The SuperSpade on ‘Integrating with Alternative Media’

I have recently joined a group called the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI). Yesterday, I participated in a panel discussion called “Integrating with Alternative Media,” and these are a few things I talked about:

– The importance of media & communication to revolution
– Reaching out to more people by using multimedia (audio, video)
– Reaching more people by partnering with alternative media (Public TV, Low Power FM Radio, etc.)

There’s more in there as well, including why it is important to connect and work with ethnic media, the largest for of alternative media.

Integrating with Alternative Media (Windows Media Audio, 16 min 50 sec, 7.79 MB)

One Love. One II.




About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

7 responses to “The SuperSpade on ‘Integrating with Alternative Media’”

  1. Ellen says :

    nice work. here are a few questions that came to mind as i was listening to your speech.

    -what is traditional media?
    -what does it mean to democratize media? why can you not democratize “traditional” media?
    -can change not begin from the top? does the top not drive change from “the bottom”?
    -you differentiate between democracy and being conservative. can they not co-exist? and how are you defining conservative?
    -it seems you assume all “alternative” media is not conservative. is that true?
    -what is “ethnic” media? how do you define it?

  2. Garlin II says :

    Thanks Ellen for the great questions. I will try to answer them all.

    1. What is traditional media?
    Traditional media was defined in two ways for the purposes of this panel: 1) Non-internet-based media (e.g. network/cable TV, AM/FM radio, Newspapers), and 2) Corporate-owned media.

    2. What does it mean to democratize media? Why can you not democratize “traditional” media?
    When I say “democratize” media, I mean to enable full, 2-way participation in media creation and consumption. The ideal of democracy as a system where the voters make the decisions is analogous to a media where the consumers decide what media is created and how it is published, produced, and taken in. Today’s model is very much a one-way system where media content is basically dictated to people as opposed to people choosing what they want. People have to either work extremely hard or have to have more time/knowledge/access/money to do something different. This model is being chipped away at by things like blogs, YouTube, Current.TV, etc. because these are things that allow individuals to choose their own media experiences. There is still, however, a long way to go.

    “Traditional” media can be democratized, and the way that it has traditionally been democratized is by copying or buying someone out who has more “democratic” practices. I’m not sure how clear I’m being, but there is more on this below.

    3. Can change not begin from the top? Does the top not drive change from “the bottom?”
    The “top” does drive some level of change, and this makes sense because the majority of control and ownership is at the “top.” Change can begin from anywhere, and it was not my intent to suggest otherwise. Any sustainable change to a system like the media is going to be demand-driven. When we have seen changes in media, especially in media consumption, it has generally worked in this order:
    a. Some people are unhappy with current model
    b. Some people or some smaller company tries some new model
    c. People adopt this new model
    d. Traditional media rejects the new model as a fad
    e. More people adopt this model
    f. Traditional media either replicates the new model, or buys it out

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is that a model where people did not have to wait on traditional media to move before they could have access to new things would put the “power” into the hands of the consumer (just like direct democracy puts the “power” of the vote into the hands of the citizenry). This model is much more flexible than changes that would be driven from the top, simply because top-down changes have to go through the entire a-f process to occur.

    4. You differentiate between democracy and being conservative. Can they not co-exist? And how are you defining conservative?
    I did not catch where I made this differentiation in the speech, but I will address the notion anyway. When I think of conservatism in this context, I would define it as media that only pushes a single ideology without presenting any opposing viewpoints (note that this definition lumps together all one-sided media, both from the conservative right and the liberal left). I do not think that being conservative is anti-democratic in any way, shape, or form. Therefore, these notions can co-exist.

    5. It seems you assume all “alternative” media is not conservative. Is that true?
    I do not believe that all alternative media is not conservative, just as not all traditional media is conservative. Arguments abound as to whether the media is generally liberal or conservative, but my goal here was to talk about integrating blogging with other forms of media. This can be done by people with liberal or conservative leanings.

    6. What is “ethnic” media? how do you define it?
    Ethnic media is defined here as media that is produced and/or consumed primarily by racial minorities. This definition includes, for example, The Michigan Chronicle. This definition excludes, for example, LGBT media content, such as Seattle’s The Advocate.

