Building a Local Independent Media Network


>> the following ideas were presented by myself (Greg Macdougall) as a session at the Un-censoring: MediaMorphosis conference (March 4-6, 2004 at Carleton University)

Through personal experience working with Indymedia in Kitchener-Waterloo and provincially with IMC Ontario, I’ve found that we do not have or apply all the necessary skills to ensure success.

Areas like human resources, marketing, planning, organizing, project management are where we fall down. In K-W we began the Blind Spot newspaper with a lot of people, a lot of energy, but it narrowed down to two of us maintaning it. Some people tend to come in and then leave without finding a way they can stay involved, to consistently contribute.

It is frustrating to see so many people concentrating so much energy on the mainstream media. Once we’ve established that there are serious problems there, it doesn’t help to keep saying what is wrong with it. We can decide we need to build something new, then put our energy into that effort.

The strength of the IMC / Indymedia network is in it’s ability to be a central hub for all independent media. There are already a lot of independent media out there, the IMC is able to be a common meeting point for them all, globally as well as locally, a place where people could plug in and choose whatever media most suited their needs. For this to happen it requires work plus strategy (we need to be smart).

Some key strategies:

* start small, build base on strengths .. maybe focus on the web site as centre of IMC instead of trying to do a whole lot of projects at once, working on improving site / adding functionality / user friendliness

* provide something consistent, meaningful to people .. this could be a printed local event calendar / listings, weekly or biweekly

* guerilla tactics: use weaknesss as a strength .. corp. media has lots of resources to print and distribute centrally, we don’t, so design things in order to capitalize on what we do have, a network of people linked electronically (ex of project: print distribution through .pdf, lots of people do some copying, distribution/ posting, OR, regular update / summary emails sent out through email list, lots of people receive, fwd on to more people)

* decentralization .. no hierarchy, no central decision-making body, small group autonomy can be more effective

* grassroots and continuity .. power is in small, local meetings where people can input, come to decision, believe in decision .. need to come together regularly / often

* diversity / accessibility .. consists of recognizing barriers to involvement, understanding what diversity means, creativity in solutions to barriers .. what we are making is for use equally by all, make it accessible, listen to potential partners needs / concerns

* based in local community .. people want to know what’s happening in own area, also what effects their lives (what they need or can use) .. real world connection, not just online

* communicating the message of IMC .. able to say clearly to people what this is about .. able to frame issue in a way that gives them way to respond

>>>> critique / comments from sessions attendees:

  • can see how important it is to reach out into community, get support .. can’t do it all yourself
  • don’t be too hard on selves for lack of sucess, maybe we’re trying to do too much all at once
  • some key questions: .. how to get greater audience to move to IMC, how to make it more legitimate? .. how to make it viable / sustaining (financially)?
  • good place for journalism students to post (and others who are already producing content) .. would be good to target profs, so they could inform students


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