MINNEAPOLIS - Journalists and activists who envision a more diverse and open media hope to organize and encourage each other during a national conference being held here this weekend.The effort has grown into a national movement in the past five years, said Josh Silver, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit media reform group Free Press, which is sponsoring the National Conference for Media Reform.
On Friday, Silver and other participants celebrated the U.S. Senate's decision last month to nullify a Federal Communications Commission rule that allows media companies to own a newspaper and a television station in the same market.
He said one of the most important fights now is to push for a free and open Internet and protect it from becoming controlled by a small number of powerful corporations. Calling it one of the "profound fights of our lives," Silver said citizens have a chance to make a difference.
"We can organize truth against power. We can use the Internet to save the Internet," he said.
During the conference's opening session, participants heard from Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig on how he believes government officials' actions are more often dependent on campaign contributions and lobbyists hired by large corporations than on the public they represent.
Lessig talked of having an eight-year window for change and later put Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's image on the screen, which drew loud applause. He praised the candidate for urging the Democratic National Committee to refuse contributions from lobbyists and political action committees.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minneapolis Democrat, also spoke during the session after being introduced as a friend of the media reform movement.
Critics of corporate media often complain about Fox News, "but don't think it's just Fox," Ellison said. "You don't have enough choices. ... We need a diverse diet of news and opinion."
After Ellison's speech, which was followed by a standing ovation from the left-leaning crowd, a Free Press staffer made sure to remind the audience that the organization does not and cannot endorse political candidates.
A few big names will participate in the conference, including former CBS newsman Dan Rather, Bill Moyers of PBS and Arianna Huffington of HuffingtonPost.com. Silver said about 3,000 people were expected to attend through Sunday.
© 2008 Associated Press