Simply: "... media should be used to promote democracy." (Wikipedia)
As a photojournalist and wanting to impove my media skills, I attended the first Media Democracy Conference at the Univeristy of Ottawa (Nov. 16-18) "... for media makers, activists and others who are interested in learning more about alternative media and developing some reporting skills. ... providing training for media making."
The three-day event featured 8 key speakers, 12 workshops and 12 sponsors. I missed the earlier Nov. 2 event Media Democracy Day, which is being promoted across Canada this year.
My generation recalls our fellow Canadian Dr. McLuhan, who in the 1960s coined and taught two famous sound-bite lessons: the medium is the message and the global village. He pioneered studying culture and techonology at the University of Toronto and predicted the World Wide Web.
I grew up with print, radio and TV media. Now we are at our next evolutionalry stage, an information-electronic-computer-ditigtal age where this new democratic media can be the new message if we participate. To prevent a monopoly of knowledge, just as we had typewriters and photocopiers in the past, now we need to get computers and learn and use many new digital skills, and advocate for Internet freedom of speech.
The conference organizers used a meaningful logo (top) and the new Internet tools of media democracy to announce their conference:
- Blog (Wordpress) — OrganizingForJustice.ca
- Social Media (Facebook) — Media Democracy Conference Nov 16-18
- Discussion board (Google Groups) — Facilitators and volunteers call-out for the Media Democracy Conference Ottawa!!
- Audio file (Soundcloud) — Greg MacDougall interviewed by Wairimu Gitau
Second, I could do more networking, audio, video, using a mobile computer. I appreciated the comment by Heather Menzies, a distinguished writer, speaker and teacher, who briefly but profoundly made her contribution from the audience. She spoke of giving voice to the local people and combining the power of photos and story to make this happen. Menzies passionately applauded the conference organizers for building a larger coalition of alternative media.
Third, I appreciate the collaborate / co-operative role of news gathering, editing and publishing. We cannot be effective by locking ourselves in silos. For example, my webmaster 2,000 miles away in Arizona, USA, works with me over the Internet as if he was next door. He does the geeky part so I can focus on photography and writing. I am learning a lot. We use email, web phone, and co-edit all content. He started this story to which I added my part, then he edited and posted.
Fourth, I was introduced to The Dominion 'news from the grassroots' journal which is a pan-Canadian media network that seeks to provide a counterpoint to the corporate media and direct attention to independent critics and the work of social movements. The journal is published in print and on the web. See a recent useful article on 'Co-ops for Social Change'.
Fifth, I am challenged by the prospect of building a media of action — one that parallels mainstream media which is often controlled by corporate interests such as the military industrial complex. For example, what imaginative ways can we employ alternative media to help create a Canadian Department of Peace? The same can be applied to my interests in world peace, climate change, overcoming violence in society, narrowing the economic gap between the rich and the poor, bolstering health and education as a right, encouraging non-confrontational parliamentary discourse, and dealing with gender discrimination.
Finally, a quote from one of the booklets that I picked up at the Conference (Understanding and Engaging the Media For NGOs by Rebecca Cohn and Kathryn White, for the United Nations Assocation of Canada, 2007:38) provides a nice tip for us in creating newsworthy stories:
- Relevance — does it have an impact on people's lives?
- Timeliness — does it involve a present issue?
- Human Interest — does it involve human emotions?
- Entertainment Value — does it stimulate curiosity?