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A Mission of Independence

I thought I’d respond to Danny Glover’s post on Beltway Blogroll, where he argues the use of the word “independent” in the name of the Center for Independent Media and The Washington Independent is “misleading” Glover would prefer us to be called The Center for Progressive Media, and the Washington Progressive because “it would be far more truthful.” Yet, the Center’s mission, which can be read here is dedicated foremost to the advancement of independent news media, by training bloggers and citizen journalists to conduct investigative reporting that adheres to the highest standards of the profession.

When I founded the Center in May 2006, the thinking was that people were increasingly turning to the blogs to get “news I can’t find elsewhere” (See BlogAds reader surveys for this interesting and critical reader motivation) as a response to the lack of news diversity in the established news media. The consolidation of news sources has rapidly reduced the breadth of news sources available to the public. The Internet, and the self publishing model of the blogs, offers the best and most obvious solution to what I think we can all agree is a terrible trend in a democracy: the shrinking of the press, especially an independent press. So what I mean by “independent” is news media that isn’t part of one of the few major conglomerates that produce most of our news. When the bulk of our news comes from these conglomerates, what we are left with is a monotone of information: a very narrow spectrum of news to inform the public on the great issues of our time. And when it comes to holding government accountable for its actions, a homogeneous press owned by a few conglomerates with business before Congress and federal agencies is an effective guarantor of a toothless media. Media consolidation is bad for journalism and bad for democracy. At its core, CIM is looking to enhance the stability and capability of citizen journalists to produce news that can inform the public, (re)diversify the media, and to do so according to the best practices of journalism, with remuneration. Thus the name “Center for Independent Media”—our foremost mission is to advance, through our programs, an independent media that can fulfill its historic role in a republic.

As to The Washington Independent—the name reflects the core brand value we are trying to propagate in all our sites: independent thinking and independent media. The Washington Independent is part of a network that now has four state-based sites. That network we’re calling the Independent News Network, or IN Network. We’ve designed the gothic typeface letter “I” in Independent to reference the storied tradition of serious news informing the public. We aim to live up to that journalistic standard, while embracing the speed, vitality, and intimacy of the blog platform.

At the same time, there are values and beliefs beyond the importance of an independent media that we hold. Being transparent about those is easy—we do it on the Center’s web site and our existing state sites have vibrant opinion driven commentary, alongside the news, which is clearly labeled as such. We will do the same at The Washington Independent. Many of these opinion items will resonate as “progressive” in their worldview. Some will be “conservative”. But foremost, we will be breaking news. And that news will be be factually accurate. Just as the news in The Economist or The Nation is factual and accurate. Accuracy and fairness in journalism is neither progressive nor conservative, it’s merely good practice. We aim to do that foremost, while remaining independent of corporate interests and firmly non-partisan. I am looking forward to it.

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