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Living Colour, Michael Madsen, and Rhody's new media

Rhode Island has seen its share of media strife in recent years.
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  June 24, 2009

The travails of the Providence Journal are the stuff of coffee house and talk radio chatter. And the troubles afflicting the local newscast fill the pages of this week's Phoenix.

Hell, we've had some belt-tightening of our own here on Chestnut Street.

But there are some interesting, new models sprouting amid the ruins. The web-savvy are, by now, quite familiar with the state's political blogs — on the left and anchor on the right, among others. And providencedailydose has built a formidable following with its ever-clever take on cultural and political happenings near and far.

But down in Little Compton, an interesting little experiment that may have escaped your notice:

Bill Via, founder of the site, has a background in big(ish) media. He was, a few years back, vice president of digital media for Spanish-language network Telemundo in Miami.

"I got tired of the whole mainstream media thing and was looking for a change," he said. And change he has found.

Indieoma, which bills itself as "an independent look at life through the prism of art and ideas," is a hard-to-pin-down, video-heavy mash up of black rockers discussing the legacy of Living Coloür, meditations on Italian mourning rituals, and interviews with B-List actors.

It is Michael Madsen, of Reservoir Dogs, discussing his Humphrey Bogart obsessions, the latest alt-rock out of Latin America and an amusing bit of cartoonery that contemplates the role of war, robots and mustaches in "Zee Future."

In one particularly madcap video, a group of Chicago activists sets up an anti-yeast protest outside a supermarket – pointing to Biblical broadsides against the leavening agent in a bid to undermine Bible-based critiques of homosexuality.

Via, who still does some freelance television work on the side, said the site is, in part, a reaction to a mainstream media that is too focused on regional audiences — that fails to understand the world-wide reach of the Web.

And his far-flung correspondents — he's got a regular contributor in Austin, Texas, another in Rome and a third in Brighton, England — reflects the site's global ambitions. But indieoma, launched in 2007, has made a nod to Via's environs of late.

A recent feature on Providence, which can still be found on the site's homepage, includes interviews with AS220 co-founder Bert Crenca and our own Chip Young and Rudy Cheeks, better known as columnists Phillipe & Jorge. (Chip: "Speak truth to power, always, and fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.")

There is also music and art from Jeff Soderbergh of Newport, a peek at a film about the youngest victim of the Station club fire, and an on-line chat with a couple of the folks behind — a nifty photo diary of Rhode Island.

"There's a lot of really great places outside the typical New York-Los Angeles-Berlin art centers," said Via, who moved to the Biggest Little in 2006 and has fairly fallen in love with the place.

But if indieoma is about a broader geography, it is also yet another statement on the growing fragmentation of the audience — on consumers breaking away from mainstream media and huddling around their own little interests.

"The control is continuing to shift to the audience, away from the publisher," Via said.

Of course, that makes it tough for publishers to make a living. And indieoma — a combination of the words "independent" and "idioma," Spanish for language — is a small, shoestring operation for now.

But Via hopes for more. There is always Hope in Rhode Island. 

Related: A Fighting Spirit, Exit Mr. Excitement, As the Pro Jo turns, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Culture and Lifestyle, Language and Linguistics, Media,  More more >
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