Jessica Hoffmann

Independent Media Matters

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | September 16, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Media
Tags: Allied Media Conference, Becoming the Media, Bitch Magazine, Colorlines Magazine, independent media, Jen Angel, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Kitchen Sink magazine, KPFK, Left Turn, LiP magazine, make/shift, New Internationalist, Orion magazine, Punk Planet, Shameless magazine, South End Press, The NewStandard, Watchword

"If I believe an independent publication should exist, I subscribe to it. Even if I know I won't have time to read it, if I have the cash, I subscribe."

That may not be an exact quote (I can't find my old notes!), but about a year ago, Brian Dominick, a member of the collective behind The NewStandard, said something to that effect to me. TNS was one of the best (and most wildly undersung) indie-media projects of recent years--a nonprofit, public-interest, independent news site that produced serious, rigorous reporting on current events with a focus on the people, communities, and land affected by those events. TNS folded in April 2007 for lack of money.

The list of independent-media outlets that have folded in the last few years for financial reasons is long and sad: Clamor, Kitchen Sink, Punk Planet, LiP . . . and now Bitch, which for 10 years has been publishing feminist critiques of pop culture with sassy wit, and which seemed somehow to be staying afloat while so many others went under, well -- Bitch needs to raise $40,000 by October 15, or they're done. (more after the jump)

Independent media is essential to social change. Whether it's in print or online, traditional or viral new media, we need independent media to make sense of the world we're in, and we need independent media to make change.

And independent media costs money to make. So, those indie-media projects you've been reading at friends' houses or listening to for free online? Whether it's Bitch or a public radio station or a radical blogger or all of the above--if you have the cash (and, really, even $5 helps) and you believe those media outlets should exist, step up and support.

Some indie-media outlets that regularly inform, inspire, and provoke me (and, yeah, I'm a subscriber):

Dollars & Sense
Left Turn
South End Press
The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest (no subscription; I buy every issue at a local indie bookstore)
The New Internationalist (okay, my subscription has lapsed -- time to renew!)

And I will never stop missing TNS, Kitchen Sink, Clamor, and so, so many others.

Especially now, when we've so recently witnessed police repression of media makers covering major political events, if you believe in social change, you must believe in independent media. And if you believe in independent media, know that it's up to you -- us -- people and communities who think it matters and who are informed, inspired, and provoked by it -- to sustain it.

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Its not just police repression of the alternative press. One of the big threats to the small press is oppressive postal regulation. New regs lock in economies of scale savings for large operations at the expense of the indy press movement. On the digital side of things net neutrality is a biggie.

So while I second Jessica's call to lend financial support to indy press, we have to watch the policy side like a hawk.

I don't think that many people understand just how difficult it is for independent media. I work as a volunteer for an Australian publication called lip magazine. (not to be confused with LiP) We're targeted at young women aged mid-teens to mid-twenties, and have a feminism slant. And it's tough. The Australian magazine market isn't as big as the one in the U.S. simply because of the smaller population. Also, we recently went print-on-demand so as to reduce production costs, but that means that we need people to actually come to the the website and subscribe. And a lot of people will buy a magazine off the stand more readily than they will buy one from online. The financial pressure will always be there.