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Community Journalist? Meet the Writers Union

Given all the interest in community journalism, I thought that Hub contributors might want to be a local group of writers-- the Boston chapter of the National Writers Union. There's an event tomorrow where members will read from their published works, including Howard Zinn. Cambridge YMCA, 2pm - 5pm. Potluck: attendees are encouraged to bring food to share.

Postscript (Thursday): I thought I'd add a brief report on Sunday's meeting. There were over 60 people there, about 3/4 were woman, and just a few people overall were younger than thirty (such as myself). We shmoozed first while we sampled the vegetarian potluck spread. I mentioned to people that I had studied blogs, and I kept hoping to learn what professional writers though of them, but everybody had questions for me.

The main speaker was Howard Zinn, a longtime NWU member. What he said was not a surprise to anyone familiar with his politics. On one hand, he was still depressed by the elections of the U.S.-- and that's putting it mildy. On the other, he's very inspired by the level and breadth of activism in the U.S. and around the world, saying that it's even greater than it was in the 60's. On writing, he saluted those writers who are able to transcend national boundaries, citing Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Kingsolver, and Ha Jin as current favorites.

He also mentioned that he was very disappointed with the "mainstream media" (and later used the term "major media.") This was again no surprise to me, but it set up a question for me to ask. I pointed out that I keep hearing that the left dislikes the mainstream media, the right hates it, and when I was at a Harvard conference last month (which my report, as it turns out, was in the spirit of "A People's History") the mainstream media was was there as well, and they said they didn't like the mainstream media either. Getting my laughs, I then asked him whether he saw any hope in the "citizen's journalism that was happening on the Internet."

Zinn lit up. He was amazed at how many things were getting sent to him by email from all over the world, and felt that the level of activism we see in the world today couldn't be possible without the Internet. He explained that a former student of his forward it all to him-- I suppose that's the person who maintains his website. But he didn't speak at all about blogging or even the web, and is probably not up-to-date on the lingo, about the fact that citizen-journalism, in theory, is supposed to give voices to more regular people. I would have followed up, but he had to leave before the end.

We heard readings from more local authors, too: Clint Richmond, Political Places of Boston; Marjorie Stockford, The Bellwoman: The Story of the Landmark AT&T Sex Discrimination Case; Dan Gordon, Cape Encoutners: Contemporary Cape Cod Ghost Stories; Wafaa' Al-Natheema, Untamed Nostalgia: Wild Poems; Field C. Ruwe, Dying of Colors: From Diabolical Experiements to Human Genome; Jeannette Angell, CallGirl. I remember Jeannette's the best, but that's possibly because she read last.

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