The Free Press 2013 National Conference on Media Reform in Denver, Co brought together media justice advocates, organizers, journalists and independent media makers from around the country. The liveliness of the movement for a more just and equitable media system was definitely on display in Denver. I experienced it first hand in conversations with radio hosts connecting inmates and their families from Appalachia, over drinks with digital literacy instructors working with youth from Hawaii, in interviews with Public Access TV producers from Saint Paul, Denver and Philadelphia. The message was clear across the board, we have a chance right now to build on the winning strategies of the last few years to make sure US media is accountable, representative, and democratic. Perhaps most important, we have the chance to take the tools of a 21st century media and advance movements for our human rights.

Some highlights from running into familiar folks and hearing the lessons of new friends in the movement:

– Art and Culture is part of a winning strategy for our campaigns. And this is not just an add on of some graphic arts or using an artist to promoting a cause, this strategy is about building the infrastructure to support young and emerging artists. It's about art and culture putting on the agenda what traditional organizing can't do and talking points and hitting people where they feel it. Look no farther than

– Communities around the country are making the future of our telecommunications infrastructure with their own hands. Whether it is laying fiber or creating mesh wireless networks, there are important solutions developing from the grassroots which tackle infrastructure projects on the neighborhood to municipal scale. And with this infrastructure communitites are creating jobs, getting access to the internet to those who have been left offline by the big telecomms, and making sure we have a way to connect that is not profit driven. Check out the build of a two-city fiber to the home network in Urbana and Champaign and the creation of a community wireless network in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy for more.

– Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home and out of the shadows to demand a Right to Heal. As groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War make sure the resources and support exists for our vets, they are building the bridge on the issues of healthcare and US militarization with civilians back in Afghanistan and Iraq.

– As the privacy and security of our online lives becomes a growing concern, panelest at  a workshop on the issue asked, "how do we make sure the communities coming online for the first time have their privacy and security protected?". To answer that question Seeta Gangadharan challenged us to not only think about privacy and security as a set of rights, but a an issue of power. 

You also wouldn't understand the power of the space if I did not mention some other key moments:

Staceyanne Chin and Hakim Bellamy bringing some amazing performance poetry to the mix.

Andrea Quijada making it plain that we all perceive our media differently and we need to build media literacy for common ground.

These great photos from Joelfilms Productions

– The inspired delegations of the Media Action Grassroots Network.

So two years from now, next time we gather for a National Conference on Media Reform, I believe we will be able to say that we have moved our work and movement in important ways which were only possible because of our experience in Denver.

I'll see you next time.

Bryan Mercer

Bryan is Media Rights and Access Organizer at the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia. Bryan's work focuses on building community media infrastructure and digital access, through the creation of public computer centers and connecting media education to organizing. Media Mobilizing Project believes that "movements begin with the telling of untold stories" and to build a media, education and organizing infrastructure that will cohere and amplify the growing movement to end poverty.


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