ST. LOUIS — The second annual “Working Class Media and Democracy” forum here Oct. 21, sponsored by the Missouri-Kansas People’s Weekly World bureau, featured a panel of print and radio personalities, including Lizz Brown, WGNU radio, Johnson Lancaster, Belleville News-Democrat, and Joel Wendland, Political Affairs magazine. The event was moderated by state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford.

In welcoming remarks, Zenobia Thompson, PWW bureau chair, said, “Media and democracy are inseparable. We can not have a true democracy without a democratic media, a media that reflects our interests as a class.”

Brown emphasized the power of progressive community initiatives to affect the mainstream media. “Progressives in this country are the majority,” she said. “And though we may feel too scared, too defeated or too powerless to make a difference, we can have a major impact on what is reported.” She challenged the audience to “pick up the phone” when they hear or see opinions they disagree with in the media, as well opinions they agree with.

Lancaster urged the audience to take a skeptical view toward corporate media. “Media exists to inform us, but who’s informing us is often ignored,” he said. “Corporate media determines who informs us. Our reality is being determined by someone sitting in New York City, not by community residents, not by our neighbors, not by trade unions, not by working-class people.” Objectivity within the corporate media is a myth, he said. In contrast, he said, true, “visionary” media, “motivates people. It informs, enlightens, exposes injustice, challenges authority and squelches sin.”

Wendland urged the audience to fight for working-class media. “Free press,” he said, “isn’t free. Working-class media is about our participation, because it is us. We have to be engaged in the process of making media and challenging corporate domination.”

Brown responded to a question about whether governmental solutions are an appropriate response to corporate media consolidation: “If people own the airwaves, who gets to own how much? Do we share the airwaves? Or are they owned by media conglomerates? Media monopolies should be broken up and government should help in that process.”

An audience member asked, “Is media fact or fiction?” Lancaster commented, “If you learn how to manage the media, your version of reality is what everyone gets.”

In the audience at the Society of Friends meeting hall were trade unionists, community and peace activists and elected officials. The forum raised $2,000 for the People’s Weekly World fund drive.