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Todd Wolfson is an assistant professor of journalism and media at Rutgers University; Michael Eisenmenger formerly taught at Rutgers, and now manages the Community Media Center of Marin County. Both bring deep knowledge of the independent media movement to this conversation.Wolfson’s new book is Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left. He traces the origins of the indy media movement to the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, and we learn that Eisenmenger worked on media projects related to the Zapatistas for about 12 years.
Our main focus is on Seattle in 1999, where an independent media center was set up for non-corporate coverage of the WTO conference. Eisenmenger played a major role in the setup and operation of the center, and PBC used it to file reports for Radio New Zealand. We compare notes about Seattle, the zeitgeist of the indy media center, the police riot that produced the images of confrontation that played in the mainstream media, and more. Wolfson and Eisenmenger both comment on the content produced, the latter saying it was more movement media than journalism.
We talk about the quick growth of indy media centers, and events they covered from the IMF meeting to political conventions. And we talk about the Occupy movement, which produced some great independent media but appeared naive to surveillance and other government tactics that undermined them.