On our last Occupy Supply Skill Share we were joined by Mark Taylor-Canfield, member of the Occupy Seattle Media Working Group and independent journalist with articles published in Huff Post, Daily Kos, CounterPunch, Seattle Times, Alternet, Crosscut, IMC, Washington Free Press, and Capitol Hill Times. Mark gave us his unique perspective on the relationship between activism and journalism. Mark has been a part of the movement to bring back journalistic integrity, testifying before the FCC about corporate influence over the media, as well as working with the National Lawyer’s Guild to report police tactics against protesters.
Mark started off by offering his experience and ideas about what journalism is, showing folks in the movement how they can overcome the many obstacles that interfere with the development of honest relationships with both alternative and corporate media reporters. It is important for occupiers to create their own media as a way to circumvent the corporate resistance to their movement. In order to understand how to deal with and create your own media, you first need to identify the job of the reporter: “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” with a responsibility to tell the truth. “Speaking truth to power is our obligation and our duty to society.” Mark further discussed the failure of the Fourth Estate and lack of accountability for those in power: government, corporations, and other large institutions. This has lead the 1% to control of the media, Mark has testified to this effect before the FCC: Negative Effects of Corporate Media Consolidation. He was able to uncover two suppressed research reports that the FCC commissioned which contradicts their arguments for allowing media consolidation which lead to ground breaking work with FCC whistleblowers.
The conversation then moved in a more solution-oriented direction as Mark went over some of the issues with the current state of the media. According to Mark, most news outlets “rely on unpaid or low paid bloggers to do a lot of their work. They take advantage of “social sourcing” for much of their news now. Corporate news media staffs have been cut to the bone.” These issues mean that we need to help them do their jobs and they will reciprocate by working with you in the future.
Next we talked about the importance of alternative media which has been under attack over the past few years. “Alternative media is suffering from lack of funding and lack of promotion/advertising.” Because alternative media outlets generally don’t have corporate funding they rely heavily on loyalty and word of mouth. Remaining independent often means you will be underfunded in comparison to corporate media. Mark explained this phenomena by stating. “Small community stations in the US are in trouble and closing down due to government regulatory policies – in many cases they are the only real local news coverage. Commercial corporate news comes from the nearest big city market – people hundreds of miles away in a small rural town in Washington state can only get their news from Seattle or Portland. As a result, no one is reporting on events in their communities.”
Free Speech News, Pacifica and Democracy Now are great news organizations that can use our support. Amy Goodman and other journalists have been under attack by the right and corporate interests; it is up to the activist to support these independent media outlets and direct viewership towards them while creating their own media. Mark went through useful resources for activists to provide there own coverage when the media is not responding and stressed the importance of covering the stories of your activism before media outlets. After going over some tips on talking to media and the difference between talking to the opposition and preaching to the choir the conversation wrapped up with some final advice about dealing with the media and the relationship between Journalism and Activism before Mark took questions from the audience.