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A Summer Well-Spent with The Indypendent

I learned that journalism by the people and for the people is possible.

Owen Schacht Aug 30

I had a history teacher in high school who emphasized that the purpose of news media is to provide people with information that allows them to make informed, up-to-date decisions about their lives, communities and societies. He also quoted Abbie Hoffman: “The idea that media is there to educate us, or to inform us, is ridiculous because that’s about 10th or 11th on their list.” 

How, I wondered, could this paradox be resolved?

Soon after, I discovered The Indypendent, a free monthly newspaper, website and radio show uncorrupted by corporate ownership. Picking up a free copy of The Indy brought me the voices of the people from the city I call home, and the reality that honest, independent journalism exists. That was the hook. During a summer interning with The Indy, I learned just how remarkable grassroots media really is.

In my initial interview with Editor-in-Chief John Tarleton and Associate Editor Amba Guerguerian, I noticed that this paper is powered by people who care deeply about social justice issues. Although they were my supervisors, John and Amba never embodied the “boss” persona. Nothing felt top-down; instead, it was a collaborative group working daily to produce news by the people, for the people. I never refused new opportunities to hone my journalism skills, but the fact that I felt I had a choice made doing the work a joy. 

There is no soulless, blue suit, 9-to-5 atmosphere at The Indypendent, only committed journalists working at all hours of the day.

During my internship, I stayed up-to-date on developing labor struggles around New York City and new policies to combat the climate crisis, spoke with lifelong anti-war activists, rethought policing and discovered the intricacies of contemporary Sri Lankan protests. I began my summer helping transcribe interviews, making social shorts from the weekly Indypendent News Hour, and monitoring several newsboxes around my neighborhood. I reveled in each experience. I learned more about ongoing world events by hearing from people on the ground. By working behind-the-scenes on The Indypendent News Hour, I stayed up to date about the Build Public Renewables Act, heard from New York City and state political candidates, listened to grassroots activists, and discovered local community issues around New York. One of my favorite aspects of working with The Indypendent was learning about and hearing from people I might not have ever encountered otherwise. 

I also helped tracking and upkeeping some of the more than 150 locations where physical copies of The Indy are available — newspaper boxes, libraries, coffee shops, laundromats and more. It was gratifying to know that I was a part of making it easier to consume free, progressive news. I was consistently able to realize my impact in relation to the newspaper and the people each story represents.

Later on in the summer, I got my first byline. I covered a town-hall forum that New York Senate candidate David Alexis and New York Communities for Change were hosting on public safety. This experience allowed me to hear from the Flatbush community as well as some of its members who have (non-NYPD-centric) plans to create a safer and more prosperous New York. 

Indypendent intern Owen Schacht marches with an inflatable B61-12 bomb in an anti-nuclear protest at the United Nations on Aug. 2.

In August, I covered an anti-war protest outside the United Nations and spoke with its organizers and veteran peace activists who attended. I met Anthony Donovan, a protester who embodied passion, sincerity and kindness. Donovan, who has cared for nuclear victims, explained some of the science behind the terrifying weapons, introduced me to compelling people and became a friend. At the protest, I sang songs with grandmothers, danced to Anthony’s harmonica, helped march an inflatable B61-12 thermonuclear bomb down the United Nations Plaza and leered at police officers (who ended up arresting 11 demonstrators).

There is no soulless, blue suit, 9-to-5 atmosphere at The Indypendent, only committed journalists working at all hours of the day. Those who fight for peace, the betterment of the working class and the overall improvement of life for all people rarely see their stories highlighted on 6 o’clock new hours or on the cover of The New York Times. At The Indy, there is an emphasis on highlighting real and relevant stories, no matter their relation to a quarterly earnings report. Everything The Indypendent produces is free to consume, and the work going towards its production is often produced by volunteers. This newspaper is run by people who believe in the media’s mission. I will forever cherish this experience of working with a collective driven not by profit but by a focus on creating independent, easily-accessible, free media.

Please support young reporters today! With 22 years of inspiring journalists to write about the topics that they feel most connected to, The Indypendent is still standing but it’s not easy. Make a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and get every copy sent straight to your home. 

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