I am a founding member of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center which covered it's first news story in September 2000. I have been involved at various points in time with all aspects of the UC-IMC organization: print/newspaper, radio production, computer/tech support, independent music shows booking, fundraising/grants, outreach, steering committee, space development/building, and radical library. I've also been involved since 1996 with WEFT (90.1FM) community radio as a music airshifter, a public affairs news producer, and as co-chair of the Associates commitee (one of the three main democratic bodies that governs WEFT). I am currently the space coordinator and folk music coordinator for the IMC and I produce news pieces for the radio about once a month.
The independent media center is part of a global independent media movement that began in November 1999 with a single indymedia center in Seattle, WA. There are now over 100 IMCs around the world with several on every continent (except Antartica ;). The indymedia movement is founded on the concept that one of the most dangerous threats to true democracy is corporate control and consolidation of our mass media outlets. The indymedia centers recognize that when corporate interests hold direct (through ownership) and indirect (through advertising pressures) editorial control over mass media it means that certain stories that are vitally important to regular people will not get reported or will get reported with a bias that favors advertisers and discounts regular people.
The independent media centers' mission is to give regular people the tools they need to be their own media. We use the internet and our physical spaces to organize and collectivize their skills and resources (not all IMCs have physical spaces, Urbana is lucky to have one of the largest IMC spaces in the world). For members we provide the ability to borrow (free of charge) minidisc recorders, digital cameras, and digital video cameras. We provide training on audio production and editting as well as other aspects of using our equipment to produce news.
We provide an open publishing website (www.ucimc.org) where anyone can post news stories on any topic they like. From the rich content that is constantly flowing in from volunteers through our website and directly to our production computers we produce a weekly radio news show that airs on WEFT, a monthly newspaper (the public i), and our video group has a 1 hour time slot every week on Urbana public access TV which shows both locally produced and syndicated pieces. We syndicate our radio show to other stations in Illinois and some of our radio stories to Free Speech Radio News which is aired nationally.
Our indymedia center also believes that media does not just mean news. It means arts and music and community gathering as well. We therefore have a gallery space that features a different local artist every month, a shows venue space that features a music of many different genres (folk, punk, blues, goth, indie-rock, etc) and is all ages, and we have a community meeting space that is used by many different activist organizations.
I'm prepared to talk in general terms about the philosophy and motivation behind behind the indymedia movement, some of its history and scope, and in specifics about the operation of our local indymedia center and it's relation to the global movement.