the media, played always with three conservative views for “balance.” This is
not a joyous event, this is part of the most underhanded censorship ever devised
because it fools so many, even dissidents, many of whom spend their days trying
to get “published” by those who keep a tight grip on the flow of corporatized
information. If only we could write well enough or package it appropriately they
will publish us, the mantra goes.
A typical moment
was at an American Booksellers Convention years ago. Some publishers of books
and magazines were concerned about the concentration of media distribution in
the hands of few book chains. So they organized a panel to discuss the
situation. After everyone had voiced their concerns, they were able to sum
things up by saying that, in spite of gender issues and race issues and media
conglomerate issues, ultimately a good book would get published…and find its
Then they opened
the panel for questions. We raised our hands and asked why Noam Chomsky and so
many others, less well known, couldn’t get published and distributed more widely
in the U.S. A panel member shrugged and said, “Oh, well, Noam Chomsky.” There
was a pause and then they moved on to the next question.
Even more bizarre
are attacks from conservatives about liberal “bias”—whatever that means. Does it
mean that the media is pro abortion, pro-gay, anti-death penalty, anti-war, and
these are bad things that, if you are for them, make you biased? Or is it that
the media is just not anti abortion, anti gay, pro war, pro death penalty, etc.
At Z Inc
(magazine, website, school, video productions) we have often
noted—cynically—that progressive media subscriptions/sales go up when there is a
Republican in the White House. We do even better when that republican is
invading a small defenseless third world country. Why? Because that’s when
people come looking for us. And that’s the real tragedy. If more people were
already reading us, they wouldn’t have to look for us in times of “crisis.” They
would be in a position to understand U.S. motives, see through the mainstream
propaganda, and act on it. Getting alternative media to as many people as
possible is crucial, not just now, but day to day. Just as ongoing organizing,
not just responding to certain events or crises, is crucial.
So how is one of
the many important alternative media institutions in the U.S. faring, this days?
The State of Z
For those who are
new to Z Magazine: it started in January 1987 as an offshoot from South
End Press (book publishing collective started in 1978). We took the name Z
from the Costa-Gavras movie of the same name about a military coup in Greece.
The letter Z was censored by the new junta and so the letter Z scrawled on the
sidewalk to us meant “the spirit of resistance lives.” The first issue appeared
in January 1988.
After years of
publishing 112 pages of articles, we cut down to 64 pages in 1992 for financial
reasons. Many years and financial crises later, we are finally financially
stable (if that’s possible for a magazine). We’ve made a few small design
changes, we have more freelance articles and a larger activism section than ever
before, but basically we are the same magazine with the same staff of three.
We are often
surprised at how reticent people are to submit articles as if it takes an elite
resume, or knowing the editor, or constant pitching of stories to get anything
in Z. While we are limited by length vs. number of articles submitted (sometimes
75 per month), it isn’t difficult to submit articles and “get in Z.” First read
Z. Then write about something the progressive community should know about or
that isn’t being covered or that is of interest to people in general. Send the
article on the 25th of any given month (email preferred/attached word file and
we’ll do what we can. The same applies to cartoonists and illustrators. (We pay
for all articles and graphics.)
Since its inception
in 1998. ZVP has distributed over 5,000 videos in the last years through ads in
Z and mailings to Z readers. We have learned how to shoot and edit videos on the
computer and a local videographer supplies multiple copies. We have two digital
cameras, a microphone and portable lighting set up. We are continuing to build a
larger catalogue of videos and to make DVD version available at a reasonable
If you have
material (from talks, demos, interviews) that you think would contribute to
ZVP’s catalog, feel free to inquire. Also we are looking for people who might be
available to film various talks.
Created in 1994,
ZMI is a nine day school for politics and media, held in Woods Hole in early
June. Each year seems to top the next year in spirit, activism, interest, and
ZMI 2001 followed
in that tradition, with one exception: we formed a working committee to begin
plans for a reunion of the roughly 500 ZMI students. Our first step has been a
search for updated addresses. This has been slow going. We are now searching the
website for email addresses. If you are a ZMI graduate please email you current
address to Lydia.sargent@ zmag.org.
The next ZMI will
be held in 2003. There will be no ZMI 2002 as we need time to plan a reunion and
to do other things.
(www.zmag.org) has gone through many permutations since it was founded in 1994.
Right now, it is a huge site with over 200,000 users per week, over 14,000
files, offering a wide range of information through participatory forums,
diverse watch areas, many translation areas, varied interactive components, pen
pals, archives, countless links to other progressive sites, resources, and a
daily commentary program going out to 6,000 people.Try the site. We promise you
will like it.
We are exploring the possibility of offering a subscription to Z Magazine
in an online version, particularly for our international readers who often wait
three months before getting an issue. A subscriber could choose between getting
Z in print, online, or both. The online version could also include footnotes and
resources which are often too long to put in the print magazine.
Magazine-Spinoffs: We are very interested in pursuing (with others) the
possibility of spin offs: Z Regional, Z International, Z
Culture, etc. There could be some articles that would appear in all forms of
Z Magazine, but some articles would be specifically geared for the different
With satellite radio comes the possibility of creating a Z Audio Project
primarily for the Internet, but also available in CD and cassette form. Programs
could include a magazine hour, call-in talk shows, features, comedy, etc.
We have often been asked to publish some of the course material used at Z Media
Institute, designed particularly for people new to radical politics. We think a
series on politics, strategy, and vision for courses and study groups might be
Institute Spin offs: Another future possibility is to offer more
concentrated forms of ZMI, that is, week-long institutes for six to ten
activists on politics, democratic workplace, media production, etc. Other spin
offs might include regional and/or international ZMIs.
Relief: It is clear from Z Media Institute participants alone, that the left
could generate a vast number of comedy troops to entertain and inform. Besides
live performances, comedy troops could share scripts, offer material through the
Internet, and provide visual and audio material.
Z Media Action:
Given the ongoing mainstream media spin mentioned above, we have often felt that
it’s time to move beyond analyzing and “watching” the media, to pressuring it.
In fact, part of the reason for creating ZMI was to find activists who might
help create Z Media Action or other Media Action projects.
The mission would
be as follows: (1) to increase the visibility of “alternative” media through
militant distribution of material and creation of new material; (2) press the
press, through campaigns demanding TV and radio shows created by alternative
media, as well as space in local and national newspapers and magazines. Press
the press campaigns could include letter writing as well as demonstrations and
civil disobedience; (3) a media watch to monitor the media on an even more
widespread basis than is currently being done, with aggressive distribution of
exposes of lies, half truths, misinformation, etc.; (4) build media and activist
institutions based on the principles of a democratic workplace. Member groups
could range from Z Media Action to Los Angeles Media Action to Steelworkers
Media Action to Writers Media Action.
We’d like to thank
all the writers, artists, and cartoonists who have contributed such wonderful
material to Z Magazine and ZNet. We’d also like to thank all those
readers who have made generous financial contributions this past year.