Independent Media – ideas & strategy

IMC Ontario Workshop Feedback


Feedback from Anarchist Bookfair Workshop (October 2002) and other places



  1. part of a global network that is gaining prominence
  2. collaborative website, with many publishers, and more readers
  3. potential for many individuals working on various static pages for the website
  4. resources that can be cobbled together to create media centres for actions
  5. experience in covering protests and other issues
  6. experience in print, pictures, radio, and video
  7. interest in volunteering
  8. Gives everyone a sense of ownership. Anyone with access can post to Indymedia, and see their article or comment up shortly after.
  9. Has organic growth, independent of the website maintainers. This constant updating brings people back to the site, without too much work from the website maintainers.
  10. Brings previously unheard points of view to a public forum.
  11. Allows media makers to get their content out quickly, and have it quickly retrieved by independent publishers.
  12. Get many points of view, rather than filtered through world view of a small group.



  1. not striking a good balance between open publishing and comfortable web space for the environmental and social justice movements
    • lots of hate posts and other crap
    • no organization by topic or locale
    • few volunteer editors — not enough to cover policy
    • policy needs to be stronger, but needs software change to make that acceptable
  2. site could use a facelift
  3. needs more local coverage throughout Ontario (and people to do this)
  4. no ongoing training or support for volunteers
    • most potential volunteers are in the Toronto area; no collective to hook them up with
  5. no ongoing organization to deal with the issues; e-mail doesn’t seem to work for most discussion
  6. some anarchists don’t like the somewhat top-down nature of indymedia, and have serious (and legitimate) concerns about the global organization, which could be a barrier for working with allies
  7. open publishing allows the easy spread of disinformation, hate propaganda, etc. using our resources.
  8. legitimate work gets drowned out by off-the-cuff rants and asinine comments.
  9. because of power dynamics (including access to technology and time) and its free-for-all nature, the newswire becomes a white-male-dominated forum.
  10. because of the open nature, there is no coherent message from our website, and analysis loses out to sensationalism (just like the corporate media).
  11. stuff gets lost easily on the single newswire — hard to find what you want.
  12. People don’t understand the open publishing concept, and blame us for the content.


Possible Solutions:

  1. we need an organization in Toronto that meets regularly, or we need to be able to refer Toronto people to other groups to meet their needs
  2. web site and editorial policy need overhaul
  3. we need to figure out what IMC Ontario is, and whether it really can exist as an organization
  4. should we have regular spokescouncils, with active collectives sending a member, and at-large members also attending?
  5. for Ottawa, and people who can’t travel, should we do teleconferencing, computer IRC, or what?
  6. what services do we offer as IMC Ontario?
    • Is it the website?
    • e-mail lists?
    • special event media spaces?
    • other collaborative projects (like print)?
    • should we have major networking projects (building contact lists of media and activist groups)?
  7. Implement categorization by topic and locality, and have subgroups work on certain topic areas, with a separate set of features for each [TWiki handles this]
  8. Allow easier access to the editorial collective, but more accountability — each person has their own password, and must state reasons for their actions [Done — need to add to TWiki]
  9. We will clearly state that appeals should be directed to imc-ontario-editorial.
  10. We will revoke privileges for editors who abuse them, and review their decisions.
  11. Two levels of article hiding: First level will still have the article one click away, but not directly in your face (and will explain that it’s hidden and why). The second level will only be accessible for those with an editorial password only (for serious breaches of legality, etc.).
  12. More restrictive editorial policy (balanced by one-click hiding as mentioned above)
  13. In order to accomplish this, we could port our software to the San Francisco version of Active (or Baltimore’s DadaIMC?) [or TWiki], and do some custom programming to meet our needs. Later, when Active 2 is finished [if it ever is], we could port to that, and get more advanced features.


Feedback from Toronto Social Forum (January 2003)


Why has indymedia come to be?

  • people didn’t / don’t feel represented in the conventional media, they don’t see their feelings, sentiments, priorities reflected in the mass media
  • the media is controlled, by political ideology as well as by commercial interests
  • people took the energy they found in the indymedia convergence in seattle (and at other more recent protests) and took that back to the local level
  • the internet provided a new opportunity to communicate with people and link independent media organizations
  • video could be an effective means of communicating strategy, and creating energy and excitement around issues and possible tactics — you could draw on expertise from elsewhere.
  • a point was also made about the need for activist movements to DOCUMENT their struggles, and then to EVALUATE how they are working… which is why we carry news and opinion.


