Grassroots Journalism: A Practical Manual for Doing the Kind of News Writing That Doesn’t Just Get People Angry, But Active – That Doesn’t Just Inform, But Inspires, by Eesha Williams, Apex Press, 185 pp., $22.95

Ever wonder if the mainstream media isn’t telling it like it is? Ever wonder if wealthy individuals and giant corporations have too much control over what we read, over what information, in what context, is printed? Ever wonder if the company that owns The New York Times is also the same company that owns USA Today and a hundred other newspapers? Well, you’re not alone!

Many of us used to think of journalism as something left to professionals, something done with objectivity and something free of special interests. Over the past few years those perceptions have changed.

And with this change of perception we have also seen an upsurge of Independent Media Centers (IMCs), community and labor publications and the forming of media associations, like the Independent Press Association (IPA), all seeking, to some degree or another, to make media more participatory and democratic, free of corporate interest.

Along with the growth of an independent media movement has come the growth of the independent, grassroots journalist. This is the subject of Eesha Williams’ Grassroots Journalism.

According to Williams the mass media has a profound effect on the everyday views and perspectives of ordinary people. It is used to shape and mold public opinion. In fact, official Bush policy is to use media to gain support for its policies, including the war in Iraq.

Grassroots journalism, contrary to corporate journalism, says Williams, is “newswriting written for ordinary working people who … are mostly affected by large-scale economic and political decisions. At its best, grassroots journalism demonstrates that readers will have a better chance of improving their own lives if they band together and fight for their common interests, than if they remain isolated …”

Like a good manual or textbook, Williams goes into the details of grassroots journalism in chapter five, “The Nuts and Bolts of Writing a Grassroots News Story.” In that chapter Williams lays down some basic guidelines for writing news articles.

Some key points of technique are: keep it short; tell the reader in as few of words as possible why the particular article should be of interest to them; don’t use weird grammatical structures; keep to smooth transitions.

But, according to Williams, grassroots journalism is more than technique. The grassroots journalist should also convey a feeling of hope; they should give readers the historical context; and grassroots journalists should always welcome feedback.

In chapter nine, “What about the Workers?: A Look at Media Coverage of Strikes,” Williams says, “With 13 million members and a history of workplace and legislative victories … unions make up the nation’s largest active social movement.” But they, like the peace movement today, are also one of the most neglected in the media.

“When labor does receive coverage,” he adds, “the resulting news stories are almost always blatant examples of media bias.”

With a war mongering, anti-labor president sitting in the White House very little objectivity can be expected from the corporate media. So it is up to us to follow Williams’ advice and become our own grassroots journalists.

If we don’t tell it like it is, who will?

– Tony Pecinovsky (