MediaJustice

The Annual Summit of the Consumer’s Union (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine) is one of my favorite events of this year—activists from all over the country come together to learn from an amazing lineup of presenters, learn from each other and lobby for issues important to their local communities.

Consumers Union first connected with me in July 2008 through the “Cover America Tour,” a campaign to film people’s experiences with the health care system. As a cancer survivor who had spent all of her retirement savings to afford COBRA while I was unemployed, I was one of many stories featured from around the country.

COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a federal law that mandates an insurance program giving some employees the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving employment. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Consumer’s Union worked with local activists all over the country to equip us to fight for our local communities. Here’s what they had to say about my involvement on their website:

“We filmed Cindy’s story while visiting her home in Fargo, N.D., and we’ve been working closely with her ever since.”

“In October 2008, she traveled to New York for our Activist Summit where she received extensive media training and took the Blogging 101 workshop. As the health care reform debate has moved forward, Cindy has become a leader in her community, speaking at rallies, meeting with members of Congress, and telling her story to reporters on numerous occasions…Whether it’s speaking to the press, delivering hand-written letters to Congressional offices or handing out yard signs to local activists, Cindy has turned her personal struggle for affordable health care into powerful community organizing, using everything she learned at CU’s Summit.”

This year, it gives me great pride to be a trainer, presenting at the workshop “Moving Issues Through Citizen Action.” I will discuss the tools and tactics for building support and visibility for local issues that our readers care about; that we at HPR care about. I will also touch on how to move issues at the state and national levels. The topics that will be covered in this and other workshops are many, but all have to do with making your voice heard and effecting systems change. For instance, I will discuss how to communicate with media effectively. While in DC, activists will also be lobbying for policies that benefit our local community, including issues of net neutrality.

Here at HPR we realize the importance of access to information for all people. Recently the FCC reached out to the people for input on its comprehensive Broadband Plan that would provide high speed broadband to all rural areas, effectively improving affordability and access for everyone.

Net neutrality may just be the most important issue facing us today because it touches so many parts of our lives: entertainment, finance management, communication, work, education, news and information. Universal broadband would benefit people struggling in a difficult economy, and that’s most of us. In the very near future, the internet will replace all the services you use: telephone, cable, and maybe even cellular services.
Some would argue that it is a more important communication tool than telephone and a better entertainment tool than television. Because you can get both services through the internet now, it is crucial that Telecoms are regulated, so they cannot penalize people for using those services through the internet.

As a leader in telecommunications infrastructure, North Dakota also has the opportunity to lead, by urging Congress to follow the FCC’s recommendations on regulating Telecoms. Telecoms would have Congress believe that rural communities like North Dakota are in favor of the current structure for internet regulation. The truth is that we in North Dakota would benefit greatly from universal Broadband access and an open and neutral internet.

The San Francisco Bee reported that oversight from the FCC would “…prevent arbitrary denials of access to customers, prohibit unreasonable discrimination against competitor offerings, require truth in advertising and billing, steer Universal Service Funds to broadband in high-cost rural and urban areas, or require reasonably customized access services and equipment for the disabled.” Now it is up to Congress to give the FCC the authority to reclassify Telecoms in order oversee them and ensure consumer and business protection.

HPR recently joined the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), a “local-to-local advocacy network of grassroots social justice, media, and cultural organizations working together to shift power relations for social change, through the critical use and transformation of media and communications systems. Representing 10 regions and over 100 organizations, MAG-Net’s mission is to build a transformative movement for media justice that is effective, integrated, and sustainable, and which advances racial and economic justice, gender equity, and human rights.” For more information about MAG-Net go to https://mag-net.org/.

In addition to facing important issues, the Summit will allow activists to network with like-minded people, advocacy groups, and meet with leaders in DC.

After the first night’s reception, the second morning will be spent on the Hill, in Congress. That evening Eric Schlosser, an amazing veteran investigative reporter, stars in “Food, Inc.”, with Q & A with Schlosser to follow.

The third day, Friday, there will be dozens of speakers. It will be an honor to talk with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Other speakers include, Jackie Speier, Congresswoman, 12th District of California; Rosa DeLauro, Congresswoman, Third District of Connecticut; and Austan Goolsbee, an expert on the economy and D.C.‘s funniest celebrity.

The real benefits of this summit are actually in the work that goes on with the activists. Consumer’s Union will be providing us the support and tools to do this important work.

The only thing missing at the Annual Summit is more representation from Cass, Clay, and Becker Counties. We’re sorry to say that as we go to press, this year’s Summit has already started. But you can certainly start planning for next year. Find a cheap flight or drive to DC with a group; call up a friend and see if you can stay with them. Or take advantage of the hotel rates Consumer’s Union negotiates to help keep the costs down. And if you need help with the costs, apply for one of CU’s many scholarships.

For more Consumer’s Union Summit information visit http://tiny.cc/CindyinDC

Guest Blog by: Cindy Gomez of the High Plains Reader. First posted at http://hpr1.com/opinion/article/the_consumers_unions_annual_summit/ on July 12, 2010.

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