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News ::
imc midwest regional gathering notes
03 Nov 2001
notes from the midwest imc gathering which took place oct. 19-21, in urbana, illinois.
UC-IMC Gathering Saturday Oct 20, 2001
10:00 AM Group Discussion on Developing Local IMCs (20 people present)

This session included a Problem Jostling exercise to identifying items for discussion or problems within local IMCs. Each attendee given three post-it notes and asked to write on each: a problem or need in their IMC or a false statement about their IMC to generate discussion of solutions. During the 20 min. alloted for the exercise, the post-it notes were placed on a wall accessible to everyone. The attendees organized the notes into logical groups of issue. The facilitator, with the help of participants, gave each group or issue a title which was recorded on a large dry-erase board. The issues listed:
1) Community Center (0)
2) Web site (4)
3) Vim / Energy (2)
4) Publishing policy (3)
5) Distribution (2)
6) Process / Internal operation (6)
7) Mission of news gathering (6)
8) Financial sustainability (3)
9) Outreach (5)
10) Publicity (0)
11) Other (2)
12) Diversity (6)
13) Insularity / Cliques (0)
14) Affiliation / Unionization (4)

Each attendee was then asked to vote by raising his or her hand for two of the issues. The numbers in parenthesis following each issue refers to the votes each issue received in order to prioritize and select discussion items. There was a proposal to cover Process / internal operation, Mission of news gathering, Diversity and Outreach. The proposal passed by consensus.

Process / Internal operation discussion
Post-it notes generating the following discussion were:
· Ending confusion about exactly how decisions are made.
· Problem personalities
· Poor coordination of working groups.
· Taking individual & collective responsibility for actions/evaluations
· Not enough internal communication
· Decision-making and delegation of responsibilities
Everyone has trouble converging skills to other media.
St. Louis IMC - Production plan allows people to select their interest. Also prevents writing meetings from turning into production meetings.
http://todo.indymedia.org is a To-Do List used by IMC Techs
UC-IMC - Working groups are empowered to work autonomously and report back to steering committee (SC). The 'Spokes' model is used.
Publishing a printed piece requires a production timeline, whereas web isn't on a schedule.
Posting decisions made in working group meetings to web ring - allow a week for anyone to block decisions made. Allows people to not have to be at meetings.
Publicizing meetings - email, newswire, calendar, web page.
Lack of communication between working groups.
Expelling a toxic member & policies coming out of that. List characteristics of what is damaging to the collective. The book "Antagonists in the Church" is on dealing with toxic members of an organization.


Mission of news gathering
Post-it notes generating the following discussion were:
· How impartial can we be in our reporting?
· How impartial do we want to be in our reporting?
· IMCs only function is not to counter the dominant media; IMCs need to make proposals for change.
· "Proper" use and advocacy
· Covering rural issues from urban-based IMCs
· Activism is reported fairly (false statement)
· Lack of reporting and news
· IMCs embrace all forms of communication (false statement)
Rural reporting. Illinois is experiencing dairy expansion of the evil kind, awareness of hemp as agricultural industry. IMC is a conduit for sustainability. Develop relationships that can last over time.
The mission is to serve those who are under-represented yet IMC has arisen in communities where the are abundant resources. Make a commitment to cover those under-represented.
St. Louis - Co- or Cross-publishing with existing alternative media. Statewide outlets has helped broaden our scope.
Communes, farm unions, intentional uses.
Internships at agricultural or other organizations.
Institutions that aren't necessarily media outlets can be used to report stories.
Cover rural issues by being on press release lists.
We are not impartial - the important thing is to get a lot of the under-represented voices heard.
Bias of activist reporting
We have been trained in our society that there is a 'correct' way to report news.
Fair and accurate vs. impartiality -- "Impartiality is bullshit."
Media coverage/analysis provided by IMC
Objectivity is a myth created by corporate warlords.
Personal relationships/fallouts cannot be allowed to interfere with reporting.
Bylines: Author's name vs. IMC. No bylines in Madison IMC.
Objectivity may be a myth but it is a great rhetorical style.
Being involved in an event/action and reporting on it from that perspective, vs. simply reporting.
Present to and get support from local collective for 'feature', when it is not a collaborative story, individuals should be listed in the byline or state "an IMC reporter."

