The Importance of Independent Media: An interview with broadcaster and activist Laura Flanders.

AuthorStockwell, Norman

Laura Flanders, a British-born broadcast journalist, is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award (named for journalist I.F. Stone) and a 2019 Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation.

Her books include Real Majority, Media Minority: The Costs of Sidelining Women in Reporting and the New York Times bestseller Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species. Her weekly television program, The Laura Flanders Show, airs on more than 270 public television stations and on YouTube. It can also be seen on her website at She spoke with me by phone in early July from her studio in upstate New York.

Q: Let me start by asking about your background. How did you get into the media?

Laura Flanders: Well, I started as an activist, I guess you could say, or really just as a curious person, growing up in the United Kingdom. I was learning the history of the British relationship with Ireland, and it was very clear that the "trouble" wasn't with the Irish, but with the British.

In 1983, I went to Northern Ireland and saw how important independent media is. While I was there, I saw a killing happen. The Royal Ulster Constabulary shot somebody right in front of me. I recorded the whole thing on this little Super 8 camera and was able to contribute that footage to a local inquiry.

The policeman responsible for firing a rubber bullet at a man exactly my age with three kids, who I watched die in front of me, was suspended for six months or something. But it would've been a completely different story if Id been where the rest of the media were, which was with the police. So I really got it that we need to have media that has its ear to the ground, not to the elite. And that's what I've been doing ever since.

Q: Your show is the antithesis, not just of rightwing media but I think of most commercial media, in a couple of ways. One is in this catchphrase you use at the beginning of each show...

Flanders: We start every show by saying that "this is the place where the people who say it can't be done take a backseat to the people who are doing it," which is a fond adaptation of something that Jim Hightower once said and has allowed me to borrow. People all around this country aren't just talking about the problems. They have been figuring out how to help each other and themselves, from mutual aid and justice networks, to work with cooperatives, community-owned broadband, and local economic diversity investment funds.

What we have now, a year on into this...

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