Sunday, March 04, 2007

TBABJ Multimedia Workshop - Tampa Tribune

Ken Knight(L) and Eric Deggans (R)Saturday morning I attended an online multimedia workshop sponsored by The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists.

The workshop was held at the Tampa Tribune, and was moderated by Ken Knight, TBABJ Treasurer and multimedia editor for the Tampa Tribune/WFLA-Ch. 8/; Eric Deggans, TBABJ president and creator of The Feed media blog and Steve Echevarria, feature writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The event was well attended, with local newspapers, radio stations, bloggers and independent journos represented. The discussion began with an intoduction to the nuts and bolts of daily blogging by St. Petersburg Times TV and Media critic Eric Deggans. Donavan Myrie from UT talked about convergence and synergy. Steve Echevarria presented his 'path of least resistance' approach to producing multimedia content and talked about the timeline for development of several interesting projects including an online version of the special issue What is Hip Hop.

There was a lot of talk about expanding multimedia offerings on traditional platforms and some talk about the advantages of a blogs (ie. interactivity, immediacy, community). Eric, Ken and Steve kept things moving and still managed to entertain a few rounds of good questions ranging in topic from content choices to editorial process to the best free open source audio editor to the best feed generator.

This was a great way to spend a Saturday in Tampa - and a fine opportunity for folks in this community who are thinking about and producing multimedia content to put their heads together.

Special thanks to Eric, Ken and Steve, The Trib and TBABJ for hosting and providing a such cool forum for networking and the exchange of ideas. Great job guys.

TBABJ MySpace page

Friday, March 02, 2007

MacArthur awards Open Source $250K for Internet Based Tools and the Production of a Daily Radio Program

Congratulations to Chris Lydon, Brendan Greeley and the whole gang at Open Source!
from Brendan:
I spent a lot of time at the Integrated Media Conference in Boston last week answering questions from public radio people about what we do. MacArthur has decided to support us for the same reason; we’re developing tools at Open Source that are going to be useful in the future to a lot of people. People in public radio, people in public television, people tiptoeing toward that fantastic beast we’re beginning to call “public media.”

So expect a lot of development activity in the next two or three months. If you care about the structure of the community, by all means keep letting us know what improvements you’re looking for.

When can we bring these guys to Tampa?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Latest Reading: "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug

This book by usability guru Steve Krug arrived this afternoon from Amazon.

It came highly recommended as a "must read" from a slew of webheads at the IMA. I hope to get to it by this weekend. Will report back.

Interview with Steve Krug.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Beyond Broadcast - Henry Jenkins Kicks Digital Keister

The Stata Center at MITWhen I got to the Stata Center at MIT for Beyond Broadcast, I was glad I had registered online before I left for Boston. The one day event was designed to accomodate about 300 journos, webheads and other digital ponderers. Open registration continued the morning of the event, and as attendees settled into the large lecture hall, the organizers announced that the number of attendees was likely closer to 400. Thankfully, the room held the overflow with no problem.

I suspect that 100 people who chose to attend this Saturday conference at the last last minute were pleasantly surprised.

Henry Jenkins' keynote presentation began with an attempt to define "Participatory Culture," using among others, one memorable example of how a photoshopped image depicting the Sesame Street character Bert, inadvertantly made its way from a defunct humor website ...

this doctored photo shows 'Evil Bert' in the company of Bin Laden
The image of Bert ended up with other images as part of this pro Bin Laden collageto thousands of pro Bin Laden propaganda posters seen on the streets of Bangladesh during a pro Bin Laden protest.

(right: Notice a tiny version of Bert and Bin Laden lifted from the web.)

The point? People who take part in today's online culture are no longer passive consumers of media. They are empowered, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by mistake, by the two-way flow of digital information. Thus, anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can conceivably touch and affect the outcome of major events -- for good... evil... or (in the case of our friend "Evil Bert") ...somewhere in-between.

Jenkins makes a case for the emerging connection between "Participatory Culture" and "Participatory Democracy." He points to the apparent tension between progressive phenomena like online campaign organizing, social media and blogging - and dystopian portrayals of the dominant media as soul-sucking, vapid and hypnotic. It seems that old tropes, which promote a contempt of media, may be breaking down. More people have become comfortable with making and distributing their own digital media to express new ideas or to influence opinion using social networks. Put simply, people are developing a new and more intimate relationship with electronic media.

During his presentation, Jenkins also put up the following
short list of ideals for popular (small -d) democratic culture:

  • Participatory
  • Beyond Broadcast

  • Active

  • Open-ended

  • Transparent

  • Transformative

I included that list here, because it looks like a great blueprint for designing the new platform we as public broadcasters MUST build - in order to retain, engage and grow our community, and to survive.

Jenkins suggests that despite the naysayers' predictions, a collective intelligence appears to be forming on the web. People are organizing knowledge networks, like Wikipedia. People are forming utopian cultures in virtual communities like "Second Life." Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, and You Tube have revolutionized the way that millions of people communicate and distribute information. For people below a certain age, old forms of communication (like newspapers and traditional broadcast) have become irrelevant. OK, maybe the revolution WILL be televised after all (Revolutionary Idol, anyone?) ...but you can count on the fact that fewer will watch it in its entirety, or in real time - thanks to PVRs and You Tube.

There was a lot more to this. I could go on and on about Jenkins' ideas about Participatory Democracy and Beyond Broadcast and the Brave New World, blah blah blah - but I've been at it too long already. I have posted a bunch of links to related materials. Dig in if you are interested. Email me if you want more. Or not.