Diversity
Post-it notes generating the following discussion were:
· How do we attract a diverse IMC without 'recruiting?'
· IMC membership is diverse (false statement)
· Gender dynamics
· Getting more women involved
· How do we get more people involved who are not younger, single folks with a lot of spare time?
· People of color not only feel welcome at IMCs, but are part of the organization (false statement)
· How do we (local IMCs) engage and involved oppressed communities
Time and money / middle class IMCistas
More women - how?
Not enuf womyn techs.
Workshops/training/skillshares led by women, smaller groups
Women do work, produce news, etc. There are fewer women doing formal decision making. This is a problem.
Facilitators have a responsibility to encourage participation.
Embracing other peoples' communication styles.
Youth are used to getting information from parents and teachers without forming own ideas.
Developing strong working relationships.
Accepting leadership from minority organizations. The Organization of Black Struggle (OBS) recommends noticing the race and gender of speakers. "If you're a white male, discourage or defer yourself from speaking."
Covering diverse issues is often covering corporations run by white men. Need to balance with positive which is not covered.
If you have something to say, say it!

The following notes come from the brainstorming session. We only had a half-hour left for the morning session. So, instead of having a discussion about the topics, we limited ourselves to presenting possible solutions to the topics. All solutions (plausible, improbable, idealistic, fantastic) were to be considered legitimate. The object of this part of the session wasn't to come up with the perfect solution, but to create a list, a repertory, so that people could choose (or be motivated to come up with more). The brainstorming session was given this stipulation: when you speak, make a proposal which would be no more than two sentences (to help with the time factor). For the most part, the stipulation worked and allowed people to be brief and precise!


Outreach
Post-it notes generating the following discussion were:
· How do we attract a diverse IMC without 'recruiting?'
· IMC membership is diverse (false statement)
· Gender dynamics
· Getting more women involved
· How do we get more people involved who are not younger, single folks with a lot of spare time?
· People of color not only feel welcome at IMCs, but are part of the organization (false statement)
· How do we (local IMCs) engage and involved oppressed communities
Recognize that you need to dedicate time to outreach instead of reporting
More than English
Produce a calendar (promotional item) or print community calendar
Uncover investigation
Cover what mainstream misses (i.e. labor)
Cross-media blitz (TV, radio, print)
Go to groups and present our stuff. Ask for feedback.
Personal responsibility for distribution network.
Consign publication at established retail outlets
Define open publishing
Commit equal resources to publicity as to production
Assign a reporter as a corporate media watchdog.
Have a short rap on where corporate media derives 'reliability'
Allies and community resources
Don't prejudge peoples' interest
Develop evaluation criteria, and use!
Diversity of cultural events, contacts. Keep a rolodex of community leaders.
Map of community to evaluate coverage/distribution/communication
If you don't have an Outreach group - keep doing Outreach in other working groups
Go to groups, bill yourself as a resource
Networks map - brainstorm People Networks (6 degrees of separations)
Build skills through practice events, providing recording services for community theater, etc.
Distribute and print newspaper for free - distribute in poor neighborhoods, Laundromats, transit stations, etc.

Web
Post-it notes generating the following discussion were:
· We have too many tech people (false statement)
· Develop an organizing structure of process
· How to deal with crazies who clog our newswire
· Lack of attention to website
· Indymedia.org website is the best it can be (false statement)
Radio/video groups post summaries to web
Share artwork &/or features among regional IMCs
Make print available online as PDF
Links to source material
Seperate pages with their own newswire
Discourage use of newswire for syndicated columns available elsewhere.
Help Global Tech Decentralize!! Looks for resourc$es to send their way.
Keep rants off newswire - put them somewhere else.
Sort stories by # of comments to maintain message threads.
Teach people to post pictures
Make features choice transparent
More frequent updates
Appreciate your tech (or have you hugged your tech today?)
Make it easier to upload streaming audio.
Auto-reply email to those who post & leave an email addy to encourage more participation & discourage spam.
Update your Contact Us and About Us pages.
Email newsletter
Keep it local
'Sell' IMC web site project to geeks
Bring food to meetings
Features.cgi - automated center column posting
Produce transcripts from audio/video
Writers create from audio/video
Summaries are very important
In your html code, use the 'alt' tag describing images for the visually impaired.




