Ida B Wells Media Justice Center

root - Posted on 11 September 2007

POOR Magazine's revolutionary media justice center at the US Social Forum this summer in Atlanta

by Staff Writer

OBJECTIVE: The creation of a collaborative media training, resource, support and PR center for the first-ever US Social Forum this summer in Atlanta. This grassroots center will create media coverage, documentation and first-person storytelling of the Forum through a journalistic model that up-ends traditional relationships between reporter/subject, rich/poor, white/non-white, citizen/undocumented, able-bodied/disabled (among others). By privileging the unheard voices of the movements with media access and support, the Grassroots Media Center will resist corporate control of media production and create a model of community/people-led news-making in the tradition of POOR/PNN’s Community Newsrooms for use in Atlanta and beyond long after the USSF

The media center’s work can be separated into several components:

1) Preparation: PR and Outreach.

Before the Forum, it will be crucial that respectful and appropriate outreach is done for key groups, organizations or individuals who could most benefit from the Media Center but may not be aware of its resources. The focus in the outreach work will be in making personal connections and addressing the barriers such groups experience when creating their own media. This work will result in the recruitment, before and during the Forum, of the grassroots activists and organizers who will do core-issue reporting in collaboration with the media center.

This outreach effort will be mirrored by the work of a PR team who will establish relationships with major media outlets through press releases, PSAs, web and other media. This work will bring forth the media interest needed to obtain mainstream coverage of the Forum.

2) On-site Training and Support of Community Journalists, Media Activists and Voices of Resistance.

Poor Magazine’s Race, Poverty and Media Justice Institute will lead media workshops at the USSF. These will train and offer resources to attendees as reporters and storytellers in various forms of digital media (radio, web/print, and video).

Poor Magazine Poverty Scholars will provide daily on-site media training in the production of non-colonizing, community integrated media coverage on the issues of the forum.

A daily (afternoon) media production strategy meetings, (led by Poor Magazine Poverty Scholars and attended by the USSF PR personnel, independent media producers, and all media volunteers) stories and press liaisons to outside media will be discussed and assigned to community journalists.

Poor Magazine Interns and other independent media producers and volunteers will facilitate equipment access and support story completion/delivery at Forum Media Center. (Intern duties will include equipment management, technical support, transcription, translation, and helping with phone and web communications).

Ongoing tech workshops will help train and support attendees to use equipment as needed.

Scenario 1: Independent media producer from KPFK in LA would support/facilitate with John X race, poverty scholar and survivor of police brutality to cover a workshop on police brutality and the prison industrial complex for radio and on-line media-

Scenario 2; John x would be one of the spokespeople for that morning’s Press Conference to Corporate media and part of the corporate media headline production

2) Integration/Infiltration of Corporate Media Coverage with Grassroots Journalists and Journalism. The Grassroots Media Center will create its own diverse body of documentation of the USSF (radio, print and TV) while co-opting corporate media coverage with community reporting and press liaisons:

Journalists at the media center will produce on-the-ground reporting on the events, people and ideas of the Social Forum. To be fed to partnering media organizations (KPFA in Berkeley, Indymedia, among others) via radio, internet and TV. The reporting created by grassroots journalists will be fed to mainstream media organizations whenever possible.

The PR working group (part of the media center) will hold daily morning press conferences for both community journalists and mainstream media. This daily event will assign and check in on stories by Center journalists, as well as feed leads to the corporate press and pair them with journalists and press liaisons who will assist them finding and creating their coverage. All corporate media will make and maintain contact with the USSF through the PR group working at the media center.

A PR working group will strategize community story coverage and communication with the corporate media at daily afternoon production meetings with the collaborating groups and journalists of the media center (POOR magazine/PoorNewsNetwork(PNN), other local and national partners).

3) Systematic Documentation

Breakout sessions will train digital storytellers to create radio, print and video pieces in a narrative (rather than journalistic) format. These documentary-style pieces will be made using first-person, observational and investigative techniques (not always possible in a journalistic format). These stand-alone pieces may also be integrated into a longer documentary on the Forum as a whole.

