What is Pagan Media?

Heather Greene —  May 5, 2013 — 36 Comments

Just last week I was on the phone with Rev. Selena Fox, executive director of Lady Liberty League, discussing media strategies to help Kyrja Withers.  During this discussion, we were noting the excellent reporting done by Tampa’s ABC Action News.  In that discussion, Selena mentioned the need to share the news report with the Pagan Media.

At that point I had to pause. She knew what she meant and I knew what she meant.  Regardless, I blurted out the question:

“What is the Pagan Media?”

Photo Courtesy of Flickr's Micky.!

Photo Courtesy of Flickr’s Micky.!

As an off-shoot of my publicity work for Covenant of the Goddess, I have been considering this question for quite some time. Public relations professionals usually maintain a solid database of journalists who could be targeted for press releases and media statements. I’ve started such a database for the Pagan Media but the more that I work on it, the more that I scratch my head.

There are some clear candidates.  These include traditional media outlets such as print magazines (e.g. Circle Magazine, Sage Woman, Witches and Pagans) and community-based print newsletters. In the digital world there is the Pagan Newswire Collective family of blogs, AREN, South Africa’s Penton Independent Pagan Media, Pagans Tonight Radio Network and Pagan Musings Podcast Channel, Patheos Pagan Channel and, of course, The Wild Hunt… (toot toot).. to name just a very few.

Although I consider the above entities to be definitive members of what we now call “The Pagan Media,” they do not mark the boundaries of this emerging “industry” – to borrow Jason Mankey’s descriptor. There are an endless number of information sources that can now perform the job of the Media. Figuring out who or what they are has become more of a challenge than originally anticipated.

“How do you take a cloud and pin it down?”

Why is it so difficult? The digital revolution has broken the traditional modes of operation and uprooted the foundations of journalistic output. The barriers to entry are next to nothing.  What we now experience is media anarchy!

It is true that this new world has been a boon for the Pagan Media.  It is maturing within a brave new world that even the mainstream media has yet to understand. It is a big wild wood of information … a place where every blog, every post, and every tweet could become tomorrow’s big story.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

In the traditional system, writers were dependent upon editors for visibility. Those writers or broadcasters whose works commanded the most profit were contracted. Only the popular stories were printed. To fix the famous slogan:  “All the news that [the editors believe] is fit to print.”

In today’s world, more voices are being heard.  More writers are being read.  There are no boundaries of thought. If you can’t get published in The New Yorker, you can open your own Blogger account. This level of freedom has been vitally important to marginalized sub-cultures, like our own, who haven’t necessarily had the funding, time or clout to grow a strong traditional Media presence. Bronwyn Katze, Penton International Media’s Editor, celebrates this change by saying it “helps to keep the stories grounded, real and more relatable to the average community member.”  We can write about ourselves, for ourselves, without limitations or censorship.

The Bad

To quote Eleonor Roosevelt, “With Freedom comes responsibility.”

In the traditional system, there were standards and expectations of the writer.  There were ladders to climb and credentials to earn.  Being a journalist meant something very specific as determined by the industry.  As such readers knew what they were getting and could easily instill their trust in one news source or another based upon those expectations. If you picked up the Green Egg, you knew what to expect and could trust its editor to maintain that standard. The same goes for mainstream media such as The New York Times or CNN.

Now there are no standards or accountability for integrity of the data, of the news agency or of the writer. As Bronwyn Katze observes:

Instead of journalists with degrees and diplomas in the field of journalism, we are now seeing a shift to community members with little-to-no writing experience keeping the community up-to-date on the latest news happening within the community.

How do you know where to put your trust?  By what criteria do you have to judge the writer or the news site? The proscenia, if you will, which defined something as a “credible news source” are non-existent.  How do you know if something is straight news or merely commentary?  What are the credentials of the writer?  Does the site have an agenda?

In this world, it becomes the exhausting responsibility of the reader to sift through all these sites and determine what is valuable.  It becomes the burden of the writer to earn and safeguard the trust of each and every reader in order to build and maintain credibility. Freedom can be liberating but it can be overwhelming and … dangerous.  It’s media anarchy.

The Ugly

In the internet news world, anything can become news and anyone can become a news source.  The Bowdon Lady Liberty League case began with one brother’s blog rant. For my Fox News Story, I was tipped off by a Facebook post.  After the Marathon bombings, the Boston Police Department tweeted updates faster than the news stations could report. It’s media anarchy.  And, if you aren’t careful – as a writer or reader – it could get ugly.