Here’s the topics and the post-it notes that we didn’t have the time to get to:

Outreach-publicity:
Everyone knows about the IMC

The community knows, respects, uses the IMC

Developing local IMC as a whole community resource (promotion)

Increasing community involvement & participation----ŕ diversity of perspectives, racial balance, etc.


Insularity:

Insular (sometimes)

Too much “insiders” or cliques

Affiliations/Unions:

IMC is united with the “Green Party”

IMC is unionized


Funding/Financial Sustainability:

1) Funding
2) Distribution (Access) to general public
3) More diverse participation from community (minorities, workers, etc.)

IMC sustains itself form income attained through a large % of retail sales of “green” products

Sustainable $

We don’t have an office L

No $

Getting money without selling out (maintaining indy-ness)


Publishing policy:

Developing an editorial process for features.

Defining a publishing policy


Distribution:

How do we distribute our newspaper? “Smashing the Silicon Tower”


VIM-energy:

Not enough involvement

Creating and maintaining enthusiasm

Sustaining energy



Community Center:

How do we get people to feel comfortable “dropping in” and “hanging out” at the IMC?

Equipment resources are shared with the community

There is plenty of free food at the IMC


Outreach:

Outreach

Outreach to a truly diverse community

How can we develop credibility in our own communities as reliable sources of information?
(techniques of organization?)

Outreach
-getting the larger community interested in IMC
-individuals: getting people interested (and keeping their interests) in working
on IMC
-group: getting the support of other groups


Other:

Urbana Sprawl

Itching

Pancreatic cancer









Saturday afternoon focus on networking
Developing global IMC
How to coordinate efforts so that we are more effective

The session began with a problem jostle, similar to the AM session. See AM session notes for details.

The group began to make false statements, ideas, questions relating to the global website of the IMC. Statements were posted and categorized on the wall. The facilitator read off the notes. Participants clarified

Catagories of false statement
American/Eurocentrism
How to develop in prisons and third world
North IMC should support IMC’s in the south
Translate to more languages
Structures and decision making
What structures are in place
How to make local indymedias easier to start
Share materials and content within and outside
Materials for international
Local imc share global
Regional imc sharing resources
AP IMC
IMC new blasts
Imc independent of carnivore
Contingency plan for
Transparent IMC structure
Security
Autonomy and independence
Face to face
Rating system


Other ideas
Policy issues
Decentralize independence
How to remain unique and part of a global IMC
Starting IMCs
Get resources from progressive organizations.
More Imc field trips

Next we began listening to descriptions of the global IMC.
Global IMC overview

Chicago labor writer
Prehistory of IMC Free speech tv and public access and internet radio made attempts. In 96 in Chicago a number of people wanted to report on the democratic convention. An alternative meeting center was set up. People discussed security and… Eventually the center was attacked by the police, which shut down those groups for a while. This demonstrated how combining radio, tv and print media. The next was the WTO in Seattle. That’s where the first IMC was started.

From mpls person
Tech people set up the conditions for IMC to spread around. If a tech person could set it up, a local
When 50 Imc’s got set up, the tech people refused to set up any more sights as of January 01 until a decision making structure

The global network is a set of volunteers that make it happen. Its not clear what is happening because the decision making process hasn’t been set up to i.e. give out money, How to set up an IMC transparency, open publishing, and other issues are dealt with
There’s a proposal then discussions then a decision is made. One problem is the time lag for email.
The global IMC is in Cyberspace.

Spokes councils are being set up. One per IMC?, so that

They are making a proposed charter.
A meeting was held in San Francisco to discuss this meeting. How did the spokes council get created??

There’s a core group for the global IMC who have been doing much of the grunt work. If you have a question go to Indymedia chat. Someone will respond and tell you what list to consult. Irc.indymedia.org.

The local IMC is what the IMC is. The global imc is the link between the locals. There is a global tech group.

The message boards are also a good spot to find out more information.

