Power International: Independent Journalism Reborn? An Essay (in
Embryo) and Participatory Experiment
you are on this Egypt email list the chances are you share to
a greater or lesser extent my own dissatisfaction/disgust with
the media in general, and specifically with the kind of coverage
(or lack of coverage) it accords subjects we regard as significant.
The reasons for this are many, complex, not generally understood
(even by people who should understand) yet easily understandable.
If the 'experiment' part of this exercise proves successful,
I'll discuss those reasons in a subsequent substantive essay.
For my purposes now, let me just state an extremely complex
situation as simply as possible.
news journalism is dead. It's impossible to specify an exact
date and hour of demise ... it was a process extending over
the last three decades or so ... as corporate conglomerates
metastasized, gradually swallowing up practically all the newspapers
big and small. The feisty, fractious, idiosyncratic voices that
characterized much of pre-corporate journalism went through
a process of progressive Disneyfication and McDonaldization.
and today are heard no more.
from this overall dumbing-down of the mainstream there is (and
there always was) a built-in prejudice against such popular
subjects as the wisdom of the ancients, the physical quest for
lost civilizations, environmental and ecological concerns, alternative
therapies, paranormal phenomena, 'free' energy, UFOs, anti-Darwinism,
paradigm-challenging science and, above all, anything that suggests
there might be some higher meaning to human life, individually
and collectively. These subjects are routinely, deliberately
misrepresented or given short (or no) shrift at all, particularly
by the print media. (Television and Hollywood take a different
tack but that's for an expanded version of this essay.) This
bias is unavoidable.
bottom, whether 'responsible' like The New York Times
or sensationalist like The New York Post, mainstream
journalism is inalterably, genetically committed to defending
and proselytizing our reigning Church of Progress and the moronic
materialistic doctrine that is its Credo. There is little time
or sympathy for anything that does not directly or tangentially
support this Church. It is not going to change. Yet with all
that, the situation is not as dire as it may appear.
few weeks ago, a friend sent me a copy of Mt. Shasta Magazine
(with his own painting as its cover illustration). Mt. Shasta
(www.mtshastamagazine.com) is a 'freebie', an independent journal
funded by local advertising and distributed widely in the northwest
in health food stores, yoga centers, coffee shops, all those
places frequented by people who take an interest in the alternative
topics shunned or derided by the mainstream press. I put it
on my desk; as it happened, on top of the most recent Chronogram,
an upscale Hudson Valley Mt. Shasta equivalent, and the
most remarkable of the genre that I know -- elegantly produced,
graphically gorgeous, intelligently and fearlessly written ...
and FREE. (www.chronogram.com)
now, suddenly, it all clicked into place (why hadn't it clicked
long ago? Given all the travelling that I do? But that's how
revelations are --after all, it took 150 years of Egyptology
before Schwaller de Lubicz noticed the Sphinx had been very
obviously weathered by water and that all ancient history was
therefore wrong). Chronogram and Mt. Shasta were
not brave, isolated singularities; meaningless candles in the
engulfing London fog of American mainstream journalism. No,
they were not alone. Far from it. The phenomenon was national,
even global, in scope. I'd seen dozens of Indy's in my travels
to lectures and seminars, but had never connected the dots.
upon reflection, it would not surprise me, not a bit, if I ventured
where Orpheus himself would never dare go; deep into the sub-literate
backwoods of Jeff Foxworthy country; the living hell of the
American Bible Belt, and even there found (struggling
to survive; no doubt under Klan surveillance) a health food
shop or local arts center or Tai Kwan Do dojo with a stack of
local free Indy journals on a shelf --the content catering to
typical alternative interests, typically attracting readers
by listing/reviewing local arts and cultural events, surviving
through local advertising and of course distributed free. Think
about it a minute! With the possible exception of Washington
DC, there is probably no area in the country so out-of-touch
with the public, so rigid, backward, parochial, low-brow and
anti-intellectual that it does not have its Chronogram/Mt. Shasta
how many Indy's can there be? I don't know. Hundreds; maybe
over a thousand. What is the collective readership? Millions!
