Boston Pubcamp? Yes!

Last fall, some folks working in new media for NPR, PBS and CPB convened in Washington D.C. for the first PubCamp. Using the principals for structuring an unconference, the organizers let it ride with the warning, “If this sucks, it’s because you suck (laughter), but we know that’s not gonna happen.” And so sessions were proposed and new relationships were forged between people from different stations as they addressed the challenges of creating good digital media for public news organizations.

What journalists are realizing is that collaboration with those in the digital realm and with the online public is the key to survival. Maybe we always knew this, but didn’t have such a strong need to put it into practice before. Now we are seeing more conferences to introduce developers to producers (have you heard about Hacks/Hackers yet? Awesome!), editors to social media makers, videographers to reporters, etc.. The ability to create and post online has made the possibilities for partnerships endless.

A few of us in the conversations that have lived on since PubCamp DC have planned follow up camps in other regions. Ten stations were awarded scholarships to plan follow up camps across the country, but no, Boston isn’t one of the places.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t convene the incredible media makers in the region, from the news organizations as well as independents.

So we’re going to talk about it over beers this week. If you have any interest in participating or getting in on a real planning meeting (date tbd), then email me at annieshreff (at) gmail.

Here’s a vimeo introduction to pubcamp.

***UPDATE (August 3)***

Yes! Boston Pubcamp!

Some public media staff have met with interested independent and community newsmakers and have a plan for a local pubcamp.  The planning committee includes folks from WGBH, WBUR,, PRX and PEG access stations in Brookline and Cambridge.

On August 21, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., WGBH will play host to the first local PubMediaCamp in our area. Here is the link to register for your free tickets (lunch is also provided), and you can add your name, propose sessions or send us your comments on the wiki . See you there!



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More on Detroit

Me/ JTM content/church window. Flickr image by Sally Garden.

I’ve had a lot on my mind since I spent a few June days in Detroit. To process what I learned and keep some of my promises, I’ve participated in a group forum, introduced colleagues, talked and tweeted with other media makers and filled out a survey explaining what made the time “powerful” for me. That’s a good word to describe the four days that journalists and media people “conspired” (to quote one of the organizers), in the formerly holy space of St. Andrews on the Wayne State campus. In a church without its pews or pulpit, we journalists talked about our survival.

Now my ideas have stewed a bit, the dust kicked up has found new places to settle and in a few forthcoming posts I can share with some clarity a few of the more potent lessons that I took away from the conference titled, “Create or Die”.

First, the welcome. The greeting from the director of the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State, Alicia Nails,  caught my attention. I later told Alicia that I could listen to her all day. Her presence and her voice filled the space.  She took the microphone with a gracious nod,  looked at each of us seated in a circle surrounding her and told us we were in a city with a global reputation.  She charged us to be mindful of whose town we were in and asked us to be open to learning things about Detroit that might challenge our perceptions, built with images and reports from an unfair news media. Later, at our gathering on day four, she  asked that we perform acts of journalism in the memory of our time together. That became my benediction. Before I left, I asked her to repeat part of her welcome, just to give you a sense of her poetic style.

Professor Nails, Flickr image by ScottKMacklin

With an even longer view, Grace Boggs, a 95 year-old activist from the motor city, echoes Nails. She has seen the waves of prosperity, desperation and hope visit her city. She tells Yes! Executive Editor Sarah van Gelder:

Detroit was once the national and international symbol of the miracles of industrialization and then became the national and international symbol of devastation of deindustrialization. Now it is becoming the national and international symbol of a new way of living-of great transformation. [article: Detroit’s Renewal: Can it inspire the Social Forum]

It was that same sprout of hope and renewal that brought JTM to Detroit. It was also a sense of justice. There are community leaders and journalists in that city who want to tell more stories that represent the residents. The people there want to see stories about what’s working alongside the important stories of  the car industry’s peril, the crime and the desolation. They want the corruption covered as well as the cultural events. Most importantly, however, they want the videos, articles, newscasts, broadcasts or podcasts to come from within the city limits. For too long, they say, journalists have parachuted into the hot spots of Detroit from the safety of their suburban towns or other major cities. Many locals attending the conference even consider the TIME Inc. experiment, a house purchased for reporters to use when they’re in the city, an epic fail. Attendees pointed out that no one actually lives there all the time. Certainly no reporters have stayed long enough to invite the neighbors in or become part of the local channels of communication.

There are journalists in Detroit who want that TIME house and want the megaphone to tell the world their story. What I learned in Detroit is that true understanding of a place comes from taking time to touch, smell, feel and hear that place and listen to the stories of its people.  I understand better now how different I am from a resident of Detroit, and I know there are ways to work with the people there to nurture Detroit’s sprout of hope into a towering tree with deep roots and branches that reach up with hope into heaven.

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Promises I made at Journalism that Matters: Detroit (June 2010)

I had the privilege of spending four enriching days in Detroit with journalists and media makers from around the U.S. for the latest conference on Journalism that Matters. It was at various times intense, exciting, exhausting and enlightening. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see Motor City. I’ve already had an opportunity to talk with someone about my time there. After a comment about how at least she could afford a house in Detroit, I told her to go for it!

The residents of Detroit who I met care passionately about their home and how they are perceived by the rest of the country. I was treated to a driving (of course!) tour by Alicia Buggs, a government employee who spends her days fighting for the rights of the elderly, and strives to become a journalist on her own time.  It was important to her to use some of that time to show a few of us what her home really looks like.  We enjoyed a great dinner along the Detroit River as the city geared up for its popular air races.

