Community organizations join hands for media justice: NW MAG-Net

On Friday March 27, Reclaim the Media and the Youth Media Institute hosted a local conversation on media justice for local grassroots social justice organizers, at Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine in the Central District. Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Oakland-based Center for Media Justice, was our featured guest. She and I led a lively discussion about some of the media problems facing local communities (see below for some notes). The evening also included an appeal for organizations to join an emerging regional-to-national media justice coalition, the Media Action Grassroots Network.

Reclaim the Media is a co-founder of the national MAG-Net coalition, which links together grassroots media justice groups in Seattle, the SF Bay area, South Texas, Minneapolis, New York, Albuquerque, Appalachia and Philadelphia. MAG-Net groups have worked together on specific media campaigns, on base-building strategies, and on amplifying media justice values within national media policy discussions. Now, along with other MAG-Net "hub" groups in different regions, Reclaim the Media is turning more of our attention to local and regional collaborations.

Along with core local partners One America and the Youth Media Institute, we will be encouraging greater collaborations among Seattle-area social justice groups concerned with how media access, representation and accountability affect community struggles for immigrant rights, youth culture, racism and other forms of discrimination.

While many of the groups represented at Friday night's meetup have a long history of collaborations (including media-focused projects, the Hidmo event was most people's first introduction to the NW MAG-Net coalition. 30 or 40 folks from a broad range of groups showed up to participate, including representatives from KBCS, the local Council on American-Islamic Relations, Entre Hermanos, Communities Against Rape and Abuse, and others. The discussion also included performing artists, communications professionals, and State Rep. Bob Hasegawa.

By the end of the evening, several of Seattle's most dynamic and exciting grassroots orgs: the Community Alliance for Global Justice, Hidmo, Ozya, and the Vera Project. Welcome all – and watch out for more to come from this promising pairing-up of grassroots justice work and media action!

Some NW media justice issues identified at Hidmo:

  • Broadband access for underserved communities
  • Access to critical thinking skills; digital media literacy
  • Access to computer hardware/adoption
  • Misrepresentation in media
  • Lack of communication strategies for justice groups
  • Need to connect producers and organizers for maximum impact
  • Shifts in journalism and the role of the "audience"
  • How to engage young people to reveal the impact of media on their lives? Media literacy education in community organizing as well as in classrooms
  • Exploitation of youth of color in news – reliance of frames that are prejudicial, sensationalistic and fearmongering
  • Who are "experts" who get interviewed?
  • Racism in white progressive media

Some particular projects for potential NW MAG-Net collaboration:

  • Broadband stimulus projects in Seattle
  • Spokesperson training
  • Resource-sharing
  • Info distribution mechanisms/networks
  • Reclaiming arts space
  • Journalism That Matters: a floating think-tank on journalism
  • Blogging
  • History of local progressive media
  • 10-year WTO anniversary-related programs
  • Collaborative definitions of media justice
  • linking DTV shift to broader Digital Inclusion issue
The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey