Some pros and cons of indymedia

What do we want to do?

My vision is that we are trying to provide an alternative media distribution system for and from Scotland, aiming to inform those already active of what was going on in other parts of the country and other campaigns as well as raising awareness of what was going on among the wider public.

The original IMC was in Seattle ­ its mission statement, which I rather like, is:

The Independent Media Center is a grassroots organization committed to using media production and distribution as a tool for promoting social and economic justice. It is our goal to further the self-determination of people under-represented in media production and content, and to illuminate and analyse local and global issues that impact ecosystems, communities and individuals. We seek to generate alternatives to the biases inherent in the corporate media controlled by profit, and to identify and create positive models for a sustainable and equitable society.

I think that sums it up nicely.

We are also, I think agreed, that we donıt want Indymedia dominated by any one issue or group ­ whether the SSP, Anarchist Federation Alba/Scotland, the Greens, Trident Ploughshares or GM protests. Diversity of voices is what will make the site interesting! I personally would hate to see a blanket ban on reports of any particular topic (such as parliamentary activity ­ would we really not have wanted to carry reports on, for example, the hunting bill).

Space bunny has pointed out that we could achieve all this without tying ourselves into IMC ­ so I have thought about my pros and cons for being an IMC in terms of achieving the above. Pros

1) software and technical support ­ as space bunny has said, the fact that other IMCs have got working software and a framework for us to use. This includes multi-language interfaces, such as those used in Prague IMC, Not only do they have good software, such as the dadaIMC codebase, but they can also help us use it.

2) publicity and brand recognition - people have heard of IMC and indymedia. Rather than publicising a new setup, we can to some extent rely on the name recognition factors

3) not re-inventing the wheel - IMCs across the world have probably faced most of the problems we may face and discussed most of the problems weıre discussing ­ lets learn from their mistakes rather than insisting we


1) Open publishing ­ Mike and Space Bunny have raised the problems with Open Publishing. To clarify, a working definition of open publishing (which space bunny pointed me towards) is "Open publishing means that the process of creating news is transparent to the readers. They can contribute a story and see it instantly appear in the pool of stories publicly available. Those stories are filtered as little as possible to help the readers find the stories they want. Readers can see editorial decisions being made by others. They can see how to get involved and help make editorial decisions. If they can think of a better way for the software to help shape editorial decisions, they can copy the software because it is free and change it and start their own site. If they want to redistribute the news, they can, preferably on an open publishing site."

But to quote Space Bunny "To qualify for being an Indymedia site you must embrace Open Publishing, basically carry an newswire where anyone can upload articles. Therefore one has to set up the site so it will accept and publish any article but one can 'hide' after article that break such criteria. But hiding articles and dealing with flak is a relentless task. But also 'hidden' articles have to be still available to view. Which I believe lead to the far right using the hidden sections of various indymedias as their forums."

So the advantage of open publishing, that anyone can post, so IMC becomes a space for all marginalised voices without heavy-handed regulation, is the disadvantage, that we might end up with posts that we disapprove of/donıt like. And although censorship is allowed, it is of a limited kind.

So what do we do?

I see 4 options for dealing with this: 1) open publishing, with subsequent hiding of posts that break our criteria (the IMC way) 2) open publishing, with screening of posts to block any post (before they are posted) that break our critera 3) closed publishing ­ publishing only by people that have been approved of, who will abide by our criteria 4) completely closed publishing ­ publishing by members of the collective

In Option 1 ³hiding articles and dealing with flak is a relentless task² (as Space bunny puts it). But even more relentless is the requirement to pre-filter articles in option 2. Someone would have to read (and potentially edit) every article before it went on the web ­ which might cause serious time delays. However, both of these have the advantage that it is relatively simple to publish articles ­ as in the current indymedia setup where you can just do a straight upload. In options three and four it would be impossible for just anyone to directly upload, but there would be less need for hiding/editing/moderating the posts. In option three we might have a team of accredited reporters, in option four it would just be the collective.

While the lack of editing is an advantage if we drop open publishing, I think it would really limit who could publish and how they could publish. If we want to be OEgrassrootsı and provide access to those OEunder-represented in media production and contentı we have to make access to our media system as simple as possible, rather than limit access to those we approve of.

So I think that the IMC system wins out. Itıs not perfect, but it is more likely to achieve what we want ­ a way for stories that donıt get in the Scottish media to be published. Setting up our own system would leave us having to start from scratch, without the support, having to publicise its existence, but still having to work out a system that allowed everybody to post in a really simple way, but stopped people posting racist/sexist/homophobic posts.

I say ­ stick with the IMC model, but I agree with space bunny when he suggests we start as a page in the UK IMC...


IMC Scotland notes