Spot: Indymedia's grassroots daily coverage of the Seattle WTO

In Nov. 1999, grassroots journalists, anti-globalization organizers and international tech activists launched a bold experiment: a grassroots media effort to cover the World Trade Organization ministerial in Seattle, and the protests that would shut it down.

The Independent Media Center website easily surpassed mainstream media coverage of the epochal event, documenting police aggression in the streets alongside in-depth analysis of the harms caused by deregulated global capitalism. The Indymedia model proved easily replicable, combining anarchist-inspired organizing principles, grassroots "be the media" journalism, and an innovative open publishing system first developed by free-software activists in Sydney. Indymedia centers soon organized in other cities.

The Indymedia network now circles the earth, with over 175 independent sites publishing news and information in some 20 languages. Supported by teams of creative volunteer programmers collaborating across time zones, Indymedia sites developed and promoted the use of web publishing tools that predated many of today's most popular web applications, including blogs, media-sharing sites like Flickr and Youtube, and even the quick-hit updates of Twitter. Defining itself from the start with a radically open "be-the-media" methodology, Indymedia turned journalism into a conversation, provoking generative questions about credibility and editorial standards in all news media.

This week, Reclaim the Media will be celebrating Indymedia's tenth anniversary by republishing several key media pieces from Indymedia's beginnings, covering the WTO ministerial in Seattle, and the epochal protests that succeeded in shutting the meetings down.

Thousands of readers in downtown Seattle received daily updates on the WTO protests from the Blind Spot, a print newsletter which Indymedia volunteers published daily for the duration of the WTO meetings, with a final wrap-up issue appearing in mid-December after the smoke had cleared. Issues of the Blind Spot combined on-the-street coverage of protest organizing and police activity, with background stories on international trade issues and critiques particular to indigenous people and people of color.

Below are links to the six original editions of the Blind Spot. We're also highlighting a few pieces of media criticism, some of which remain highly relevant ten years later.

Seattle TV: Official Media? (29 Nov 1999)
Ralph Nader and Errol Maitland (3 Dec 1999)
Police Snow Job Blankets Media (Dec 1999)


Nov. 29, 1999

Nov. 30, 1999

Dec. 1, 1999

Dec. 2, 1999

Dec. 3, 1999

Wrap-up issue

Showdown in Seattle Videos

Great to see the Blind Spots posted - these were real important to the local community during that week in Seattle. It's important to remember that the Seattle IMC provided localized media to the community (print/lpfm) as well as coverage for national and international audiences (the web site/ TV satellitecasts). The folks on the ground in Seattle did amazing work beginning months beforehand and laid the foundation for all the event driven IMC's to follow.

If you want to see the daily TV satellitecasts that the IMC did that week, you can watch them on archive.org. There are web and high-res MPG2 files you can also use to schedule on your local public access channel. This was the first time the media activist community attempted such a large effort - five days of TV satellitecasts from the streets and inside the movement as events unfolded.

Showdown in Seattle, Pt 1 - Seattle Prelude (1999)
http://www.archive.org/details/ddtv_186_a_showdown_in_seattle

Showdown in Seattle, Pt 2 - People Unite, Police Riot (1999)
http://www.archive.org/details/ddtv_186_b_showdown_in_seattle

Showdown in Seattle, Pt 3 - Occupied Seattle (1999)
http://www.archive.org/details/ddtv_186_c_d_showdown_in_seattle

Showdown in Seattle, Pt 4 - Unwilling Captives (1999)
http://www.archive.org/details/ddtv_186_d_showdown_in_seattle

Showdown in Seattle, Pt 5 - What Democracy Looks Like (1999)
http://www.archive.org/details/ddtv_186_e_showdown_in_seattle

Also see "This is What Democracy Looks Like", a feature documentary produced in the months after Seattle from interviews and some of the 400 hours of footage archived that week by the IMC. Produced by Big Noise Films (http://bignoisefilms.com/) and the Seattle IMC:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2007206186362541122#

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey