An Island on the Sound
BY SARA FABIAN
Many people move to Olympia because of its politics—the state capital can be seen as “progressive” due to its close knit community that are highly involved in political activism. Media Island is a house-turned-activism center that primarily consists of a “networking center for individuals, groups, and people working on social change, environmental justice, sustainability, and peace” in Olympia.
Media Island’s intent is to be a neural hub for groups that are trying to gather and receive information about issues that are typically ignored by the mainstream media.
Media Island started when founders recognized that many important stories weren’t getting media attention. Matt Fu, general manager at KOWA, explained that Media Island started in the early ‘80s as a “journalism department for underrepresented stories” and that the goal of the organization was to “give voice to stories that were being neglected by the mainstream media, to bring that voice to Olympia and to be a conduit to spread these things around the country.”
Media Island can now be described as “an activist resource center,” said Fu, who strongly believes in the importance of community outreach from media, especially via radio.
Fu also explained that a major leap in the right direction for local radio was made when Obama signed the Community Radio Act last year; there was “a dwindling in the amount of radio stations and TV stations owned by unique, individual community groups.”
This applies to print media as well. Fu went on to say that “the 1996 telecommunications act allowed for the most massive, rapid consolidation of media in our country’s history. So that allowed things like Clear Channel to gobble up radio stations, and TV stations and media outlets across the country, and for newspapers to consolidate.”
Because of the ability to consolidate media outlets, major corporations are allowed to take over smaller, locally interested stations. This prevents community-focused messages, ideas and music from being aired.
“We’re a giant flippin’ country, you know?” Fu said. “What people are into elsewhere is not the localism, not the flavor, and it’s really important that we maintain our scant resources and expand upon them. It’s really important that this radio act went into play and we’ll hopefully have, in the next five years, an additional 3,000 community radio stations for local groups to reflect the interests of their local community.”
Media Island has been a catalyst for community media in the Olympia area—the group was the fiscal sponsor for the World Trade Organization launch of indymediaorg—and are currently supporting local organizations such as Food Not Bombs and international issues in South America. Current KOWA organizers are in contact with and streaming local independent media producers at Free Radio Olympia, Thurston County TV, and other outlets.
KOWA is also lending a helping to hand to fellow Evergreen students with internships and volunteer opportunities. They are looking for help with development, programming, fundraising and journalism, specifically news journalism.
Sarah Bradley, an intern who is on her way to becoming the developmental director, said that KOWA “wants people who are ambitious, interested in social justice, and perhaps in media and radio. We like people who are interested in communications, the community, etc.”
Currently, KOWA is looking for two interns and more interns for the spring and fall quarters of next year. More internships are available for those who want to apply, and can be found using TESC’s CODA system. KOWA does not ask for prior media or radio experience.
KOWA organizers are currently soliciting community input regarding ideas for programming and reaching out for fundraising. Organizers have also set a goal of raising $10,000 through both a live music event and a Kickstarter campaign.
The money they raise will go towards buying new equipment such as computers, cameras, microphones, headphones, computer programs and other multi-media equipment that is necessary for journalism, radio, and multi-media reporting. They also hope to set up KOWA’s transmitter with wind and solar energy so that KOWA can expand its audience while also working to be more sustainable and eco-friendly.
The narrative behind the fundraiser that KOWA, being a non-profit organization, is therefore underfunded. Basic equipment is vital, but KOWA also wants to power their radio station with solar energy. KOWA has the capacity to reach 80,000 people when they are powered properly.
Those interested in getting involved in participating at Media Island/KOWA or contributing financially can find out more by visiting Media Island’s website, mediaisland.org. Their office hours are from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. You can also reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org