Occupy the Media

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Illustration by Caetano Santos.
Illustration by Caetano Santos.

A world of ever-growing media conglomerates has created a situation in which media ownership and influence has been concentrated into the hands of an elite group. “The Big Six,” — GE, Viacom, CBS, News Corp., Disney and TimeWarner — now own nearly 90 percent of the media Americans consume. In 1983, 50 companies shared this amount.

Though there was a considerable amount of journalistic disapproval of the Nov. 15, 2011 police raid on Occupy Wall Street, the ensuing abandonment of the issue by media was far too swift. This mass disregard for a violation of the constitutional right to peaceful assembly is a subtle, eerie reminder that the nation is rapidly losing avenues for expressing dissent. It’s not surprising that a September 2012 Gallup poll revealed 60 percent of Americans have little to no trust in the mass media, an all-time low. We didn’t succeed at occupying Wall Street, but the next step should be obvious: occupy the media.

The media landscape must be a forum for putting pressure on corrupt and underperforming representatives, not a shield or weapon for the 1 percent. When such a small group of people controls what the news covers, it can become impossible and/or dangerous to report on things that could negatively affect their image. A diversity of perspectives is needed, a redistribution of publishing power to a wider group of people from all walks of life could greatly increase media accountability.

The current state of the media industry is looking a lot like what made Wall Street so repulsive to the protesters in Zuccotti Park. Just as the capitalists on Wall Street became “the 1 percent” by accruing money at the expense of those who had less, the moguls at the top of the media world are accumulating corporate mergers with equal ferocity.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and its countless offspring protests illustrate how the American people are not afraid of expressing the sentiment that Wall Street is reifying capitalism’s highest stage, imperialism. This activistic energy should be shifted to the new 1 percent that is forming in the media business.

The Occupy Movement may no longer be active in the news, but the spirit of protest that occupiers renewed will never be destroyed. Occupying the media means more than an occupation of Times Square Studios or Rockefeller Center (though this could be a good start due to the increased visibility it would provide). This occupation will require a widespread change in consciousness and a rise in individual and group initiative.

The first thing activists can do is get involved in the media. Here at UCSC, students can choose from 16 different student media organizations with many varying focuses and approaches. Determined activists can also write letters to editors or pen their own investigative features and share them with other concerned students.

The free market’s potential hasn’t yet been completely monopolized, so another avenue is to be a media entrepreneur. A group of friends with unique perspectives and a lot to say can make their own commentary and/or news site together. Now publication can be as simple as clicking the ‘submit’ button on Twitter or a blog, or as risky as initiating a startup. In either case, we have the potential to take journalism back to its roots by recording the events of our lives and communities and how those in power affect them.

It’s clear there is no correct way of seeing things. True objectivity — the mainstay of most journalism — would require that all subjective perspectives be represented and shared. If we all make journalism a way of life and share our individual stories, we can prevent these perspectives from being lost or obstructed from the record of history. Occupying the media cannot be a revolution that takes place overnight, it will need to be a determined, painstaking evolution in thought and practice.

For our diverse country to be free, our information must be free and diverse as well.