Thursday, November 12, 2009

Become a Word Warrior to Offer Alternative Media

I stumbled across a site called Word Warriors, part of the alternative media revolution, to provide factual information, or perspective to right-wing spin.

I often find myself lambasting the mainstream media, because I think they are complicit in destroying democracy in this country. Canadians are getting turned off politics and are no longer exercising their right to vote.

But when I'm in a better frame of mind, I think most journalists are just trying to do their job, and even if they have little control over how they must tell a story, they have deadlines and contracts and so it wouldn't be fair to always pick them apart. Not that I won't be mad again tomorrow, or even later today, with the latest spin; but I always get over it.

However, there is a growing citizen journalist movement that is providing alternative voices, whether on blogs, videos or small independent newspapers. But even without that kind of commitment, simple things like writing letters to the editor, can make a great deal of difference in moving political discourse, because sometimes they just validate things that other people are thinking.

Word Warriors

If you are a social or political activist, you have heard the declaration a hundred times: the media is terrible – how can we win with such a biased media? The problem is that everyone complains about the media but few do anything about it. Word Warriors is designed to help you quit complaining and start acting.

As biased as they are, newspapers are still privately owned public institutions. We must, if we are serious, take advantage where we can. And one place is the letters to the editor pages – the one egalitarian part of the newspaper to which ordinary people have some access.

Letters to the editor are important political tools for two very practical reasons. First, the majority of Canadians share progressive social values, yet most feel they are alone when they read newspapers and watch TV.

If people see their values expressed in letters to the editor their values are reinforced – their gut sense that things are terribly wrong is given a voice. People’s values start to become part of a collective consciousness.

Secondly, many if not most reporters are actually on the centre or left of the political spectrum. In many cases, they are simply not permitted to cover the issues they want to write about. Often the story ideas of reporters are rejected with the claim that “No one cares about [poverty] [P3s] [private health care]…”

By writing letters about these issues we give reporters the evidence they need to convince their editors that these stories are important.

Word Warriors is a collective letter writing project whereby I send out periodic suggestions for letters to the editor along with data and analysis, and you use these to write letters to your local paper. If there are enough of us writing enough letters we can help change the political landscape.

Welcome to the world of acting – not complaining. Join here.

I do write letters to the editor often, if I read something that doesn't sound right. I had an uncle in New Brunswick who was a political activist and prolific letter writer, and his actions got things done. A new sidewalk here, a pothole repaired there. Though often asked to run for office, he always stated that he got more done keeping elected officials on their toes.

In fact he was once invited to have lunch with then Premier Richard Hatfield because in one his letters he stated something to the effect "'s not that my legs would ever be found under your table." It's a funny family story because Hatfield ran a hog farm and apparently when my uncle got there the first thing he said was "Does it ever stink around here." I don't know if he really said that or was just trying to get my aunt riled up, but he was quite a character.

My point is that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things if they just get involved.

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