Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Armed Madhouse” (Penguin Paperback 2007). When Palast, an investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering, turned his skills to journalism, he was quickly recognized as, “The most important investigative reporter of our time” [Tribune Magazine] in Britain, where his first reports appeared on BBC television and in the Guardian newspapers.

Palast is best known in the USA as the journalist who, for the Observer (UK), broke the story of how Jeb Bush purged thousands of Black Florida citizens from voter rolls before the 2000 election, thereby handing the White House to his brother George. His reports on the theft of election 2004, the spike of the FBI investigations of the bin Ladens before September 11, the secret State Department documents planning the seizure of Iraq’s oil fields have won him a record six “Project Censored” for reporting the news American media doesn’t want you to hear. “The top investigative journalist in the United States is persona non grata in his own country’s media.” [Asia Times.] He returned to America to report for Harper’s Magazine.

Keynote will be hosted by Chuck Mertz, host of “This is Hell”


Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning award of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, among other books.  He blogs regularly for Huffington Post.  His website is: www.jeffbiggers.com

Rebecca S.A. Connie is currently a film and video M.F.A. candidate at Columbia College Chicago. She strives to use art as a tool for activism, education, and communal solidarity. Classically trained in the theatre arts, she received a B.A. in media studies and anthropology from DePaul University. She has primarily worked with youth and young adults for Chicago Public Schools, Gallery 37, DePaul University, and Columbia College. She has produced both narrative and documentary films, covering such topics as autism, urban education, and contemporary materialism. rebecca is currently working on an independent documentary concerning the idealistic notions of motherhood and mental health.

Malkia A. Cyril is the Executive Director and founder of the Center for Media Justice.  With more than 15 years’ experience as a community organizer, strategist, and communications expert, Malkia has worked with organizations such as the Applied Research Center, We Interrupt This Message, and the Community Organizing Team, and has partnered closely with Consumer’s Union, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Media and Democracy Coalition, Public Knowledge, the Media Access Project, and Free Press. Malkia has led dozens of community campaigns; is the author of numerous essays and articles on media, marginalization, and movement-building; and motivates the building of popular movements through the delivery of training, public speeches, and strategic consultation. For more, visit centerformediajustice.org.

Tiara Epps has had a passion for documentary film making since she was a senior in high school. She produced her first documentary “Stop The Violence,” in 2008, where she took it upon herself to go out on the streets of Chicago and ask people what they think is causing so much senseless crime. She is currently attending the Illinois Institute of Art with a focus in documentary production and enjoys working with youth to find out how to better their communities. Tiara is also a founding member of Beyondmedia Education’s Chain of Change Youth Leadership Council.

Karen Ford is 3rd Vice President of the National Writers Union, UAW 1981.  The union is comprised of over 1,500 members across the US who are freelance writers in every genre.  She also serves as the co-chair of the National Community Action Program committee and is a member of the Chicago chapter’s steering committee.  Ford is a member of the Association for Women Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists (Chicago Headline Club), the North American Region of the World Association of Christian Communicators and the United Association for Labor Educators.

Andrew Huff is editor and publisher of Gapers Block, a Chicago-centric web publication he co-founded in 2003 with designer Naz Hamid. The site has a volunteer staff of around 75, and has received accolades ranging from top news-reporting blog in Chicago Magazine’s recent “Best Chicago Websites” feature to being named one of the best city blogs in Forbes.com’s “Best of the Web.” Andrew has been blogging since January 2001, and in addition to Gapers Block is now a full-time professional blogger and social media consultant after 10 years in public relations. Blogging clients have included American Express, Starwood Hotels, A&E television and Kenneth Cole.

Brad Lichtenstein has produced for FRONTLINE and Bill Moyers.  With Lumiere Productions he produced many films, including With God on Our Side: The History of the Religious RightAndré’s Lives, a portrait of the “Jewish Schindler;” The Discovery Channel’s Safe, about domestic violence; PBS’s Caught in the Crossfire, about 3 Arab New Yorkers after 9/11; the PBS series Local News, and the BBC/Court TV co-production ofGhosts of Attica, for which he was awarded a Dupont.   Most recent was Almost Home, a PBS Independent Lens documentary about people who live and work in a elder-care community.  He is currently producing a PBS documentary that will follow the community of Janesville, WI for two years to see how it recovers from the loss of its century-old GM plant, and What We Got:  DJ Spooky’s Journey Through the Commons, a documentary/fiction hybrid about the over-privatization of what belongs to all of us:  our commons.  Brad founded docUWM, a documentary center based at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has directed many community engagement campaigns associated with his films.

