By: Mike Rhodes
I think about the reasons why we publish the Community Alliance newspaper every day. On the other hand, I seldom take the time to talk or write about it. That changed on February 20 when local alternative/independent media groups held a Free Speech Media Conference in Fresno.
The conference was an important opportunity for us to get together, discuss the current media landscape around us and look at the road ahead. Our front page article this month, “How to Save Journalism,” is a good analysis about the national picture and why a free press is essential if our democracy is to survive.
The consolidation of corporate media, their failure to provide us with the information we need to make informed choices (like whether to invade and occupy Iraq) and now the collapse of the newspaper industry provide alternative/independent media such as the Community Alliance with challenges and opportunities.
Unlike the corporate media, we are not here to make money. Our purpose is to help build a movement for peace, social and economic justice. Articles in this paper highlight the groups and individuals involved in the struggle for justice and validate the work they are doing. We believe this empowers those groups and individuals, and we hope it inspires others to become involved.
The Community Alliance and other alternative/independent media expose injustice and corruption in this community and have had an impact on public policy. For example, this newspaper’s coverage of homeless issues led to a lawsuit against the City of Fresno that resulted in the largest settlement of its kind–$2.3 million–which was given to the homeless to compensate them for losses suffered when the city destroyed their property. The settlement also resulted in the city changing how it deals with the homeless. It no longer bulldozes their encampments.
On the day of the Free Speech Media Conference, former City Council member Brian Calhoun posted an attack on the Community Alliance on his blog. Calhoun wrote, “I have tried to cut the Community Alliance some slack” because he claims to like reading a diversity of opinion (from the New Republic to the Wall Street Journal). Calhoun then complains that the Community Alliance “chooses to criticize the community, particularly Fresno’s elected officials.” Calhoun apparently thinks we are too critical of the powers that be in Fresno.
Criticism like Calhoun’s illustrates that this newspaper is not controlled by the ruling elite of this community. We do not represent corporate interests, greed and business as usual. If we see an injustice, there is nothing to stop us from covering the story. We don’t have to answer to anyone except you-our readers.
Calhoun also wrote that Fresno is a conservative city and that our paper might fit in better in Santa Cruz or San Francisco. I strongly disagree. I think Fresno is controlled by conservative politicians who have been put in power by builders, developers and other special interests. But the majority of people in Fresno are progressive; they have just been disenfranchised and do not have political power. Our challenge is to empower the progressive majority in this community to stand up for their rights.
Of course, we are not happy with a local city government that is dominated by right-wing Republicans and it is not surprising that Calhoun and his friends are not happy with us. But they are a big part of the problem. They are responsible for the fact that Fresno has the highest concentration of poverty in the nation. It is the Republican’s mantra for deregulation that has polluted our valley, despoiling both our air and water. It is the Republicans who have eliminated or privatized every imaginable public service, creating the grinding poverty we see all around this community. We refuse to sit quietly by while government policies have led to astronomical high school dropout rates, some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country and a police force that shoots unarmed youth.
The Community Alliance newspaper is working to create a community where progressives have more political power. Imagine clear skies, a San Joaquin River that supports fish and farmers, world-class schools, an end to homelessness and a job with a living wage for everyone who needs one.
Our success depends on your support. If you are not yet a subscriber, please go to:
https://fresnoalliance.com/?page_id=309 and send us your subscription. If you are already a subscriber, consider giving an additional contribution to support this important work.
With your help, another world is possible.