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?”
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.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
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.
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.
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.
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?