A documentary crew (who will also participate in POOR/PNN’s media workshops) will also be on-site at the Forum to shoot events and key interviews as determined by the Media Center Council. This footage will serve as the backbone of a comprehensive documentary about the US Social Forum, and will ensure effective video coverage of the week’s events. Some documentary pieces and journalism produced through the Media Center may integrated into this longer piece.

4) Final documentary and Compilation DVD. After the Forum, the documentary producers, in collaboration with Forum media center journalists and organizers, will edit a comprehensive video showing the week’s events, people and ideas.

The final documentary will be packaged onto a DVD with a complete collection of all the media (video, radio, and print) produced at the Media Center. This will provide an hour-by-hour archive of the Forum’s events as well as a powerful collection of grassroots documentary pieces by attendee journalists.

As part of this proposal, an outreach strategy for effectively using distributing, exhibiting and teaching with this DVD will be developed, using website outreach and delivery as well as local and national community networks and exhibition opportunities.

5) Nationwide Community Newsroom Network, with new locations in Atlanta and beyond… In the process of creating and implementing the Grassroots Media Center in Atlanta during the USSF, a longer-term goal of the Center will be to build the capacity, resources and connections to maintain a sustainable weekly Community Newsroom in Atlanta based on a model established by POOR Magazine/PoorNewsNetwork, also establishing freelance reporting opportunities for all poverty , race, youth and disability scholars with POOR/PNN and other media agencies relationships with Visiting activists and journalists will also leave the Forum with clear guidelines and connections to begin similar newsrooms across the country. The relationships fostered during the Forum will allow these diverse locations to establish a national network of Newsrooms, sharing stories, information and resources to build on.

Media Center Schedule

Media Center will be open 7am – 12midnight (???) to facilitate equipment access, support and story delivery.

Day One (Wed)

Media Center Events

: 9AM INTRODUCTORY Press Conference for Community and Mainstream Media. 10AM-3PMTraining workshops and Production meetings to train journalists, assign stories, support reporting and documentation completion and delivery. 3PM INTRODUCTORY Production and Strategy Meeting for all Media Center journalists and organizers.

Forum Events: March, Festival and Opening Program (including performances by the Po’ Poets and Welfare Queens)

Other: Documentary crew will be shooting arrivals and preparations for conference as well as all the events of the first day.

Days Two – Four (Thurs, Fri, Sat)

Media Center Events

: 9AM EVERY MORNING Press Conference for Community and Mainstream Media. 10AM-3PMTraining workshops and Production meetings to train journalists, assign stories, support reporting and documentation completion and delivery. 3PM EVERY AFTERNOON Production and Strategy Meeting for all Media Center journalists and organizers.

Forum Events: Poor Magazine Poverty Scholars will host events and panels to address issues of criminalization of poverty, poverty voyeurism and key strategies for media resistance (see description below). The Po’ Poets and Welfare Queens will also perform when possible at events at the Forum.

Other: Documentary crew will be shooting key events and interviews through these days.

Day Five (Sun)

Media Center Events: 9AM FINAL Press Conference. 3PM FINAL Production and Strategy meeting - next steps and how we will maintain our work and connections after the Forum.

Forum Events: Final Forum Events, Concert, Youth-Led Music Event

Other: Documentary crew will be shooting key events and interviews and final wrap up events and goodbyes.

On-going Forum Events to be covered (an incomplete list at this point):
Family Reunion and BBQ for the former inmates, their families and the families of those currently incarcerated.
Unity Soccer Tournament
Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign Tent City/Marches, etc
Youth Led Space
Queer Tent Space
Women’s Working Group Space and Events

Post-Forum Timeline

TBA – a schedule for delivery of final edited documentary and DVD compilation of works.
Participants at the Media Center will create a plan to maintain connections and continue their work at Community Newsrooms in their hometowns.


This group will be made up of the scholars and instructors from Poor’s Race, Poverty and Media Justice Institute, documentary lead producers, and key members of the Communication Working Group (especially PR and any liaisons with the corporate media), including local media and organizing partners. This group will establish the organizing principles of the Center, fulfill development and implementation of the Center, locate resources and funding, and collaborate with community journalists about the priorities and coverage to be created by the Media Center.


