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Indymedia News vs. Neighbor's Account

Because of the explicitly democratic nature of Indymedia, my sociology professor wished to know the differences between Indymedia and a neighbor yelling about what he did that day from across the street. Since anyone has access to publishing on the Indymedia site, and everyone has their own concept of what is "newsworthy", one might think that these two modes of information profileration are very similiar. I intend to show how Indymedia is a equal or greater news souce than one's ranting neighbor.
Before I explore possible answers to these two modes are different, it is first necessary to how they are similar. Because of the overtly democratic nature of Indymedia it is highly susceptible to criticism considering that everyone has access to distribute images and news online. Ignorant and/or malicious contributors can post articles on the website for whatever purposes or stories those contributors find necessary. There are seemingly no checks and balances, and as opposed to mainstream media sources, there is no expected journalistic background or professional tact by the viewing audience. In this sense, Indymedia is very similar to my neighbor ranting about his day from across the street because I should have no underlying expectation about the tact and accuracy of the outlooks presented.

Yet, Indymedia's differences with my belligerent neighbor probably far outweigh the similarities. While it is true that indeed everyone has access to publish on an Indymedia website, every cell has an editorial board that approves or denies the article, thus theoretically filtering out blatantly offensive or inaccurate reporting. And, although the "publishing" process is rather easy to the novice computer user, people without the ability to type, scan photographs, or operate a computer will not be able to publish their words. Thus, an understanding of modern technology is necessary and not everyone has the ability publish; yet almost anyone can yell at their neighbor from across the street. is also different than a bantering human person in the sense that is a website with decentralized tactics and democratic motives. Indymedia represents the gamut of world perspectives and outlooks due to the sheer number of contributors from all over the world. Theoretically, anyone can contribute to the website, therefore, Indymedia can represent as many different perspectives as it wants, not merely the one of a rambunctious neighbor.

Indymedia's news is current, sometimes refreshing, and often times covers perspectives and details that the mainstream press accidentally or purposefully ignores. Although this too might be able to be said about a neighbor, the neighbor's story is not easily accessible to potentially sympathetic readers. That is, unless (s)he publishes his/her accounts on Indymedia.

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Re: Indymedia News vs. Neighbor's Account

Theoretically - But Indynews is rather biased in its reporting, and not quite as accountable.

However, it depends on if this governing cabal is sympathetic or critical of the article posted.

Perhaps in how the information is disseminated Indymedia is quite disparate from one's neighbor - but in regards to mainstream media, Indymedia does not have the impetus (readership, and therefore profit) to be unbiased and factually accurate.

Re: Indymedia News vs. Neighbor's Account

A couple points...

*I don't think that the 'news worthiness' of a person's opinion should be considered by their ability to type/access to a computer. that's not really fair.

*Some of the crappiest, un-thought through opinions show up on the internet, simply because of the anonymity. I often have to put myself in a more personal mindset to avoid going off on people online. Would I say it to their face? If not, I don't need to type it out.

*ALL "news" should be taken with a grain of salt. Or a bucket. Every reporter is biased, every way of broadcasting events/teachings has slants. Therefore, it's up to the reader to think about it, and research further if they're interested in it, rather than forming opinions based on someone else's account.I personally don't see something in the Chronicle (or whatever) and think, "OH! so THATS what happened"...I think "oh, so that's how they saw it. That's what the cops told them to say. Or that's what they think we want to hear." Same goes for indymedia, and random people talking to me on the street, and to a degree, even my close trusted friends. Everyone sees things differently, and just because they're paid to publish their opinions doesn't make them right.

*yes, indy media ends up showing a 'biased' selection of articles. That is NOT however,a reflection of the institution itself. That's a reflection of the people who publish here. There is a huge difference, even though the result may be similar. There have been instances of selective editing, but because I don't know the full story, I don't feel comfortable passing judgement. As far as I have seen, indymedia does a good job of letting opinions and 'news' be seen.

**As far as the difference between indymedia and my neighbor, I hope there isn't much. I think we need to respect our community and the people around us a good source. 'News' doesn't just appear out of thin air- it happens, usually to people. If we can't actually be there to see what went down, listening to their stories straight from them is the next best thing. An example from my own experience- new orleans. The 'mainstream' 'news' was craptacular and useless. The information I have used and thought about most came from first hand accounts, from friends, or friends of friends, or e-mail chainletters, or whatever. And the weird part is, that information keeps getting verified later on, by 'news' reporters saying "oops, really it happened like this. we were wrong."

in conclusion, maybe being more like an irritating neighbor is a good thing. Yeah, you have to hear about their missing cat, but you also get a real story.


