August 15, 2010

Beyond the Echo Chamber:
Reshaping Politics through Networked Progressive Media

Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke

O Pioneers!– Tracy Van Slyke and Jessica Clark are the Lewis and Clark of the 21st Century’s digital media world. “Beyond the Echo Chamber” neatly maps the U.S. landscape, charting newer terrain (including Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and Brave New Films) while exploring the evolving contours of more familiar lands (including The Nation, In These Times, Mother Jones and The New Press). The book also describes a clear path forward through which pioneering bloggers, journalists, filmmakers and others can continue to stake claims in new and old political territories. What’s more, Van Slyke and Clark offer several thought-provoking reflections on the new “participatory media environment” in which you and I not only consume news, we create and critique news and, thereby, cultivate an even greater stake in current events. That’s a revolutionary change. And the magnitude of that change is something mainstream media and mainstream politics is still only slowly awakening to despite the flourishing of new portals (YouTube, blogs) and new gadgets (iPhones, Flip cameras). The fact that all of these new tools no longer seem so very “new” only underscores the extraordinary pace of the revolution underway – a pace the authors eloquently match in the pace of the book’s writing. Along the way, Van Slyke and Clark even produce a few hearty laughs. “One of us – Tracy – has often joked that some progressive magazines should start targeting nursing homes for advertising.” Funny – and true. And in an insightful discussion of the need to find more appealing ways to deliver the news in this age when major demographic shifts are converging with the ever-accelerating tech revolution, Clark and Van Slyke note, “Humor and a willingness to cover and feature pop culture – including sports, music (and while we appreciate Pete Seeger, not that kind of music), television, film, and the miscellaneous trends that inform people’s everyday lives – are key ingredients for high-impact progressive media.” Here’s to youth, technology and all kinds of music for making the Left fun again.


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