As I’ve traveled the country speaking at various events I’ve had a two-fold message. First, that traditional mainstream media, going through a period of contraction and reorganization, has little time for in-depth religion news. Secondly, that if modern Pagans want to be informed about important events within their communities, and possibly influence the narrative of stories that do reach traditional media outlets, we have to do it ourselves. This isn’t going to be a surprising message for anyone who’s been reading my blog for any length of time, but it bears repeating, and this time around I’ve got some new developments to share.
For the last year or so I’ve been working on a new project, The Pagan Newswire Collective; an effort to build a real, vibrant, Pagan-oriented news-gathering body. While the PNC has launched some topic-focused group blogs, that was only one element of a larger vision. Today I’m happy to announce that the PNC is embarking on a much larger initiative, the formation of local news-gathering bureaus that will help create a new Pagan media ecosystem. I’m proud to also announce the launching of what I’m hoping will be the flagship of this effort: The PNC-Minnesota Bureau. Coordinated by three Minnesota residents, Heather Biedermann, Nels Linde, and Cara Schulz, they’ve already started reporting local news, and providing a local, Pagan, perspective on nationally reported stories.
“The first controversy in Minnesota over the Supreme Court ruling allowing Corporations to donate money to political candidates is under way. Target Corporation’s contributions are linked by some Gay Rights activists to an anti-gay marriage Gubernatorial candidate who is associated with a Christian rock band that lauds the execution of homosexuals in Muslim countries. Target, headquartered in Bloomington, says its donations to political candidates are based on economic considerations and points to its history of supporting GLBT causes. A Minneapolis GLBT Pagan says that Target is being wrongly portrayed as hostile towards diversity issues.”
They’ve also posted follow-ups to the Target story, and they’re currently recruiting more local writers to deliver more local voices and more local-oriented content. Since Minnesota houses Paganistan, and is also home to one of the largest Pagan-oriented businesses, we can be sure to see quite a bit of activity from that bureau. PNC-Minnesota joins the already formed PNC-Atlanta and PNC-Maine bureaus, both of which are still in development and are actively looking for local contributors.
Why is this important? Because we need to start treating what happens in our communities as important. We take it for granted when religious journalists tell us that a speech made to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church is newsworthy, but isn’t then the installation of a new Archdruid of the ADF equally newsworthy? At least to us? I remember quite vividly having a discussion at Pagan Spirit Gathering on this issue, about how many of our Pagan organizations rarely send out press releases. Partially because there hasn’t been a “press” to send it to, but also because they didn’t think what was happening to them was newsworthy in the first place. We need to change that impression, because what happens in our organizations, and in our local communities is important, and they need to be covered.
Media outlets like The Wild Hunt, Patheos, Witchvox, Witches & Pagans, Proud Pagan Podcasters, About.com: Paganism & Wicca, and others are all filling niches within a national/international context for our communities, but without original reporting coming from the local level we become overly dependent on a news industry that increasingly doesn’t have the time or inclination to cover what we feel is important. Without our own journalism we miss newsworthy events that aren’t covered by traditional media, and become over-reliant on editorial, rumor, and rants. We need to build a new Pagan journalism from the grass-roots up, and PNC-Minnesota is a first step down that road.
The Pagan Newswire Collective is in the process of organizing a meet-and-greet at the 2011 Pantheacon in San Jose. Several active PNC coordinators, volunteers, and bureau members will be there, and I hope that we’ll be able to showcase a growing network of bureaus, a newly-launched main PNC site, and a new ethos of Pagan organizations communicating with its own burgeoning news media. I hope you’ll join us, and be a part of building a new Pagan news ecosystem. If you would like to start a bureau in your local community, please contact the PNC’s Bureau Coordinator, Danielle LeBrun. We also have a starter packet that you can download.