DC may claim a lot of brainpower, but when it comes to public radio and television, the experts are all over the country. A lot of innovation for the future of journalism exists in the web producers, reporters and audiophiles at affiliate public news stations in cities like Fort Wayne, St. Paul, and San Jose. These were the kinds of experts that converged atPublic Media Camp this weekend at American University in Washington, D.C.
I spent the whole weekend with web developers, show producers and social media managers in the public media sector. (I do not work for PBS or NPR, but to clarify, I attended the first-ever national Public Media Camp last year under the auspices of the NPR intern program.) Other “Public Media Enthusiasts” showed up, too, to offer insight as fellow non-profiteers, audience members or social media explorers. This year I was back as a groupie. I made myself useful registering participants via EventBrite check-in. And I played Official Stenographer for about 4 different sessions using a shared Google Group document (all docs are public records here).
How PubCamp Worked
As is typical with the format of an “unconference,” we suggested and voted on session ideas each morning. This flexibility allows for a casual, creative environment. The PubCamp Field Guide offers a starting point if this sounds like a lot of jargon to you. PubCamp also set up a Dev Lounge all day for hackers to collaborate (they even produced a NPR WordPress Plugin). PubCamp’s focus on was a combination of topics centered on local (“How does public media collaborate with libraries?”), demographics (“How can gaming reach marginalized communities?”), crisis communications (“How do handle a revolt?” ala Juan Williams) and products (“What kinds of media learning tools can we build for kids?”).
The Neighborly Project / Civic Engagement
In a pre-PubCamp session with Steven Clift, founder of e-Democracy which runs Locals Online, an online community forum. I learned about his efforts to use the Internet to connect with those in closest proximity. That’s counterintuitive to the Internet’s origins, which focused on decentralized connections. But there is definitely power in groups – geographic groups, that is. DC’s neighborhoods are actually living proof of that…
At PubCamp, I discovered that Cleveland Park in D.C. has one of the longest-running neighborhood listservs in the U.S. (Guess it’s the proximity to politics that inspires engagement at the local level!). The listserv, run by Bill Adler, is memorable for their extensive list of rules. Hat tip goes to the blogger atWard3Dc, who attended PubCamp and told me this nugget of history.
Questions For DC’s Neighborhoods
Is DC transient? Yes. But it’s a very connected culture. High-powered professionals, govies and interns tote smartphones left and right. But what about native Washingtonians? Or people who stay here longer than 5 years? There are two issues in my mind:
- How does DC address the digital divide? How do we improving media resources and accessibility? DC has an excellent system of library branches. But what about youth who have limited internet? What can we do to bridge this gap? One PubCamp session, led by librarian Phil Shapiro, focused on the role of libraries as a community center with resources. (What if we loaned out video equipment? What would that look like?)
- Do DCists know their neighbors? – And I’m not just talking about Metro courtesies; I mean, do we take an extra step to get know our neighbors? Do transient Gen Yers stick around long enough to know the local businesses? Gen-Y’ers know how to connect with one another, but are likely to know other people in their apartment building or rowhouse? People outside their age bracket or background? Do people ever ask their neighbor for a cup of sugar anymore? (Shoot, my idealist streak is showing through!)
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, and I understand that neighborhoods shape and morph over time. I toss out these questions/issues not because I’m an expert, but because I think they’re topics relevant to residents of Washington, D.C. My guess is that, like most things, there is plenty of room for improvement.