Photo by Flickr's striatic

Photo by Flickr’s striatic

All-in-all, the internet has provided fertile ground for the Pagan Media.  In addition to growth, Pagan Media is more visible which demonstrates that Pagans are a very real presence in greater society. But I’m still left looking for those boundaries… what or who is emerging to become this Pagan Media? Within this anarchy, how do I determine who makes the database?

Perhaps this new world needs a new question. Instead of asking:  “what or who is the Pagan Media?”  I should ask, “How do you get your news?”  Are you a traditionalist who waits on the paperboy and buys print copies of Pagan Dawn? Are you moderately progressive with digital subscriptions to The New York Times and assorted Pagan newsletters?  Are you digitally-deft using readers to aggregate your news from well-respected media sources such as Mashable, Huffington Post and The Wild Hunt?  Or, are you digital surfer who waits for the news to find you through Twitter or Facebook?

With that question answered, I may be able determine the scope of the Pagan Media, how these entities are thriving and how they help the Pagan community?  So I ask:

In which Pagan news sources are you instilling your trust?  Where and how do you get your news? 

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Heather Greene

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Heather is a freelance writer and Pagan spirit living in the Deep South. She is currently National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess and worked extensively with Lady Liberty League. She has a masters degree in Film Theory, Criticism and History with a background in the performing and visual arts.
  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    In reading this, I feel my age. Pagan Media is something that I have loved all my adult Pagan life, from local Magazine Psychic Chicago, which became The Round Table Magazine which ran around 100 issues, and Psychic Chicago Radio and then Telepathic Radio,both on terrestrial radio. In fact we see a couple phases, in which Magazines was printed on Mimeograph and then fine magazines. The Internet was a true connector.

    It is funny because Witch School was originally a media effort, that then filled a need. It started as The Daily Spell, which featured news as well as lessons. Then came The Daily Goddess. For me Magick TV was a essential part, and we have great and unique archives, and now we have Pagan World Times, formerly the Correllian Times, which is in issue 78. Pagans Tonight Radio is in it’s fourth year, and represents yet another effort.

    Now this represents one path of one small group, to strive to become media, and today we can get press passes and such as needed. So in looking at Pagan press, you have to look beyond the surface and find the roots of the various organizations and ideas. How did it come about and who is this for?

  • Guest

    I don’t think she should have been threatened, but I’ve seen people call the police saying someone’s car was parked too close to their driveway. Kyrja’s house sticks out, and it seems she made it a church over a certain size – did she get the county approval, for parking and permissions? One look at her house and I find it likely the grounds of her harassment aren’t actually religious reasons. People look at houses like hers and think it drives the value of their own home down, as unbalanced a thought as that may be. Is that aspect of the threats there and Kyrja hiding it?
    People will kill over parking spaces. One picture of her house (and I like it, okay, really do) and I felt this was more of someone being angry at it being considered by someone an eyesore or pain for them.

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

      Yay! Victim blaming!

      • Guest

        No, I just think there’s more to it not being said.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      You forget the attacker was screaming Witch from the first attacks. So there is no question it was because of her religion.

      One anyone can hold a religious gathering in their home, many Christian groups are home based, in fact that was how it was in Jesus’ day in the beginning. Now you should be considerate of your neighbors, but you are not required to get their permission or permission from a government. Only if it creates a problem for the neighbors is their a right to compain. I suggest that you check out federal law RELIGIOUS LAND USE AND INSTITUTIONALIZED PERSONS ACT OF 2000 (“RLUIPA”)

      As for the paint scheme of her home. Actually in great many areas you still don’t need to ask permission of anyone over the color that you paint your home. It is only in later communities, often housing tracks, that you have a neighborhood committee and then your neighbors to get okay from. I find it amazing that anyone would want to live in a community where you were restricted to very few allowed colors and actually had to ask permission.

      • Guest

        You assume I don’t know any rules about home churches.
        If its above a certain size, you generally have to be zoned for it. Zoning is done because of noise, traffic safety, and parking considerations.

        • ChristopherBlackwell

          And you are saying this this is the case for her gatherings, without any evidence of such facts. Amazing how you seem to jump to such conclusions when it is a Wiccan. From my experience with Wiccans over the last thirty years it is rare that a coven gets above five people and no that does not require any zoning requirements.

          If it was used agains them then they could use the federal law I mentioned which was created because zoning laws were often used to keep unpopular churches out of neighborhoods.

          Again there have been no reports of complaints by neighbors because of noise or parking problems so why do you even bring that up? Even the local police say she is a nice person.

