There’s good news for independent media in all this
I was more curmudgeonly than usual throughout this past election season. Some might say insufferable. To quote a stranger who I trolled on Facebook last week for their shaming of independent voters, “Chris, isn’t it about time for you to ask me some unrelated question about arcane local politics, so you can teach me about issues that really matter?”
As a matter of action, that is exactly what I plan on doing. I have dedicated my entire adult life to supporting, producing, and disseminating edgy independent media, and while my own status quo-shaming may be obnoxious or even embarrassing, I promise that my underlying intention is to awaken people to the truly sickening subversion of democracy afoot at the local and state levels. Whether you’re happy or about to eat a bullet over a President Donald Trump, you should be overwhelmingly concerned about the snakes in your backyard, and with the trail of impropriety that many of them slithered while all eyes were on the Trump and Clinton show.
On that note, I believe the increasing degeneration of dialogue in this cross-section of sewage, while not exactly welcome news, presents an opportunity to boost the alternative, and particularly the progressive media. Here’s that little bit of sunshine I saw fall over the indie press as the election results mounted …
We do subjective advocacy journalism better. I’m not of the school that believes Trump got a free pass from the press. Rather I am in the camp that actually read thousands of articles about the campaign over the past year, many of which—particularly in the Washington Post—were as fair and thorough as they were insanely troubling (the most damning of which that comes to mind being this August piece in which he was forced to smell his own turds on a number of fronts). With that said, it is undeniable that many mainstream personalities and outlets, especially during the last couple of weeks of the campaign, jumped into the tank for Clinton. From partisan tweets, to daily newspapers giving as much or more play to repetitive anti-Trump editorials, they did everything that traditional journos typically criticize alt writers for. Only many of them did it under the continued fraudulent premise that they have no dog in the fight.
I of course have zero problem with such garish emotional outbursts. For one, Trump is scum. Who wouldn’t want to troll him and his sycophants? But more importantly, as I have argued for years along with many others in the underbelly of the journalism industry, there is no such thing as objective reporting. Never has been, never will be. It’s never been too hard to prove that big outlet reporters are demonstrably shitheaded on this issue, but now, at least for the next couple of years, anyone who wants to call them on the fraud can simply point to their performance in this past election.
Heads are looking for a place to turn. A hopeful place, but also outlets that are down to scrap. That’s us, from my contemporaries in the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, to those in The Media Consortium, both of which people can use to find hard progressive coverage of both national and local issues. As the news and features editor of the alternative weekly DigBoston and the co-founder and editorial director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, I take it as my full responsibility to find and connect with those who are lost in the woods. If I’m going to holler at people about their lack of knowledge about things like the surveillance state and privatization in education, then I’d better make sure that I also go out of my way to link with disenchanted Boston Globe subscribers and others outside of my urban bubble. I hope that others who are similarly fortunate enough to have that opportunity also take the chance to capitalize on this moment. It’s time to get Baby Boomers back to reading the kinds of media that activated them back in the day.
People are writing. And sharing their thoughts. Sure, a lot of what they’re dropping is reactive tripe devoid of any real meaning or historical context, but at least they’re writing. And making media of all kinds. The alternative press has always taken public input and engagement seriously, long before large outlets cheapened terms like “citizen journalism” by using readers for free content and clicks. Harrowing events—take, for example, the mortgage crisis of last decade that spurred Occupy Wall Street and innumerable prominent lefty thinkers—get outraged people putting pen to paper, mouth to mic, and so on. The alternative outlets that harness that energy, nurture that talent—particularly young and marginalized voices—will live long and prosper.
We are the best weapon against the so-called Alt-Right. As you’re probably well aware as a result of the crush of reporting, mostly late in the game, on the pseudo-Nazi troll brigades born in the bowels of various obscure portals for disturbed individuals, there is a rising tide of dangerous ignorance online. I’m not sure how much this will comfort those who are actually scared for their lives, but many in the alt press and progressive research world have been tracking such oppressive forces of stupidity and hatred for years. I am one of several writers who have spent thousands of hours picking through the Breitbart network’s dirty laundry, while experts on conspiracies like Chip Berlet have traced the toxic rhetoric in local races.
Weed. That’s right. Grass, trees, and edibles as well. With cannabis now legal in my adopted home of Massachusetts, as well as in California and Nevada (plus with medical initiatives passing in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas), there’s a robust new realm open in which we can generate revenue, create community events and socials, etc. It’s not a silver bullet, and marijuana may not be a fit for every publication. But as I have taught students in my media course at the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis, it’s hard to think of a magazine where a cannabis article (or advertisement) wouldn’t fit. Think about it for a second—from Cat Fancy stories about feline CBD supplements, to Garden Design features on grow rooms, to food and cooking rags (use your imagination), the possibilities are endless. Alt outlets like the Dig have sacrificed a lot over the years to report truth in the face of lies spoken by the highest influencers and officials, and now we will reap the benefits. Because while five o’clock news hairdos are still cracking jokes about the munchies, we showed respect and set the precedent for calling out prohibitionist nonsense.
Let’s face it, there’s a ton of outrage out there. To quote the late rap deity Tupac Shakur, “I learn how to think ahead so I fight with my pen.” There are countless ways to process outrage and negative energy, but my favorite is journalism. And I’ve had some truly great experiences helping other people channel their thoughts in that direction. One Bostonian, for instance, approached us last year with a tip on a major gentrification story, and we convinced her to research and report the article herself. We have other writers who are open critics of the growing surveillance and police state, and they protest by filing FOIA requests and exposing gross violations of civil liberties. So long as they understand that the alternative press is driven by compassion, and not a bottom line, there are endless opportunities to launch effective demonstrations on the page and screen. And on that note, I’ll close with another Tupac line that may help ease the pain:
Everybody’s taught that. You wanna be successful? You wanna be like Trump? Gimme gimme gimme, push push push push, step step step, crush crush crush. That’s how it all is… It’s too much money here. Nobody should be hitting the lotto for 36 million and we’ve got people starving in the streets. That’s not idealistic, that’s just real. That’s just stupid… There’s no way that these people should own planes and there are people who don’t have houses.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.