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Originally written for the The Media Consortium Today’s headlines about CNN commentator Donna Brazile’s leak of debate questions to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton underscore once again the entanglement of mass media with the institutions of power. Hiding behind “balance,” CNN instead pandered to both parties. Brazile was CNN’s link to the Democratic power base, while Corey Lewandowski has given them access to the renegade Republican, Donald Trump. Lost in this power grab was any attempt to provide news.CNN stands out for its transparent attempt to partner with power centers. The embrace of power by other arms of mass media is less obvious but no less present. A striking case in point is the current fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. The Worst Mass Media Failure This Season? Standing RockIf you only read mass media, you probably have not seen or heard anything about the Standing Rock story. Briefly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit to Energy Transfer Partners LLC to construct a pipeline designed to run from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a port in Patoka, Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has protested that the pipeline will pass through (and destroy) burial sites and other sacred grounds, as well as contaminate their reservation’s drinking water if it breaks. They are being joined by climate change activists who also protested the Keystone Pipeline, and are against any effort to increase production and use of fossil fuels. In August 2016, the Standing Rock tribe called on Native Americans around the country to join them at a camp on their reservation. Over 1000 Native Americans arrived at the camp in September, joined by climate change protesters. On Saturday September 3, pipeline workers attacked protesters. On September 8, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was issued an arrest warrant for criminal trespass in the course of her reporting. Goodman’s arrest made news at mass media outlets, but only because they shrink from the arrest of any journalist. Despite that arrest, the protest has received almost no mass media coverage (except a CNN story that incorrectly suggests the majority of Standing Rock Sioux don’t want the protesters there). Independent News Outlets on the ForefrontThe mass media has failed to cover Standing Rock. Why? Is it because Native Americans don’t make up a large percentage of their viewing audience? Because North Dakota is an underpopulated state without a large market? Or because corporate and mainstream party political interests did not want media to draw mass attention to this protest in support of Native rights and against fossil fuels? While mass media was silent, independent and community media have stepped up. Local indigenous media outlets including CBCNews, Indian Country Today, and Red Power Media were early to the scene, telling their own stories. What must become better known is how well independent news has covered the Dakota pipeline story, starting before the current protest even assembled. Truthout has covered the Standing Rock reservation since 2011, with stories on the tribe’s housing shortage as well as its efforts to revitalize the Lakota language. Starting in May 2016, Truthout has published 79 stories on the Lakota efforts against the Dakota pipeline. Democracy Now! has a long history of covering Native American movements. They first reported on Standing Rock on August 18, 2016, and Amy Goodman went on site by September 4. Yes! magazine got on the story in August 22, 2016, with 3 Reasons the Standing Rock Sioux Can Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have since published 36 stories on the protest, including several from Lakota leaders. In These Times started publishing original reporting on the Dakota pipeline in August. On October 17 they came out with a six month investigation into police killings of Native Americans, a related story that underscores the continued abuse of Native peoples as well as Native lands. Along with these outlets, there has been terrific reporting on the Standing Rock protests by Colorlines, AlterNet, High Country News, Mother Jones, Grist, Earth Island Journal, The Real News Network, The Progressive, The Laura Flanders Show, Free Speech Radio News,Public News Service, Generation Progress, Bitch Magazine, LA Progressive, The Hightower Lowdown, Care2, Rewire, Mondoweiss, New America Media, Waging Nonviolence, and The Nation, among others. You can find an ongoing collection of stories on #StandingRock on the Media Consortium’s Tumblr. The Power of IndependentsIndependent news outlets cover stories like Standing Rock because they don’t owe anything to corporate owners or advertisers. They don’t need to prop up the major political parties because they have no favors they need granted from politicians. All independents need is support from their communities. For that reason, independents are on big stories far sooner than mass media, stay with them longer, and often go deeper. They prove that journalism has a strong future—if we are willing to support it. If you care about journalism, stop getting your news from Google and Facebook, from cable TV or corporate radio. Instead, seek out a couple of independent news sites that cover stories that interest you. Read/Watch/Listen to them, tweet them, and give them your support. ...

