The center was launched in the Roy H. Park School of Communications in 2008 with a gift from the Park Foundation to study journalism-oriented media outlets that create and distribute content outside traditional corporate systems and news organizations. The center engages media producers and students in dialogue and action about independent media, especially U.S.-based outlets producing content on issues such as equity, social justice and sustainability. Additionally, PCIM provides grants to students who work as summer interns at specific independent media organizations or nonprofits.
“The Park Center for Independent Media is one of the very few centers of its kind across the United States — in fact, globally — which focuses on non-corporate media and looks at supporting independent media outlets and related social movements,” said Rumi. “It’s extremely exciting to be part of this larger push towards making media more responsible, more responsive, and geared towards public interest and not just profit or corporate interests.”
Rumi has been a scholar-in-residence at Ithaca College since 2015. He is also a visiting faculty at Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. As a journalist, he is affiliated with Pakistan’s Daily Times. His writing has appeared in outlets including Foreign Policy, The New York Times, CNN and Al Jazeera. Prior to his journalistic career, Rumi was a director of the Jinnah Institute, a public policy think tank, and executive director of the Justice Network. He also worked at the Asian Development Bank and advised the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the United Nations, in addition to a long stint with Pakistan’s Administrative Service.
Rumi’s independent voice as a journalist and TV commentator in Pakistan made him a target of violent extremists. He immigrated to the United States after narrowly surviving an attack by a militia aligned with the Taliban in 2014.
As the new director of PCIM, Rumi plans to bring a more international breadth to the center’s programming, incorporating independent media models from around the world. He also plans to focus on various issues affecting independent media, from net neutrality to financial sustainability. “All of these issues require more robust academic engagement and more rigorous exchange of ideas amongst scholars, practitioners and working journalists, and I hope to lead that at PCIM,” he said.
Rumi also wants to involve PCIM in the issue of media censorship, noting that journalists and media outlets in the U.S. are coming under increasing pressure not to report on powerful groups and individuals.
“The U.S. is entering into a stage where a very rigorous defense of media freedoms, independence of thought and freedom of expression — both on campuses and outside in the real world — is becoming a major issue,” said Rumi. “I would like PCIM to work in that direction. I would like our students to engage in those conversations and in those movements.”
PCIM will continue to present the annual Izzy Award, which honors outstanding achievement in independent media. The award is named in memory of I.F. “Izzy” Stone, the dissident journalist who launched I.F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 and challenged McCarthyism, racism, war and government deceit. In early 2018, PCIM received an endowment from the estate of Stone’s son, Jeremy J. Stone, to expand the outreach and programming of the center and engage more faculty and students in its work.
Rumi succeeds Jeff Cohen, associate professor of journalism and PCIM founding director, who retired from Ithaca College this summer.