Independent media center sets up in Tribeca

By David H. Ellis

As the major news organizations and seasoned political reporters keep their attention trained on the nomination of President George W. Bush from the vantage point of the Farley Post Office across from Madison Square Garden, several hundred grass roots journalists are making Lower Manhattan their home during their coverage of the Republican National Convention.

Renting a 10,000 square foot office space at 220 Church St., the organizing groups NYC Grassroots Media Coalition, the Indymedia Network and Paper Tiger TV explained that they simply wanted to provide a command center for the smaller news outlets to help counteract the “G.O.P. spin machine” during the Republicans’ visit to New York City when they floated the idea several months ago.

“For the R.N.C., we knew that there would be tens of thousands of protestors in New York and thousands of independent journalists who would need to ‘plug in’,” says Christopher Anderson, an editor with the sponsoring organization New York City Indymedia, a branch of the Indymedia Network, which has been in existence since 1999. “The idea was that people who are protesting or who disagree with certain political viewpoints don’t often get their viewpoints expressed accurately by mainstream news.”

While several dozen organizations such as Pacifica Radio, Third World Newsreel and Blacked Out Media will utilize the space christened the Independent Media Center that has been funded through donations, grants and registration fees, Anderson said that coverage of these groups will focus on marginalized issues and counteracting the spin doctors of the G.O.P.

“The media will be obsessed with the ‘dog and pony show’ and any violence by protestors even though it might be some idiot throwing a rock,” says Anderson. “While both the convention and issues of violence are important, there are a million other grievances being addressed in the streets of New York this week and it’s out job to bring those to light.”

Besides providing 24-hour online radio coverage and an hour-long program entitled “Unconventional TV” on the Manhattan News Network (MNN) during the convention, the participating organizations also plan to publish a daily newspaper and produce several television broadcasts before, during and after the convention. While use of the facility is still available to smaller publications for a nominal fee, Anderson says that even those individuals taking a more ‘do-it-yourself’ approach, are encouraged to register.

“Technology had reached a point that people could be their own media,” he says, expecting that several collaborative projects will emerge while they have use of the space until Sept. 6. “We’ve encouraged people to ‘don’t hate the media, be the media’.”

In conjunction with creating a media hub on Church St., organizers also have another Tribeca location, Gigantic Art Space at 59 Franklin St. The gallery is a registration center for journalists and as an environment to exhibit some of their work.

Lea Rekow, the director of the gallery, which has displayed such installations “D Troit” which featured Detroit artists, said she embraced the idea since the gallery was going to be unoccupied during August idea and because the project dovetailed with the gallery’s objective.

“I think there is definitely a political context in what we do,” she says. “I just wanted to broaden the focus of the gallery and I think even now we have a pretty nontraditional approach.”

Although the Independent Media Center is located nearly three miles away from the activity of the convention, Anderson believes that the separation will not hinder the efforts of any of the reporters working from Church St.

“We think it will be helpful since it will be pretty nuts by Madison Square Garden,” he says pointing at street closures and other potential logistical nightmares. “We’ll still have people out in the streets, but I think being a little further away will insulate us from the heat of the moment.”

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