NANCY LLOYD Strategy provides a foundation for translating our vision to reality. At its core, strategy extends across all of our tent poles, encompassing our stories, our impact and of course our tactical engagement plans. While we leverage our team’s resources and past experiences, we don’t look to template our strategic plans. We always start from scratch. It’s our integrated approach that taps the complementary skill sets of our team, and couples those with the resources and focus that the Fund and our partners bring to bear. I came to the Fund quite coincidentally. Earlier this year, I attended a screening of The Burden at the Sonoma Film Festival. Having several veterans in my family, I felt not only moved by the documentary’s focus on the positive efforts of our nation’s military to minimize its environmental impacts; I realized that I could actually play a hands-on role in sustaining these messages. I engaged Steve Michelson, the Fund’s Executive Director, to find out more about the campaign that they were commencing and asked how my skills in computer and database management might be brought to bear to the cause. I am enjoying applying more of my time now toward giving back to these causes with my sales and collaboration skills across various teams and tools. As it turned out, they were looking for an individual to research and resource funders, to identify potential partnerships, grants, and other sources of appropriate financial support. A clear mission, yes. But not as simple to execute as it may seem. Based on the strategy we set for each documentary, we outline criteria for identifying the potential partners and funders that match our strategy – not loosely but as precisely as possible. We need to understand completely the best matches as far as the content of past grants, their scale, their process and last, our comfort as far as the overall fit. In the past, this has been a strategic but more or less, a “hit or miss” set of outbound phone calls. However, the Fund has a full seat on the Foundation Center platform. With this resource, I can now cross reference and research the grant programs that have produced successes for similar film projects, and I can be incredibly strategic in cross referencing the many criteria of what funders are looking for and matching that to our campaign based films. While this is an exhaustive and detailed analysis that underlies our efforts, I’m betting my background will provide me a leg up on this process, not to mention the beginning of a meaningful career change at this stage of my life. Bottom line, the Fund is making a difference. And doing so with new efficiencies and resources that position our projects and our partners for success over the long haul. I’m personally excited to have joined this team, and I look forward to the progress I’m confident we will all make....

LEAH LAMB There is a saying that sometimes we need a story more than food in order to live. We live in interesting times, and we are sorely in need of making meaning of it all. And by that I mean, we need stories, but not just any story. We need responsible storytelling. We need stories that fuel and feed us with potential and possibility of great things to come, that inspire and activate the best within us, and remind us that we are capable of being heroes of the movie we are starring in. Perhaps, less well understood is the fact that we need all of the stories about people who are working on the solutions. Listening is key. Not blind listening. We’re living in a moment in time when stories that have been hidden from our view are being surfaced…and it requires a kind of listening that we may not be accustomed to…generous listening. We need to know how to listen through the noise and roar of fear; we need to listen to the stories of our neighbors, the people standing beside us at the crosswalk, to the people who look extremely different from us, and to our own hearts. And we require radical listening… to what our inner genius is telling us about what we are here to express and give to the collective. While it may not be obvious, one of the most exciting new vehicles available to us today is crowdsourcing. We believe this can be a powerful means of building a community that sustainably supports our work and vision for years to come. Crowdfunding has revolutionized our capacity to organize the flow of our resources to what we want to see manifest in the world. Despite all the huge success stories, running a crowdfunding campaign requires a lot of sweat, Excel spreadsheets, and behind the scene strategy. It’s an art and a science, and as we execute on our plans to build communities that increase awareness of our stories and motivate audiences to action, we see crowdfunding playing an increasingly powerful role....

JENNIFER EKSTRUM The Impact Producer for a film plays a role not unlike that of an orchestra’s conductor. Instead of sheet music that the conductor must creatively arrange, we develop a strategy for maximizing the impact a film can have, and we’re expected to translate that strategy to a reasonable and more importantly, doable tactical plan. Having made an independent documentary, and earlier in my career managed communications for cause-focused non-profits, I’ve come to understand that you need to know first what specifically you want to change with your film, and then you need to be both realistic and strategic about moving forward with activities and partnerships that galvanize and activate new viewers. As the Impact Producer for Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives, I’m working with an information and activities-based plan that will remind audiences of the environmental impacts of war, that will empower them to think more critically about elected officials they vote for, and articulate the positive impacts awareness can produce. While our film is over eight years old, we have five next-gen “shorts” produced from unseen footage and still photography that are the centerpiece for re-energizing awareness of war and its impacts. The vision we have is one of multiple constituencies, including students, teachers, veterans and even voters that can see a new ethic around war is possible, that we can do things differently. Longer term, we all realize that ultimately our vision is a paradigm shift that could take years, but for the present, we’re asking ourselves what can be done realistically and tangibly with both the original documentary and now the new shorts to create conversations about alternatives. In the Sixties, students protested across the nation’s campuses. Families had a stake in the war; many lost sons and daughters and friends. By contrast, today, the disasters as well as the learnings of war are really in the background of our daily lives. In sum, our goal is bring the reality of war out in the open once more, and to produce new understandings that will lead to a more Sustainable Tomorrow. If we can do that, we will have succeeded in making an impact…and bringing the vision of Alice and Lincoln Day forward to this decade....