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The New York Time vs. IndyMedia.org (For-profit vs. Collective, Community Based News)

I Introduction

For my Media Journal, I have chosen to compare the website of the New York Times with the main Indy Media website, www.indymedia.org. The point of this is to compare a national media source, which often gets criticized for being “liberal? or “on the left,? with a media source that is of the left, by the left, and for the left. Specifically, the point of this is to show that there is nothing “leftist? about corporate owned big-money media. Perhaps it would be better to compare some of today’s “left? news sources to historical leftist and/or revolutionary newspapers and pamphlets, but because of media consolidation, this is about the best comparison we have today. A newspaper accused of being liberal versus a community of activists working on their own, against corporate media, to bring out stories from their communities as well as other stories that “left? newspapers wouldn’t touch.

II Chronicle

While doing research for this assignment, I read the following articles:

New York times:
- Get Out of Iraq Now? Not so Fast, Experts Say
-UN Says Somali Helped Hezbollah Fighters
-African Children Often Lack Available Aids Treatment
-South African Parliament Approves Same-Sex Marriages
-Soldiers Pleads Guilty to Iraq Rape and Killings
-Vatican Decries Fence Planned for US Border
-Abramoff to Start Prison Term
-12 Detainees Sue Rumsfeld in Germany, Citing Abuse
-Pennsylvania: Slot Machine Parlor Opens
-Enter, Pariah: Now It’s Hugs for Lieberman
-Protestors in Mexico Push Riot Police Back
-American Among Dead in Oaxaca

-transcript of ongoing live coverage from Oaxaca
-University and High School Students Opposed to New Education Measures
-Massive March in Oaxaca
-Government forces attack University, Fail to Capture Radio (Oaxaca)
-The New York City IMC Responds to Death of Brad Will
-NYC Indy Media volunteer Brad Will Killed in Attack by Paramilitaries in Oaxaca
-Celebrating the Fight for Civil Rights with Worcester ACLU
-Massacre in Chiapas
-US Promoting Military Training in Latin America
-Will the Democrats Turn a Blind Eye to the Destruction of the Bill of Rights?
-AETA: Congress Strikes a New Blow to Freedom of Speech
-Governor Jeb Bush Hides From Activists in T-Station Supply Closet
-The Intersection of School Reform and Gentrification
-Chicago Activist Burns Himself for Peace’
-Immigrant Rights Supporters and Anti-Immigrant Groups Face Off in Maywood
-At the Beginning of the Third Week, The Janitors Strike Continues
-The US Anti-War Movement: Getting Local and Keeping Positive

II Context
The New York Times is perhaps the best-known paper in the country, and often said to be the best source there is for international news. The intended audience is very large, from “intellectuals? or others seeking in depth news about the world and the United States to those simply living in New York. It is often seen as on the left, especially by those on the right, and therefore it tends to also be a popular newspaper for liberals. It is owned by The New York Times Company, which made nearly 3.5 billion dollars in 2005. This company also owns nearly two dozen newspapers, nine tv networks, 35 websites, and two radio stations, as well as part of the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, and 50% of the cable channel Discovery Times (considering how many media outlets they own, one would think that they are doing a very bad job of getting out their left-wing propaganda). The paper started in 1851, and got its international reputation around 1900, specifically setting itself apart from the so-called yellow-journalism of the time.

Indy Media, however, was started shortly before the WTO protests in Seattle of 1999 as a way to keep other activists and those interested informed on the events of the day. After the “Battle in Seattle? the idea caught on amongst anti-globalization activists, and many people started setting up their own Indy Media Centers(IMC’s), all connected through www.indymedia.org , and there are now about 200 Indy Media Centers around the globe, including one for the Twin Cities (www.twincities.indymedia.org). The audience of Indy Media is largely the same audience it was during the WTO protests. Basically, the audience is made of two parts: 1) those in a community wishing to publicize or report on specific activities (such as protests, debates, forums, and other left-wing political happenings) on their own local IMC and 2) those wanting to learn about more worldwide movements and events that largely go unreported by the mainstream media, which is what I am focusing on. Each Indy Media is collectively run, and anybody can post stories to the website, however members of the collective choose which stories go on the front page, and they have the power to delete stories and comments that are not appropriate or factual.