Re: Indymedia News vs. Neighbor's Account

Well. Between 4 and 7 today I posted a (I thought) reasonable and well-thought out reply to this article, saying, essentialy, how much indy media rocked my socks, with a small aside on editorial policy. It's not here. And it's 10.16. I hereby retract my thoughts on indymedias sock-rocking, and would like to instead question the sanity of any editors that may or may not have deemed my comment unworthy.
Some brownie points may be restored if this comment shows up.


Re: Indymedia News vs. Neighbor's Account

I'd have to agree with you kate. While I know and respect a few of the "annonymous" editors of indymedia (truly they do a lot to keep this website going!) I'm often at a loss as to why they remove comments and sympathetic to people who feel they've been exculded from commenting or posting articles. Obviously there are exceptions here, but as a rule I feel it is better to leave a comment posted that you don't agree with then remove the "offensive" comment entirely. I'd rather see a well thought out reply to some BS comment than the removal of said comment. Of course we can't always take the time to do this so again, I'm sympathetic to the editors here. I feel I've had a similar experience to kate in the past and it kind of bums me out. Nevertheless Indymedia does rock and is perhaps one of the more democratic and participatory media sources in the SC, except Free Radio of course! ;-)

Censorship Problems at Indymedia

Indymedia, as I've often said on the Free Radio Santa Cruz show I host, is a valuable but significantly flawed community resource.

It would be nice if indymedia made its censorship policy (by which I mean, its practice of deleting or hiding articles which one of its members doesn't like) more transparent.

It might also make the parameters of its tolerance more explicit. E.g. "If you support the Israeli government, don't expect to get anything published here at all--even if it's a please to end the oppression of homeless people in Santa Cruz.")

It might also help to clarify that "open meetings" invite only those in with whom the members are not angry. That is, whether one can come to a meeting (or be there without its being dispersed) has nothing to do with how one behaves at the meeting, but certain prior credentials.

These can involve association (say, with right-wing websites and individuals).

It might also be helpful to allow "forbidden" articles to stay up until a majority of the "central committee" or whoever's running the website decides to lower the boom. Rather than allow a "heckler's veto" by one indymedia member.

If any indymedia members are reading, perhaps they can clarify exactly how many people are currently required to deep six someone's writing. One? Two? A majority?

Is there any appeal process?

Because the selection (and censorship) of articles is dependent on the judgment of a few folks, I believe it is also particularly important for the reasons for deleted and/or hidden articles to be clearly stated.

In the case of Becky Johnson--whose pro-Israeli government articles enrage the editors--this has not been the case. Worse, the editors have resorted to blanket censorship of anything she writes.

Because she has been a persistent and valuable critic of local government on issues of police misconduct, homeless civil rights, medical marijuana restrictions, and city council abuses, this blanket ban has significantly cut back input on this subject.

Moreover, while indymedia presents itself as a group that operates through open meetings, Johnson has been banned because several members grow apopleptic when she enters the room.

I mention Johnson's specific case, because I think it has a lesson to teach indymedia and the community.

First, we obviously need more local news websites. If you don't like indymedia's, it makes a lot more sense in the long run to get together with others and start your own.

Second, we need to understand what Indymedia is so we don't waste lots of time debating it. Indymedia has acknowledged (both explicitly and in action) that it's not a free speech forum, but reserves the right to delete those whose articles it deems hateful. Indeed, to delete all the writings of a person, whether hateful or not. (In the case of Johnson, her homeless writings are quite the opposite) This is a decision--unwise it's true--that indymedia has made. So while I think it's arbitrary, authoritarian, self-defeating, and somewhat hypocritical ("we're not censoring", they say, "since we're not the government"), it's obviously indymedia' prerogative to do if they choose.

Third, I suggest that anyone posting on indymedia on controversial subjects make copies of their post. If deleted, the posts can then be sent to sfindymedia or other indymedias and websites.
They might also want to add the kind of treatment they got at santa cruz indymedia.

For local homeless posts, I suggest website for Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom. It's not very current at the moment, but hopefully will improve.

I say all this with some resentment, but also some sorrow, since I also feel that there's blame to go around on this subject.

I just regret seeing our small activist community turn on itself instead of leveling its guns against the local powers that fuel the Drug War, the Rent Profiteering War, the Sleeping Ban War, and all the rest.

Nonetheless-though it may sound contradictory--I thank both indymedia workers and their critics, and urge them to redouble their struggle--just redirect themselves to better targets.

indy media rocked my socks

hey kate,

i think there are some problems with the software on this website. i see your first and second post just fine. hopefully you see them both now too. reposting your comment is fine, if you don't see it. you can also send an email to sc-imc at scimc (at) and report tech problems. thanks for posting.

Thanks for the intelligent article

When an individual (or two) is constantly criticizing everyone else and doesn't participate in other people's projects, it kind of makes me pause and think about the validity of that person's arguments
Thanks for the intelligent article and overall good dialogue.

