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SLU independent alternative media group launches fundraising project

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CANTON — A St. Lawrence University group is seeking financial help to tie together the loose ends left behind by global mainstream media.

The Weave, an alternative-news website started by students in one of John M. Collins’s global studies classes, is raising money on the Internet to help support its bloggers, to host events and to buy equipment for an interview studio.

“Students became frustrated with critiquing the mainstream media,” Mr. Collins said. “We came up with an idea for a blog-based online news operation, focusing on the investigation of underreported stories.”

The group is using crowd-sourcing site IndieGoGo to raise funds in small increments. So far it has raised $500 of its $5,000 goal.

Though Mr. Collins, chairman of St. Lawrence’s global studies program, maintains the role of project director and contributes a blog to the site, the Weave is run mostly by students and alumni.

“Weavers are diverse,” said Lukasz W. Niparko, public relations coordinator. “They believe media should be democratic, that stories and peoples should have equal representation. Most media is owned by big corporations and is purely profit driven.”

The students believe that the mainstream media fail to adequately report important stories around the globe, including the use of solitary confinement in American prisons, the establishment of ethnic and religious segregation in Israel and the controversy over the policies of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

“In our interviews, we ask about underreported stories,” blogger Tzintzun Aguilar-Izzo said. “Almost everyone has a different answer. There are thousands of underreported stories.”

One reason stories are allowed to fall through the cracks is the focus on national and parochial political battles on cable news and on social media, Mr. Aguilar-Izzo said.

“We do exist in a world where things go viral,” he said. “The Weave moves through human connection. We’re creating a web of familiar people — you know the people. I think to some degree that makes it more powerful.”

“The Big Question,” an interview series curated by Mr. Aguilar-Izzo, asks guest thinkers to opine on controversial issues, then posts their answers to the site. The feature includes personalities such as late New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, Indian physicist and activist Vendana Shiva and journalist and environmentalist Bill McKibben discussing climate change, gender equality issues and the survival of capitalism, among other issues.

“We’re building a huge archive of short responses to important questions,” Mr. Collins said. “We make this stuff available. If someone is teaching a class or writing a blog, they can link to these statements.”

The group uses blogs to disseminate information, for the most part eschewing media such as print and radio, and leaving behind the traditional reporter’s creed of credibility through objectivity.

“The Weave believes credibility cannot exist because we are all people with the luggage of experiences,” Mr. Niparko said. “We seek what you think about things. The objectivity is there, but it is your objectivity.”

Alison L. Paludi, a Duanesburg native, said the group accepts contributors from off campus in the north country and around the world.

“We look for people from a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “We have a simple process for people who want to submit, but first they have to check out the website.”

The organization needs money to keep up with changing technology, Mr. Niparko said.

“In the mainstream media you see change happening over the years, slowly, from the printing press to the Internet to tablets,” he said. “Change to alternative media happens daily — we learn how to blog, we learn how to edit video, we educate, and education needs tools.”

The funds they raise will help expand the project, Ms. Paludi said.

“It will help put the Weave on a different level,” she said. “We will get a professional interview room. We want to provide bloggers with some sort of fellowship or grant opportunity so they can travel. This will set us apart from what’s been done in the past.”

The students generally present their viewpoints from a liberal perspective, but Mr. Collins said bloggers of all political beliefs are welcome.

“We would be accepting of anybody,” he said. “Anybody who could make a case that they have a story which has been underreported.”

The fundraising campaign ends April 14. To donate to the Weave, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-weave-mediocracy-unspun?c=home.

ON THE WEB: http://www.weavenews.org

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