( – promoted by buhdydharma )
I want to start off by stating something obvious. The corporate media has a massive amount of power when it comes to information access. Until the internet became popular, we had no effective alternative form of mass communication and information distribution. But with widespread access to the internet (or at least widespread enough) came new tools for spreading information. One of those tools is the blog, which has become one of the most popular methods of sharing information.
Unfortunately, the blog is a “pull” medium. By that I mean the only people who read a blog are those who’ve heard about it elsewhere. And even if you have heard about it, you have to go searching it out, which can be a chore for the less technically savvy. The vast majority of blogs are small fish in an interstellar ocean. Even the big blogs are not well known. Furthermore, what you read (or hear or watch) on blogs (and other online news sources) often requires following links to further information sources to fully comprehend what was originally posted. This requires the reader to be willing to take even more time, and so the original article must find a way to pique the interest of the reader. In other words, the article has to “pull” the reader in and make them want to learn more. No easy feat.
Traditional media is a “push” medium. You sit and watch TV or listen to the radio. The newspaper can be delivered direct to your doorstep. And what you get is supposed to be trustworthy. Unbiased. Truthful. So you shouldn’t have to think about it. Just let them tell you what’s going on. They push their memes into you. Brainwashing. (Don’t kid yourself thinking it’s not.) Day after day after day. Sometimes even hour after hour, if it’s cable news. The only way to tune it out is to turn it all off. But then you have no info at all.
A couple recent essays discuss the problem in more depth. EENR for Progress: Corporate Media and the Progressive Movement and Wither the Fourth Estate? I also wrote a diary along similar lines about a year ago. (Not as well written, and rather rambling, but I think I still made the point.) My original intent in this essay was to discuss these issues a little further before moving to the potential solution you’re about to read, but I think this is long enough as is. So instead, I just recommend that you follow those links and read so that you have a clearer understanding of the issues I’m addressing here. (See! There’s that blog “pull” I was talking about.)
We cannot get anything changed until there are enough people pushing for it. We are not enough. We are too few with too little power compared to the entrenched interests. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can get our message out to the public. We have the technology. (We can be better, faster, stronger. Woops! Wrong show.) What we need are the people willing to make it happen. Our goal should be to gather the public; rally them to our cause.
I mentioned this idea in a comment a week ago, but since it came at the tail end of an essay and toward the end of the day, it probably didn’t get a lot of views. Despite that, it garnered a few ponies from people I respect here, so I decided to write this essay and expand upon the idea to see if there’s any real interest or if all you want to do is pat me on the head. Don’t take what I’ve written as the definitive word on how it should be. Rather, this is where I think it needs to start.
I’m willing to work on it. Hell, I’m willing to lead the project if that’s what’s needed. But I can’t do it all myself. If this is going to work, I need help. That means if you’re serious about getting our voices heard, it’s time to step up to the plate. I’m just not going to bother if I can’t get that help. I’ll try to find something else to focus on, instead. But I think this is our best means given the situation we’re in right now.
The Basic Premise
Guerrilla news. We’ll bypass the media and go directly to the people. We do this by using email and having subscribers print off copies of our newsletter for local distribution. Stories are short and to the point. Opinion is fine — in fact, encouraged — so long as there’s fact to back it up. We’re not going to do “we report and you decide.” We’re going to tell them in simple terms what’s going on and why it’s wrong or right. Advocacy. Think KO’s Special Comments, only really short. If it takes more than a couple minutes to read, it’s too long.
We’ll use pdf. That will ensure consistency of layout, and there’s software to view it on the big three OS’s. It will be four to six pages long. More than that, and people might not be willing to print out every issue. We are relying on them to print and distribute. If we make it difficult or too expensive, our message doesn’t get out, and we fail. Less than that, and we won’t have enough space to cover issues. People are going to want more than just one story. Otherwise, they won’t take us seriously. It’s a very fine line we’re walking, but we can do it.