I'd like to point out a few things that may or may not have been pointed out already.

First, Indymedia is an awesome community resource. Really, it is what the community makes of it. It is a day-to-day alternative to the corporate, right-wing dictated Sentinel and the only local, breaking news source aside from Monterey's two television stations and our local radio stations that aren't manned by computers. It is available 24/7. That in itself makes it a valuable community resource.

It bears repeating -- it is what the community makes of it. It has already been stated that the Indymedia site has went through a major software overhaul this last January and has been working out the kinks ever since. Some content and comments have indeed been lost while the site was "hiccuping." If people don't like it, I would like to hear them volunteering their tech skills to help out with the project. Otherwise, I think they should say "thanks" to the folks who are volunteering their time and effort to make it make it a community resource, simple as that. (BTW -- thank you, Indymedia folks for making this truly democratic project happen!)

As for the editorial decisions on the site, I, too, have had a comment or two hidden, but once I reviewed the editorial policy, I realized that I was out of bounds and I went ahead and wrote a new comment based on what I had learned. The biggest problem seems to be when people don't know the difference between personal attacks and a legitimate argument; the other big problem I see are people who are combing the site just to cause trouble. I'd rather see a site that is readable with relatively legit information rather than indiscernible disinformation to the extent that the site is not useful. Sure, I like to have flame wars as much as the next guy, but if it deters from the accessibility and newsworthiness of the site, then I vote for the editors to be as stringent (not less) as they have been.

Keep it up, Indymedia!

Lessons from craigslist

Craigslist has evolved into a refreshingly democratic forum. From their point of view, no doubt, it came from an attempt to make administration easier. For every post, viewers are able to tag the post as Miscategorized, Prohibited, Spam, Discussion, and Best of (nominated for the Best Of Craigslist category). If some certain threshold is reached, posts are automatically deleted.

I wish that was possible here on Indymedia. Particularly with comments, some of which are inane at best and clutter the often thoughtful discussion.

This is much more democratic and takes a load of responsibilly off the indymedia keepers. Also, being able to nominate/promote something as a headline would take a lot of editorial responsibility off of the editors, and provide a democratic backchannel to controlling editorial content on the front page.

Re: Indymedia News vs. Neighbor's Account

Typically, when posting using Internet Explorer I have found that my post often does not appear if I go back to it later. Switching to Mozilla web browser, I most often find the post has reappeared. One thing I am wondering about is why the Tookie Teach-in article for Nov 30, 2005 no longer appears in the right hand collumn of the home page, with either Mozilla or Internet Explorer. I went to Kinko's to verify that this was not a problem with my computer. It doesn't show up on Kinko's computer either. The article can be found by visiting:
It still has comments posted to it from Dec 1 and Dec 2, when the article was no longer visible. Maybe significant numbers of people scan the comments section of the newswire located at
, which lists all comments posted. Or maybe some people are crossing over from , where there is a link to it on the home page.

As to the Becky Johnson/Robert Norse/SC Indymedia controversy, I have weighed in on this too. I attempted to get the two sides to butt heads during one Santa Cruz Indymedia meeting. But that obviously failed. They just could not be in the same room together. SC Indymedia made a long rationalization of it's stance to Becky in an e-mail, but the meeting revealed that this is no longer a logical issue, but an emotional one. Like any failed relationship, it is now time for both sides to find different partners.
It is unfortunate that this means that Becky Johnson can not post anything at all on a major news source for Santa Cruz, SC Indymedia.

Part of my work on involves working against trends on the internet that tend to censor different points of view. Often times the advertisers that you may see on a website may have contracts with the website that tend to limit freedom of speech, under penalty of purging that site from their affiliate program. For the most part this is not the case with, but I have been turned down by affiliate programs that have more restrictive policies. I have not applied to be a member of Google adwords or adsense, but has been turned down by that program because it criticizes others. Google specificly prohibits sites that criticise others from having paid advertising using its services. (This does not apply to the regular free part of the search engine. But they do blacklist sites on the free part of the search engine that attempt to inflate their page ranking by various means such as putting keywords at the bottom of the page in the same color as the background for instance.) To its credit, Google does sell ad space to both sides of the abortion debate (though that debate does appear somewhat muted on Google ads), but other debates, such as gun control have zero ad space sold. Sex ed, on the other hand is slanted heavily in favor of promiscuity, with no "criticism" directed towards abstinence. Try searching that keyword (Sex education) on google and look through the ads on the top and the right side to see what I mean.

articles that are featured

"One thing I am wondering about is why the Tookie Teach-in article for Nov 30, 2005 no longer appears in the right hand collumn of the home page"

If an article is promoted from the right column to the center column, then it is no longer visible in the right column. Just look in the center column.


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