Political Coverage That's All About You

So much criss-crossing the country; so many carbon fuels consumed, so little learned. After a year of nomination contests, the press corps has wracked up millions of miles, but are we -- or they -- any wiser about this country of ours? Looking ahead, will the coverage be any more enlightening? It could be, if a gaggle of independent media mavens working together have anything to do with it.

A year ago, a group of independent media professionals looked ahead to the 2008 election season. Anticipating the same stump speech in 50 states and the same old reporting to go along with it, they wondered, 'what if, instead of the candidates' horse-race, we covered goings-on around the track?' The project we came up with together is Live from Main Street: a series of live events, in five states in five months, bringing audiences the local perspective on critical national issues. Brought together by a collaboration of independent media outlets, Live From Main Street, is made by and distributed to a network of some 45 different media outlets. Who says progressives can't work together? Listen, watch, read; take a look.

On June 8, in Minneapolis, Live From Main Street kicked off in the Twin Cities. Locals weren't just backdrop for a report on a national story: they were the main event. On stage -- discussing the election, organizing, media and more, were organizers, journalists, artists -- sharing their accounts of the free speech challenges their community's facing in the run-up to the Republican National Convention. And it wasn't all bad news. Alongside the grim reports of permits denied and protests squashed, we heard the latest word on "unconventional" convention plans -- "our roving reporters will be mounted on bicycles connected by GPS" Marlina Gonzales of the UnConvention told Live From Main Street. "Today's Main Street is a new Main Street" said Malkia Cyril, Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice. Politicians make old assumptions at their peril, she added. It's not just about bias, it's about getting the story wrong.

Over the next five months, Live From Main Street will be hosting town-hall type discussions about critical issues in Miami, Denver, Columbus and Seattle. We want to take the agenda-setting out of the hands of candidates' consultants -- and put an ear to the voters themselves. In Minneapolis, the focus was on civil liberties and the need for media diversity. In Miami in July, the attention will shift to cities and sustainable development. In Columbus, the topic's voting; in Seattle, national security from a female point of view. We've heard from the politicians. At the end of the election season, Live From Main Street hopes to have heard -- and amplified what voters mean by that catchword "change."

As my co-host, Insight News editor Al McFarlane said in Minneapolis, "That's what this is all about -- us getting real with each other.

Live From Main Street has another agenda too -- to model new ways for independent media to work together. And that's just what the folks at The Media Consortium and GRITtv are doing to pull off this series of events. On June 8, Link TV and Free Speech TV jointly broadcast the show. The Twin Cities tech gurus at The Uptake (http://theuptake.org), a community based internet media center, pushed out the stream -- for GRITtv to play live. Then the National Radio Project packaged the whole program up for radio -- for distribution to over 200 radio stations across the U.S. The Women's Media Center reported on the town hall. And the list goes on. "Just as we criticize and rail against the failings of the mainstream media, independent media outlets are banding together to support important journalism and build their impact on the political debate," said Media Consortium director Tracy Van Slyke.

So join us: Live From Main Street: it's not about the candidates (although they are discussed). It's not even about the election (although who can ignore that?). It's about you.


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