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Elon James White at the 2011 National Conference on Media Reform

by Talia Whyte

I have to say that NCMR was one of the best journalism conferences I have attended in a while.  It was exciting to be around others, especially people of color, who were also excited about the potential new media brings to traditional journalism.

The conference also reminded me of why I became a journalist.  When I was in college, I already knew that I wanted to become a reporter, but unlike my classmates who competed for entry-level jobs at mainstream newspapers and TV stations, I had no interest in being a part of corporate media and pursued a career in independent journalism.  After a brief stint doing marketing for a large daily newspaper, I went on to do work with the newly formed Independent Media Center and did publicity work for international development agencies in Africa.  This was quite a rewarding experience because I had a chance to meet and befriend journalists and activists around the world who were working on the ground on many social issues.

I also developed an interest in digital activism and journalism over five years ago, and became editor of DigiActive, which was a website with contributing writers and activists mostly from the developing world, blogging about the best practices of technology for advancing social justice.  Since leaving DigiActive, I have focused more time on my consulting business to help marginalized communities achieve digital equality.

I think it’s interesting to see how media outlets like CNN now spend a lot of time covering how social media plays a role in activism as if it were breaking news.  For instance, the cable networks reported on the recent so-called “Twitter Revolution” in the Middle East as if social media was suddenly “discovered” by the Egyptians - like Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.  However, DigiActive had been covering Internet censorship and political corruption under the Mubarak regime for the last three years.

So, it was refreshing to talk to White and other activists who are continuing the independent media movement.  I only wish that more aspiring, young reporters who are pursing work in traditional, mainstream media would step back and take a look at the great potentials in independent journalism.

Check out Elon James White at This Week in Blackness!