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News Archive: August 2004

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8/19/04 - Farewell, Fair Wisconsinite: We Hardly Knew Ye [link to this story]

Madison's alt-biweekly free newspaper, the Wisconsinite, folded up shop last month after a scant dozen issues. The group that founded and produced the paper included members of the Madison IMC collective (but was most definitely not a print project of the IMC itself). It was positioned to the left of the city's tired alt-weekly, which now targets "affluent hipsters" compelled to spawn. Very respectably progressive, the Wisconsinite had some meaty stories on interesting stuff, was fairly well-laid out, and was even printed on higher-quality newsprint stock than the Isthmus.

Then Madison's dominant daily announced it would be starting a free "alt-weekly" of its own, and the state's largest paper shortly followed suit. It is apparently a growing trend in the mainstream newspaper marketplace to use the "alt-weekly" trick in hopes of luring a younger demographic - both for their disposable income and to entice them into the habit of reading a paper, something going lost on the under-25 crowd.

Madison's just not big enough to support four free pubs: the reader base is one problem, but there's also the question of fighting for rack space at available distribution points. With such deep-pocketed competitors looming on the horizon the Wiscosninite bowed out. Frankly, I don't think it ever really got the chance to find its voice.

After substantial hounding from their managing editor I managed to get in two radio-themed pieces. "Deep in the Lake" takes a look at a local broadcast chain maneuvering at the FCC to add more stations to its stable; "March of the Low-Band God Squad" is a Wisconsin-themed examination of the impact of the "Great Translator Invasion of 2003" on the FM dial.

I would have linkified them but at present I'm editing these pages at home and posting from the Illini Union. Note to self: move to a blog, stupid!

8/18/04 - The Voice of Media Reform? [link to this story]

Many activists (especially those involved in progressive/radical causes) are intimately familiar with doing hard work for little or no money or recognition. I've unfortunately watched friends burn out on causes for change because of this. However, my hiatus of late has taught me an important lesson: people do notice your work and, if you keep plugging away at it, you will reap rewards (above and beyond altruistic satisfaction, which still unfortunately is not yet considered a form of currency).

When I decided to move to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois from Madison several months ago, I had little idea what I'd be doing when I got here (outside of the higher-learning thing). It was the first time I'd apartment-hunted with no clue as to how I'd manage the rent, an experience I'd recommend to nobody.

Then I got an e-mail from Bob McChesney, who's a professor at the U of I. After a relatively short correspondence he dropped his bomb: Free Press is launching a weekly radio news program on media reform and activism, and he'd like me to produce it.

It was not difficult to answer that question. It's turned out to be doubly beneficial: this gig is classified as a research assistantship, which means most school costs are covered as well.

The vary basic plan for Media Minutes outlines a five-minute weekly headline-style program. That's about all I know at the moment - even the title is tentative. I'll be working closely with the Free Press staff in D.C., which should be fruitful, but Bob's left the enchilada pretty much up to me to define.

It is a daunting task to establish a reliable and respected news outlet from scratch, but fortunately this time will not be my first. I plan to open up the show to as much participation from others as possible (both on the story idea and production fronts), and as things begin to firm up in my own head I'll certainly share the results. Production will likely begin next month with distribution to commence in late September/early October (it will be free to all).

In the meantime I'm perched in temporary digs as my landlady cleans up after the previous tenant (who was quite reluctant to leave). This limbo has gone on for nearly three weeks now and may continue through the end of the month - hence the staleness. Rest assured, though, when I'm back to being plugged in there will be some significant action here.

Mad props to Mediageeks Paul and Ellen for letting me store half of my life in their garage, do laundry, and get the occasional cyber-fix.