          I am beginning to suspect that if she was Christian we would not be having this little discussion. Stick to the facts and stop jumping to conclusions simply because she is Wiccan.

          As I said freedom of all Religion means all religions. By the way this Federal law was passed with urging of both liberals and religious conservatives, both Republicans and Democrats passed by Congress with not any objection and signed into law in 2000. I have been following the successful use of this law ever since.

          • Guest

            This is likely the first time you’ve ever heard of covens of Wiccans whose whole house is painted up as a shrine to corporation Disney. even the tires on the lawn painted yellow and purple.
            This situation is not the same. I think this is more about the look of the house and the traffic situation then their worship of Walt.

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            Guest, why do you have your panties in such a twist over this lady. She has not harmed you in any way, we have no evidence that the people shooting at her, or bombing her, are her neighbors, or that any of her neighbors are upset with her. You apparently seem to be trying to provide excuse for deadly and dangerous crimes that are taking place. Violence is rarely justifiable. The simple fact is the only evidence we have is someone is attacking.

            I am amused that you have such a problem with her house. I grew up with Walt Disney as a kid, I fully understand her fascination and her playfulness about it.

            I am of her generation, while never a hippy, I understand some of the aspects of its ideal. That is before it was taken over by the runaway street kids.

            The original hippies were middle class and upper class, which is why it appeared so socking to the powers that be. Nobody then, or now, gave a damn about what poor people did, only what the sons and daughters of the nice people did. So to turn one’s back on the showiness of wealth and proper class stye was downright beyond belief to those same nice people and frightened them.

            I have come to the conclusion that some the modern Generation is far more prudish than the people I grew up among the 1950, and they were bad enough.

          • Guest

            I never excused it or anything so your own credibility is blown to shreds. Why I question is because I’m skeptical, and given reason to be. Why are your “panties in a twist” about that?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            What’s the reason for the scepticism?

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            And your reason for being skeptical is based on what actual facts? We have no evidence that she has any problems with her neighbors, or that they have any complaint about her. As you admit even if there were, that would no excise shooting at her house, acid bombing her and her daughter or harassing her by screaming about her being a witch.

            As you note, when I say something I am not afraid to attach my name to it, I don’t have to hide behind an alias even on line.

            You talk about credibility, I am still waiting to see some fro you besides acting like a troll in this conversation.

          • Peter Dybing

            I was there and frankly it seemed to me after talking to her neighbors love her and her home!

          • Guest

            Peter, obviously the ones who’d talk to her and you would be the friendly ones. What happened wasn’t right, but having been there and seen it, etc. do you think Paganism was all that was about?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ravenradio.heathen Raven-Radio Heathen

    At Raven Radio, I and the rest of our hosts try to maintain high standards of
    broadcasting our shows. We provide a service and it is at times to
    easy to jump on the bandwagon of the popular current story and report
    something before it is researched. Thats one reason we try to stay
    away from “reporting news” and stick to topics of interest
    to our listeners. Another thing is there are so damn many different
    types of Pagans. From Asatru to Zoogil worship. (I just made that one
    up!) Trying to keep “tabs” on Internet news is damn near
    impossible. Now throw in the current atmosphere in Washington with
    CISPA (Cyber
    Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) and other cyber snooping
    bills that are floating around our Congress. Do we want to “keep tabs” on the Pagan media?

    Like other Asatru radio shows that have come and gone before
    and after Raven Radio we saw what worked what didn’t and I feel that
    we need to let the listeners and readers police the new Pagan media.
    The good, truthful, honest and most importantly balanced shows, blogs
    and print media will prosper. The “dirtbags” will flounder. Yes
    some of the more extreme on each side of the spectrum will spew their
    garbage to a select few small minds. The majority of the intelligent
    folks will not tolerate bad media.

    Chuck Hudson
    Raven Radio
    http://www.ravenradio.info

    Raven Radio Live Sundays 9 am Mountain 11 am Eastern 3pm GMT

    http://www.bounceradio.ne
    tDirect link and chatroom
    http://community.loudcity.com/stations/b-o-u-n-c-e-radio/files/show/bounce.html

    Skype username heathenradio

    • cernowain greenman

      While Pagan net-radio shows focus on “topics”, I find the more interesting programs at least bring up some current news and reflect on it. Without that shows tend to be irrelevant, it seems to me. I get bored of rambling on and on about topics. I’m not talking about Raven Radio, but generalizing about net-radio shows I’ve listened to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1650681499 Diotima Mantineia

    I am “digitally deft” (though still in denial about the imminent demise of Google Reader and Google home page, where all my news comes together). I scan MSM headlines (NYT, WaPo, BBC) every day, as well as the online site of my local Gannett daily, but I’m trying to really cut back on my online reading, and I need to prioritize even more. Blogs help me do that.

