By Maya Schenwar
Sometimes I wish there were another word for the “media.” No other term is exactly right to describe our work—the news, the press, journalism organizations all fall short of its meaning—but unfortunately, the “media” is often equated with “propaganda,” and rightly so. This country’s dominant media regularly function as mere service providers for the corporations and forces of power that sustain them.
The services being provided are dangerous: Media have the power to manipulate public discussions and understandings through which stories they choose to report, who they choose to report them, who they choose to interview, what words they choose to employ in their coverage, and who they choose to label “good guys” and “bad guys.” The arrangement of “debates” in the dominant media usually includes a very narrow range of opinion, but represents this spread as the range of opinion worthy of public consideration. This dialogue is controlled not only by the people and companies that hold the purse strings, but more importantly, by the unquestioned power structures in which those entities operate. Funded by corporations, driven by advertising, populated and legitimized by powerful political figures and mainstream celebrities, these media can’t function any other way.
As independent, non-corporate media, Truthout and our peer organizations know that we, too, shape conversations and impart perspectives. We know that the myth of “objective” journalism is not only false, but also unhelpful; we’ve got to own our perspectives, striving to deliver socially responsible information that helps to create a more just, humane and vibrant world.
And so, we work to cover stories that are excluded from mainstream conversations and bring transformative ideas to the fore. This work isn’t just about doing investigative reporting and uncovering individual instances of wrongdoing, though those are important tasks. As truly independent media, we consider it our obligation to step back and question the structures that perpetuate that wrongdoing: structures bound up in racism, classism, sexism, anti-queer and anti-trans violence, ableism, and other types of oppression.
As we move into the new year, we’ll plunge deeper into our exploration of the linkages between capitalism and criminalization; poverty and environmental degradation; surveillance and imprisonment; and violent foreign policy and militarism at home. We aim to do this by not only giving scholars, activists and independent journalists a place to share their courageous work, but also by providing a platform for the people most impacted by these issues to speak for themselves.
Over the next year, we hope to further the understanding that journalism doesn’t just prompt action—it is action. Stories are acts, and acts have impacts, and when we report on something, or opine on something, or analyze something, we are putting both the existence of that something and our perspective on it out into the universe. As journalists, we have to release our long-treasured fantasy of “impartial” reporting, and hold the work we publish accountable to our society and our future.
I’m thrilled to welcome Praxis Center as a new online platform that will offer a space for scholars, activists, independent journalists and other voices to critique the complexities of our world.
Maya Schenwar is the Executive Director of Truthout, dedicated to providing independent news and commentary on a daily basis. This piece is cross-posted at Truthout.