Friday, May 6, 2011

Interview with Meaghan LaSala: "The movement for Media Justice is becoming a playground where progressive movements converge & forge alliances..."

Meaghan LaSala is an Americorps Vista outreach coordinator with WERU Community Radio. She's also the host of the monthly WERU show Bangor Area Commons, covering a wide range of arts, cultural, and political issues and events from the Bangor area, with live guests and local call-ins. Media Collective organizer Martin Chartrand and I met Meaghan when we had the opportunity to talk about Bangor Media Collective on her show last December.

These days, she is also working an another project in conjunction with the station-- a grassroots media conference at Unity College this September. The conference aims to bring together media groups, artists and activists from all over Maine to meet, learn and strategize.

Here, Meaghan explains what the conference is, how it can help you improve your media effectiveness whether you're an activist or an artist, and how the conference is part of the larger struggle for media justice.

If you would like to find out more about the conference or get involved, you can contact Meaghan by email at There will be a meeting for those interested in organizing the conference May 20 at WERU in Orland-- perhaps we'll see you there!

RR: Please tell me about the media conference you're organizing.

Meaghan: I’m working with WERU-FM Community Radio to host the first ever Maine Grassroots Media Conference at Unity College on September 10th. The conference will bring together community media projects, journalists, grassroots organizations, artists and anyone interested in building strong, vibrant independent media in Maine. There will be opportunities to share skills and stories, network, and increase awareness of grassroots media resources.

RR: Organizing this conference has been a part of your work with WERU Community Radio. Where did the genesis for the conference come from?

Meaghan: I joined the WERU family at a critical time for independent media. I began working with the station last August, and since then public funding for community radio has come under attack. I saw this as just one aspect of a continuing trend towards media consolidation and privatization.

At the same time, the national movement for Media Justice is becoming a playground where progressive movements converge and forge new alliances beyond single issues. I see that WERU is a hub for our community, where neighbors of all stripes and interests work together to create collective access to the airwaves. I think a movement for Media Justice in Maine, a movement to bring underserved voices to the forefront of public dialogues, could create a similar cohesiveness across our state.

RR: What are some of the most exciting events/workshops planned for this conference?

Meaghan: I think the most exciting thing about the conference is the spectrum of skills and topics we will be covering. Whether you have years of media experience, or are excited to learn the basics, there will be opportunities for all to learn how to share their perspectives more effectively.

Personally, I’m excited to learn tools for investigative reporting. I’m most excited to learn about the work that others are doing in our corner of the world.

RR: What has the process been like pulling this together?

Meaghan: It’s been great collaborating with John Zavodny from Unity College. Unity College has been very supportive in providing a space for this event, and John is helping to get the word out about the conference in the academic community. We are now looking for presenters and for volunteer support in organizing the conference. The next organizers’ meeting is May 20th. Please let me know if you would like to involved!

RR: How can activists and artists in Maine benefit from a grassroots media conference?

Meaghan: Activists can learn how to create media for themselves, which is the best way to frame your own story. They can learn how to get better press coverage. They can learn how to do better research and community building within their own movements. Artists can learn new methods, new ways to share their work and network with other artists and creative organizations.

RR: What to you is the most rewarding thing about doing organizing around media in central Maine? What is the most challenging?

Meaghan: I’m helping the WERU do outreach in Greater Bangor, now that it is broadcasting on its new signal there, 99.9FM. I like doing this work because I get to build relationships with all kinds of people, and it pushes me to fully understand the issues that my community is facing.

One of the challenges that we face as a station is the distance that people need to travel, because our listening area is so rural. It has been exciting coming up with creative solutions to this problem, like brainstorming with Main Street Music Studios about producing content for WERU in their downtown Bangor studios, and training Bangor area teachers to teach audio production right in the classroom. ✦

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