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Honorees Revolutionize Progressive Communications

Wendy Block: Valley Democrats United's (VDU’s) 2010 Badge of Courage honorees knew corporate media would respect progressive voices about the same time Rush Limbaugh invited Amy Goodman to guest host his radio show. So documentarian extraordinaire Robert Greenwald, and citizen journalists for the world Sharon Kyle and Dick Price, crashed the international debate.

Valley Democrats United's (VDU’s) 2010 Badge of Courage honorees knew corporate media would respect progressive voices about the same time Rush Limbaugh invited Amy Goodman to guest host his radio show. So documentarian extraordinaire Robert Greenwald, and citizen journalists for the world Sharon Kyle and Dick Price, crashed the international debate.

dick and sharon robert greenwald

Greenwald Catches Them
When the suits at Walmart and whatever Blackwater's new name is- - and the whole Fox News gang -- hear the name "Robert Greenwald," first they speed-dial their lawyers, then their shrinks. Greenwald's documentaries - which include Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006), Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005), Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004),Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2003) and Unprecedented: The 2000 Election(2002) -- expose these perps and other targets as the greedy, dangerous ideologues they are, by catching them in the act of being themselves.

At a screening of a rough cut of Unprecedented: The 2000 Election, I joined friends groaning and yelling at the screen as we watched Republican operatives pound on an office door and scream at Floridians trying to count butterfly ballots. Afterwards I sat slumped over, just shaking my head.

Goal is Social Justice
Before full-time filmic activism ensnared him, Greenwald produced and directed theatrical, network and cable TV movies, netting him numerous awards. He learned how to tell a gripping story quickly, a talent evident in the expanding body of short and full-length works he and his colleagues at his company, Brave New Films, produce. The company uses media -- from traditional theaters to its own YouTube channel -- to help further social justice.

His Brave New Foundation uses media in its quest to create an open democratic society as well. It also educates and enlists grassroots volunteers and organizations in its campaigns, says Greenwald, "to get people to take action and change the world."

New Ways to Reach America
For instance, Greenwald brings his work to millions across the country via house screening parties sponsored by MoveOn and other progressive groups. DVDs of the films are also sold online.

He works fast, which is why it seems there's a new Greenwald release whenever an issue heats up. A mere four-and-a-half months after an idea hit, Uncovered - a devastating critique of George W. Bush's rush to war on Iraq -- was ready to ship. Brave New Films presents a two-minute weekly online show with Senator Bernie Sanders called Senator Sanders Unfiltered, featuring the Vermonter's views on an array of issues.

Trouble Goes Viral
Greenwald's films stir up trouble. The 2008 video Real McCain displayed the Republican presidential candidate's collection of homes and inspired a reporter to ask him how many he owned. When he said he wasn't sure, the exchange went viral, contributing to the conclusion that John McCain was not one of us.

After watching scenes from Greenwald's 2009 documentary Rethink Afghanistan -- he went there and interviewed civilians in bombed-out villages --I realized that low-key as he seems, this is one brilliant, subversive auteur. We're lucky he's ours.

Kyle and Price: World Is Their Neighborhood
The Upside of Hell, Love Thy Tea Bagger? and Rescuing God are headlines as typical at as Charity CEOs Get Rich by Taking From the Poor and News/PR Line Gets Blurrier. The LA Progressive (LAP) is a two-year-old daily online magazine that shot around the globe soon after birth. It's run by publishers/editors/writers/gofers/spouses Sharon Kyle and Dick Price when they're not working full-time (both of them) or in law school (Kyle).

LAP picks up pieces by progressive stalwarts like Robert Reich and Robert Fuller. But Kyle and Price are happiest showcasing smart, less well known lefty writers.

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LA Progressive-Engaging Locals, Activists
The publishers knew back in 2008 that mainstream media would never satisfy the hunger for substantive news that their underrepresented inner city section of Los Angeles felt. So they began a small online newsletter, hoping to engage their neighbors in the local politics that deeply affected their daily lives. Kyle and Price also wanted to help progressives working on disparate causes to understand each other's issues and mobilize into a movement with enough clout to achieve real change.

Soon after its launch, readers across the U.S. began bookmarking LAP. The publishers credit its early growth, in part, to getting permission to republish what they describe as "the fine writers" of VDU's online newsletter. And there was this national political campaign...

In 2008 the magazine backed Barack Obama enthusiastically. Since his election, the Progressive has been pushing him "away from the Nelson Rockefeller Administration he seems to want to run," says Price.

Reporters and Ranters Welcome
In general, LAP covers "issues of political, social, and cultural consequence to progressives everywhere." Conservatives are encouraged to read and comment. LAP's network presents a mix of straight reporting, "observations from positions of depth...and a few 'bomb-throwers' who provide political rants," say the publishers.

Unlike 2008, when they had to recruit writers, now first-rate authors "line up to publish with us." About the only places LA Progressive hasn't reached are a few African countries and Tajikistan. Currently, it averages between 70,000 and 90,000 page views per month.

Helping Save Democracy
Beyond publishing, LAP helps support a yearly LA Media Seminar which draws progressives from all over California. Its third seminar - held at Occidental College in March -- focused on "how alternative media like the Progressive can help preserve democracy, as mainstream media suffers economic decline, is increasingly centralized and...polarized," says Price.

The website seems to grow more user-friendly every week. Kyle and Price see LAP as a potential "case study for how others could build similar publications, around day jobs, with little IT background, on a dime."

Wendy Block

And the publishers are getting famous. "It seems most everywhere we go in LA, someone will approach and tell us they know of our work and appreciate it."

VDU couldn't agree more.

Wendy Block

Wendy Block is a writer and political activist. Before becoming obsessed with online journalism (Huffington Post and Valley Democrats United’s Newsletter as well as LAP), she free-lanced for magazines and other publications, anchored/reported for an ABC TV affiliate and a TV finance show; and, when commercial LA radio stations aired news, she wrote for one. She's a delegate to the California Democratic Party and belongs to its Progressive Caucus. She's an Executive Board member of the San Fernando Valley Democratic Party (DPSFV), on its Endorsement Committee and Political Action Committee. She’s Recording Secretary of proudly liberal/progressive Valley Democrats United and a member of the Kitchen Cabinet of Kitchen Table Democracy. A long-time advocate for full voluntary public funding of elections, she’s volunteering with the California Clean Money Campaign to pass Prop 15, the Ca. Fair Elections Act, this June.