MJLI Part 2 Buying Power and Selling The Story

I woke up this morning to find that Sprint shut my cell phone off again, and I knew it was going to be a bad day. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with my payments lately as I try to live within the constraints of an AmeriCorps stipend. Even five dollars over the mark and they shut it off, without warning. Having just come back from the Media Justice Leadership Institute in Washington D.C., it gave me much to think about.

Media justice to me means I don’t need a lawyer to interpret my contract. It means I have more power and say in determining my right to information and how much I am going to be charged for it in accordance with the actual services provided. And as a consumer, I have the right to protect myself.

As Amalia Deloney from The Center for Media Justice pointed out, marketers and telecom corporations knew about our buying power years before we did. At one of the workshops at MJLI, Makani Themba Nixon of The Praxis Project had us break down a power grid of the major players in the media rights struggle, an incredibly valuable activity. But, it occurred to me later, nowhere on the chart did I see the word “consumers”. There were “people who use the internet” and “people who use wireless,” but it was not framed in terms of the power that a group of consumers can have over corporations. Buying power.

As consumers of media, we are also (by nature of the internet), producers of it. In an ideal, open internet space, “Rule the Air” becomes “Free the Air.” But we need to strengthen the story. In another workshop with Smart Meme, we built a narrative about media justice, drawing out elements of the story from both sides-the grassroots struggle and the telecom giants, and it soon became clear that we knew their story better then our own. I know, it was the end of the day and we were all tired ;-), but it made me wonder about how well they are selling their story, and ways we can make our story just as compelling and strong.

What kind of power is buying power? Is it a power to be leveraged? And how? How do we tell that story?

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