When I began a career in media I did not know that my journey would take me so deeply into community media. But that is how things worked out. In addition to being one of the editors of this publication you are now reading, I edit Boyle McCauley News, an inner-city community newspaper, as well as maintain an online archive of photos and videos of grassroots activist events.
Community media and activist media/art are often spoken of in the same breath. There are certainly parallels between the two. Activist media goes against the mainstream and presents alternative views and opinions which are often ignored, sometimes on purpose. Community media also provides alternative viewpoints, but may not necessarily be as hardcore. The “community” in “community media” is exactly what it implies: people from a community (be it a neighbourhood, organization, or collective) speaking up and speaking out. Community media empowers the average person to have a voice.
Whether or not that voice gets heard is another story. Community and activist media generally do not have the funding or distribution to get in people’s faces the way other kinds of media have funding and advertising dollars to play with. Still, the advent of the Internet makes a lot of things much more accessible than in the past, and alternative viewpoints are often only a click away – at least, for people with an inkling to find them.
Many of the views expressed in alternative news sources are not even that radical. Once people feel free enough to speak their minds, they will present a range of opinions, from the moderate to the extreme. However, it is usually the more extreme element on the scales that tends get the most attention. Radical activists can be more forceful in their presentation, and more outgoing in their attempts to broadcast those views. Possibly, this can be a put-off for those with more subdued personalities or views, but it really shouldn’t. Radicalism is not born overnight. Some of the most outspoken activists today started off as an individual with an opinion begging to be heard.
Frustration with the status quo is enough motivation to become an activist. I know, because that is my experience. I was looking for an organization promoting alternative art and media, got online, and found the Edmonton Small Press Association. This led to my volunteering with the 2005 North of Nowhere Expo, and, well, here I am today.
For every person like me who took those first steps to get involved in alternative and community media, I know there are more who are sitting in front of their computers, unsure of how to proceed. Maybe you are one of them.
Being a patron of alternative media sources is the way to start. Many activist websites, books, films, and other resources are listed atactivistresources.raisemyvoice.com. The ESPA’s website also has a wealth of information: www.edmontonsmallpress.org.
Getting involved is the next step. Community media is about accessibility and expression. The more people taking part, the less it can be ignored.
Paula is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. Her website is: www.mynameispaula.com.