Michael Sheridan, founder and director of Community Supported Film (CSFilm), was invited to offer a keynote address at Falmouth Community Media’s (FCTV) 30th anniversary event. The event was attended by FCTV staff and community as well as local and state political representatives and civic organizations.
Michael started his talk by noting that the missions of both organizations are very similar: to amplify local voices by providing media training, facilitating the production of films and the use of those films for community engagement. What Community TV does town by town CSFilm has been doing nationally and internationally in its own small way.
To demonstrate the similarities and introduce the work of CSFilm, Michael showed the Project Intro for New Immigrant and Refugee Visions.
The talk, titled “The Messenger is the Message” raised the issue that the health of our communities is greatly affected by who selects and reports our news and information. CSFilm believes that a lot of the division in our society is caused by a media that is disconnected from public interests and concerns. Since the 1950s, TV has nationalized and then internationalized our news production and distribution. The foreign correspondent, the studio-based experts and analysts have become our opinion makers. At the same time they have created an echo chamber disconnected from the roots of our society.
A solution is to shift toward local voices defining and communicating the issues. In effect, take the “foreign” out of “foreign correspondent.” A part of this work, and an activity that might be added to FCTV’s next 30 year’s mission, is to educate the public on why it is important to be discerning about who defines and reports on their news and information.
In Europe the news industry and non-profit sector have taken big steps to decolonialize their news and information production. The United States is way behind on this issue. It is now accepted in Europe that local journalists can and should do the reporting from their counties and countries of origin. It is not an either/or dichotomy between internal and external voices. External perspectives are needed and welcome but the predominance of information and analysis should be provided by local knowledge and on-the-ground experience.
The US public has a long way to go to understand this issue. Even after all the divisiveness and polarization in our society, we have yet to recognize that we aren’t listening to local voices. We are still consuming information produced by a failed system of news gathering. We must decentralize our news and information gathering and go local.
Michael called on FCTV to join him in working to educate the public about the importance of who selects and reports our news. Once the public starts hearing from more local voices, we will begin to understand what the issues are that need to be addressed. We haven’t yet begun a dialogue based on good information.