“Independent media bring issues to the boil; mainstream media inhale the steam.”
That’s what Phyllis Kriegel, editor of New Directions for Women, told me back in the 1990s, and it remains true today.
Cierra Hinton, publisher and editor of Scalawag, a publication covering the South, cited a recent example. Not long ago, Scalawag ran an investigation into local murdered and missing indigenous women. “The story was deprioritized and ultimately killed by a mainstream outlet,” she explained, but once published by Scalawag, it was picked up by others and went national, and earlier this month, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland established a new unit specifically to investigate. “I’m not saying our reporting made it happen,” said Hinton, “but it helped.”
There’s another story in Scalawag that I hope will have the same impact. It’s by Mab Segrest, longtime anti-racist author and organizer and regular contributor to The Laura Flanders Show.
Mab’s report, commissioned by BluePrintNC, takes a detailed look at the men and women from North Carolina who took part in the January 6 insurrection in DC.
What she finds, with the help of the North Carolina Anti-Racist Research collaborative, are anti-abortion activists and long-ignored white supremacists and militia organizers, private military-style training camps scattered across the southeast, and a load of military-grade weapons distributed to a rather dubiously elected local sheriff, courtesy of a federal program.
How all those pieces fit together isn’t entirely clear, but given oxygen by Scalawag, the report is intended, at the very least, to break the silence so far booming from state law enforcement. Segrest and BluePrintNC, teaming up with Scalawag, model what local independent media can do (and Mab’s report draws on lots of it).
There’s more to it, too. Whereas national reporting on the Capitol Insurrection from Washington puts a washed-up president and a remote set of lawsuits at the center of the January 6 story, Scalawag’s version puts local people at the center, both as the problem and the solution. Broken down to familiar faces in a handful of counties, the problem of racist militia violence seems more tackle-able, and Segrest ends by pointing out that local actors put a previous generation of violent racists behind bars.
So, at its best, independent local media doesn’t just bring issues to the boil, it puts power and responsibility and possibility in local hands. Now, what do you think would happen if we all inhaled that steam?
You can watch my conversation with Cierra Hinton of Scalawag and the co-founders of a new BIPOC led media network called URL Media this week on The Laura Flanders Show, and find our feature on Segrest’s book, Administrations of Lunacy, here. Or find the show on a public TV or radio station near you. Check here for local listings.