What does it mean to activists/movements/society?

  • it serves as a central hub of up-to-date activist information and coverage, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all the different issues
  • helps counter the overwhelmingness that people can feel by the huge number of websites related to specific groups / organizations / causes / etc, with one place that can link to all of those
  • opportunity for activists / movements to have control over the media coverage of their event / issue, and to decide what is emphasized in the coverage
  • opportunity to connect people and movements globally through the global indy network
  • generates excitement and interest in media-making (lots of people will be able to see whatever it is you make)
  • survey of range of diversities in social justice and environmental movements
  • we can’t have a real democracy without a democratic media, which means a participatory media, and so far this is as good as it gets, so lets get with it ;>
  • Indymedia helps the DOCUMENTATION and EVALUATION of activist struggles
  • Indymedia provides important LEGAL SUPPORT, supplying evidence that can get charges dropped
  • Indymedia has had success at bringing together hard-to-find resources. (e.g. the anti-Olympic movement in Australia)
  • hope. Coverage of concerned citizens, standing up for something, trying to make change, gives me hope. Just knowing so many people exist, and so many actions are being taken, makes me feel that my actions are not irrelevant.


Key Elements to be Healthy and Vibrant

  • having a strong internet presence, but also a strong real-world presence as well (print, radio, video)
  • presence in other media, to gain legitimacy, credibility, and to raise awareness among the general population
  • collaborative efforts with different groups (activist grooups, media groups, unions, NGOs, ..)
  • having different positions in place within the organization, where one or more people are responsible for a certain element of the overall work (doesn’t mean they are in control, or do it all, but are in charge of coordinating, and in charge of keeping track of plans, etc.)
  • have a large amount of cross-over participation, where people involved with different events / issues / groups also are active within the indymedia structure
  • need to be open, accountable, transparent in all our operations (.. what does that mean in practice?)
  • easy to participate and get involved with, to see where you can fit in
  • exposure: on streets, in public places, in businesses/workplaces, in homes, in different organizations, …
  • mix and interconnect virtual and real media (web, radio shows, video, print)
  • mix amateur and (para-)professional media makers
  • based on open source software (free software that can be freely modified and redistributed)
  • open publishing (anyone can post a story, and it is visible immediately)
  • collaboration with existing media (independent and corporate)
  • recruitment of volunteers (welcoming, inviting, exciting)
  • media studies students could be a good source
  • need strategies to ensure a good flow of high-quality content
  • people come when the goal is tangible!
  • action-hopping is popular; ongoing theoretical and organizational work less so
  • need to keep the personal interaction!


How do we implement these ideas?

  • in order to implement some good things with Indymedia, I think one thing to do is determine, what are the specific things we want to be doing
  • after doing that, I think we have one or two people take responsibility for each area, so that we can ensure we have someone focused on each initiative / effort
  • i think also that it is vital for us to tap into where the skills and resources already are. For instance, there is an Anti-Racism Media Education group in toronto (ARMEd) and maybe they’d want to help Indymedia with becoming more inclusive, and reflective of diversity
  • i think it is also vital to harness the passion and energy that is already out there, being devoted to whatever different causes (ie Iraq is a major one right now) .. i think to do this we need to show people how they can use that passion and energy to help make a difference, both for Indymedia, and for their cause through Indymedia


Feedback from Toronto Social Forum (March 2003)



  • not everyone is “on the web”
  • computers are useful tool for some news distribution, but the information must be converted to other forms that can be more widely used
  • uploading production quality material should be encouraged, with a lower-grade version available for personal previewing [done somewhat]
  • booths like “Speaker’s Corner” to create audio, video, pictures without web access.
  • more focus on outreach to minority groups
  • talk to people; understand the barriers better


Supports and Obstacles to Involvement

  • Need ways to involve people who don’t come to meetings, but want to be active
  • Needs to be fun
  • Need to have power dynamics that encourage a sense of ownership and involvement (lack of hierarchy)
  • Need to give a positive outlook — something empowering for people
  • Need to provide a local perspective on issues, to involve the community
  • Training can give people confidence, and give them skills that give the organization a positive image.
  • Organizational content in our media will encourage partnerships
  • Need more outreach (representatives meeting with community groups)
  • Fewer physical meetings with more content (see below)


Physical Meetings

  • Larger scale meetings, once or twice a year, would get more people out
  • These meetings can make major decisions on the direction of the organization
  • Training workshops can happen then
  • Collective creation of something over the given time period would be rewarding for those who attend

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