Different frames of media justice

There are many wonderful threads to pull from “Media Justice Through the Eyes of Local Organizers”, a field report from the Funding Exchange Media Justice Fund that came out in September, 2009. In addition to analyzing the different frames groups may approach media and communications justice from, they also make clear that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach:

Comparing her work in the Bay Area to her current work in Louisiana, Xochitl Bervara of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) was surprised to find that public access TV and community radio are uniquely important for the families she works with in Louisiana because literacy rates are so low there. Public Access TV in Louisiana is an important source of civic information. Community radio helps get people out to FFLIC meetings. For community outreach, computers are unusual. Even phone-based outreach can be a challenge. Low-income people tend to rely on pay- as-you-go cell phones and numbers change frequently.

Even in the Bay Area where local organizers told us “access is not an issue” staying in touch with some people can be extremely challenging. To stay in touch with transgender people of color who get caught up in the criminal justice system, Alexander Lee of the Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project often has to resort to tracking them down in person. He believes literacy, digital literacy and cultural discomfort all contribute to low internet usage among those he works with. As pay phones have disappeared, Alex says it’s actually harder than it used to be to stay in touch with this vulnerable population, especially those who have been recently released from jail or prison.

In spite of these challenges, most local organizers we spoke with are relying on internet-based communication tools to keep in touch with their constituencies including social networking, web 2.0 media, and collaborative hubs. Local organizers tend to be circumspect about using internet for their work. They tend to see it as one means of keeping in touch among many and not as a replacement for meetings, phone calls, and other forms of media. They note that differences in demographics such as age and education still make a difference in people’s available and preferred means of keeping in touch. Most organizers said they needed to use multiple methods to keep in touch with the communities they serve. According to Ricardo Valadez of Jobs with Justice, the communications strategy that works with one demographic won’t work with another, “Most marketing and PR work relies on ‘hyper-targeting’ but that doesn’t work and isn’t desirable or feasible when your goal is to help people see their struggle in other people’s struggles.”


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