PM Press (2008)
Reviewed by Sarat Colling
Becoming the Media provides an in-depth analysis of the intersectional radical and left wing publication Clamor, which emerged with the Independent Media Centre movement after the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and was a staple read for do-it-yourself revolutionaries during its seven year run. In this concisely written case study, Clamor co-founder Jen Angel shares the inner workings of the award winning, nationally distributed magazine. She offers useful suggestions and analysis for media projects, the evolving publication landscape, and the importance of understanding how media functions within social movements for social movements.
As a form of participatory movement media, Clamor created space for social activists to reflect and served to support political and cultural writers, artists, and projects. Jen Angel and Jason Kucsma started Clamor on an iMac in their spare room, envisioning a “hip, young magazine that would speak to the Progressives and radicals…and that would attract new people to social justice work and ideas.” With roots in zine culture and an openness to publish many new and diverse voices, Clamor had a fresh and vibrant outlook. It covered a wide range of interests from environmentalism and feminism to hip-hop and punk culture.
In the pamphlet, Angel analyses the challenges and successes of running the magazine, touching on issues of diversity, decision-making, community, sustainability, finance, successfully “branding” a magazine, working groups and more.
She looks at the current state of the North American independent media movement, and discusses the need for a radical restructuring that moves towards “collaboration, shared resources, and joint publishing efforts.” While facing challenges in a capitalist driven society, the movement must make an effort to work together and examine what voids need to be filled. One such gap is mapping the movement’s history: as Angel notes, “Many organizations and movements are poor historians.” This recording can enable lessons to be learned from past successes and mistakes. Another is the need for a new widely distributed intersectional, cultural and political magazine that functions as a space to discuss strategy and reflect on the anti-capitalist and alter-globalization movement.
Another important issue addressed is the relevance of print publication, especially magazines, in the digital age. Along with referencing, sharing and archiving, Angel identifies accessibility as a significant component of print: “Until there is free wireless everywhere and everyone has a laptop, tangible objects you can take on a bus, into the woods, and on an airplane will remain relevant.” While there are exciting new possibilities to be utilized with digital communication, print is still highly relevant. As with books, magazines will continue to play an important role in disseminating information and organizing.
With careful critical analysis of the life of Clamor, this unique pamphlet exemplifies the self examination necessary for movement growth. It provides an insiders perspective on role of media within social movements and useful tips on accomplishing successful grassroots projects. Further, it brings to light the need for continued dialogue on how independent media can grow in a capitalist society: exploring which new forms of media and collaborative efforts have a role to play in the movement for social change.
Becoming the Media is part of the PM Press Pamphlet Series. A solid contribution to independent media history, it will benefit anyone interested in movement analysis or working on a grassroots media or organizational project.