Poor Magazine Scholars/Teachers (8-10 people)

POOR Magazine is a non-profit, grassroots organization dedicated to providing revolutionary media access, education, as well as advocacy and resources to very low and no income adults and youths locally and globally. POOR produces several forms of media covering issues such as racism, poverty, police brutality, the criminal (in) justice system, gentrification and homelessness through the voices of the real experts, what we at POOR call poverty and race scholars, those who have experienced/lived through these positions of oppression themselves. POOR accomplishes these goals by producing a Pacifica radio show, online news service, a public access TV segment and print edition of POOR Magazine, a literary, visual arts publication. Another arm of POOR’s media resistance is its Race Poverty and Media Justice Institute, which provides extensive training in media, journalism and multimedia to people living in poverty, and struggling to survive and resist.

POOR Magazine was founded over ten years ago from nothing by a homeless mother/daughter team. Throughout its history POOR Magazine has worked tirelessly to get the real voices of poor people heard to stop the criminalization and marginalization of poor people all over the world, which we believe is furthered by messages created by corporate media. POOR is trying to create real change by fighting these messages, stereotypes and structures that allow poverty to continue all over the world. By changing the hands of the mic from those who are simply poverty voyeurists to those who have experienced poverty, welfare, racism, disability, immigration issues, homelessness and/or incarceration, POOR Magazine continues to challenge its viewers, listeners and readers to fight the lies and misconceptions the corporate media produces everyday about poor folks of color.

Poor Magazine Interns (4-6 people)
Poor Magazine interns have studied and worked with Poor as journalists and allies. These volunteers will facilitate smooth running of the Media Center. Must be proficient in web and digital audio and video programs.

Documentary Producer:
Gretchen Hildebran

Gretchen Hildebran is a filmmaker with a creative passion for social justice. Before starting Stanford’s Documentary Program in 2003, she worked as an advocate for formerly homeless adults confronting issues of poverty, mental health and substance abuse.

She also taught video production to at-risk Bay Area youth through TILT (Teaching Intermedia Literacy Tools). She also interned as a community journalist with Poor Magazine, a media training and resistance program for and by homeless and no-income people. In collaboration with Poor Magazine, she produced and directed a television campaign opposing a local ballot measure that proposed to cut aid to homeless people in San Francisco.

Her documentaries include the internationally screened CARVE, WORTH SAVING, (which was presented in HBO’s 2004 Frame by Frame documentary showcase) and OUT IN THE HEARTLAND. Gretchen is currently based out of New York and is producing a series of short videos to train California law enforcement about needle exchange.

Other Members: (need more info on these)

Local group representation: Indymedia Atlanta, WRFG (free speech radio station), and others TBA

Community Outreach Working Group

Media Center Technical Directors – members of Communication working group

Press Relations working group (reps and liaisons)

Media Center Equipment/Technical Needs:

1)Location: secure, consistent on-site space, available for all hours of the conference. One large room which can accommodate meetings and workshops of 20-50 people, and 2-3 smaller rooms available for breakout sessions, interviews, workshops, etc.

2)Workshops/Production Meetings:
White board/butcher paper
TV monitor (with DVD/VCR attached if possible)
Video Projector (pie in the sky – but then we could have nightly screenings of work)

3)Tech needs:
High Speed Internet Access
Long-distance telephone lines (3?)
3-5 Telephones, with conference-call ability

4) Equipment needs: Computer lab:
up to 10 computer workstations, high-speed internet ready, with functional word processing, photo processing and web applications. Several of these workstations should have digital audio and video software included.
500 GB hard drive space for media storage
2 black and white printers.
Cables, power strips as needed

Equipment resources (to be checked out by journalists/storytellers):
up to 10 still digital cameras
up to 20 minidisc recorders
(40) minidiscs
up to 10 minidv videocameras

NAQs (Never Asked Questions) From the Race, Poverty and Media Justice Institute at POOR

1. What is non-colonizing, community-rooted media production?

Media production that is led, designed and shaped by the people traditionally "seen" and "heard" as the "subject" of the news; i.e., poor folks, disabled, youth, incarcerated, houseless, elders, families, day laborers, working poor, etc. These are the leaders at POOR Magazine. We have created a new form of scholarship - a new canon of poverty, race, youth and disability scholarz. As folks who have experienced these positions of oppression first-hand we have personally felt, struggled, understood, dealt with and solved the extremely complex problems related to living and surviving through our lives.

