Frustrated by the narrow perspective portrayed in the mainstream media, a group of local activists is operating a news site dedicated to independent journalism.
The Ottawa Media Co-op is a grassroots online publication that allows alternative reporters to post stories, videos, audio clips or photographs online. In order to participate, all you have to do is set up an account and self-publish your work.
While the site has been posting news for some time now, the collective’s current project is to become a full member of the national Media Co-op, a central site for alternative journalism with chapters in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. The national collective is also linked to The Dominion, a monthly alternative publication that has been running since 2003.
As for the Ottawa activists, they want to fill a missing space in the local media landscape.
“Ottawa is a political hub where a lot of decisions are made,” explains Crystel Hajjar, one of the organizers of the working group for the Ottawa Media Co-op. “There is not a venue for people to express what is going in with this decision-making …. (so we want to) create something that is more just and equal, and which holds government to account.”
Hajjar, who also sits on the board of the national media co-op, spoke to Apt613 during the Media Democracy Conference that took place this past weekend at the University of Ottawa.
The conference brought together alternative journalists, offered workshops on a wide range of topics, and also held a meeting on the afternoon of Sunday, November 18, to discuss the process for transforming Ottawa into a full member of the national Media Co-op.
Judging by the group of 17 people who gathered at the Sunday meeting, the future Ottawa chapter could very well draw from a wide range of abilities.
Among the various skills that participants offered were fundraising, writing, editing, investigative journalism and providing technical support. Behind this volunteer effort, however, was a dedication to social activism and offering a space for alternative voices.
“We want to push back on this dominant narrative that we are fed in the mainstream and corporate press,” says Andy Crosby, an Ottawa Media Co-op organizer. “(The mainstream press) gives us a sanitized view of the news.”
In order to discuss how to create this alternative news space, the participants at the Sunday meeting gathered in breakout groups to brainstorm what the local chapter could look like. Among the issues covered was the creation of an editorial group to review posts for libelous or offensive material, contributing to the existing national Media Co-op and – from a local perspective – finding office space in Ottawa.
For those who want to participate in the formation of the Ottawa chapter you can email OMC@mediacoop.ca.
As for those who are interested in writing, shooting video, recording audio or taking photos for the Ottawa site, the work of an independent journalist can be very rewarding.
“There is personal development because you start becoming more aware of what is happening in the community,” says Greg Macdougall, one of the Ottawa media co-op organizers. “Politically this is a place to get connected (with other activists), but also to get connected with the larger community.”