    Please let me know if I failed to answer any of the questions. Thanks again for listening.

  3. Julie in Boise says :

    Hi Garlin …

    Great to meet you at the blog con on Saturday!!

    One thought I’ll toss into the mix re: I read recently that, before the mid-20th century or so (I think), most newspapers had a definite political slant, so readers knew that publication’s bias and could take it into account. It was only in the last 50-60 years or so that newspapers (and broadcast media, as it rose) started emphasizing objectivity – more so in the US than elsewhere, too.

    We’re now seeing a turn back toward media that is more subjective – though the movement has been cloaked in the mainstream media by, for example, Fox’s insistence that it is “fair and balanced” when it’s clearly a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. But bloggers and community radio and TV are mostly open in their political leanings one way or another – and as alternative media continues to grow and challenge traditional media, it seems likely that the remaining traditional media may return toward more openly identifying with one political viewpoint or another.

    I think that may be a good thing.

  4. Garlin II says :

    Hi Julie,

    It was my pleasure to connect with you this past weekend, and I pray that we continue to read, write, and work together going forward.

    That is an excellent point about what I will call “full disclosure” of one’s overall leaning. The fact that so much money is put into marketing the mainstream media as unbiased does make you wonder, “why do have to spend so much money to convince me of something that is supposedly already true?”

    I think it is a good thing the bloggers in particular are more upfront about their slant, and it would be good to see that phenomenon penetrate other forms of media as well.

  5. Noemie says :

    Hi, Garlin–

    It was very good to meet you and I much appreciated your presentation. I posted a brief piece on Washblog: Political Blogs and Media Democracy and Access.

    I’m going to have to switch over to a PC to hear this sound file — but I did link to it on my piece.

    As a note on democratizing traditional media — I think this is one of the key roles that blogging and other alternative forms play. I agree that democracy comes from the top and the bottom — and everywhere else. We can leave no venue un-utilized!

    Several times in the past couple of years we have seen how newspapers pick up an issue only after bloggers report it. I assume this is the case with other forms of alternative media. The more that radio and blogs and alternative newspapers, etc. can collaborate — the better we can hold traditional media accountable for reporting the news and for serving in its fourth estate role. It’s been increasingly weak on both counts recently.

    There is always going to be substantial pressure from special interests to muzzle free speech. Continual innovation — and push back from “we the people” is the only thing that keeps it flowing.

  6. Garlin II says :


    It was great to meet, connect, and participate in the panel discussion with you Saturday. I sincerely appreciated your insights during your presentation and the short Q & A. Thanks for the link too! I suspect that I will be showing my face on Washblog sometime in the future (hint hint).

    Your points here are well-stated. The media is an interesting animal in that it can hold itself accountable. Small media can keep big media honest, but it can only do so if it is smart about how it reaches and involves audiences. Many of the things discusses Saturday put us on that path.

    I’ll be working with you soon. Thanks again.

  7. Noemie says :

    Thanks, Garlin —

    Yes, please do come on by to WB any time to post and comment.

    As for reaching and involving audiences — I feel a responsibility in relation to this. Part of the genius of this blogging form is the way it allows people to safely make the kinds of mistakes and do the kind of learning that inevitably accompany the “practice” of political speech.

    Certainly, if political communication needs to be practiced (and, profoundly, it does) — color and culture are key areas where this practice is needed. We’ve made some efforts to reach across culture and color on Washblog. But we haven’t done enough — don’t really know how.

    On a personal level, I feel humbled by how little I understand. How is color and culture stratification in political life related to diversity as an element of societal health (as diversity is also an element of environmental health)? How is it related to societal dysfunction we see reflected in wealth, health, education, incarceration trends, etc. Katrina. And if there is a need to “reach out” — who is on that “out” side to receive this reaching? How do you pursue greater understanding without overemphasizing or denying differences in experience? How do you reach “in”? These seem nearly spiritual questions. Anyway, I’m looking for some way/s to break through on this in my own thinking.

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