Tara Malik received her B.F.A. in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology and has used photography as a tool for expression, education, and activism for the past 15 years. An educator and organizer of urban youth photography programs, she helped form The New Orleans Kid Camera Project, a community-based arts program created to address the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on children returning home to New Orleans. Tara is co-founder of the New Orleans-based youth media nonprofit One Bird and received her M.A.M. degree at Columbia College, Chicago in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management, specializing in Arts in Youth and Community Development.

Victor M. Montanez is a lifelong artist. His Know Art paintings, an original art form he developed and calls “Empowerment Art” for the distinct feature of allowing viewers to display the same artwork in multiple arrangements, each arrangement depicting various protagonists, can be found in various places around the country. Chicago and the surrounding area have the most on display. He is also a nationally recognized expert on educational policy and urban school reform.

Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor of In These Times, where he has worked since 1983. He is the host of “The Salim Muwakkil” show on WVON, Chicago’s historic black radio station, and he wrote the text for the book HAROLD: Photographs from the Harold Washington Years. Muwakkil has also written for the Washington Post, Chicago Reader, The Progressive, Newsday, Cineaste, Chicago Magazine, the Baltimore Sun, Z Magazine, the Toronto Star, Emerge Magazine, The Black Scholar, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Utne Reader.

James Owens is an organizer, media coordinator, and researcher active in movements against war and for housing and human rights. His Master’s Thesis research analyzed the racial and economic politics of professional journalism. He authored research articles including ‘Chicago Tonight: Elites, Affluence, and Advertising’ (Chicago Media Action), ‘Mumia Abu-Jamal: The ABC Hatchet Job’ (CovertAction Quarterly), and co-authored ‘Journalism’ for the International Encyclopedia of Communication. A co-founder of peace and media organizations including Chicago Media Action, he previously was a member of Union for Democratic Communication and the National Communication Association.

Gordon Quinn is an artistic director and founding member of Kartemquin Films who has been making documentaries for over 40 years. He executive produced Kartemquin’s best-known film, Hoop Dreams (1994) and has also executive produced Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, The New AmericansMilking the Rhino, and At the Death House Door. He is a supporter of public and community media and was a key leader in the development of the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use and he frequently speaks to media, legal, and educational communities educating them on the fundamental rights detailed in the fair use doctrine he has worked to preserve.

Scott Sanders co-founded a number of media activist organizations, led efforts to constitute public community media centers with member elected boards, and to increase diversity on non-elected public media boards. He also led campaigns resulting in the only FCC fine of a major public tv station concerning commercialism. He is a video documentarian and periodicals and technology librarian producing research for MMTC, MAP, and the University of Chicago, and author of articles for Z magazine, FAIR, Extra!, and a number of daily newspapers.

Paul Street is a radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, and speaker based in Iowa City, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois.  He is the author of four books to date: Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: a Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) and Barack Obama & the Future of American Politics. Street’s essays, articles, reviews, and commentaries have appeared in numerous outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, Capital City Times, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Times, WGN, Al Jazeera, In These Times, Black Agenda Report, Dissident Voice, Black Commentator, Monthly Review, AlterNet, and (above all) ZNet and Z Magazine.

Tracy Van Slyke has the Director of The Media Consortium–a network of the nation’s leading, independent, progressive media outlets—that amplifies independent media’s voice, increases its collective clout, leverages current audiences and reaches new ones and seizes the current moment to change debate in this country. She is a frequent writer on the future of journalism, use of social media, and the impact of progressive media and recently co-wrote the book, “Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media,” with Jessica Clark. She has dedicated her career as a journalist, communications professional and media producer to building a strong independent media infrastructure and believes the progressive media landscape must be strengthened.


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