Each article should be about half a page in length. Yes, when I said short, I meant short. Punch it. That’s a sentence or two of intro at most. No long, drawn out analysis. More like a summary. You say this is what’s going on; this is how it affects you. Make it emotional. Make it personal. If we don’t do that, we fail. Get people angry. Get people excited. But stay positive. Because that’s what gets people to act. And then give them a way to focus that energy. Give them something they can do to release it. Make it easy. Provide resources. It’s going to take a while to build up. There’s a lot of inertia to overcome. But we can do it.
Writers will need to use good grammar (suitable for the style of writing) and no cursing or calling people names. Bush is not “The Shrub.” Republicans are not “Rethugs.” And no acronyms unless you explain what they are. Don’t assume anyone knows what you’re talking about. The average person knows as much about politics as I know about sports (which is to say next to nothing). If you’re having trouble with any of this, that’s fine. You’re not in this alone. We’ll be helping each other. So don’t be intimidated. If you’ve got something to say, say it as best you can. We’ll let you know what needs cleaning up. We can do this.
We’ll need at least one person to act as editor. The more writers who can also do editing, the better, but the primary editor will have the responsibility of ensuring all writing meets the above requirements, as well as ensuring the entire newsletter is formatted correctly. We absolutely must look like we’re at least trying to be professional if we’re going to be taken seriously. If we work together, we can succeed.
We’ll need someone to do layout and design. You may think it’s frills, but looks are important, and layout will determine ease of reading. When people see this, they need to be instantly intrigued, and the layout needs to make it easy to just start reading right away. We also need to place the name of our newsletter and put our website address on there somewhere. And I’m sure there’s things I’m not familiar with or just forgetting. I cannot emphasize enough how important this all is, so we need someone willing to work on it. And whoever takes it up, don’t worry if you feel like you’re in over your head. We all are. But we’re going to be working together, so don’t hesitate to ask for help. We can get this done.
At four to six pages, that’s eight to twelve stories. How many can we write a day? Enough to put out an issue? That would be ideal. The stories are short, and we need to keep pounding away. That means we need a lot of writers, because we can’t expect each of us to write a story every day. If you can, great! Please do. But let’s plan for the less than optimal. So we need a place where writers (anyone) can submit their stories. It’ll be up to the editor, designer, and whoever else is on the managing team to figure out which ones to use for the newsletter. And doing this daily helps us stay current. A week is a long time in politics, now. We need to stay on top of things if we’re going to be relevant. It’s not going to be easy, but if we’re willing to put in the effort, we can do this.
Our primary distribution model is through email. Preferably early in the morning so they have it before they go to work. Those receiving the email then print off at least one copy and place it somewhere accessible for others to read. Someplace like a work breakroom or public bulletin board. This is why the stories need to be short. Because we’re going to be catching people in the middle of doing other things. Don’t waste their time. If the stories are short, they’ll be more willing to pause for a moment to read.
We can set up a way for people to make donations to help with costs. (I know I can’t afford to do this on my own, and I’m not sure if I can even help pay for anything. I’m not exactly financially secure.) However, the primary contribution we’re looking for is local distributors. People willing to spread the news. It’ll start slow, of that I have no doubt. Don’t expect to see much uptake the first few months. But if we are doing our part right to encourage subscribers to print and distribute, it’ll pick up.
It’s actually pretty simple. The complexity comes with all the little details that need to be addressed. I’m sure there are issues I’ve completely missed or just forgot. I know I’ve left out any mention of a website, and that’s something that needs to be taken care of. As much as I love DD, I don’t think we can work on this project here. (Nor should we. I think it would be a horrible imposition and would essentially be taking over the site. That’s not cool.)
The biggest problem we have with getting anything to change in this country is getting enough people to help support that change. That requires that they know something needs to be changed in the first place, and then it requires that they be motivated enough to do something to bring about that change. We have to provide that for them. We have to tell them what needs fixing and give them the motivation to do their part to fix it. We can make it easier for them. This newsletter is how we start doing that. It’s how we engage people who don’t normally pay attention to politics. By getting our message out of cyberspace and into meat-space. It has to be done if we’re to have a chance of success. We lack the funds to get noticed in traditional media. We cannot rely on politicians to fix things for us. It’s up to us. You and me. Together.
We can do this. I’m willing. Are you?