Is Jenkins' media munching just an academic exercise? Maybe. Can we afford to ignore the new realities he describes? I don't think so. Whether we are radio or television broadcasters, we must admit that our audience is changing. Consumers of all media are evolving a new sophistication. Expectations are higher. Barriers for entry to the world of media influence have fallen dramatically. For a variety of reasons, what we do - in essence - is no longer beyond the grasp of the average person. Soon, almost everyone will be able to do what broadcasters and electronic journalists do, to some degree. Everywhere you look, from Army barracks in Baghdad to suburban bedrooms in your home town, people are stepping up to tell their stories. We need to embrace these changes, and create a new space to welcome our future partners, the former audience.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Good Morning Boston

Well, I'm off to Beyond Broadcast.

It's really cold... and very early. And really, really cold. Did I say that?

left: view from my hotel window

Friday, February 23, 2007

IMA 2007 - Friday - Election Smackdown and Other Delights

Today was the final day of the Public Media Conference in Boston. It was my second day here. This morning I attended a meaty session on covering elections with BBC's Paul Brannon, Bob Collins from MPR and others. A lot of great ideas here. Naturally, I will shamelessly steal the best ones for our '08 page.

This afternoon Michael Skoler moderated a fast paced session on "news games," which convey journalistic information in an entertaining and interactive format. Check some of these out.

Thursday night we made our way over to Jury's Hotel for the Open Source listener party and enjoyed a few minutes with Open Source staffers Brendan, Mary, Chris, David, Greta along with a great group of blog-contributing listeners. It was a fascinating example of virtual entities colliding in real space. I thought I heard a couple of guests speaking hexidecimal, but it might have been binary. I'm rusty. Some pics here, including one extra goony one of me.

Speaking of flattering photos, here's one of my outstanding station manager Tom Dollenmayer, who departs Saturday morning for Tampa... I'll be sticking around one more day for the Beyond Broadcast workshop.

It's been a good gathering so far, despite all of the gloomy prognostications and angst ridden warnings of tectonic shifts in the industry.

The bright side: This place is filled with smart, engaged people who get it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

IMA 2007 - Thursday - Social Media 201

The Social Media 201 should have been booked in a room twice the size. Our hosts Brendan Greeley and Andy Carvin did a great job of expanding on the usefulness of RSS feeds and explaining Technorati and Google Blog Search functions. We discussed the relative merits of registration (ie. valid email, zip code) and to what degree asking for this kind of information can act as a disincentive to participation on public media sites. (photo:dsearles/flickr)

A lot of folks brought up the usual doomsday scenarios and worried long and loud about credibility and civility in discourse. Both Andy and Brendan leaned strongly away from the idea of active moderation, suggesting that moderation sets you up for failure. Both suggest that you need give the community flagging tools to eject trolls, axe grinders and other ne'er-do-wells. Brendan suggested that you simply need to trust that the community will police itself, and deal with the consequences as a problem arises.

This paranoia about blogs and social media experiments is something I think about frequently, considering all of the lip service paid to the special "trust relationship" between the audience and public broadcasters. I'm struck by the apparent hypocrisy implied by our resistance to true engagement, and the impulse Brendan identified toward "ghettoization" of public commentary on news sites. It seems to me, that just as in any healthy relationship, trust means trust. It's a two-way street.

One other noteworthy comment from Open Source's Blogger in Chief, who made the following (paraphrased) remarks about the listener blogger community:

Everyone worries about how to punish offenders or how to solve problems - but what people don't realize is that once the community organizes, your major concern quickly shifts to 1. how to handle the massive flow of "good stuff," 2. what to do with it, and 3. how to let people know that you are paying attention.

Other notes:
There was some discussion of how to use Technorati and Google Blog Search to find good story and program ideas, by linking into the mundane detail of real people's lives.

On the video side, Andy said that is a good video provider because it doesn't force you into branding like You Tube, and it is more respectful of copyright issues.

Brendan recommended one of my favorites, Andrew Sullivan's blog, "The Daily Dish" as good example of how to effectively integrate photos, video and storytelling.

WNYC is developing an open source player that will be embeddable in blogs as a way to present public media content in the blogosphere, and to encourage linkbacks to the station site.

IMA 2007 - Thursday Keynote - Michael Rosenblum Says Everything You Know Is Probably Wrong

Today's keynote speaker is a guy named Michael Rosenblum, a self professed iconoclast who has made a career out of smashing the conventions of television production. Rosenblum promotes a lean, mean style of content acquisition which he sums up succinctly as: "Here's the camera. There's the door. "

Rosenblum's approach is essentially this: You can't innovate if you can't afford to fail. He says that inexpensive high quality "prosumer" cameras and editing tools offer low-cost entry to the world of television and online video. Low cost video production means you can afford to take risks, fail more often, and hopefully - innovate more often. Makes sense to me.

Rosenblum has worked with stations like WKRN in Nashville to implement his ideas about the VJ (video-journalist) driven newscast.

He offered some great examples of the cultural and historic effects of disruptive technologies, beginning with the longbow in medieval times - and leading through the printing press, telegraph and radio in the modern age. I had to laugh when he put forth an image of pubcasters as medieval monks - fixated on the the elaborate calligraphy of their Bible transcriptions - too busy to notice Martin Luther fomenting revolution by distributing his criticisms of the church using a crude printing press.

This was a good way to open the general sessions. Rosenblum is a lively and entertaining figure with a unique perspective on our industry. He's been involved in designing numerous TV production and distribution models in the States and abroad. Rosenblum says these days, when he's not pushing the VJ kool-aid, he and his team produce quick turnaround documentaries for Discovery and other cable channels. He was a key player in the development of Al Gore's ungainly "Current TV." But I have decided I won't hold it against him. After listening to him speak, I can understand how he sold the idea. In his own words: "Hey, I could sell ice to eskimos!"

Take away messages: Leave the sanctorum. Have the courage to embrace new technology. Don't fear the future. Take chances. Fail. Succeed.