Boston Area Activists Hold Event to Build for April Media Reform Confab
Cambridge, MA - In preparation for a huge national gathering of media reform activists on April 8-10 in Boston, local activists gathered last week to discuss opportunities for organizing a reform network focused on Metro Boston.
About 50 people gathered at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge on March 22 to hear Nolan Bowie, Senior Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a panel of representatives of the local host committee for the National Conference for Media Reform.
Bowie opened the session by calling for a “revolution” in the ability of people to communicate with one another, through broadcasting as well as the Internet.
“Rapid change” has taken place “not just in technologies but in relationships of power,” Bowie said. “We’ve had a paradigm shift from scarcity to superabundance,” but the multiplication of channels and messages has not ensured that underrepresented groups will be heard, he said.
He described the Internet as a “two-edged sword” that gives individuals new power to communicate but comes with profound privacy concerns. He also objected to the recent calls for “net neutrality,” asserting that they don’t go far enough. Government should not just be neutral, but should take an active stance for fairness, he said. Access should be “both universal and ubiquitous,” not merely in libraries and schools, but wherever individuals congregate.
Citing the First Amendment right to free speech and federal laws stating that the airwaves belong to the public, Bowie proposed that there should be a “right to a mass audience” for community-based groups, not just for corporate owners of major media channels. Media activists need to address the fact that, despite the multiplicity of information sources, most people cling to corporate-controlled media. “We tend not to choose information that will empower us,” said Bowie.
He called on the audience to “communicate with members of your community,” adding that “we all have a duty as citizens.”
Bowie was followed by three members of the local host committee for the NCMR: Nicole Belanger of Cambridge Community Television, Andrew Whitacre of the Center for the Future of Civic Media at MIT, and Jason Pramas of Open Media Boston. They each spoke about their organizations and what they could bring to a Boston-area media reform network.
Two staff members of Free Press who are working on the national conference, Outreach Manager Candace Clement and Program Coordinator Libby Reinish, also spoke about the upcoming event. Clement said they’re expecting over 2,000 people to attend the conference, which will feature more than 300 speakers, over 60 workshops, and a vast opportunity for formal and informal exchanges of ideas.
Among the local highlights of the conference, Pramas and Reinish will lead a roundtable discussion on “Building a Media Reform Network in Boston” on Saturday, April 9, at 2 p.m. There will also be a panel on “The State of Boston Media” on Friday at 9 a.m., featuring Bill Forry, managing editor of the Reporter Newspapers, Caleb Solomon, managing editor of the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix editor Carly Carioli, El Planeta editor Marcela García, and WBUR general manager Charles Kravetz.
For more information visit http://conference.freepress.net.