Remember G8? That global summit thing where the U.S., UK, and other top-grossing nations were supposed to get together and, for once, take the problem of world poverty just the tiniest bit seriously? Not ringing a bell? It’s OK, you’re not alone. Halfway through the summit, distracted by bombs in London and Rove in the hot seat, the major news outlets pretty much forgot about it too. And yet, remarkably, a parallel universe persisted in which G8 and the fury of popular agitation surrounding it remained front-page news: indymedia.com, a loosely joined, international network of open-access media collectives that’s been serving up home-cooked, anticorporate reportage from the front lines of the “alternative globalization” movement since the glory days of Seattle ’99.
Not that you have to share the politics to see the point. As the dust of the blog explosion settles, the Next Big Thing in the Web’s democratization of media culture, one hears, is “citizen journalism”—a more actively researched and more openly collaborative version of the one-person news blog. And having practiced the form for years already, Indymedia has a lot to teach, particularly about handling what may be citizen journalism’s thorniest challenge: citizens. After the London bombings, for instance, Indymedia was littered with sadly predictable loony-left conspiracy theories (“BLAIR ordered these London bombings on behalf of his puppet masters—the international [mainly JEW] bankers”); and when San Francisco’s Indymedia site carried photos of a cop beaten bloody by local G8 protesters, some comments betrayed an unsavory glee. Right-wing blogs jumped all over these lapses, of course, but the Indymedia crowd simply deleted the most egregious, cold-shouldered the rest, and saved their energy for the more properly journalistic business at hand: re-shaping the world one story at a time.