Why I Got Involved in Indyreader

Issue: 

Why I Got Involved in Indyreader

Indyreader member Dan Staples presenting at the Mobilizing and Organizing From Below Conference in Baltimore in 2012. Photo by: Casey McKeel.
Indyreader member Dan Staples presenting at the Mobilizing and Organizing From Below Conference in Baltimore in 2012. Photo by: Casey McKeel.

I first started noticing the Indypendent Reader papers at local cafés and businesses around the time that the State of the Media issue was out. I was always impressed by the topics and perspectives presented in the issues, as well as the professional look of the paper itself. It was certainly not the kind of thrown-together aesthetic I saw in many of the local political zines I was used to. The articles were interesting, critical, and presented a side of Baltimore you never saw in the mainstream press. This was the type of media I wanted to make happen.

For the past two years, I've been a part of Indyreader. By being a part of Indyreader, I've been given an opportunity to improve my skills, build close relationships, and contribute to a project that gives folks from all walks of life a chance to be heard in the media ecosystem of our society—a realm that is usually reserved for professional writers and journalists.

It's been a struggle to keep the project going in those two years, with the media saturation of Facebook and Twitter and the lack of funding and enthusiasm for independent, activist media. Yet, Indyreader remains an indispensable platform for activists to document their issues and analysis, not only for Baltimore but for the large portion of our readers across the country.

Yet, back when I first heard about Indyreader, I never really considered getting involved with the paper. It wasn't until I was in grad school and needed an internship to finish the program that I thought about getting involved. I happened to know some of the current Indyreader collective members at the time, and asked about the possibility of interning at the organization.

It was on a hot and sunny day in late Spring when I met with two Indyreader members on the black-top roof of one of their houses. We chatted about the internship idea, what I was interested in doing, and we all thought it was a great idea. I was sick of the self-referential and insular realm of academic feminism—I was doing my Master's in Women's Studies at the time—and wanted to put my writing and analytical skills into an endeavor that was more connected to on-the-ground activism. I wanted to hear from the voices of people who were tackling social problems in the marches and meetings of activist work, not looking at them from the microscope of academic journals and conference panels.

And so I started making media with Indyreader in June of 2011. At first, I mostly did research and writing. An early focus of my writing was homelessness in Baltimore. As part of this, I wrote a series called “Homeless in Baltimore” and broke the story of the new Baltimore City homeless shelter discriminating against women, an issue which later resulted in a lawsuit against the City.

That autumn, in the wake of the Arab Spring, we saw the appearance of the Occupy movement in the US, including an encampment in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which Indyreader covered extensively. Around that time, my participation in Indyreader changed from an intern/contributor to a full collective member. I did less writing, and more of the work of sustaining and building the project. Although writing was fulfilling, it has always been difficult labor for me, and now I began using my other talents with the collective. I started doing more editing, organizing, and tech work for Indyreader; it was a chance to refine my existing skills, and build brand new skills.

Around the time of our last print issue Occupy the Economy, I released a re-design of our website, a project which I had been working on for about three months. I also participated in other non-writing projects for Indyreader, including livestreaming events like the Mobilizing and Organizing from Below conference, organizing fundraisers and events, and writing a grant application (which was accepted!). Although I wasn't directly making media at this point, this was the behind-the-scenes work that made grassroots media possible, and I was excited to be a part of it.

Over the past two years, I've grown very close with my fellow collective members, Corey Reidy and Stephen Roblin. Despite the challenges of a small collective, the camaraderie we've experienced as the core team behind Indyreader has been very meaningful in my life. I've also made great relationships with contributors. As we start building an advisory board, I'm excited about the prospects for the project's growth in the future. Indyreader has given me opportunities for personal growth and political efficacy that I never expected, and it is my hope that others take advantage of what Indyreader can offer them. You don't have to be a journalist or organizer to be a part of Indyreader; just drop us a line and come to a meeting. Get involved and Be The Media!

 

 


Let us know why you read Indyreader, or why you've gotten involved in the past. We'd love to feature your story in a future issue!

Daniel Staples

Daniel is a collective member of the Indypendent Reader.  His interests include technology, feminism, sexuality, economics, and music.  Daniel has a Master's degree in Women's and Gender Studies from Towson University, and develops mesh network technology at the Open Technology Institute.  He maintains the Indyreader website.

Reach him by e-mail at dan.indyreader[at]riseup.net, or follow him on twitter @0xDanarky.