July 2002
volume 1, issue 1


Radical Realities, LA-IMC Members Interviewed (continued | 1, 2)

M: John, you once said, "I think opinion and gossip are as real as anythingelse. The IMC is a relatively small agent of change in the short term butit matters more in the long term." When I think about it, that statement is aware of the insularity of a moment which is also a part of to a long-term project. TheIMC as a fixed singular site, it is only hooked into a few people. Yet you areassuming a larger historical role. Where does this idea come from?

J: Ohh, ahhh, I said that? That sound really good!Everything starts with a small thing, whether it is a social organization ora business, a club, or even the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party relieson small $200 donations in a big way.LA’s got a lot of papers. I’m not sure how many papers its got, it’s in thehundreds. The vast majority of them are small community and ethnic papers.When I was working at the LA Times, a marketing person said that the LATimes- despite the fact that it’s the big paper in the city- has only fiftypercent of the newspaper market. The other half is dominated by smallnewspapers, local papers that are a quarter or for free; ethnic papers thatpeople just pick up. The typical person in LA reads two papers. These aresmall papers but they are very significant because they shape people’sworldviews. The LA Times is very worried about this.I also get this idea from knowing that at any newspaper, about a quarter to a third of the revenue comes from classified ads. Classified adsaccount for a huge amount of the circulation numbers; a lot of people pickup the newspaper strictly for classifieds. Classifieds are strictly forperson-to-person networking. They’re not news. They’re just information.We have some of that quality as well in the IMC newswire. It’s like "600 peopleshowed up for a demo." Its not news in the traditional sense, its just information that people find very useful. Information that is useful, that helps us find out how the public feels about something.An other thing is those people- Chantel, John Martinez, Otter Works- people who read and pass around news stories sharing information with each other. They’re kind of like a small press too. They make a kind of community of understanding for a certain worldview that they create. They’re only individuals with a list of 40 or 50 email address and a further reach of like a thousand people total, but they have an effect. If you read their stuff, they’re going to have an effect.

M: John, when you are working with the website, what guides youreditorial decisions? Cayce talked about exploration, what is it for you?

J: I don’t think that hard when I’m editing. I think more in terms of the people involved. Sometimes I’ll put something up that’s just an excellent story. If I think there’s an issue that’s a national story but somehow involves local people, I will put it up because it will help them.

M: Do you configure central column stories so that people will learn about issue?

J: Kind of. Ideally, I think IMC readers are people who are going to do something about issues- even if it’s just writing a letter to some politician somewhere. I have this desire for the news to lead to action, a demonstration is just a symbolic action, but activists demonstrate to get some press- so we should give them press. The point of the action raises some knowledge so that people in-turn can take action again.

M: This brings up the question of symbolic action, I wonder if our background news is symbolic as well. Is the non-local "news" a symbolic act, a playing at journalism? Does the IMC community know about most of the issues already?

J: I disagree with that. There’s a lot of stuff written in the mainstream media, but it is never brought together in one place, tailored for the people of Los Angeles to act on. You can find things about the Three Strikes Law in the NY Times or the LA Times that might be well written. But you’d have to be reading the LA Times a lot to get the full picture- and that’s just not reality.

C: There are the Michael Novicks of the world who are at all the demos. They can contextualize exactly what’s going on with FACTs and relate it with what went on the day before at the Women’s March. And relate it with what’s going on with the Pacifica National Board Meeting or with what went on with the Palestine March. But these people are rare. Most people hone in to one area and don’t know much about other areas.

J: Stories do get reported in the mainstream news. Then they just kind ofvanish. Mainstream news doesn’t have this hypertext kind of linking thing where you can explore the issue in depth if you want to. The big news doesn’t giveyou information to act on. They just want to give you a product that you read. It’s like most any story you read. You enjoy it and feel enlightened, but it usually doesn’t lead you to any personal actions,

C: The IMC can move you to act.

J: This is important. When you start taking personal actions, youjust don’t "feel" like you are taking control of your own reality, youactually are.