The mission statement of Indy Media is as follows: The Independent Media Center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth. We work out of a love and inspiration for people who continue to work for a better world, despite corporate media's distortions and unwillingness to cover the efforts to free humanity

III Analysis and Discussion

I’ll begin with the New York Times. While it is true that it is a preferred newspaper for liberals to quote from, it is also a preferred newspaper for many people to quote from. All in all, it is a rather reputable newspaper when it comes to getting a wide variety of international stories factually correct. It’s also true that they have endorsed many Democrats, but the argument can be made (and it’s too long of an argument to full develop here) that there is nothing essentially “leftist? about endorsing what may be the party that is the second biggest supporter of capitalism in the world.

While reading the New York Times, there was not anything that specifically jumped out at me as interesting, because I have read the New York Times off and on for quite a number of years. The main stories that were on display on the International and US sections were similar to stories that are talked about in any mainstream news source. One of their articles, Get Out of Iraq Now?..., basically attempted to argue against withdrawal in Iraq by placing quotes by US generals throughout the article which contradicted opinions of those who wish to end the War in Iraq

On the other side, Indy Media puts the greatest stress on the activities of activists and leftists around the world. As we can see, many of the articles featured on Indy Media’s main hub focus on recent events in Oaxaca, Mexico, which has quickly become the boiling point for worldwide leftist protests. Additionally, we see stories from events in the United States, as well as analyses and discussion about what the left should be focusing on.

The comparison was interesting, I think, because even though I already have my opinions about corporate vs. independent media, this was an interesting way to try to develop them, by taking a reputable mainstream for-profit newspaper and comparing it to possibly the most democratic and independent media source which still retains reliability. Many of the points that we discussed about media consolidation in class were proven while reading these articles. Mainly, even though the New York Times provides good, intellectually honest news material, they cover largely the same stories you can find on CNN, the BBC, The Washington Post, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, or hundreds of other media outlets. Even when it comes to the opinion pages, consolidation has led us to two main ways of viewing the world: a nonthreatening liberal intelligentsia opinion and a conservative, sometime reactionary, but usually also “safe? point of view. And both opinions usually maintain a certain adherence to the “status quo,? and you can usually predict how one side will feel about an issue before actually reading a column.

Perhaps the best example of both the similarities and differences come from reading about Oaxaca. Mainstream media, such as the New York Times, may have reported about the initial teacher strike back in May, and also reported the more violent aspects of this past month. Indy Media, however, has been tracking the uprising for months, and it has become one of the top websites for getting up-to the-minute information about what is arguably the most important issue of the worldwide left since 1999. In addition, when an American journalist from Indy Media was killed by Mexican authorities in October, the New York Times ran a one paragraph article about it, and then moved onto more acceptable mainstream stories. Compare this to the reaction if any non-military American, especially a journalist, would have been killed by government forces in a Middle Eastern country? Or perhaps we can take the real life examples of the handful of western journalists who have been kidnaped and released in Iraq, and how some of them have developed into wonderful, heroic stories?

In conclusion, despite the fact that I hard on mainstream corporate media, I do believe that it serves a purpose in our society. I typically start my days reading the Star Tribune, watching CNN, or visiting mainstream news websites. It is a good way to get background information, as well as either getting some facts on the situation or another side of the story, which is very important. After that though, I spend much of my time hopping through a variety of independent news sources, such as Indy Media, infoshop.org, and various blogs and forums in order to be inspired by what other people are doing, read stories from a different point of view, or learn about news that the corporate media has not even spoken about. Also, both sides err. One who relies only on media that is volunteer/user run or political forums may be getting false information, or reading the words of somebody “off the deep end? whose article or post has not been deleted yet by the owners or moderators of the website. However, the same is possible with the mainstream media, especially during times when it decides that it is going to take a certain stand and not budge - such as in the months after 9/11. An example of this is when you hear people say about the WMD’s in Iraq that “Everybody thought there were WMD’s.? That’s not necessarily true, although somebody who simply paid attention to the very jingoistic journalists of post-9/11 America would have certainly thought so. There were many people, from foreign governments and press, and even the CIA and former weapons inspectors, who were saying that there were no WMD’s in Iraq, and that’s how many of us, especially those who follow the Independent news, came to the conclusion that there were no WMD’s in Iraq months before the war even started when even the antiwar arguments of many liberals who limit themselves to for-profit journalism was “we know Iraq has WMD’s, but we should use diplomacy instead.? Therefore, I believe, the only real way to be informed is to both get a large variety of viewpoints and slants, know the news behind the news, and try to remember the motivation of those that the news is coming from.