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Wednesday, Nov 12, 2003, 1:55 pm

media reform vs. media justice

By Tracy Van Slyke

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In the next couple weeks activists and progressives are going to be emitting a bright afterglow after their return from the National Conference on Media Reform. With over 1,500 people gathered in Madison, one of the country's main hubs of progressive politics, it felt like a family reunion... a white family reunion. Oh there were young people and there were older people. There were just as many women as men. There were as many hippies with dreadlocks as there were suits. But when it came to people of color, the numbers were sadly lacking. Despite all the positive things that occurred at this conference - the networking, the feeling of unity, the depth of issue discussions, the amazing speeches and panelists, it was still a sea of white.

For me, the hottest moment of the weekend was a panel conducted by an entire group of young people who were Black, Hispanic and Asian.
But beyond the importance of their very presence, the force of their message is what really got my attention. They posed the idea that despite the name of the conference and the focus of many of the panels, that the phrase and actions behind ?media reform? is not enough. As Malkia Cyril, director of the Youth Media Council so powerfully put it, ?reforming the media is not enough ? because we never had the media.? Cyril went on to point out that the current set of media conditions effect marginalized people differently, leading to a different analysis of why they want and need to change the media. For them, access to media is about power and perception. ?Media shapes our daily lives,? she stated.
But to read more about it, check out the Media Alliance's website that is convening a conference on media justice in Spring 2004.

Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.

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