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EDITORIAL: The Need To Have A Legitimate Editorial Policy
28 Nov 2001
Modified: 29 Nov 2001
This is my arguement for why it is that IMC needs to develop an editorial policy, based upon broad principles of unity, that can be enacted.
In a directly democratic society, the role of journalism is to expose unaccountable authorities in positions of centralized authority. Some examples are the WTO, the military-industrial complex, the G8 amongst a see of others that make up the web that is the global corporate dictatorship.
I think that IMC is going to now have to establish itself as either a liberal or a revolutionary force. What I mean by that is, we need to ask ourselves "what is the role of IMC?" Will it just be another open forum available for any person with any intention to post anything? Or will it fulfill its role as the watchdog of unaccountability? Will it become part of a revolutionary infra-structure?
Recent events have shown that fascist, ignorant, or government elements have used the open newswire as an opportunity to disrupt and discredit IMC. The basis for me saying this is that the posts have nothing to do with "journalism" even in a remote way. Most are personal attacks, baseless rhetoric, or just jokes/pornography etc. What then becomes the role of IMC if these elements are given a forum? Is the role of IMC to give these elements a forum?
I say "no". The mission of IMC is to present an alternative political perspective to people. A perspective that redefines democracy from one that is dictated by political and economic monopolists, to one that addresses the needs of those who normally are not heard in our political system. In order to enact this, it is important to take the broad social situation into account. We do not live in anarchy folks. There are people who are benefitting from capitalism and state politics everyday, and do not wish to see something with a mission like IMC's to exist. History shows, they will go to ANY means to make sure that this is true. As we see now, the nature of an undemocratic international political system founded on unilateral governments shows that they will use extreme violence to secure that monopoly. They will drop "daisy cutters" and "cluster bombs". They will ram airplanes into skyscrapers. The investing class shows no mercy in keeping a stranglehold on as many outlets as possible.
The question is whether IMC will recognize this precedent and therefore decide not to become another victim of it...or whether IMC will recognize its mission as a new revolutionary media with a mission that will not just be stated, but put into practice.
If IMC wishes to continue being a revolutionary force for democratic social change, it will need to develop an editorial policy that will exclude disruptive posts from the newswire. It will need to be as broad a policy possible based upon the most fundamental and broad bases of unity within the IMC mission. I hope IMCers take this post to heart, as I feel that the fate of this medium could potentially be at stake.
The various governments of the world have created a language that has legitimized a certain type of terrorism, and IMC has been completely disrupted as these incidents continue. However, we can save IMC's mission, and we can prevent this from happening in the future.
Please comment.
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Editorial Policy
28 Nov 2001
An Editorial Policy, which really means censorship of the newswire, is something that has been debated back and forth among the various IMCs for a while. Some IMCs already censor certain posts, especially outside the US, but most don't. IMC Boston does not.
I think you've got it right when you say that this is really about what the purpose of IMC, of the newswire specifically, is. Are we here as just an open forum, a message board essentially, or are we here for specific types of stories?
The first thing that you have to understand is that, whatever decision is made, making that decision is a long and difficult process. IMC is so anti-heirarchical that we work very hard to make sure that no one has any authority over anyone else. Essentially, everyone has to agree before a big change in our policy can be made.
Also, IMC is very decentralized. If the global IMC suddenly tells us (Boston IMC for example) to start censoring the newswire, we don't necessarily have to listen to them. It's largely up to the individual IMC.
Speaking from the limited amount of information I have, I can tell you that there are e-mails being sent back and forth across the global network talking about a big editorial policy. What will come of it, I can't say.
As for right here in Boston, I can tell you no one here is happy about seeing right wing or irrelevant content on the newswire, but most of us would not go so far as to censor. What everyone agrees on, though, is that we do need to make it abundantly clear that the newswire is for anyone to post to and some weird stuff will undoubtedly make it on there. It's not a bunch of IMCers tripping. We're currently working on this and it might actually be implemented soon.
