Editor’s Note: In late June, the New Leaders Council named this year’s “40 under 40” — a group exemplifying “the spirit of political entrepreneurship.” We thought you might like to learn a bit about the winners, in their own words. Today we’re so happy to bring you a piece from Tracy Van Slyke, project director from The Media Consortium – “a network of the country’s leading, progressive, independent media outlets.”
A few weeks ago, I was honored to be named one of the “40 Under 40″ by the National Leader’s Council. The NLC provides this award for “a diverse group of young leaders including elected officials, inspiring community organizers, as well as non-profit and policy leaders who exemplify the spirit of progressive political entrepreneurship.”
My work over the last decade has focused on crafting and building a successful and high-impact progressive media network. I say network, because I want to differentiate it from the right-wing’s media machine; a top-down bully pulpit that relies more on race-baiting, fear-mongering, and false and narrowly defined patriotism, than actual journalism, as the basis for its megaphone. But the concept of the megaphone has two sides of a coin. While they deny it and deem anything not “them” to be “liberal,” right wing talking points have an insidious influence on the corporate mainstream media. But at the same time, the megaphone is a one-way communication device.
Over the last decade, the media landscape has evolved to support multi-directional conversation, from individual to individual, individuals to media outlets and back, and whole new communities developing online to create, share, and distribute information and opinions in a whole new way. We’ve heard about how blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more have dramatically changed who produces news, how people consume it, and the overall journalism business model. And yes, these social networking tools are incredibly important. But in the end, they are just tools. (Who knows what will be the next Twitter in 10 years?) It is how we use these tools to connect, share and interact with each other that it is the fundamental baseline for how we produce and distribute information in the future. Take a look at the “Four Layers of Impact,” to get a visual on how media producers (and if you write a blog, make YouTube videos, etc… this includes you) can best operate in this new media environment to have the most impact.
Progressives have done a far better job than the right of taking advantage and utilizing this new media environment in order to create dynamic and active communities, to support the creative creation of journalism and helping to distribute content for maximum impact. This was recently proven by the new study “A Tale of Two Blogospheres” produced by a consortium of researchers from Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. The study details the structure (and resulting impact) of the left vs. right blogosphere or as they put it, “evidence of an association between ideological affiliation and the technologies, institutions, and practices of participation across political blogs.” In writing about the study for The Nation, Ari Melber notes, “According to the authors, the netroots’ early embrace of deeper participation platforms, coupled with progressive bloggers interest in mobilizing fundraising and specific actions, helped prime the tactics and habits that supported the Democrats’ later web dominance.”
That study backs up the evidence, strategies and stories that I compiled with my co-author, Jessica Clark for our book, Beyond The Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media, published earlier this year by The New Press. Jessica and I have argued for years that the future of journalism, and especially for political journalism, is not just about the content created, but the impact it has on society. Whether that impact is increased sharing of a piece of content by individuals to driving dynamic discussions among communities (online or offline) to the more dramatic influence on public policy.
We put our arguments into print (no going back now!) and in the book we examine the new breed of networked progressive media — from Brave New Films to Talking Points Memo to Feministing and beyond — that have informed and engaged millions. We argue that by harnessing a participatory media environment, they have succeeded in influencing political campaigns, public debates, and policymaking at unprecedented levels. As Laura Flanders of GRITtv writes about the Beyond The Echo Chamber, “From he-media to we-media,” Van Slyke and Clark document the shift from a media universe dominated by a few grim men to one in which progressive media can experiment, collaborate, report and have real impact.”
If you are a political junkie, an activist, a blogger, a content creator, or just an individual concerned about the future of journalism, might I make the plug for you to buy yourself a copy of Beyond The Echo Chamber.
But I wouldn’t have been able to write this book with Jessica, if it were not for my day job at The Media Consortium. Started five years ago, The Media Consortium is a network of the leading, progressive, independent media outlets in the country including Mother Jones, The Nation, AlterNet, Feministing, Free Speech TV, and of course, Care2. We have multiple projects that help our members collaborate with each other, expand their audiences, raise their impact, bring in new revenue and help them evolve for a 21st century media environment. As Nieman Journalism Lab wrote about TMC, “In some ways, it echoes the low-cost, high-reward forms of online organizing that liberal groups excelled at in the 2008 election.”
So much has changed in the last decade of my career from the definition of journalism to the advent of new media and technology, I’m almost dizzy. But I’m excited to be named as part of a group that is helping to shape the future of our democracy.
More 40 Under 40 Winners:
photo credit: jim newberry
by Tracy Van Slyke