Good evening. It feels a bit like déjà vu delivering this speech by proxy once again. You’re all out there and I’m in here as I gratefully accept this award from the Northern California chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists. If you think about it though, the very transmission of this statement is a testament that I cannot and will not be silenced, just as the press will continue to report no matter what obstacles are put in its way.
There is an innate human need to stay abreast of what’s going on around us and there is a natural drive to satisfy this hunger for information. The two are intrinsically twined and no amount of political oppression will extinguish these basic needs. In fact, like a diamond, it only grows stronger through pressure.
When I first found myself incarcerated there were six other journalists in the United States under the threat of imprisonment for practicing their profession. They have since all been spared the unfortunate fate of incarceration, but at the time it seemed that the press was under a full-scale attack and it was necessary to develop a united front to defend against the growing tide of both corporate and government repression.
As a result, Free the Media was born. In its function as both an online and meetspace organization, Free the Media is intended to help organize and agitate whenever and wherever the free press guarantees under the Constitution is threatened. The forum is also focused on exploring the complex issues and controversies that continue to develop within this changing media landscape. Finally, it is my hop that Free the Media can serve as an open platform to bring people together in order to work on the development of new media solutions that will help ensure a healthy and resilient independent press for years to come.
The face of the media is in flux right now and it’s still unclear where this current is headed. While some professionals in the field are resistant, I’m inclined to welcome the expanding landscape. Though there has never been a shortage of reporters, market influences have resulted in countless stories being neglected in favor of more popular fodder. With the recent surge of self=-published and independent online journalism, the stories that are not economically viable finally have the opportunity to see th light of day.
These new and developing voices aster more diverse than perhaps ever before and the stories they tell are often more intimate and compelling than anything a professional outsider can deliver. At last those voices that are often silent, the disenfranchised can be heard without the aid of a brave and insightful editor of a major newspapers.
Twenty years ago Peter Sussman of the San Francisco Chronicle began publishing accounts from inside Lompoc Federal Penitentiary by Danny Martin aka Red Hawk. These first hand reports allowed the newspaper’s readership an opportunity to vicariously experience life in prison. Today through prisonblogs.net 10,000 Danny Martins could conceivably contribute to the discussion with their own unique perspective on incarceration.
The face of the media is changing. This we know for sure. But what remains to be seen is the role professional journalists take in developing this new landscape. Will the battle lines be drawn with two classes of warring voices or will we work together in solidarity to develop a massive chorus as diverse and eclectic as our society itself? As journalists is our commitment to an economic system or is it to the pursuit of the free flow of information? The power is in your hands. Choose wisely.
Thank you for your support. Good night and good luck.