“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”
Robert C. Gallagher
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
By Steve Klinger
Almost eight years ago, the United States had just begun visiting “Shock and Awe” upon Iraq. Less than two years removed from 9-11, the mainstream media were waving the flag as vigorously as the Bush administration, but even more sanctimoniously. Those of us protesting the war and the crackdown on free speech couldn’t get our rallies covered by area newspapers or television stations. We couldn’t even get a letter to the editor published.
So with an idea I had, and some generous help from a local group called PeaceAware and a few individuals, we published a little tabloid called Grassroots Press. The lead story and photographs were done by Thomas Wark, a retired editor with national credentials and a Pulitzer Prize to his name. The first issue, which might just as easily have been the last for all we knew, covered a university solidarity event and the growing peace movement in southern New Mexico and featured an article on the new “’peace candidate” for president, Dennis Kucinich. There was plenty of commentary on the stifling media atmosphere surrounding the war, a discussion of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of America, a warning about developmental threats to the Otero Mesa ecosystem. The centerspread featured photos and comments from community activists and why they were keeping vigil against the war – exactly the stuff the Sun-News and my former paper, the Bulletin, wouldn’t touch. On the back page was a People’s Guide to Internet Resources, an amazing URL list of alternative news and opinion sites, government agencies, social and economic justice sites and what we would soon be calling blogs.
Grassroots Press never grew very large, but we did find a way to keep it going, with a little advertising from local progressive businesses and candidates, subscriptions and some generous donations. Other than the printers and an underpaid graphic designer, the rest of us donated our services, though over time we were able to pay writers occasionally and sometimes find a little gas money for those who helped distribute the paper. I’ll confess, I became the benevolent dictator in charge of whipping up the bimonthly mix of articles, photos, ads and directories.
Over those eight years we tracked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and increasingly turned our attention to the growing social injustice and burgeoning violence on the border, and the resistance efforts of groups on either side, from the women’s weaving cooperatives in Chiapas to the besieged and bloodied residents of Lomas del Poleo and the victims of the violence in Juarez. We exposed military recruitment tactics in local public schools; we warned of the dangers of electronic voting machines; we examined the growing threats to civil liberties. Frequently we looked at the growth of militarism in New Mexico and threats to our environmental treasures. Increasingly, we documented efforts at localism, food security, recycling and sustainable energy practices in southern New Mexico.
A few years ago we explored the unsavory circumstances involving the State Land Office, a growth-oriented City Council and a local developer that led to the annexation of Vistas at Presidio. Soon we were in the thick of local political battles that, over a few election cycles, brought a progressive city government to Las Cruces. We supported progressive candidates on state and county levels and watched their efforts also meet with success.
The problems with accountability and transparency in local government have abated somewhat, and sustainability initiatives have increased. But the economy and the national political climate, not to mention the corruption in Santa Fe, brought a backlash at the polls last November and increasingly heated rhetoric on key issues in a divided state.
All the while, looming beyond the day-to-day stuff, the American empire continues its incremental implosion, the corporatists extend their malignant reach into every cranny of government, and the planet continues its slide toward eventual demise as a habitable environment – at least for Homo sapiens.
I won’t pretend there is no further need for the beacon we’ve tried to shine, but I will acknowledge that the time has arrived for me personally to go in a different direction, and thus this current issue will be the last print edition of Grassroots Press (unless a successor should step forward). The entire newspaper industry is shifting away from print as the Internet, computers, tablets, mobile and personal devices remake the media landscape. We will continue the Grassroots Press website from our new home in Santa Fe (no, we’re not going just to be near Susana), and we urge you to visit us at www.grass-roots-press.com and to continue sending your commentary, your articles, your letters and your announcements as we attempt to exert more of a statewide presence. I believe totally that legitimate grassroots journalism and political activism are the only avenues we have to defend and nurture what is left of our democracy, but I need to do my part in a different way.
There are far too many people to thank for me to list by name. You made it all possible, and you know who you are. Thank you, each and every one. Keep the torch burning.