Direct-action journalism: resilience in grassroots autonomous media

Sandra Jeppesen | 2016 | in Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 383-403

Situating grassroots autonomous media within complex contemporary media ecologies and protest movements, this article uses resilience theory to critically analyse the characteristics generative of adaptive capacity in alternative media. The organizing structures, decisionmaking processes and social movement strategies of two case studies – Concordia University TV (CUTV) and the Montreal Media Co-op – are analysed using online self-produced media materials and participant observation during the 2012 Quebec Student Strike. Both groups have existed for more than ten years, achieving a balance between anti-authoritarian militant activist culture and formal organizational structure.

We find they are open to remediation and reconfiguration as needed, including adapting new technologies and organizing journalism teams and peer-to-peer training of volunteers. In addition, these forms of ‘direct action journalism’ exhibit professionalism beyond the basic amateurism of most citizen journalism. Some of the characteristics of grassroots autonomous media production in which resilience may be cultivated include anti-authoritarian militant spaces such as CUTV’s media lab, formalized organizational structures with mixed funding models such as the Media Co-op’s multi-stakeholder cooperative, and deeper relationships and networks with social movements exhibited by both, including reconfigured horizontal relationships among media producers and users.

Keywords: autonomous media; political economy of media; citizen journalism; alternative media; media activism; direct action journalism