    I get a lot of environmental, financial and political news from blogs whose interests tend to track my own, and who offer lots of links to stories I want to read. In other words, I find myself relying more and more on bloggers to filter the news for me. The Wild Hunt and FB are my primary online sources for Pagan News, but I’m visiting FB less than I used to. I do subscribe to Witches and Pagans print.

    I think your research here is a great idea. I look forward to reading the results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002162704205 Lori Dake

    For yesterday’s W&K article, the news story portion actually came first from noticing a trend on some of the pages I’m subscribed to that’s run by Christians. http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/05/fox-does-it-again/ I don’t discount *any* news source, not even Fox News or The Onion – or my new favorite, The Daily Mash (UKs Onion comparable to The Daily Mail).

    The reason being, even within the confines of batshit craziness or straight up parody, there is always a nugget of truth, and that nugget has me digging further. I joke I watch Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Fox & Friends so other people don’t have to. But in actuality, I watch them not only for the headsmacking comedy, but to get a better understanding of why people think and believe the things they do. Remember Tuckergate a couple months back? I saw that live while casually clipping coupons and released a huge “Oh this is gonna blow up ALL OVER my Pagan FB friends in 3… 2…”, and I was most certainly not disappointed.

    Come to think of it, that’s how I get a significant portion of my article ideas – casual observation of trends. And when I think about it further, I wonder if that too is where other online stories come from – watching trends. Jezebel is a good example of that, and perhaps it’s why, even though I don’t consider myself to be a feminist, I enjoy reading a significant portion of the articles posted there – and yes, I love reading the comments, too!

  • Obsidia

    I’m a Media Hound and a kind of Activist. I find info through Pagan Blogs (especially this one now!) and other spiritually alternative Blogs. I’m a member of the ACLU, and find a bit of news that way, too. I like to pick up a Pagan mag or journal when I can, but I find CIRCLE magazine to be quite a bit behind, timewise. I also do Searches online to find info wherever I can, especially about matters that seem to have fallen off the radar. I like to act the Detective.

  • Faoladh

    My main news source, pagan and otherwise, is through aggregated feeds from several news sites using Google Reader. (I have been trying to find something to replace it when it sadly ends its run, but nothing seems to match it. I have no idea what I’m going to do when it goes away. I may have to settle for a second-rate news reader like Netvibes.) I also find the occasional story from friends’ posts on Facebook or Livejournal/Dreamwidth (yes, I still use those, though not nearly as diligently as I once did).

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      Check out Feedly. I’ve found it to be a fully qualified replacement for Google Reader. I’m a little concerned because they’re still piggy-backing on your Google reader subscriptions, but they’ve indicated that they’re going to be able to keep going after GReader shuts down.

      • Faoladh

        Thank you for the recommendation. I will try it, but so far it looks less clean and simple than Google Reader (though I was very pleased with how incredibly easy it was to import my subscriptions). I suppose that there are people who want “functionality”, but I’d just like a simple, straightforward web-based RSS aggregator. Still, we take what we can get at times.

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          Set up your preferences so you’re looking at “All” information by default and then in the upper right you can change it to list view. Moving through that with the “J” and “K” keys makes it feel pretty much like GReader to me.

          • Faoladh

            Yeah, after messing around with it, it’s better.

  • http://about.me/CosettePaneque Cosette Paneque

    I use a reader to aggregate news from several sources and I also depend on Facebook and Twitter. I enjoy the Wild Hunt and some personal Pagan blogs, but I’m suspect of most Pagan Media because it quickly becomes apparent that the people operating them lack experience in journalism.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    For myself, I use this very site as well as having a ‘Pagan’ channel on Google News set up.

    Also, I have Facebook, where people I know online can throw up any news that catches their attention.

    I tried Pagan Dawn, but found it dull and rather too hippyish for my tastes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Newkirk-Niven/1587887377 Anne Newkirk Niven

    Thanks for the shout-out at the top of the story, Jason. In answer to Ed Hubbard’s question, I’d like to point out that our titles (current Witches&Pagans, SageWoman, and Crone) are (to my knowledge) the only traditional pan-Pagan media NOT put out by a specific sect or group. It’s simply me, and my husband Alan, as a small family business, covering what we think is interesting (and hopefully, relevant).

