Free Press' Craig Aaron on teaser for National Conference on Media Reform

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Craig Aaron.
Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, an organization devoted to changing media and technology policies, is among the headliners for "The Perfect Storm: Democracy in the Age of Big Money and Big Media," taking place tomorrow at the Tivoli Center. But while the event can certainly stand on its own, it also serves as a teaser for an even bigger extravaganza: the National Conference for Media Reform, which will bring many of progressive media's biggest names (and some other notable celebrities) to Denver in early April. Details and more about both events below.

"This is the sixth time we've done the conference, and we've done it all across the country," says Aaron, whose organization is headquartered in Massachusetts. "The aim is to bring together a lot of different people working on issues related to media, technology and democracy. We're hoping to build connections between activists, advocates and policy makers who care about better media and want to see a media system that reflects the needs of local communities, benefits and protects consumers, and nurtures and informs the citizenry. We believe that's a cornerstone of a functioning democracy."

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Amy Goodman.
Why was Denver chosen as the location for this year's conference? One reason was purely logistic: "It doesn't hurt that Colorado is in the middle of the country," and easily accessible to people on either coast, Aaron concedes.

In addition, "There are a lot of interesting things, and some problematic things happening in Denver media. It's a community where we've seen the shuttering of a daily newspaper" -- the Rocky Mountain News, which closed four years ago, just shy of its 150th anniversary -- "but also a flowering of independent and alternative media. The combination of the corporate media experience, good and bad, and all these other elements makes it a very interesting place. And politically, it's an incredibly important state. It's become something of a bellwether for the country in many ways. And for Free Press as an organization, we have a lot of dedicated activists in Colorado. So this is a chance to reach out to them as well."

The list of presenters for the conference is a virtual progressive-journo who's who, with participants including Amy Goodman and Juan González, co-hosts of Democracy Now, writer and cultural critic Jeff Chang, media expert Jeff Cohen and more, more, more.

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Michael Copps.
In addition, the conference has attracted a number of once and future policymakers, including former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who will also take part in tomorrow's "Perfect Storm" discussion along with host/syndicated columnist David Sirota and three other notable locals: onetime Denver Post columnist Susan Greene, who's now a reporter with the American Independent News Network, plus Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez and Sunlight Foundation consultant (and past Westword contributor) Nancy Watzman.

Tomorrow's gathering is "definitely designed to be a preview, a taste of the kind of issues we'll be talking about at the conference, but with even more of a local focus," Aaron acknowledges. "There will be sessions at the conference that will focus specifically on Colorado, but this event is intended to bring together these two worlds."

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Evangeline Lilly.
Also taking part in the conference are a number of people from the world of entertainment, including Evangeline Lilly, a TV icon for her key role on the series Lost, and West Wing regular Melissa Fitzgerald. What parts will they play at the conference?

Continue for more about tomorrow's "Perfect Storm" event and the National Conference on Media Reform.

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