Radical Realities, LA-IMC
Marc Herbst interviewed Los Angeles
Independent Media Center (LA-IMC) collective members Cayce Calloway
and John Kawakami. The LA Indymedia Center is a part of the
worldwide decentralized, IMC news network that is based on anarchist
organizing principals. The IMCs strive to actualize the statement-
"dont hate the media, be the media."Both John
and Cayce create stories for the websites "central
column", the area on the website where local IMCs inject
their identity to the open forum. In addition, Cayce gathers
audio for a joint IMC/KPFK radio project known as "community
voices." John does much of the LA-IMCs computer programming.
The LA-IMCs website address is www.la.indymedia.org.
This interview took place in a café in Los Angeles' Echo
M: When your making media, what is
your relationship to our audience? Whoare you reporting for?
C: When I first started doing
IMC work, I was fairly didactic. I was a little preachy and
had this notion that I was going to convert people by what I
was writing. Then someone pointed out to me "you know the
people who read Indymedia Maybe dont need converting,
maybe theyre there to find out whats going on."I
looked at that, and when the IMC radio project came along, it
shifted. I started not to care so much about who was hearing
the work but started caring more about who was getting a voice.
My voice became a lot less important to me when I started doing
audio. The voices that I was recording became more important.
Because of the IMC/KPFK community voices project, I am thinking
a lot about this idea of giving voice; giving venue to voices
that dont get out there very often. It reduces my participation
to almost holding the mic and letting people talk. Maybe because
I have a metaphysical view on the world, its like "If
we hold the mic, maybe those voices will be heard." I dont
really know who is going to hear them. But what has become increasingly
clear to me is that as a person of privilege, my voice can get
heard wherever and therefore its not as important.
M: How do you decide whom you will
hold the mic up in front of?
C: Right now its kind of
gut. I hear a story that interests me and I go, "I dont
know anything about that.". If something makes me uncomfortable
that I read or I hear, I take a little time, I look at it and
I try to figure out why it makes me uncomfortable- it may not
be in my belief system, something in there will often challenge
a habitual notion that Ive had in my past. And I go find
the people to interview.
M: Thats an interesting journalistic
process. That method puts your personalprocess into the center
of a community forum.
C: I guess I dont know how we could take ourselves out
of what we do. We could say we were doing otherwise; but we
are the people we take out along with the microphone.
M: John, your overall view
of IMC seems to be more distant, less personalthan Cayce. Your
focus seems to be more on creating online communities.
J: Yeah, I guess I
think of Indymedia more as webs, or in online terms rather then
in terms of being a newspaper or magazine. The big thing with
online programmers is that programmers want to make online spaces
that people will use in away that forces users to be responsive
to a wider constituency; and that allows the users to meet the
other people that they want to meet. Indymedia seems to be something
between this social space and news.
M: Do you imagine that youre
building an individual relationship witheveryone whos
reading the web site?
J: Not exactly an individual
relationship, but sort ofTheres that idea of community
consciousness, of the self-aware community, of the activist
community. I think we contribute to that in a big way. Just
thewhole Indymedia style- its more personal then the "news
style" of thenewspaper. I dont think of the IMC as
the news, I think of it as something in between news and gossip.
I think that is a legitimate space because there are a lot of
small papers that are like that. Sometimes you look at old issues
of the LA Free Press, the issues are more like Indymedia
then the LA Weekly. They were professional, they had
the big ideas of journalism. They also had the real neighborhood
thing going on too, parties and gossip. Everybody patting each
other on the back. Self-congratulations.
C: The thing that I was saying
earlier about holding the mic; something John just said just
triggered something in me. I also think of us less as news now.
Im starting to really look at our dependence on the idea
of the value of news. I do think theres a place for news.
I pick up the paper and I look on line and I try to figure out
whats happening in Israel and Palestine. Its nice to have
somebody write it out for me. On the other hand, theres
the notion of the IMC going out to give other people a space
to tell us what their life is about. In that process you get
information about the world. But then theres that "legitimacy
thing ", that information about the world can only be news
therefore it can only be filtered through a journalist. Im
increasingly coming to think that we get our information in
all kinds of other ways. These other ways of news- community,
grassroots personal accounts, are just as legitimate a form
of information gathering as "journalism". And just
M: So the IMC doesnt exactly
gather news. Its not always breakingNews either. What is it
doing? I have a difficulty finding words for it? Does it work
by presenting the multiple opportunities that the online space
J: Maybe. I think its
sort of like news. Yeah, its news, its the kind of news
that you would make if you had a small press and a few small
advertisers- though we dont have advertisers- and your
entire budget was very tiny and you did it on the side.
C: I am always coming back
to the notion of information dissemination; which is broader
then the idea of news. The way we shift and grow is by gathering
information, looking at it, turning it over. If we limit ourselves
to the idea of whats "news" then we filter out
a bunch of information that could inform us in some way. I think
we provide more information then other news sources. Look for
instance at the FACTS (Families Against Californias Three
Strikes law) march that happened some weeks ago. You could go
onto our site, you could see pictures of the march, you could
read about how many people were there, you could read about
the issues; you saw things that you wouldnt see otherwise.
You could go in and see activists communicating with other activists;
you can go in and see things.
J: I think right now
the IMC is trying to become a place where global issuesmerge
and mix together. There isnt any place that does that
besides maybe the Metro Section of the LA Times or even
the business pages of the LA Times; those places where
public policy and the people it affects communicate. Im
not saying that were the only space. But in a way this
is my bias, because Im not so much into the national news
or the international news, Im into local news. We are
concerned with global issues, we are concerned with large-scale
environmental issues, but at the same time were concerned
with individuals and small communities.
M: What communities do you think
actively participate in the IMC?
J: Oh, I think its
a mix. There are some people who are hard-core newsjunkies who
just like to read the news; and we provide a lot of news. Itsa
venue for them to put their things up and share. The newswire
isntjust original stories; its also a sharing space.
And I think that sharingis really really important. There are
also the people who pass e-mails around asshared news and that
helps to create some kind of cohesion for peopleslives. Weve
also got activists who check us out just to see what other peopleare
up to. I think we help the activists feel good about themselves
and help them feel like theres a thing going on, a larger
thing that theyre involved in. Maybe they get a window
on other things that are happening around town. And then there
are a bunch of people who are into progressive politics that
just like to check us out because we are a local news source.
We have the quality of being like a national source but with
stuff happening locally.
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