What I take away from Detroit are good memories, new friends and many lessons in approaching community to report their stories and their news. What I left with those I met are many promises. Here’s the list I jotted down on my plane ride home. Forgive the bullet points, Jenny Lee!

  • To keep in touch–with colleagues and with JTM’s Google Group
  • To mentor another in new or social media
  • To “rock SPJ‘s boat”
  • To visit Detroit again
  • To share my audio and photos
  • To attend another JTM conference
  • To connect people I know to people I met
  • To take and post session notes!
  • To pitch the story of Red Ink
  • To share my work
  • To ask for help
  • To join the KIVA group to fund new journalism projects
  • To keep in touch with Sonya and her Community News site
  • To practice journalism in remembrance of my time in Detroit


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Strutting our Crowdsourcing Stuff today

I am very pleased to be part of WNYC’s efforts to package our crowdsourcing hybrid reporting model to share with other public media stations. I hope this will open up more community reporting opportunities and bring more people into the storytelling ring to share their experience and their views.

Have questions about this method? Hit me up with questions by posting them below. I’ll try to add them to the Fieldguide’s FAQ as we develop that also!

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No time like NOW to give authority to the truth

I wasn’t particularly struck by this article in Salon about a new book on conspiracy theories until I read the last line, stated by the book’s author.

David Aaronovitch: When there is no authority to the truth, prejudices thrive.

I feel that statement’s weight as I grow concerned about the fear mongering we all hear about, or when I get another liberal-hating joke emailed to me from a family member.

I pause and wonder how my voice can speak not just truth-to-power, but truth-to-overwhelming noise on television, radio and the internet.

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It’s a grim argument against crowd sourcing

In case you don’t follow Clay Shirkey on Twitter, I noticed that he sent this tweet out, interestly, without comment:

cshirky “Many of Moore’s eye-witness tweets from Ft. Hood had no value whatsoever, except as entertainment and tragi-porn.”

Here is the article:  NSFW: After Fort Hood, another example of how ‘citizen journalists’ can’t handle the truth by Paul Carr. He also says in it:

Two weeks ago, I wrote here about how the ‘real time web’ is turning all of us into inhuman egotists. How we’re increasingly seeing people at the scene of major accidents grabbing their cellphones to capture the dramatic events and share them with their friends, rather than calling 911.

That reminded me of a traumatic moment I had at Grand Central the day a steam pipe burst, killing one driver and injuring dozens. The ground was shaking, the noise was tremendous, some people were running past me like startled deer….and there was a group of people standing in the street, shooting the swirling tower of steam with their cell phones. They were oblivious of the danger or fear around them. Knowing it was their first response within minutes of the event, it was an odd site. (However, thanks to one of them, I’m able to link to a scene of the event and give you more context!)

The level of protest like Carr’s is rising against news organizations working with everyday people who happen to be armed with recording equipment. Perhaps it’s partly motivated by journalists feeling a desire for job protection, but there is also truth to what Carr says. This is an important conversation for journalists to have now, especially if any of us want to use crowd source reporting for real, going forward.  It’s an evolving form of journalism, so it is important for us to help define it–on air, via twitter, etc.

I’d be curious to hear other journalists’ responses to Carr’s argument. My response? The tools are out there. The “reporting” is going to happen. Here is our opportunity to talk with potential amateur reporters about the real Elements of Journalism and empower them to respond to events with the genuine instincts of a reporter as explained in Rosensteil & Kovach’s book. I say invite them to work with us. Devote the time to  proper training, both passively through broadcast and directly through meet-ups and station or newsroom talks open to the public.

If you didn’t watch the video by This American Life at the end of Carr’s post, it’s too much to explain, but one troubling scene is when the school administration decides the best way to handle all this “reporting” by the students is to destroy their homemade cameras. Trying to dampen any person’s impulse to share the story of what they witness, I think, is a terrible idea, and one we have seen many governments select as the most effective and even “moral” option. I would prefer to spend my time encouraging more people to participate in the elements of life around them and arm them to properly use the social tools we now have. We are in an exciting time of civic life, where more information is perhaps the cause of more participation. That can’t be a bad thing.


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No Impact Week

Yes, I joined the 4000 who have signed up to experiment with the Huffington Post to imitate Collin Beavan’s year of livinoimpactng a life on the planet with zero impact. No, not a gimmick, and yes, harder than it sounds.

I’ll be adding blog posts and comments on the Massachusetts group site. Already, this experiment has compelled me to buy produce with no packaging from a nearby farm and start a tiny pile of compost.  I’ll blog & take photos as I try to adjust–even small changes require an adjustment in expectations and planning.

Why did I join? A lot of what Collin attempted to do for one year is the same in philosophy as what I enjoy about the Mennonites’ beliefs and practices, and it reminds me of the life I didn’t even realize I had forgotten about, growing up each summer on my grandparents’ farm. I know these old ways that are better for the planet, better for my health and better for my family. I feel like I’m going home.

There is another reason for me to join: this is the kind of journalism I most want to be part of and it is instructive for me to be on the citizen end for a time. Already I understand a lot more about the level of commitment and the effort it requires for each participant to make a meaningful contribution. I also see how important it is for each of us to have a forum for connecting to each other and sharing ideas/photos/comments spontaneously.

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