Can the Mainstream Press Understand Indymedia?

  • Can the Mainstream Press Understand Indymedia?
    The Washington Post has a surprisingly fair and mostly accurate article on the Independent Media Center movement, with a focus on coverage of protests of the World Bank & IMF in Washington DC this weekend. Nonetheless, a certain amount of the author’s professional journalism bias comes through, as in this passage, wherein his scepticism for non-hierachical democratic decision making are apparent:

    “And yet the IMC utopia is confronting some universal verities of storytelling dating back at least to Homer. The indie chroniclers haven’t invented any newways of telling stories yet. Most of their pieces adopt forms already much used by the mainstream media, albeit with different content. But in the end, crafting content requires selection, shortening, simplification and even a mildly authoritarian editorial brain making decisions — all of which indie media makers resist.”

    But this is only one method for crafting content. Mainstream news organizations, like the Washington Post, are very concerned with creating an air of authority and maintaining the illusion that their reporting is utterly consistent, complete, fair and authoritative. Indeed, it requires authoritarian methods to get tens to hundreds of writers, reporters, copyeditors and editors to absorb and mimic the approved style and approach (something for which journalism school has prepared them well). And regardless of how well a story is researched, reported and written, it cannot be singularly authoritative — any such appearance is the just the effect of style that we have been trained to read as “objective” or “true.”

    It appears that the mainstream press can’t or won’t understand the deficiencies of this approach, or why people would want something different, even if it appears less definitive.Indymedia is interested in creating no such illusions of authority or compreshensiveness. Indymedia challenges the reader to think, “is this bullshit?” And, if so, challenges her to respond directly to the item in question, or, even better, create her own piece that responds to, expands on or explicates the first.

    The mainstream journalism approach is a lecture. Indymedia is a dialogue.

    When you respond to the Washington Post your letter goes on a page designated for the purpose, divorced and decontextualized from the piece you’re responding to. If your reader missed the first article, she’s only getting the second half of the story. When you respond to an Indymedia article on-line it’s attached to the piece itself, no matter how scathing or complimentary the response. No credentials necessary.

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