M: So then, how do you translate your understanding about howpeople comprehend the world to your actual IMC work?

C: I think in terms of the large scale. When you look at corporate media, the idea of globalization is so skewed. Look at the Thomas Friedmans of the world who tell people that "globalization is helping poor people and putting the internet in Zimbabwe, and why would you people want to come along and protest that cause its really really great. We are taking jobs to Guatemala, and there weren’t jobs there before." So I think there’s a lot of people who take that in and think, "Oh yeah! Lexus and olive tree. Yeah. We want both those things!" So, if news and readers can be tied to the personal stories that people can understand on an immediate personal level — that’s what we do. That’s where we can come in with little personal stories.

J: Yeah.

C: Just take demonstrations for example. Look at the DNC, which a lot of people in LA can relate to. It was my first major experience with a big demo. It was really frustrating for me to be there during the day and night shooting photography- seeing what was going on with my own eyes- then going home to see what was on the news. I was having my friends, who weren’t down there, saying, "Wow, those demonstrators are really running amok. Aren’t they??!?" And then me saying to them, "Well, no. That wasn’t really my take on it. "At the FTAA demo being in Quebec is another example. Out on the streets, seeing what was going on, I was shooting photos through a friend for a corporate newspaper. Having a pass to be inside the corporate journalist place and walking in there to an enormous, double gymnasium sized room and seeing all these journalists. And I was in there, covered with teargas, gross beyond words. They looked at us when we walked in like "who the fuck are you?" Because you have to walk through a metal detector thing. And all these journalists, sitting behind computers in this major room typing off of little pieces of printed-paper. I mean, that’s who was covering the demo. They weren’t out in the street; none of them were out in the street. And they’re just writing what was written for them- that just blew me away! That’s what filtered journalism is.

M: Seeing what you saw in Quebec, what did you post to the IMC?

C: Well, I was shooting photographs, so I posted those images to the newswire. What I saw through my own eyes. In addition, I wrote a very non-journalistic, personal account of what it was like to walk around- seeing what I was seeing; walking into this big ass room, watching all these people in control-top panty hose and shirts and ties typing at these long desks that were all set up with T-1 lines, and these pre-printed things that they were typing off of. Its gonna' be filtered through me because its coming out of my own fingers, but I tried to write what I saw. I think that’s what a lot of Indymedia people do. We’re not, most of us anyway, particularly good writers- we’re just writing what we see.

J: Yeah, that’s very "web". When the World Trade Center thing happened there were a lot of web pages that popped up, unrelated to the IMC. A lot of web-logs, people were taking photos, writing how they felt and what wasgoing on. All that stuff was, like, really "it". It takes you right there. Right now with Palestine it’s the same thing. Going to the chat rooms, just watch the people. It almost always happens that an Israeli and a Palestinian get in there and they start talking about stuff. I’m just like, "wow, this is the real thing." My first experience with this was during the Northridge earthquake. I got in a chat room and it was like, "Oh it just happened right now."

C: "My bookcase fell down. And …"

J: "O, this freeway is blocked off. You can’t reach people there.

C: IMC is like talking to friends. Its just like how we do it in LA when an earthquake happens, if you can get through, you call and talk to your friends "What happened at house." Ya know. It’s not a matter of "do you believe them or not", they’re just telling you what’s going on on their side of town.

J: They have less motivation to lie

M: Its amazing that such little, personal stories can end up creatingmeaning for a huge collection of people. I’m still trying to understand how onestory can become a toy with which an entire community creates a meaning.

C: I think that they’re probably isn’t one consensual meaning for the entire community. I don’t think that the goal of the IMC is to create a black and white meaning. I think we all look at the world in such different ways, I don’t think we could ever come to that. So that’s not the goal. Trying to make an awareness of what’s out there, what other people are going through, of what is at least close to the truth, a digging away at what’s close to the truth so that people can cull together their own meaning- as opposed to "OK, were all gonna’ hold hands and have this meaning together."

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