Passionate discussion resonates from one of the tables Friday night at Cosi on Michigan Avenue. Five guys—Mike, Michael, Mitchell, Jerry and Jack—sit at the table with a small piece of white paper inserted in one of the card holders that says “Fight Big Media Meetup is Here.” Mitchell Szczepanczyk, the Chicago Fight Big Media group moderator for the past four years, has his laptop open so he can be ready to announce breaking news or to research more information on discussion topics.
They’ve just finished talking about Walter Cronkite’s death and have moved on to a piece of legislation called the Local Community Radio Act. Current law in place for radio says stations must be three adjacencies apart, but the LCRA would lower that number, hopefully promoting and making way for more stations to fill the empty spots. Szczepanczyk says this could also galvanize efforts for television, which has more unused space especially since the digital transition, and make room for more local programming.
“Overwhelmingly in the last thirty-plus years, with maybe some exceptions…we’ve found increasing monetization of our media,” Szczepanczyk says. “There have been growing efforts to oppose that. One way is the establishment and support of independent and not so big but vibrant and very important media initiatives.”
The group goes on to discuss solar and wind power and the smart grid development, local community control of television, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s order to close Michigan’s Department of History, Arts and Libraries and the handling, or lack thereof, of the Bush wiretapping issue.
“Media is falling apart because they have no connection with their community,” Jerry says.
“I want to be able to go to one body and say ‘this is the problem and what I want done,'” Michael says in a discussion of state franchises. “Not go to a body and have them say ‘there’s nothing we can do about that.'”
They also spend time discussing One Web Day coming up in September. The theme is “One Web for all” and is modeled after Earth Day. “It’s an exercise in positive media,” Michael says.
Szczepanczyk, who’s been tapped as the organizer for Chicago’s One Web Day, and the rest of the group discuss making a video compilation asking people questions like “What does the Web mean to you?” He then hopes to work with Rainbow Push to use their temple for community members to gather and join in on One Web Day.
“We’re in a position now where we’re trying to play offense,” Szczepanczyk says. “There’s a local community…It would help to open up more radio stations in Chicago to help provide additional media, voices and perspectives that corporate media can’t fight.” (Beth Wang)