NORWAY – Four panelists discussed the differences between mainstream and alternative news media at a Public Interest Forum here last week.

Political activist and former publisher of an anti-apartheid news publication, Ken Carstens, of Albany Township moderated the discussion and was a panelist as well. Open discussions of different aspects of an issue are as vital to a healthy society as clean air, water and food to individuals, he said.

Representing The Maine Commons, an alternative publication of Maine Independent Media Center in Waterville was Hillary Lister of Waterville. Judy Meyer of Buckfield, Sun Journal editorial page editor and Peter Lenz of Norway of the Broadside publication were the other panelists.

Lenz said his work has involved trying to find the truth from different people’s perspectives, including children’s. He said having a real democracy is contingent on people knowing the truth. As early as 5 years old, he said he knew the things his parents were saying about people of different color and religion were not true. Democracy can’t flourish with a poorly informed public, he said.

Lister said Maine Independent Media Center is part of a global media started in Seattle by activists who realized the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization wouldn’t get much coverage in the mainstream press. There are about 80 Independent Media Centers around the world, she said, each autonomous but with similar goals of covering issues of social and environmental justice and corporate control.

They don’t want the reputation of being anarchists, she said. Rather, they try to provide viewpoints not often seen in mainstream media.

She was involved in starting “The Maine Commons” in 2001 and said a diverse group of Maine writers, most with no specific media background, focus on viewpoints and stories that have been ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media.

“We’re calling for diversity in the media, not the end of any approach,” she said.

Meyer said the Sun Journal is a for-profit company with a primary interest in giving people what they want. It’s wrong to presume money is the driving force behind all conventional media, she said. There’s no greed in the aim of serving readers, she said, adding that the media and all market forces respond to customers.

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