From Oxy to Encino: Making Friends and Creating Waves

slave-to-mediaIf you’ve glanced at the LA Progressive recently, you know that our weekend last week was consumed with the media workshop at Occidental College, which this magazine sponsored and which Sharon and I helped organize. We learned a bit, met some interesting folks, and had a blast.

Called “Local Media for Social Change,” the day-long event got off on the right foot with a panel session focusing on the media’s changing face that featured two LA Progressive regulars—Linda Milazzo and Anthony Asadullah Samad—along with well-known political observors Brad Friedman and Mario Solis-Marich. Moderating was cable news commentator Tanya Acker, whose sure handling drew wide praise (and who we almost recruited to write for us, save for reuse limits imposed by her mainstream media employer, which will either keep their coffers full or bite them someday).

Sandwiched between that panel session and the concluding keynote by local talk show host Dominique DiPrima were two sets of six breakout sessions, two of which Sharon and I organized. In the first, we showed how and why we started LA Progressive. In the second, three of our best regular writers—Linda Milazzo again, joined by Mary Lyon and Tom Hall—described the varying approaches they take in writing for our magazine and other online outlets.

Sure, promoting our magazine was a part of the equation—hopefully a small one—but the real value we had to offer was in showing how regular folks, with demanding day jobs, kids to nurture, law school to attend (in Sharon’s case), and nothing remotely resembling venture capital at hand, could launch an online magazine and achieve the kind of recognition ours has in just one year. (Our webmaster—Sharon—tells me that we recorded our first million page views last month, which we’re told is pretty remarkable for a political site like ours where everyone keeps all their clothes on and no one runs a pick and roll.)

Making It Pay, Then Making Them Pay
The real news will come at next year’s event if we can report that in our second year we found ways to support the magazine financially and then used our magazine’s growing clout to help advance social causes that matter to us.

For the financial goal, we’ll continue investigating advertising and sponsorships, and met folks at the workshop who might want to work with us on revenue-producing grants and partnerships. We might also look at subscriptions of some sort, though it’s had to see how that would work on our site.

Given that so many in LA’s political circles seem to know of our work, we think that progressive candidates and causes might want to advertise their campaigns on our site, although the first overture we made in that direction this past week was met with thunderous silence, which some might take as a bad sign.

But, clearly, either online grassroots ventures like ours must find ways to pay their own way—including salaries of some sort for their publishers and their contributing writers as well—or they’ll need to remain engrossing hobbies. A hobby might work fine for Sharon and me, but for the kind of work we do to have lasting, widespread impact, it will need to help pay the light bill so folks can keep putting their best energies into it.

We’ll let you know how that turns out this year.

Republicans Hate Their Grandchildren
For the goal of using our magazine to wield social and political clout, we spent part of this weekend visiting old friends and making new ones at the Valley Democrats United’s Courage Award ceremony in Encino.

During our LA Media breakout session, we related how the LA Progressive’s editorial direction is much different—and much better—than we anticipated a year ago. A big part of that change came from the cadre of writers who signed on with us from the Valley Dems. Early on, their club newsletter editor, Margie Murray, encouraged us to reprint her newsletter’s articles.

That invitation led quickly to regular sets of articles appearing on our pages from Jerry Drucker and Robert Illes, buttressed with contributions from Wendy Block, Wayne Williams, Brad Parker, and Margie herself. Mostly professional writers associated with the entertainment industry, their insightful, often humorous, and always barbed work has helped shape in delightful ways the direction our publication has taken in its first year. It was good to break bread with them, as we met several of them for the first time face to face.

This weekend, the Valley Dems awarded their Badge of Courage to Air America host Richard Greene and public radio commentator Lila Garrett.

Greene, a political advisor, attorney, and author, outlined the challenge progressives face when 95% of talk radio is filled with the rantings of conservative wingnuts of the Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham ilk. “If you look at what Republicans want to do to the environment and the economy, clearly they must hate their grandchildren,” he said. “If not them, then their great grandchildren.”

From the Jaws of Victory
Garrett, the long-time activist and host of KPFK’s “Connect the Dots,” argued that the problem now isn’t Republicans, but the new group of 15 conservative Democratic senators, led by Indiana’s Evan Bayh, that has recently set out to stymie if not derail President Obama’s budget plans.

“They’ve taken Obama’s mostly good budget proposal and created a stumbling block,” she said. “It’s what Democrats do too often: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

In accepting her award, Garrett pushed a resolution for nationalizing the Federal Reserve, taking it out of private hands in these desperate times and putting it directly under control of the U.S. Treasury Department. She also pressed for an immediate end to the Afghan War and a stop to efforts to privatize public social programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

Garrett also called on progressives to hold the Obama Administration accountable, bemoaning the fact that liberal Democrats have made excuses for Obama’s appointments of centrists who are indistinguishable from the Republicans they replaced from the Bush administrations: Tim Geitner at Treasury, Bob Gates who replaced himself at Defense, and Arne Duncan at Education.

Commenting on a recent Rachel Maddow segment showing clips of Obama in parallel with ones of George Bush, Garrentt said: “In places, in talking about Afghanistan, they were saying the same things, in the same rhythm.”

In the audience, we saw a number of political movers and shakers, including Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, LA City Council Candidate Paul Koretz, and past State and Federal candidates Ferial Masry, Mary Pallant, and Marcy Winograd.

dick-price.gifSupporting and partnering with this influential club, other clubs like it, and the heavy hitters that associate with them will clearly be one way the LA Progressive can help address the many problems previous presidential administrations have left behind as they scampered off to Crawford, Kennebunkport, and Rancho del Cielo.

We’ll tell you how that works out, too.

Dick Price

Editor, LA Progressive.


  1. says

    As someone who lives in Council District 5 and closely follows local issues, who understands what the word progressive means, and who has been part of interviews of the Council candidates, to pawn Paul Koretz off as “progressive” taxes credulity. To be linked to local developers like Stanley Treitel, to take endorsements and money from the City Hall insiders and politicians who present policing as the City’s highest priority and who have been joined at the hip to real estate speculators for decades certainly dilutes the concept of being progressive. We might also add that none of this crowd ever offer a peep that federal spending of over $1 trillion per year on the military causes the hollowing out of local government, such as the LAUSD and the City of Los Angeles.

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