I'm of the opinion that it shouldn't even be called a newswire. The word implies that it's some kind of "breaking news" thing with our articles on it. At least, it's easy to see how someone new to the site could think so, and we have gotten a few e-mails indicating this.
I'm of the opinion that we do want to deal with stuff that we really don't want up there, but not necessarily by deleting them. We already have a way of "promoting" newswire articles to the center column, thereby endorsing them. So, why not "demote" articles, to the second newswire page for example, that we want out of the way? That way, you have the center column which is IMC stuff, the first newswire page which is periodically filtered, and the rest of the newswire pages which are "anything goes." I think the thing that irks me most about some of these articles is their headlines appearing on our front page, their authors that way using us as their mouthpiece. If you actually have to click to get to them, it's not so bad.
As for deleting articles, I do believe there are some cases in which this is necessary. Right now there is nothing, for example, preventing someone from flooding the newswire with pornography. We need to be able to deal with this.
I disagree
29 Nov 2001
I totally respect your opinion, Alex, but I disagree. I do not think an editorial policy is censorship. I think we need to look at the world broadly. There are MANY platforms for fascist, bourgeois, or otherwise ignorant ideas. In fact, those ideas are pumped into people daily through corporate monopoly of major media outlets. Those ideas are hardly being censored in America. This is where IMC needs to figure out whether it is going to be a revolutionary force (take systemic power into account) or a liberal one.
I know offhand many people who once participated in and relied heavily on indymedia as a source now have withdrawn from it because of the disruption of people who aren't even participating in "journalism", and how can you blame them? What point is there in posting an article on the global site if it gets bumped off in 2 minutes because a handful of people wanted to post porno, baseless (and personal) attacks on Noam Chomsky, or pro-war jokes (not journalism). If we wanted that, we could turn on our tv's. Is IMC just going to be another podium for this?
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Editorial Policy
29 Nov 2001
To clarify, I never said I was against all forms of censorship, and I do agree that certain points of view that already get so much attention in the mainstream media don't need to take over this place too, but I'm just saying that when it comes to censorship, you have to be careful. One of the main ideas at the creation of indymedia was that it wouldn't be censored, that anyone could post articles, that it would be news by the people and for the people (literally).
When thinking about whether you want to censor something, you have to consider two things: the message itself, and its relevance. I could see a message that I don't agree with, whether it swings right or left, but I would be very hesitant to delete it (right now I can't anyway, so I don't have to think about it). Only if it's something meant to purposefully disrupt this forum, such as a right-wing attack, might it be okay to censor it, or if it's a simple rehash of what I hear from CNN pundits I might be tempted to slash it. But if it's, for example, a pro-war argument from an open-minded (but alas, probably very confused) person who has original ideas and simply wants to open debate, it should stay.
As for relevance, you could go several ways. You could say that the newswire is only for news stories and anything else is irrelevant. For example, some rough criteria for something being in the center column are that it's news, either news not normally found in the mainstream media or our spin on a particular story, and in the case of local sites, that it have some local relevance. The global site is for more general things. Editorials are usually not to be found in the center column, but I could see us bending that rule. Now on the newswire you'll find all sorts of things, non-local news, editorials, advertisements/announcements for future events etc. Nothing wrong with this stuff, though sometimes I wish there was less of that and more news.
So relevance is a big thing. To use an example said by someone at an IMC meeting, if we get too many stories like "I Like Ostriches," we've got a problem.
Now blatantly right-wing stuff gets a laugh out of me more than anything else. The Dave Horowitz anti-Chomsky articles were particularly amusing. We might want to get rid of it if there's too much of it, though that particular one was more an inadvertent flattery of Chomsky than anything else.
Now as for good stories being bumped off the newswire because of there being too much crap, I agree that's a problem. That's why I think we should have the ability to change story order around so that ones that deserve it more stay near the top.
Basically, you've got to strike a balance. It's important for Indymedia to be able to accomplish its mission, which is essentially a not-so-polite attack on the mainstream media, but we also don't want to become like the mainstream media as far as censorship, only on a different end of the political spectrum.