Previous week Izmir Economy University department of Media and Communication organized a seminar (SMNP), where various guests both from Turkey and abroad with Mr. John Downing as an honored guest and main speaker, had a chance to introduce their work media related.
Many of the topics were relevant to the alternative media, and as MA students of media and communication we had a great chance to participate in the seminar. Personally I was impressed by many speakers and their work, such as Resistanbul, a group of activists who try to expose and fight against injustices happening to local as well as immigrant people in Istanbul. Mister Erdinc Erdenc, an ex-mainstream media journalist who has abandoned the mainstream media and is now highly active journalist of the alternative media in Turkey, and many others.
I decided to take Marco Kuhne one of the producers of a graswurzel.tv, translated in English as grassroots.tv, as a study case of an alternative media in action. Marco Kuhne considers himself and his colleagues work as a video activists part of an alternative journalism. The reason being that they try to make video of different activist groups mostly in Germany and also in other countries throughout the Europe. They claim that mainstream media often shows the violent images of protesters and by doing that they are shown as hooligans, criminals in a way that police is trying to handle them and their behavior even by force if necessary. In this picture police becomes the hero and defender and stabilizer of national peace and security. The other approach of mainstream media towards the activist groups is that they completely or nearly completely ignore them; large peaceful demonstrations become just a side note in the newspapers or are not mentioned at all.
That is where Graswurzel or Grassroots enter in the scene. They try to show both sides of the activist movements and what activists have to say for themselves, they give them the space and chance to express their views and intentions. Grassroots follow the activists with cameras and try not to get involved in a sense by adding additional comments or notes to the videos, although sometimes it is necessary since activists are not always willing to give comments. Grassroots also don’t add any additional side effects to the videos, music and so forth, they try to be as close to reality as possible, in a way they try to be a clear medium through which the audience will get better understanding of the activists and their intentions. Mainstream media on the contrary is mostly all about commenting, censoring, even adding musical and video side effects to make the news more attractive lift the adrenaline in the audience and heavily representing as well as supporting one side of the argument strongly and therefore not creating the objectivity.
Since grassroots are not a mainstream media they don’t have a powerful, TV channel such as BBC News, CNN they have to rely on technology such as internet, and upload their videos on Web sites, YouTube, and ITunes etc. That doesn’t stop the audience, the number of views on YouTube for example show that many of the videos published by grassroots have been viewed by thousands of people. They also don’t work with sponsors and are not commercially supported, which of course limits the financial income, but on the other hand if they did so, they would no longer represent the alternative journalism which is mainly supported by donations and volunteer work.
Audience attending the SMNP seminar last week in Izmir was impressed and even humored by the video presented by Grassroots showing the rather unorthodox protest of hundreds of clowns against nuclear factory. Giving us the images and inspiring idea how protest can be a creative process, in which we are all invited, once we realize that we have a power to say no to environmental dangers, government/political decisions etc.
The small critique that I would add here would be the website of graswurzel.org, since the producers are all Germans and most of the protests are happening in Germany, the website as well is in a German language, I am sure that if English version on the website was available as well, they would attract wider, international audience hungry to see more.
Finally, it is important to have alternative media such as grassroots in every country, it is important to show both sides of the story and give the opportunity not just to the powerful, rich corporations and institutions but also to us – an ordinary people who make the majority of society, who question and criticize the government and environmental threatening decisions taken without the consensus and knowledge of majority of society. This kind of media and this videos may be seen as small attempts to break into society’s consciousness, but in a long run some of the videos and attempts may turn into historical events.