People took a stretch break then voted on topic
Eurocentric Americentri 5
Communication between Imc 6
Decision making 7
Becoming IMC 2
Sharing content 7
Security 7
Autonomy and the network 4
In person networking 0
Rating system 1

There will be a program at 11pm. The focus is the IMC. From Darryl Roberts.

We took a break, threw acorns and began to focus on
Decision making 20 minutes
Sharing Content
Security 20 minutes

Decision Making
Inclusive decision making process
What processes are in place now

Email is a problem. There’s too many emails and they are difficult to catagorize. This isn’t democratic. When decisions are being made, it must be formalized. This hasn’t happened with the IMC. Membership doesn’t know when decisions are being made. There could be a web page with discussion, proposal and then one

How do we coordinate discussions. It should happen all at once.

There isn’t a global interlingual decision making process in place.

A proposal came from a meeting in San Francisco. The IMC has been working on revising this. It’s a chaotic process that is difficult to follow.

One option is to set up one day in which to vote on the decision.

Everyone should have input on the decisions.

If the decision making process doesn’t allow people who work 9-5 then

Passive consensus allows people to object over five days. One idea is to set up a global IMC group that makes global decisions that allow for autonomy within that system.

What language would it be in?? Esperanto is one language.

A large translation team is needed.
A spokes person council is another way to do it.

A web page for proposals with discussion thre

WHAT DECISIONS SHOULD THE GLOBAL BE MAKING?
Where does the money come from, what is it used for,
What does it do?
New IMC
How to get in and out?
What goes on global features and the process for doing that.
Who decides and how is that de
Who decides which decisions get made by who?
What is the function of the global IMC.
Global security
Sending people to international conferences i.e. people from the south.
Software to new IMC
People want to know who is deciding and how.

SECURITY
Too much dependence on the main server
How can independents be more independent from seattle

Security
Technical limited # of server
Legal
Political

We are in a new legal period with legislation limiting internet use. We need to know what these are. What is posted is a problem

Political Membership needs to be defined. How to prevent infiltration from the government is a problem.

Technically seattle going down is a problem though we could be up in a short time. There are benefits of centralization. We need more technical people and more servers. That will solve the centralization problem.

IMC can’t be responsible for illegal activity, though if we see an illegal post we must deal with it.

Rotating facilitation avoids problems generated by cointelpro. Consensus minus one is also a remedy for cointelpro infiltrators.

Is there a way to back up IMCs? One can develop infrastructure. IMC’s could be mirrored across the system to add redundancy to the system. The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are allies with IMC.

Security threats 10% are down one can threaten the person who is running a sight. There’s a lot of self censorship happening.

They remove detailed plans for illegal activity.

Centralization is a vulnerable spot. The IMC in Seattle went down before. When that happened, the process of getting it back up was disturbing. We can intensify low tech communication in the form of broadsheets.

Sharing skills, additional server space and shortwave radio are options for making us more secure.

Carnivore has been installed in many local locations.

We can’t outsmart them in a hacker war.
We are about open information, so if they use carnivore on us, we are not vulnerable.
Decentralizing is a big problem. The more we can set up our sights, the more secure we will be.
Legally, it would be good to have servers

Free net stores information temporarily. One idea is to interface the IMC with freenet. This would eliminate another threat. The government couldn’t get it.

Use Aliases.


We took another break, and came back and did another brainstorming session, similar to the morning’s, in which we created lists of solutions for the concerns we were investigating. The two sentence limit was stipulated again.

SHARING CONTENT BETWEEN IMC
This includes files and artwork
Cross posting and storing in different locations is good.
One person writes a story for everyone instead of multiple people writing one story.
Create a search engine that searches all IMCs at once
How can regional IMCs share infrastructure. How can IMC support imc’s in poor areas.
Care Package. Send snail mail policy and other statements. The print article
Create a library of articles, print media, audio files. Updates are good, highlights.
Mailing lists for someone who puts up a new feature.
All postings should have date, length and format.
Sights could have a button for “possible feature” button.
Infoshop sights has some features the IMC could use.
Get to know other people in different IMCs.
How should we discuss this ten minute brainstorm
Mailing list for new features (all media)
Create a page for people who violate the rules
Link your story to different IMC sights.
Indymedia has a newsreel service that people can use.

