Thursday, March 23, 2006

Community Wireless Summit; SF Municipal Wireless Update; BlogHer; Anti-War Media Protest

Some odds and ends:

1. The National Summit for Community Wireless Networks is happening on March 31-April at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. I won't be able to make it, but you should.

2. The City of San Francisco has posted redacted versions of municipal wireless proposals online. The redoubtable Media Alliance published a a very useful comparison chart on the proposals, evaluated based on the following issues: free Internet access, free or affordable hardware, technical training, technical support, resources for creation of locally relevant content, and creation of digital inclusion fund to resource these projects. Such provisions are not pie-in-the-sky: earlier this month, Philadelphia signed a municipal wireless contract with Earthlink that called for the company to "subsidize Internet access for low-income households at $9.95 a month and share future revenue for funding of certain social programs."

A joint Google/Earthlink proposal is considered (for reasons that seem to have more to do with business-page buzz than anything else) the front-runner in San Francisco, but the outlook for a deal that closes the digital divide is mixed. "We are cautiously encouraged by the fact that some of the proposals address our recommendation for a Digital Inclusion Fund to resource affordable computers, training, and locally-relevant content," says Media Alliance's blog. "Surprisingly, the Google/Earthlink proposal does not mention the creation of such a fund, despite the fact that Earthlink has committed to this in its contract with the City of Philadelphia." Hopefully, Philly will put some pressure on liberal SF.

If you live in San Francisco, get involved with Media Alliance's Internet 4 Everyone Campaign. Nationally, the cable and phone industries are organizing against municipal broadband projects, seeking to actually make them illegal on state and federal levels. To learn more, and find out how to act, see the Free Press Web site.

3. BlogHer is a great new organization of female bloggers, that holds a conference, organizes writing clinics, and highlights woman-written blogs. If you blog and you're a woman, or if you're a pro-feminist man who blogs on gender issues, check it out.

4. Over at MediaChannel, Danny Schechter reports on their March 22 protest of war coverage in the media. I was struck by Schechter's grumpy assessment of the movement and the success of the march:

It wasn’t major by any means and was quite overshadowed by a march to save the Seals in Canada, an issue that seems to have generated more excitement than saving democracy in America. That fact was pointed out to me by a reporter from the Globe and Mail of Toronto who came along with us whilst the mighty NY press ignored us to a fault. I explained to him this was a first attempt to join the media issue with the issues of the war in Iraq and is not yet an obvious enough connection to the anti-war crowd that seems happy to just bash Bush over and over and blame it all on the Republicans....

Mediachannel was there but many of the colleagues we respect couldn’t make time for it including our friends at FAIR, MoveOn and even United For Peace and Justice who embraced the idea but didn’t or couldn’t help mobilize for it. Too busy, I guess, to be charitable. It was easy to recognize that big protests take time and organizing efforts (including resources and experience) of the kind we lack. We gave it a try anyway.

Unlike Mussolini, who allegedly had the trains run on time, we were late to the first stop at CBS "Black Rock" headquarters which was surrounded by a construction fence. I got there before the other organizers and posters did and ran into some of the acrimony some activists are famous for: rushing to judgment without any facts. At least one person immediately assumed the worst about my intentions, and then, without listening, stormed off to preserve a sense of self-righteousness.

I have a lot of respect for Schechter and MediaChannel. But for what it's worth, I would respectfully suggest that if the march was less successful than organizers would have liked, they should take a hard look at the tactics they've embraced. It sounds to me (reading between the lines of Schechter's account) that the march was simply not as well organized as it could have been. More critically, I've never felt - and I think many activists would agree with me - that marching on media outlets is an effective way to move media coverage on an issue. It's much better to invest time and money in a comprehensive communications and media critique strategy, while fighting for public policy and building alternatives that will allow dissident voices to flourish. MediaChannel does all that, too: to take online action on Iraq media coverage, click here.


At 6:43 AM, Blogger ElisaC said...

Thanks for the BlogHer shout-out, Jeremy. Hope we'll meet you at the conference!

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