A Model For An Alternative Media
Arizona Community Press looks it might be on to something. We all know the sad tale of the mainstream, corporate-owned media. As it sinks into oblivion, unable to adapt to modern readers and viewers and to technological changes and the realities of Neoliberal Capitalism, so do our choice of voices and viewpoints shrink. So does in depth reporting. Foreign bureaus are all gone. Opinions and viewpoints are culled into a very narrow range.
Arizona Community Press calls itself a press co-op. They are citizen journalists who, their statement of philosophy says, go the people being affected first, and then go the politicians and the powerful and have them explain.
The first story I read from them, which somebody had posted on Facebook, is about a struggle by a few homeowners in South Bisbee, AZ, to keep a huge mining company from taking their land. It's a pretty good example of the kind of reporting they'd like to do. The reporter talks to the people first.
He doesn't quite get around to getting ahold of anyone from the mining company, but that's where one of the thousands of laid off journalists who are now teaching or hanging wallpaper or changing tires could help a project like this. They can look at a story and ask: What did you forget? They have an idea of how you get the CEO of a big corporation on the phone, or, if you have to talk to a spokesperson, how to get the most out of that encounter. They know how to find documents quickly, which ones to look for out of hundreds of thousands on file. They know how to make connections. Who's behind this? What powerful interests are at stake? Who else in town would know something about this? Who might have an interest in stopping it?
There's a volunteer staff at Arizona Community Press, about whom the Editor writes:
"We are the volunteer working group for Arizona Community Press who
assists in collecting, editing and putting the stories up on the
website. Would you like to be part of the editorial collective for
Arizona Community Press? Come talk to us at the Arizona Community Press
meeting which meets every other Sunday at 5pm at Fair Trade Cafe (1st
Ave & Roosevelt in downtown Phoenix)."
This would be an ideal way to approach a project like this. Group meetings. Barnstorming. Going beyond the ability of a lone reporter or a few editors.
A quick read through the top stories on their web site now reveals that they don't quite live up to their ideal yet. Most of the stories, although they are on topics of concern to the common people of Arizona -- the homeless, immigrants, concerned citizens and activists -- were taken from other news accounts and web sites, and there were no interviews with the people who are affected.
But there is a lot of potential here. They have a nice web site going, and they are asking all the right questions. There already are a couple of fledgling "press associations" -- the equivalent of UPI and AP -- for alternative media, which are the invaluable next step after media like Arizona Community Press get on their feet. Through them, stories of national interest can be spread around, and bureaus can eventually be funded and staffed in places like Washington and in other countries.
What's most encouraging about Arizona Community Press is that their model doesn't rely on profit. They will be beholden to no one but themselves and their readers. All that's required for something like this to succeed is the interest and dedication of we the people. And the need for it, and that's already there.