COMMUNICATION BETWEENT IMC that isn’t
Process, decision making and skills.
Decision making should be posted so that other IMCs can see those. Those could be on the global sight
The global IMC should have a web page which coordinates writing, audio and video projects so that people don’t do the same work, especially at big demonstrations.
Sometimes one person at an IMC has the information that noone else has. Its important to find that person.
Focus on regional networks. Make sure one person gets information regarding global IMC information.
The regional file sharing/message board is another solution.
Make sure contact information is current on the website.
We should notify each other about news events for other sites.
??? Sharing meeting notes could be too much. Summaries are more appropriate.
Someone would need to make this happen.
Recording or printing a radio piece is another option.
One person could summarize what is going on in the tech list or fundraising list and put that up on the website.


Next Creating a sustainable funding plan Producing an audio piece editing training

Pickax is the story of resistance to logging after arsonist fire destroyed the forest.



The following are the desires and false statements that were written on the post-it notes for the afternoon session, which focused on connecting IMC's.

SATURDAY (10/20/01) AFTERNOON DESIRES AND FALSE STATEMENTS

American-European Centrism
North IMCs should be net exporters of resources to non-English, South IMCs.

Display Non-American generated perspectives is important for getting better depth of understanding of say, the Middle East.

How to develop IMC access to Indy Media in "underdeveloped" areas such as Afghanistan, the"ghetto," in prisions, etc.

Ease of translation of multiple languages.

There is no common language among all IMCs.

Amerika (+Euro-) Centrism



Rating System

Webby's incorrectly classified IMC as an activist rather than a news source.

Develop criteria for evaluating media.


Autonomy and the Network

Local Autonomy

Decentralization

Local IMC autonomy within decentralized network :)

How to remain open to original "flavors" of local IMCs, & not become too rigid an unstitution.


Incorporation

Independent Media Corporation

We affiliate with progressive economic companies and catapult the freedom movement.




Becoming an IMC

We, as a network, have a support structure to assist newly forming IMCs, especially in geographies hindered by U.S. government policies.

200% growth of new IMCs for next 5 years.

Better and more support from global to local

Need short clear perspectives for IMC which addresses our historic period.

Getting new IMCs off the ground

All IMCs get the resources they need to at least get established.

IMCs raise enough money to fund other indymedia--(or) IMCs have more $ than the Gates Foundation

Hard to contact IMCs



Security

IMC is on its own ISP, protected form Carnivore and other threats.

There is too much dependence on stallman.indymedia.org.

When one IMC is threatened to be shut down, perhaps as a terrorist organization, for example, the other IMCs have a plan of action to respond.

We get more hits than CNN.com

How can Indymedia Centers wean themselves from Seattle?



Publishing & Sharing Stories/Content/Art, etc.

How does the web user identify quality and facts from rants and lies? I won't check every site.

How can regional clusters of IMCs share infrastructure?

Can we create an accessible global news service--like AP? something newspapers, weeklies, community radio could use.

We have a way to share material from our various print projects so we don't reproduce efforts.

We have a way to let other IMCs know when we've posted a feature that they may want to use.

IMCs could send each other their print stuff--monthly care packages.

What kinds of tools can we create to facilitate story coverage of national or international scope?

IMCs share skills, equipment & resources & those more established help those getting established.

"News blasts" are mirrored by every local IMC.

Why should I work hard to post a web story that is quickly buried on the wire or appears on a single local site?

IMCs need to equitably share the load for global.

Global "resource wire" for local IMC use: features, pix



Decision Making Process

Global IMC has an efficient and effectively inclusive decision-making process.

What kind of governing structures are in place on global indymedia? (more factual than speculative)

Global needs to make applying to become an IMC easier.

Need clearly described structures and decision making processes.



Face To Face Meetings

More IMC field trips where we tour each other's facilities, host workshops and share resources. Also to learn about regional events were covering.

Huge peace festivals.

Regular regionals? what do you think? how to share knowledge and resources.

global indymedia gathering.

we have monthly/bi-monthly IRC gathering among local/national/global IMCers.
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