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Struggle Together for Truth and Democracy

by Jeff Saviano, Prism editor and Special Section co-ordinator

Look around this essay and on the following page, and you'll see the work of a group of partisans in a great struggle, a struggle for the heart of democracy: truth.

It's not just a selection of North Carolina's 'alternative' media. Many examples of such media, like my favorite weekly, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, do great work. Still, they serve the community with their writing and reporting; they do not involve communities in their own news production.

In my view, only the democratic, grassroots, volunteer media offer this organizing potential.

To me, 'grassroots' means volunteer-driven, democratically organized and mainly unpaid efforts (like our own Prism).

These NC-based people and organizations have dedicated their time to proving that the news and information we must rely on in order to work for social justice is not to be owned by wealthy families, or profit-crazed investors, or sprawling corporations.

For this special issue on North Carolina's grassroots-based, politically progressive media, twenty of those media producers write here about what they do and why. Some of them are (or have been) producers of newspapers, newsletters, radio shows, community access shows, videos, or Internet sites.

This range of people and organizations cumulatively represents a powerful reserve of some of the most brilliant and perceptive observers our society could hope for - and these are only the ones I managed to get in touch with. There are many more.

To look at these pages only as some sort of progressive-resource catalog or alternative-media "dining guide" is to miss the point.

This spread of grassroots and alternative media should prompt both our readers and the producers of these media to consider our common goals and combined potentials. Our divided efforts are both inspiring - as they now exist - and tempting - as we could work together.

I want other grassroots media organizations working with us, The Prism, if they believe it to be in their interest. I want to see if activist organizations, which in part gather and disseminate information, can gain by working in part through us, this one tiny publication called The Prism.

I want communities which want to produce their own news and views to let us help them to begin.

The apparently overwhelming influence of the monied-media can be challenged most satisfyingly by the organized human power of those people who deeply care about their community.

If we take the example of the print media (and let ourselves indulge our imaginations) the added energy of all these people cooperating could appear in the form of:

  • more accurate and relevant information;

  • less stress and time-consumed for media producers;

  • more frequent appearances of a media form (going weekly instead of monthly or quarterly);

  • slicker production values (a hundred groups combining all their media resources could much more easily produce a product which looked fantastic);

  • a central work location with the necessary space and equipment to make production less scattered;

  • wider and more emotionally powerful distribution (people passing around the paper as well as more ordinary distribution);

  • and, perhaps eventually, in the form of change in the 'real' world outside the media (a more successful struggle for a living wage, a single-payer health care system).

There are many struggles to be waged for a just society, on a nearly infinite number of fronts. But the struggle for a truthful, meaningful, and democratic media system will have to be a part of all of our struggles.

Either the average NC resident will see that the policies pursued by his or her governments or employers prevent hungry and poor people from getting proper nourishment, and they will see the possibility of acting on his information, or they will not. Either they will see some particular foreign policy initiative as an attempt by this country to do great harm to some other, typically poorer society, or they will not. Either they will see that there are ways to use our shared resources and energies for more justice and human development, and they will understand some ways of working towards that, or they will not.

The choice will continue to be ours. Let us continue to get out what truth we can-but let us strive also to do it in better and more creative ways.

Watch these pages to see how these ideas begin to work out.

Examples of politically progressive and grassroots media that I've missed should be sent to The Prism, PO Box 16025, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, or by calling our voicemail at 968-3154, or by e-mailing me at saviano@email.unc.edu

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