The other crucial and radical aspect of this news is that it is led by what it can do for the community, not the reporter, the corporation, the news service. So for instance, a corporate media series "on homelessness" is created to "talk about what we can do about homelessness" - whereas our kind of media production would be led by the homeless folks themselves and would focus specifically on getting folks housed or dealing with issues affecting the homeless folks at the place where they convene or a law, policy or form of harassment impacting us such as the rise in criminalization of houseless people.

This concept of a caring and rooted media is contrary to most media production; corporate and independent, which is inherently voyeuristic- reporters come in and do the story - perhaps they "embed" or follow the story for a period of time - they write, report or produce the media and then go on the next story. Our form of media production isn't "embedded" or on a story for a period of time - its an integral part of community problem solving and community care-giving: to re-unite CPS (Child Proctective Services) separated families, to embarrass a landlord into stepping away from an illegal eviction, to stop a gentrification effort, to open the NIMBY-istic locked bathrooms of a neighborhood park for the use of undocumented workers, to name a few of the campaigns that POOR has collaborated on.

This form of media production plays one more important role- as a direct advocate and support. For example, reporting is only one part of creating change when it comes to the pending eviction of an African Descendent elder. Other work would include helping her with all parts of her life, including the worst-case scenario of helping her to move and find a new apartment.

2. Why should these voices lead media production? Why is it important to create this kind of Press room/press community (space) and why do these voices matter?

When our voices as poverty and race scholars shape our stories, the activism and the media organizing efforts are from the "inside." We know what we need - we know what needs to be done - for our communities, for our families, for our world.

3. How do Indymedia, other community-rooted and local media and corporate media integrate into this project?

All forms of media partners are an extremely important part of this project’s concept. We define the roles of these groups/organizations as supportive partners. This is an effort to break through the hierarchal position these media entities often hold in the structures of production and the inherent education privileges of most of these professionals.

Our vision is that corporate media actually listens and has a mutual exchange with the lead poverty, race and disability scholars who are the core sources and reporters on the story.

Independent media- just like POOR’s interns- should be filling what we call the role of media facilitator. This means to facilitate the media production/stories of the poverty race, youth and disability scholars, through listening and mutual critique, media analysis, writing, technological capacity-building, and ultimately co-authorship.


Scenario #1: A community group of undocumented laborers is attending the conference to draw attention to and support around harassment they experience in their home community. Once at the Forum, the group finds out about the media center and sends two representatives to report on the group’s work at home and at the Forum. The community journalists are connected with Poor Poverty Scholars who are also undocumented workers, paired with independent journalists who assist them in pitching, writing and producing their stories. These stories are posted online and broadcast on national radio affiliates. At the morning Media Center press conference, the PR liaison asks if they’d like to be interviewed by a local reporter who is covering issues about immigration at the Forum. They educate the reporter about the issues that brought their group to the Forum and bring her to the plenary session that afternoon on immigrant civil rights.

Scenario #2: An independent print journalist attends the conference in order to report on the anti-war movement. At the Media Center, the journalist is assigned to work with a group of youth reporting on military recruiting in their schools. The journalist facilitates the youth find and pitching stories, and gives assistance with finding sources and doing interviews, as well as feedback on their final stories. The journalist gets invaluable insight into the lack of resources available in many school districts and writes a companion piece about education funding and militarism. The pieces are all posted together online.

Scenario #3: The local paper decides to cover the Forum when they learn about the Family Reunion and BBQ for former inmates, their families and the families of those currently incarcerated. The reporter covering the story is told to attend a morning press conference to find out more information about the event. The paper is also contacted with a press release by a press liaison assigned to the Reunion. The press liaison is also a trained community journalist with a personal connection to the event. The liaison pitches a story on the event to the paper and meets with them before the BBQ to discuss it. The liaison brings the reporter to the event, and introduces them to several other community members, all of who feature prominently in the final story.


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