Without a doubt. Indy Power is real, growing, potentially far
more powerful than it already is, and next to impossible to
control, corporatize or otherwise dumb down and subvert. It
may be even less susceptible to government intrusion than the
'net'.... we'll soon see.
now an old idea was moved from the back burner where it had
long been simmering. It's always seemed to me that my combination
of metaphysical, scholarly and literary interests, confrontational
style, unwavering commitment to making as much trouble as possible
for a variety of Church of Progress Departments (I like to call
the program Systematic Constructive Destruction) and pretty
substantial name recognition might lend itself to some sort
of regular column or essay -- given the chance I could be the
'Sly Man's' Art Buchwald, for example, or the Metaphysician's
Dave Barry ... (See the Sekhmet Speaks entries under Free Rein
JAW on my website ... I'm thinking of something along those
lines) The problem, apart from the considerable effort required
to write such columns or essays, was getting paid enough to
make them worth writing. (Those of you who know me personally
will know I'm living proof that fame and fortune do not necessarily
go together -- an old, clichéd assumption I would much preferred
to have left intact and unchallenged)
problem seemed insoluble. I've written book reviews, an Op-Ed
piece and other things for The New York Time, published
articles and stories in other high end mainstream media in the
past, but none of them would ever print Sekhmet Speaks, or anything
remotely like it. That is a foregone conclusion. Alternative
journals that might have welcomed the idea could never pay enough
to make the columns worth writing. Adios column! Check and Mate...Or
so it seemed...
no. Where did these two White Knights (towering Shasta, timeless
Chronogram) come from? Perhaps they are but the vanguard of
a veritable Indy cavalry? Like the Mongol hordes of Genghis
Khan, it appears to have no discipline. But this is misleading..
It may have no infrastructure yet it has emotional and intellectual
coherence: a determination to promote a spectrum of alternative
ideas and values. The global Indy phenomenon draws its strength
from its independence, individuality, its unreliance on outside
funding or influence. Individual magazines print and design
as they please. Further research may prove the contrary, but
judging from preliminary research it would appear that while
no one gets rich out of an Indy, enough money must come in to
pay a modest staff a living. They are replete with ads so advertisers
must be happy. Focus and content vary widely -- from warm/fuzzy/touchy/feely
to health-oriented to paranormal/occult to ecological/environmental
to cutting edge new science to anti-establishment political
or any combination thereof. Quality varies widely -- from well-meaning
unpolished to highly professional deeply knowledgeable. Poets
get published in the Indy's! That's something to celebrate!
Fiction writers, too.
the Indy's do not have in general are original
articles by the actual originators of the work they report on
and value. When they do carry directly authored articles, they
are usually recycled from somewhere else or excerpted from already
published books. The Indy's can't afford original work and in
general do not have the individual clout that would attract
established names in their respective fields.
original work syndicated in the Indy's might be another matter.
Twenty or fifty (or more) Indy's signing on for modest sums
each would mean substantial payment and large audiences for
the authors, useful name recognition for the Indy's to promote
their journals and the bait to attract still more advertisers
-- potentially a win/win situation for all involved
that, briefly is the idea. Syndicate! At this stage I'm thinking
of using my Sekhmet Speaks format as the template, or in some
recognizable version, but this may change as I get feedback
test the idea in principle, I need a basic database of Indy's
to put the idea to, and that is where you, my Eg-update readers,
can help. Wherever you live, there will be one or several Indy's
readily available. If you have these to hand, or remember to
pick them up when you're out next please send me their contact
information (telephone number, email or URL - any one or combination
thereof) it would be much appreciated. If you live in a place
where the Indy's are competing with each other, I'd appreciate
an opinion as to which might be most suitable for a Sekhmet
Speaks (or similar) regular feature idea..
but who will do the organizing?
of you know me personally, and those who do will already be
expressing doubts. And I don't blame you! I am one of those
rare people born with two Achilles' heels, and both of them
are Organization. Left to my own devices I would find a way
to prevent this potentially powerful idea from happening. But
as it happens, I have a good friend with just the organizing
skills necessary to put the database in order once we have our
basic contacts; and subsequently --if the idea looks like it
will succeed-- do the arduous research needed to establish a
database nationwide and then manage the ongoing project.
is Lori Misura, who has an M.A. in Arts Administration and she's
been working since 1986 as research librarian for the Museum
of British Art at Yale University. If you are participating
in the experiment please email your Indy contact info to me
and cc Lori at firstname.lastname@example.org.
contact info from outside the U.S. is also welcome; foreign
language Indy's too. The phenomenon is global; if they're interested
they can translate.
over to you. I look forward to your responses. I am off to Egypt
with a small group (10) on February 1st, the return scheduled
for Feb. 18th but I may have to stay on for a few days more.
So if you decide to help build our database, I'll say thank
you here in advance, but won't be able to otherwise respond
till I return.