As Detroit's Water Department continued to cut off water to many poor residents delinquent on their water bills, about 3,000 delegates gathered in the Motor City for the annual Netroots Nation conference. The conference was originally launched by writers and readers of the political blog Daily Kos
. It has since grown into or one of the largest civil society conferences in the US. Prominent conference speakers included Vice President Joe Biden
, Reverend William Barber
, leader behind North Carolina's Moral Mondays movement, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
The highlight of the conference came when out-of-towners from Netroots joined Detroit locals for a rally downtown Detroit on July 18th to urge the city to turn on the taps to thirsty families
and recognize water as a human right. The city's Water Department has said it has given people enough time to pay their bills and that it must balance its books. Critics counter the city has not cut off water to some corporate debtors with the largest delinquent water bills totaling $30 million, and that the city's poor delinquent residents — many of them jobless or living paycheck-to-paycheck — have not gotten the same accommodations or extra time to pay up.
The NWU was there, alongside social justice advocates, labor and grassroots organizers, technologists from across the country. We chatted with bloggers, authors and other conference-goers about the NWU's work to advocate for writers' rights and foster a social and professional community for freelance, business and technical, and self-published bloggers, writers and book authors. NWU members from the Southeast Michigan Chapter backed up the effort at the NWU table, signing up new members and sharing information about issues we care about. Also in attendance was a well-known commentator and podcast host, NWU member Monica RW, owner of Independent Underground News & Talk
(IU News & Talk), a top political podcast in Michigan. Listen to her radio roundup of the conference on Soundcloud
and catch the podcast every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 a.m ET. Follow IU News & Talk on Twitter here
Many people we spoke with were surprised to learn that NWU's only requirement for membership is that writers have published three works in their entire lives or have a work they would like to publish someday. We also talked with them about a major issue in the future of online publishing and digital information mining: the open question of what will happen to so-called “orphan works” when original authors can't be identified for one reason or another (possibly by the very party interested in profiting from the work).
Southeast Michigan Chapter Chair Alecia Goodlow-Young was a driving force behind NWU's success at Netroots Nation
. She organized local NWU members to sit at the table. She actively promoted the value of writers both
at the conference and off-site, sharing information about NWU with the valet at the hotel (who knew a writer) and tourists at the Motown Museum. She also befriended NWU's conference table neighbors: cutting-edge technologists whose start-up Action Network
ended up sweeping top prizes for best overall technology and best start-up technology in a vote by attendees. The interface enables organizing, mass mailing, and fundraising and is free to individuals and groups.
Resoundingly, writers who visited the NWU at Netroots want better conditions for freelance writers and bloggers. They realize bloggers and writers are creating economic value. Writers should be paid. NWU will continue to work to grow our membership with the goal of building a world where writers and other creators are compensated for their creative work, which contributes so much to a flourishing and vibrant culture.