    I remember a while back (we’ve been at this a quarter-century, and we’d be happy to continue forever) when everything was on paper. Today, we publish our magazines in paper and digital, and also operate a large Pagan website at PaganSquare.com. We just hit our one-year anniversary at the site and we gratified that we’ve had 4.7 million pages downloaded, and 922,084 unique visits in that time.

    I like the round-robin and wide (even wild) conversations at PaganSquare, but it’s tough to do heavy-lifting in-depth long form pieces that way. So I’d say there’s room for both new and old media in our rapidly-evolving Paganisms.

    • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

      Yep…when I said Fine Magazines, I considered yours among them.

  • Dave Burwasser

    Baruch Dreamstalker here.
    I would dissent in part from your summary of “the good.” The only feedback in the “good” old days to error or bias in a media story was a letter to the editor, who could ignore it. Well do I remember a Washington Post article about the culture shock in newsrooms that, with digital media, were suddenly subject to criticism that had the same audience and could not be stifled. My favorite example was the author of a study who posted a 5,000-word screed on how a reporter has abused his work product. We have a whole new standard of journalistic responsibility now.
    My universe of sources is msn.com for straight news, TWH for Pagan news, a couple Pagan opinion blogs because they’re silverbacks like me, and GetReligion for a conservative view of religion and the press in general, just to prop my mind open.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alyxander.folmer Alyxander M Folmer

    I Keep a broad range of online news outlets on hand, and I actually go through a vetting process before adding one to my list. I check their stories against pieces from a number of other outlets, determine the biases, and file them accordingly. No news source is without bias, but if you are aware of those biases you can more easily track the real story. I also tend to keep reliable sites with opposing views filed together. I might be a little obsessive though, news hunting is actually one of my hobbies…

  • Roi deGuerre

    Thanks for this article, so many of my friends ask me “how do I know who to trust?” In today’s media storm. I wish I had a better answer for them and your perspective was very helpful.

    I “filter-feed” on news pulling in sources from blogs, Google news, feeds, etc. looking for relevance (as opposed to the high level of simple repetition across sources). When I find something relevant, interesting, or even clearly distorted I “deep dive” until I find the original source documents from which I can draw my own conclusions. The differences between reporting and original documents can be very wide indeed.

    For me good journalism in today’s media is journalism that links to original sources. I am fine with and enjoy editorializing, just please show me the consideration of encouraging me to make up my own mind.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    In the last few days, there have been a couple of positive articles about Paganism in mainstream, local media in the UK.

    I think that, whilst ‘Pagan Media’ is valuable to have, it is far better to see Pagan news integrated into the mainstream media. It helps demystify Paganism to those who could, potentially, fear the unknown (or, at the very least, misrepresent it).

    Here are the articles:

    http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/Paganism-longer-cloaked-mystery/story-18889957-detail/story.html#axzz2SPEX0nQT

    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/features/pagans-shed-light-on-the-dark-image-of-a-faith-in-nature-and-the-individual-1-5637002

  • Peter Dybing

    This subject makes me wonder if there is a real question of something new in our media structures? Newspapers have had opinion sections for decades. These sections have always been subjective in their content. Further there have always been “fringe” publications that take extreme views. Is this not a discussion of long standing frameworks manifesting in digital form with the only difference being the speed and volume of communication.

    As a blogger who has always been on the “personal opinion” end of writing I have never considered my writing as even related to Pagan Media, in a news or reliability framework.

    • http://www.miraselena.com/ Heather Greene

      It’s not that there wasn’t varied content before now.

      It is that the markers that defined each as “fringe” or “opinion” or “news” were very clear. There were limits to each (time on TV, print on the page etc) and barriers to access. (You could only get news at 11pm or via the paperboy, for example) There were all kinds of limits to who could print/write/publish.

      Now there are no limits and no definitive indicators.The structures have been destroyed (as in any good revolution) and the readers are in charge.

      You may not consider your writing newsworthy but it isn’t up to you. A reader might have your blog on their news reader feed and consider your topics relevant.

  • Trianablu

    OF Course the Wild Hunt is My first stos when searching Online for the Most current Pagan topics, Articles and Opinions … Thank You .. Great article Heather .. SO Sharing link and topic :)

  • cernowain greenman

    The Pagan Educational Network still publishes an old fashioned hard copy edition of news and information called “Water”– primarily for Pagan inmates in the United States who have very limited access to the Internet or none at all.