St. Louis progressives pull together to improve on-line and on-the-street presence

A diverse group of more than 65 progressive bloggers and activists gathered on Saturday, Dec. 11 to pool their ideas for more effective ways to push the politically left agenda in the St. Louis area.

Coordinated by Adam Shriver, of St. Louis Activist Hub, the all-day meeting at the Regional Arts Center in the Delmar Loop brought together an enthusiastic and engaged who’s-who of area progressive organizations and bloggers: Organizations represented included Missouri Jobs with Justice, West County Democrats, the Sierra Club, Missourians for Honest Elections, Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Planned Parenthood, Amnesty International, NAACP and Missouri Votes Conservation, to name only a few. The progressive blogosphere was another highly visible presence [Show Me Progress, Fired Up! Missouri, Momcrats and more], as were individual activists whose efforts focus on LGBT rights, public education, retired citizens, jobs, the arts, environmental justice, media reform and peace.

At a morning panel discussion of the state of Missouri politics, participants got an inside look at the issues that promise to dominate progressive activism and blogging in 2011: Missouri’s looming budget and revenue shortfall; ultra-conservative Rex Sinquefield’s proposed “mega” sales tax to replace the state income tax; the fight to maintain Missouri’s minimum wage and to beat back an effort to turn Missouri into a “right to work” [for less], anti-union state.

“We have to help make Missourians smarter about the issues,” said Lara Granich, executive director of Missouri Jobs With Justice, when the panel was asked to talk about a role for progressive activists. “We need to mix on-line organizing with face-to-face activism.”

St. Louis Activist Hub’s Adam Shriver offered an answer to that call to action when, later in the program, he unveiled Forward StL, a new website that “aggregates” articles on progressive issues posted by bloggers and mainstream media sources from throughout the St. Louis region.

“The deck is stacked against Democrats and progressives, not by accident or because the message from the Right is better, but because conservatives have spent the past 30 years developing a unified voice and a network to deliver their message,” said Shriver. Adding that mainstream media outlets can’t be relied upon to report on progressive ideas or events, Shriver called the Forward StL website “a way to get our message out without having to rely on the mainstream media. It’s a way to publicize events, cover events and to offer an incentive for progressive-minded people to start producing more content.”

Officially launched at the December 11 meeting, Forward StL will be a “curated” site that will gather internet “feeds” from a wide range of local news sources and blogs and highlight those that focus on local issues otherwise under- or unreported in traditional media. The site will cover issues such as state and local legislation, elections, LGBT rights, environmental concerns, politics, employment, jobs and many others of importance to the progressive community. The site will be updated daily, with the mix of articles determined by the information that flows in, says Shriver.

The day-long gathering also featured break-out workshops designed to: help bloggers draw more attention to their sites via search engines; help activists document events using video and audio; and encourage progressive bloggers and activists to strengthen their political presence by networking and collaborating.