I'm sitting here right now in the convention center in Minneapolis fresh out of the opening plenary session of the National Conference for Media Reform. The energy and passion is vibrant and I have high hopes for this weekend's event.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota spoke about how this represents a continuation f the feisty independent journalism we need in this democracy. She highlighted how free and fair and open access to the Internet is vital to our democracy and closed by sharing with us an anecdote on how the Ojibwa people say the decisions of people are not maed for today's leaders but for leader's seven generations down.
Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, ignited the people's passion at this conference by coming out immediately against the news media for being complicit enablers. He described them as being not watchdogs but lapdogs begging for scraps.
Silver then proceeded to cycle through the Bush administration's egregious offenses---using retired generals for propaganda in local news, hiring pundits like Armstrong Williams to peddle programs, acting as a mouthpiece to make people afraid, etc.
In closing he asked, what kind of country has a media system that is more concerned about Paris Hilton than genocide in Africa?. And he asked us to recognize that the Internet gives us to organize against power and use that capability for reform and justice.
Adrienne Marie Brown from the Ruckus Society stepped up next opening up with a great song that went, "Woke up this morning with my mind, set on freedom." She repeated it harmonically and created a mood for uprising similar to the mood African-American slaves used to create on plantations.
Brown expressed her sentiment that media exists not just to inform but to transform and not just for consumers but for co-creators. She added that media is really about what we the people talk about and not that we offer better analysis than the mainstream media.
Lawrence Lessig was up next to talk about Change Congress, his new initative to make Congress less accepting of bribes. It's an initiative to restore democracy and one that I will highlight in more detail in a future article.
Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota's fifth district closed the opening session with a speech that was so passionate and energetic it was a welcome departure from the regal and restrained orations Barack Obama delivers. He cut loose saying that with a consolidated corporatized media we will know in our gut something is wrong but we won't know the specifics.
Ellison went through all the media ownership fights that have transpired on Capitol Hill in recent months and then spoke about preserving the Internet. He also took a moment to go after Americans who elect leaders like Republicans who don't believe in government saying, "There's a reason vegetarians do not make good steakhouse chefs."
Ellison closed by saying if the people have the information, they will know what to do with it. And called upon us to fight for reform and justice (or continue to) so that people can have the information they need.
...More to Come...