Making Waves: Park Indie Media Center

Media center opens up a new world for journalism students. by Jessica Bachiochi '09 with Maura Stephens

What’s the difference between independent journalists and people working for corporate media? What separates a journalist with a degree from everyone else with a computer and access to the Internet?

These are just some of the questions being addressed by the Park Center for Independent Media since its launch last spring. The center is headed by director Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), who is experienced with both corporate and independent media. Although Cohen says students at Ithaca College are “very well trained for either mainstream or independent media,” his center studies independent journalism and encourages students to consider careers in the field.

The center’s summer internship program sponsors Park students at organizations like GRITtv, CommonDreams, Democracy Now!, and the Center for Media and Democracy. Last summer Dan Haack ’10 worked with the Center for Media and Democracy, which investigates and exposes public relations spin and propaganda and publishes its findings at Haack wrote an in-depth article during his internship about the Pentagon’s covert “effort to promote a positive image of the Bush administration’s wartime performance” by placing military analysts in “punditry” seats on mainstream conservative television and radio shows. Haack’s piece made waves throughout the Internet. “Dan is one of our great achievements,” Cohen says. “I had people calling me [after the article was published] and asking, ‘Did you know this guy?’ ”

Cohen is proud of Haack, but Haack is equally pleased with his placement and with Cohen’s guidance. “Jeff Cohen was incredibly supportive in helping me get this great internship,” he says. “His stature and connections in the progressive and independent media world provide a great resource for the Park School and its students.”

 Besides exposing students to alternative career paths in journalism, the center plans to hold a symposium every year, give out an Izzy Award (named for investigative journalist I. F. “Izzy” Stone) for the best achievement in independent media, and continue to host visitors like Josh Marshall (see story, New Center Kickoff) and award-winning young investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, who visited campus in December. Of Scahill, who last year published the bestselling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Cohen says, “He’s a classic case study of an independent media success” — just the kind of professional to whom the center wants to introduce IC students.

Park students are benefiting from exposure to such intrepid reporters, who work without corporate oversight and restrictions. As Haack says, “That the Park School is on the forefront of this movement with its new Center for Independent Media is really exciting.”