Questions about self-organisation: Indymedia
> What are the aims of the project you are involved in?
I’ll respond to these based on my involvement with the Indymedia network. Over the past few years I’ve worked to help organized temporary IMC’s to cover mass mobilizations (Cancun, Miami FTAA), on collaborative documentary projects including the Miami Model (ftaaimc.org/miamimodel) and on various other autonomist media gatherings and projects. I also work with video.indymedia.org and occasionally on features for global IMC (www.indymedia.org), as well as publish to local IMC’s (currently I find myself living in LA, so to LA Indymedia).
‘Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth.’
The Indymedia video distribution network (video.indymedia.org) is an attempt to better coordinate sharing of video material throughout the Indymedia network and beyond. See the next question.
> How is the project organised?
The Indymedia network is organized in a kind of globally federated network of local collectives. Each local collective has a great deal of autonomy from the network, although all have to adhere to the basic Points of Unity.
Decision-making at both local and international levels happens through consensus. The consensus process is different in different parts of the world and sometimes is more formal, sometimes looser, occasionally leads to splits and conflicts, but for the most part functions well and is a part of the Indymedia model and of prefigurative politics in general (build the new world we want within the rotting shell of the old …)
When decisions have to happen that affect the whole network, they happen via delegates from all the locals. This is incredibly complicated by language since everything has to be translated into as many of the network's working languages as possible, which is a large number that keeps growing every few months …
There is a (valid) critique of IMC process that is also a critique of the network in general, which is that it's internet-centric and therefore those with the most Internet access (personal computers, broadband connections, etc) have the most say. I would say that the truth of the critique for local IMC’s varies wildly across the network nodes – some use the net mostly as a resource and kind of like a news wire to pull content down for local distro via papers, radio stations, leaflet, whatever works. Others have reverse priorities and almost do everything on the website, only occasionally doing offline projects. It depends on the IMC.
> How do you support the work financially and what impact does this have
> on your project?
This is a huge question ... Again, local IMC’s have autonomy over finances. In practice, none of the IMC websites runs ads; none of the radio stations linked to Indymedia run ads (that I know of); many of the print projects do choose to run ads from radical or progressive businesses (worker-owned coops for example) in order to cover print costs. One-time mobilization costs (setting up a temporary IMC, transportation and equipments costs) are sometimes funded by funneling money from foundations or NGO’s through IMC-connected individuals or spin-off radical media projects, but almost never through ‘Indymedia’. Urbana Champaign IMC has 501(c)(3) [tax-exempt charitable] status and has served as fiscal sponsor for many projects, but that status itself has generated intense heated debate within the network based on some locals’ belief that no IMC should be a legal entity with recognition from any State, let alone the US Government. Locally, UCIMC has been very successful at raising money, and last year they raised enough to purchase the US Post Office building (!)
There is a long-running debate in IMC over “valid” sources of funding. Some think everything must be voluntary or in-kind contributions, others point out that this privileges those with access to other income. Very few people have ever received wages for Indymedia work, but it has happened on occasion within particular local contexts.
There was a huge debate a couple years ago when the Ford Foundation offered a large grant to Indymedia, but Latin American IMC’s insisted the money be rejected both on grounds of principled independence from private foundations, and specifically because of the history of the Ford company in Latin American politics.
> What do you feel you have achieved, and what are the problems you face?
Let me just say that there are lots of important critiques of Indymedia. White male, tech-centricity, questions of access, the tyranny of structurelessness, etc. However, at the same time I, like many, continue to participate in the network because at its best moments it becomes a powerful example of “actually existing” radically-decentralized, autonomous from state and market, deeply globally interconnected, bottom-up communication network that walks the walk and produces intense, vibrant, passionate tellings of truth and circulation of struggles throughout the world.
For more information: www.indymedia.org