At a recent forum titled “The Future of Our Local Press”, hosted by Tacoma City Club, residents were provided an opportunity to contemplate the current and future state of local press in Tacoma. Sitting on the panel were esteemed members of local media, representing different media outlets, including print, electronic and radio. In recent years, the role of the press, more commonly referred to as ‘the media’, has seemed to change drastically.
Hoping to get some insight and encouragement since I have become disillusioned by the tone and tenor of reporting, especially on environmental issues at the local level, I made it a point to be in attendance at this forum. The bias and outright vitriol that has been allowed to be printed in our local media outlets, touted as ‘reporting’, has profoundly jolted my journalistic sensibilities.
Going in to the forum with high hopes for meaningful discussion about how to restore the “4th Estate” in a good way in our community, I am sorry to report that I came away most disappointed. In fact, I was fairly furious at what was being said during the presentation. The locus of the conversation radiated around money, with the gist of the conversation focused on the question of how do we finance and support local media?
Not being an idiot, understanding that the finance piece is a fairly important piece, it still is mind-boggling to think that this is the first place where we have to direct the conversation, understanding that the quality of reporting is so damaged and broken.
Take a little time to educate yourself about media literacy and the 4th estate and it won’t take long to find yourself down a pretty deep rabbit hole. There is the idea of a 5th estate, composed of bloggers and armchair journalists, a population to which I guess I belong. In the rabbit hole, I started questioning the validity of this idea that the 4th estate is an additional pillar of the medieval idea of the three pillars that maintain society . It onlyl took a few hours of critical analysis to realize that, at one level, it makes absolute sense that the 4th estate would eventually be completely subsumed by the elite, aka the nobility.
It is common practice for me to try to think with my Indigenous critical thinking skills. This takes me to a completely different way of viewing the world, even though my traditional ways of knowing and thinking weren’t passed down to me formally. They still live in my cells. I often will find myself questioning Indigenous elders or peers to get their insights and wisdom as I try to navigate a wicked problem.
From there, came the question: what if we stopped thinking about the “4th Estate” and instead thought about community empowerment through media literacy and critical thinking workshops? What if we restored an Indigenous way of reporting what is important to our communities? Would we find ourselves not needing the normalized and ingrained media outlets? Would we find our ways to community-based knowledge sharing and knowledge-gathering? One of the presenters at the Forum brought up Block Club Chicago – a grassroots movement to report out on the happenings, block by block, which seems to be a version of this idea.
This is a very interesting platform for communities to consider, especially in an age where media are demonized and subject to lawsuits.
In Tacoma, we are desperately lacking valuable press outlets. And rather than waiting for the current outlets to right themselves, or for the “angel donor” of lore (which is a bad idea, to my mind) to come finance some start-up, we should all come together and put our own press / newsroom together.
The first step is to find people who are interested in building this community resource, in a good way. Who are the writers? The creatives? The Visionaries? The Connectors? Where are the people whose stories are burning to be told? What do we need to do to connect everyone? Who can teach about media literacy? Who wants to participate?
I put these questions to you, random reader, because I definitely do not hold the answers. But I know they are out there. And maybe you have some of the answers.
What are your thoughts and feelings on this?
While you’re thinking about it, mosey on over here to Civil and have a look at their constitution. Pretty exciting stuff.