Welcome to Activist Land!

Activist Land provides tools and a pragmatic forum for the progressive activist community. It aims to complement traditional political blogs by emphasizing how you can get involved in specific issues and how to integrate activism into your life in an effective and sustainable way. Therefore, in addition to calling for action on a particular issue, it encourages people to post "activism opportunity" posts that describe the nuts and bolts of how one would, or did, take action in a particular instance.

My main area of focus is media reform. I've been working with Save Boston's Progressive Talk to help bring progressive talk radio to Boston, and I've written interviews to publicize "The Real News", an independent international news network. My secondary area of focus is election integrity. I maintain a set of Voting Rights pages with an emphasis on an election integrity timeline. I've written pieces on these and other subjects for Daily Kos and my local newspaper. For more info, see my first post. Come and join the community!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Real News (January 2007): "Go big or go home"

[I originally posted this series at Daily Kos in January 2007. In order to make it more readable, I split it into five parts. To save space, this diary links to the final four parts of the series. See also the later interview that I posted in July.]

Now that we've broken a corrupt party's stranglehold on political power, it's time to put the corporate Goliaths of the media on notice. I was pleased to see a healthy debate two days after Election Day about restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Whether you find yourself pro or con, it's great that the subject is being discussed. However, I want to tell you about an entirely different approach toward reclaiming truth on the airwaves.

IWT/TRN crew with Paul Jay seated in front

While we political activists have been fighting to regain our democracy, an intrepid TV network named Independent World Television, which accepts no corporate or government funds, has been quietly getting itself off the ground. Some of us heard about IWT in 2005. In late February of that year, coldfusion announced "New TV News Network Coming!" with the accurate observation that "This could be HUGE, but it will take time." Then, in June and July, a spate of diaries gathering much more attention (among these, diaries written by tribe34 and m16eib) encouraged us to take IWT's survey and donate to the network. The news attracted attention from a few other blogs such as BuzzFlash, from a student newspaper at Lakehead University in Ontario and from several mainstream newspapers in Canada, the UK, and the US.

Months later, on March 22, 2006, I caught an interview with Paul Jay, the chair of IWT, on the Stephanie Miller radio show. That night, I visited the IWT website and asked why they'd been quiet for so long. I received a personal e-mail from Paul, asking me to sign up for their mailing list and telling me to watch for the new business plan they'd be posting in the coming week. Once I saw it, I wrote back with a few questions and offered to do an interview, which I would post here at Daily Kos. Paul eventually responded to the questions but somehow neglected to mention the interview offer, though he said rather cryptically "Help on the blogs would be appreciated."

In late August came the announcement that IWT and its flagship news show, "The Real News," was "entering an exciting new phase" and conducting a "world-wide talent search" for hosts. Encouraged, and figuring that perhaps my original offer had gotten lost in the shuffle, I wrote another e-mail offering to interview Paul. I was excited to receive a positive reply from his assistant: "Paul would very much like to set this interview up." Not only was I thrilled to have my offer accepted, but I was glad that there was at least one other member of the crew to handle communication with The Public. We set up the interview for mid-September.

The call was very energizing. Paul is persuasive, as you will see, and assuaged many of my fears about IWT/TRN. He did want me to hold off posting the interview, though, until they had a better infrastructure for dealing with mass interest, inquiries, and subscriptions. They had been swamped by our enthusiasm in 2005, when they didn't have enough staff to handle the unexpected flood of communication, so they didn't want to go public prematurely. New infrastructure, including a redesigned web interface, is now in place. So without much more ado, I will present you with first few paragraphs of the interview. I'll be bringing the rest to you as a series.

In the meantime, please:

(a) visit the site

(b) contribute (it's tax-deductible!), preferably as a monthly sponsor (warning for dialup users: short video at this link, but if you hit the pause button quickly, it will stop)

(c) urge your friends to join you in steps (a) and (b). They may be sick of being asked to support candidates or sign petitions, but a chance to reach the masses via a new television network is something quite different.

(d) if you live in or can move to Toronto, where production will begin, consider contacting IWT/TRN to help out as a volunteer or apply for a position on the crew

(e) write to volunteer@therealnews.com if you can help out in other ways (such as hosting an IWT event)

And here we go!

AF: A lot of people would like to see you on the air yesterday, if not sooner. But your current timetable suggests that you won't be launching until late 2007. Could you give us an idea of how things are going and why the process might take so long?

PJ: We've been trying to balance two things: how you prepare the conditions so that you can come out with enough substance and big enough to make a difference, and how you sustain it. Even if we raise enough money to get started with the daily world news show and get it out for a month or two, the worst thing would be to start something big and then three months later go black. So from the very beginning, our internal slogan was "Go big or go home." We need to be a real source of world news, a place for front-line breaking news reporting and analysis and debate. And that's expensive. We want to compete with CNN, even if it's a ten or fifteen-year arc to get there. We're fundamentally about being able to speak to a mass audience. We're not trying to be another source that supplements the kind of information sources that already exist for very politicized people. If you're very political and you're at all web-savvy, there are actually a lot of places you can go to get information right now. In the final analysis, that's not our target audience. Of course we want those people to be with us, and we're very much going to depend on them for financial support, for spreading the word, for helping us get angles on stories, and even for citizen journalism. But we want to get to that thirty, forty, or fifty million who know there's something wrong, who know the television news they're getting is bad, who know the country is headed in a very dangerous direction -- not just the country, the world. In the U.S. there are at least forty or fifty million people out there who do not believe Saddam was connected to 9/11, who don't think that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. If you look at the polls, 40% or 50% of the country is quite clear on the issues. We want to be big enough to make an impact.

If you read our business plan, we talk about the rollout of sample content. We are going to start a weekly show by January. You're the first to hear it: it's called "The Real News Beta." We're going to let people in on where we are in our development, to give people a taste of what's coming. We're going to take the big story of the week, take clips of how other news shows have covered that story. If the show was the war in Lebanon, for example, we'd show how CNN covered it, ABC, Fox, but we'd also show how BBC, CBC [Canadian Broadcast Corporation], Al-Jazeera covered it. then go to a journalist in the field and ask the journalist how they think television is covering the story, and what is the real story. We will be starting a regular short newscast.

Much more to come. Stay tuned...

Update [2007-1-5 11:54:5 by AlanF]: Later installments in the series:

"Oh, you mean the REAL news!": Interview with Paul Jay, IWT/The Real News, Part 2

"We'll go where the facts take us": Interview with Paul Jay, IWT/The Real News, Part 3

"Seeking truth, not balance": Interview with Paul Jay, IWT/The Real News, Part 4

"We want all of you!": Interview with Paul Jay, IWT/The Real News, Part 5

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