Minneapolis, MN — “We’re trying to be the neighborhood’s communication department,” said Duaba, Confluence Studio’s co-founder, while standing inside a shipping container-turned print shop in South Minneapolis. “We worked with neighbors,” said Confluence’s other co-founder Sam, “to collaboratively construct this idea of what a newsroom for neighbors could be.” The container was initially gifted to Confluence Studio a few years ago. Duaba and Sam, who already had a print shop, worked with the community to build the Autonomous Mobile Media Unit, or the AMMU, inside the container.
If we are facing a crisis of civilization and therefore need a civilizational transformation, a total paradigm shift, then everything that decentralizes, localizes, makes society horizontal and empowers must be disseminated and celebrated. We are talking about amplifying social power in the face of economic (capital) and political (State) powers, since social power is the only way to overcome the tremendous social and environmental crisis that humanity is suffering today. Participatory communication is one of the phenomena that has grown exponentially not only in Mexico, but in much of the world. If the Internet has facilitated the spread of all kinds of social networks, then the appearance of community radio has meant the creation of an alternative means of communication against the monopoly of public and commercial radio.
Like many other journalists, past and present, I laughed and nodded at Roy Woods Jr.’s jokes at the 2023 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. But, as Mr. Woods and President Joe Biden made clear, the challenge facing American journalists is no joke. And, no, we should not expect comedians to propose solutions to our problems, but we should expect the President and his staff to propose solutions to the serious problems of democratic deliberation in America. We have heard none. No, banning TikTok is not even close. As important as it is to get the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich out of Russia, that will not come anywhere near to solving the problem.
The modern news industry is in crisis. For years, formerly stalwart publications have been bought up, hollowed out, and sold for scrap by predatory (and often utterly incompetent) venture capital firms. The recent global outbreak of COVID-19 has further shattered the business as reporters and editors have been furloughed, or outright laid off, en masse. Now, as demonstrations across the country protesting George Floyd’s death at the knees of a Minneapolis cop grow in both scope and intensity, traditional newsrooms are finding their resources to cover these events spread thin. But into that coverage void has stepped a new generation of independent, internet-based journalists bringing the voices of the people in the streets to the eyes and ears of the American public, all without paywalls.
On Monday, Free Press Action released a comprehensive series of policy recommendations that Congress should adopt to save local journalism and put tens of thousands of reporters back to work during and after the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal, What a Journalism-Recovery Package Should Look Like During the COVID-19 Crisis, includes billions in direct and indirect subsidies to journalists, as well as increases in federal support for public-media institutions that would protect a significant number of local reporting jobs. Among the immediate recommendations are direct emergency payments to newsroom workers, news-outlet tax credits to retain and boost the number of newsroom jobs, increased public-media funding, and accelerated federal-ad spending.