Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Citizen Journalists and Public Access

The Colorado Independent reported today on a multi-stakeholder initiative to leverage some considerable resources in Metro Denver, to enable citizen and professional journalists to place their content onto the web and the Public Access channels of Denver's cable system during the Democratic National Convention.

Denver Open Media, KGNU Radio and the Colorado Independent Media Center are reportedly collaborating to make their airwaves, bandwidth, production resources, and computers available to anyone who wants to produce, edit, and broadcast their coverage of the convention.

This looks to be a unique and potentially powerful exercise in the ability of non-profit, independent media organizations to facilitate the creation and transmission of citizen-produced broadcast media content.

One of these non-profits also manages the public access cable channels in Denver, presumably under an agreement with the City of Denver, which likely obtained those channels as part of their franchise agreement with their cable TV provider.

There are numerous examples of active public access channels on cable systems throughout Colorado, and the Western Slope is no exception. Summit County, Aspen, and Durango among others can boast a means where the general public has access to the community airwaves, to enhance the quality of the information the community at large receives.

So what about Western Colorado's largest metropolitan area? Mesa County provides programming via Channel 12, but that channel is restricted to Government Access only by the county's franchise agreement with the current cable franchisee, Bresnan Communications.

The City of Grand Junction re-negotiated their franchise agreement with Bresnan in 2005. I was one of many citizens who successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a full Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access channel in the city's franchise agreement.

The city needs only to request this channel from Bresnan, who then has 120 days to provide the channel on their basic channel tier. My guess is that the City does not want to be in the business of running a TV station, so they are waiting for a competent non-profit to step up to the plate.

In a growing community such as ours, with considerable expertise in the educational and non-profit sectors, one can only hope that meaningful collaboration can occur to establish a viable entity to operate and administer a channel of this type, in a fiscally responsible way, for the benefit of all citizens.

As it happens, there is an opportunity this weekend for those interested in journalism and video production to attend a free workshop on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

The George Orbanek Journalism Workshop: An Outreach Program for Negotiating the Invisible Web and Interactively Engaging Residents of Colorado Communities
is being presented in Grand Junction. To quote their release:

2 to 5 p.m. Friday, July 18
9 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 19
Workshop content is essentially the same for both days.

Location: Room 308 (computer lab) in the Fine Arts Building on the Mesa State College campus in Grand Junction

Cost: Free of charge. The program is funded through James M. Cox Foundation grant.

Presented by: University of Colorado at Boulder's School of Journalism & Mass Communication in cooperation with Mesa State College's Mass Communication Program.

Seating in the lab is limited: Those who would like to attend one of these 3-hour sessions simply need to contact Alan Kirkpatrick, SJMC outreach director, to confirm their participation. (Alan.Kirkpatrick@Colorado.edu, 303-492-5480). He is also available to answer questions about the program.

Instructors/Program:

-- BURT HUBBARD is a Rocky Mountain News award-winning investigative reporter and a CU adjunct journalism instructor. He will present his favorite strategies for how to quickly get accurate localized information on the Web (that a Google search generally can't find) to develop enterprise stories and add depth to breaking news stories.

-- TONY PERRI is a CU journalism adjunct instructor producer, reporter, writer and director with more than 1,500 TV and film productions to his credit. His workshop will focus on shooting, capturing, editing and uploading video for the Web. Participants, who are not expected to have any familiarity with video production, will edit b-roll and sound bytes into a short video and upload it onto the Web using readily available software. (see http://tonyperri.com)

-- PAUL VOAKES is the dean of the CU School of Journalism & Mass Communication; an expert on journalism law and ethics; author of numerous journals, books and articles, and the recipient of several prestigious research grants and teaching awards. He will present perspectives on the legal and ethical ramifications of posting information and images on the Web.

1-on-1 with the instructors: At the conclusion of the workshops on both days, Burt Hubbard and Tony Perri will remain in the lab and provide personal assistance with participants who want additional training and access to their expertise.
This is a rare opportunity for area residents to obtain valuable insight and hands-on training in the skills necessary to produce quality content for broadcast on the web, or perhaps elsewhere.

I'll be there Friday afternoon. In the meantime, here is an entertaining and informative video overview of the present and potential future of community media, courtesy of Denver Open Media. Enjoy.





1 comment:

Dave said...

John,
You're right on the beam with the need to support alternative media in western Colorado, particularly in Mesa County. With successful models already in place in other western slope communities, it should not be difficult to achieve the goal of developing a new PEG channel in Grand Junction. I know that I and other interested parties in the area will be supporting your efforts.
Dave Murphy
Member, Board of Directors
Grand Valley Peace & Justice