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Indy at 15: Getting the Paper Started

Ana Nogueira Oct 8

The Indypendent’s very first meetings were held during the spring and summer of 2000. There were eight of us who would meet at each other’s houses. We were inspired by the global justice movement, which had erupted in the United States in November 1999 at demonstrations that shut down a summit meeting of the World Trade Organization. 

A groundbreaking new website, indymedia.org, had played a key role in the “Battle of Seattle” and again at the April 16, 2000 protests in Washington, D.C., that targeted the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. People around the world were challenging corporate-led globalization.

Being one of the first open publishing sites on the Internet, indymedia.org made it possible for protesters and their supporters to tell their side of the story by uploading articles, photos, audio and video, and thereby directly challenge the corporate media’s version of events. This was a huge breakthrough at the time. During the week of protests in Seattle, indymedia.org received more traffic than CNN’s website. Back at home in New York City, we wanted to create a local version of Indymedia that would serve as an enduring home for independent media activism. 

My personal first taste of rage against filtered journalism came during my junior year at SUNY-Purchase, a state college located an hour north of the city. I enrolled in the school’s new journalism program and became the first editor-in-chief of our student newspaper. We covered controversial issues such as police brutality, rape on campus and protests against the administration’s secret plan to build a huge art gallery in the middle of a student square.

On several occasions the journalism program director stole the final copy of the paper and edited it to put the college in a more positive light. I was outraged. This woman had enjoyed a distinguished career in journalism. She saw me as her protégé at first, and promised me a scholarship to the Columbia School of Journalism and an internship at the Wall Street Journal. But when I loudly protested her censorship of critical issues, she told me I was through, because “that’s not how the real world works.”

Shortly after I graduated college in 1999, I got a $500 grant from the Puffin Foundation to publish a DIY paper. We used that money to print the inaugural issue of The Indypendent, although that first issue was called The UNst8ed. It was published in conjunction with protests at the U.N. Millennium Summit, a gathering of world leaders that sought to give a veneer of legitimacy to a number of pro-corporate policies backed by wealthy nations. 

Honestly, the first issue looked terrible! Yet, when we handed it out people were very supportive of what we were trying to do. Someone who heard about what we were doing gave us free office space to work out of near 29th Street and Park Avenue, which was a game-changer for the project. 

After that first issue circulated, more people came to our meetings to work on the paper as well as start a video team and an internet radio station. The second issue — now called The Indypendent — also got a badly needed makeover!

When 9/11 happened a year later, we had already established a fairly regular publishing schedule. But the events of 9/11 pushed us to a whole new level. It is at times like these, when people are asking critical questions and the cracks in the system are visible, that independent media can make the biggest difference. The impact we made by distributing our post-9/11 special issues at Union Square, where ordinary people were asking extraordinary questions, is what truly ignited the passion for independent reporting that still shines in The Indypendent today. Please keep supporting this steadfast print publication!

A co-founder of The Indypendent, Ana Nogueira has worked as a video producer at Democracy Now! and directed the documentary film Roadmap to Apartheid. She is currently a core organizer of the Mayday Community Space in Bushwick, Brooklyn.


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