Day: January 13, 2007

Using Social Networks Politically


How do I? – John Gilchrist of questions the panel on social networking and political change. Between the subject and the occasional bass from a session in an adjoining room, no one slept after lunch at this session.

MEMPHIS (Jan. 13) – The “Bubbling Up: MySpace, YouTube, Social Networking & Political Change” breakout session at the National Conference for Media Reform promised to cure the after-dinner sleepies by discussing the future of independent media and political activism through an examination of social media.

James Rucker, of, helped the 2006 election coverage through Video the Vote, which recruited voting activists who had a camera or cell phone to document the disenfranchising of any voter.

“What you have with the Internet is a publishing platform that anyone can participate in,” he said. “As we heard problems developing, we’d deploy a volunteer who’d signed up online. They’d document the problem and upload it to our site.”

The site acted as a front end into the YouTube database, which Rucker said is hard to navigate due to its lack of consumable packaging. Video the Vote took the disparate videos and produced video essays, some of which were picked up by corporate media. Rucker plans to use the same idea for CopWatch, which will document police brutality.

“Everyone knows a story of police brutality,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing that’s very hard to get a feel for what’s happened when it’s in print. With cell phones, people capture things of cops being rough.”

Rucker said he believes in the power of citizen media and thinks it will change corporate media from the kind of force that it’s been. While at the moment many of the smaller players are not necessarily trusted nor do they carry the brand name, Rucker looks to bloggers as an example that the market place has been forced to acknowledge.

“I actually think corporate media will have a hard time competing with people producing citizen journalism,” he said.

Read more: Using Social Networks Politically

Taking the Time to Find Hope

By Ronald Sitton

MEMPHIS (Jan. 13) – Yesterday’s mists turned into today’s showers, making it hard to see down Interstate 40 as I returned to Memphis after going home to Little Rock last night.

While that may seem like quite a drive for a conference, I believe it’s relative. A thought struck somewhere along I-40 that thinking takes time, and taking your time seems to be the true mark of a Southerner.


When taking your time, you see things others might overlook. On glancing out my window just prior to reaching Brinkley, I noticed a field full of geese. At first I thought it might be snow, but of course it’s raining and too warm for anything to stick. I pulled over in time to get a picture of a flock taking flight.

Hometown? – Although Brinkley considers itself the hometown of the rediscovered Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, other Arkansas residents claimed to have seen the bird in the Southeast portion of the state.

Just down the road, a billboard boasts “Brinkley, Home of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker” in reference to the 2004 rediscovery of the bird once thought extinct. The grainy footage caught by researchers led some to claim that the stories of this rediscovery are just wives tales. To be honest, even if it’s only a story, it does not matter.

While attending the University of Tennessee, I’d travel back and forth between Knoxville and Little Rock. On more than one occasion, I took the Brinkley/Cotton Plant exit for a gas stop. The discovery of the Lord God Bird made a remarkable change to this area.


Just west of town next to the interstate stands a new convention center. Where once stood an abandoned-looking hotel, now the Ivory Billed Inn beckons tourists from around the world hoping to gain a glimpse of what they once believed to be extinct.

In short, the idea of the “The Lord God Bird” still being alive despite man’s destruction of its habitat keeps hope alive, and that’s priceless.

Of course, I have heard tales of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker being seen as far south as Crossett. With the waterways and woods of eastern Arkansas, I find it easy to believe the bird surely must be somewhere amongst those trees.

Upon finally making it back to Memphis, I had to stop in midtown at Shang Hai Oriental Restaurant on Poplar Avenue to eat Vietnamese food. I enjoyed the Pad Khing with shrimp before heading back to the conference. I’m also enjoying the free WiFi provided at the conference, though sometimes it goes in and out. I had to switch to a landline just to get on again. 🙁

How Do You Make It Pay?

Memphis (Jan. 12) – During Friday’s “Building and Sustaining Independent Media” breakout session, the presenters overviewed their individual independent outlets and suggested how the independent media landscape could be strengthened, yet they could only suggest diversifying when trying to answer the most-asked question of the afternoon: how can independent media make money?

Kim Spencer, executive director of Link TV, said the key to profitability rests in a variety of funding sources. While that may seem obvious, Bonnie Boswell of The Real News took it a step further, noting that the proposed international independent news network would rely on individuals as the primary source of funding, in essence creating a publicly driven media source.

“We intend to have no government financing or advertising,” Boswell said. “We’ve raised $5 million and intend to raise $15 million more. If we can get 250,000 people to give $10 a month then you can be independent.”

Moderator Tracy Van Slyke, publisher of the 30-year-old independent national award-winning news magazine In These Times, noted while independent media may be poor in capital, it boasts rich content. In hopes of increasing the reach of that content, many of the organizations joined – a network of 35 progressive media organizations filling a void created by the loss of organizations like the Independent Press Association, which folded over a week ago.

“Many funders don’t understand the need for funding of the progressive media landscape,” Vans Slyke said.

Read more: How Do You Make It Pay?