Final day of Beyond Broadcast 2009 explores roles of public service media
Posted June 5, 2009
By Jonathan Arkin
The final full day of presentations at Beyond Broadcast 2009 brought about discussions about changing lives through story-telling, maintaining editorial quality in a participatory environment, and a host of other topics surrounding local to global public service media at USC Annenberg on June 5. Archived video of the conference is available at the BB09 site.
Beyond Broadcast 2009’s final wrap-up session panel discussed the key concepts explored through the conference sessions, blogs and conversations, with a general call for continuation of the dialogues started at the three-day conference.
Moderator Michael Kleeman, a senior fellow at the University of California, San Diego said that the conference presented “a high class problem” in that good people that didn’t want to leave needed more time to share innovative concepts and findings.
“All these things are a journey,” said Kleeman. “The one thing I’m very proud that we did here, an this was the dean’s vision, was to bringing a broader number of voices from around the world to the table. Everything’s not up to date in ‘River City.’ If you look at it from around the world it’s different. Understanding that is a very important thing. The passion and vision to create a better planet. If we do it from the perspective of our backyard, we will invariably be wrong. We all taught each other something. The regret, if I have one, is that we did not have five days of people’s time.”
Panelists Jessica Clark, director of the Future of Public Media Project at American University’s Center for Social Media; Pat Harrison, president and chief executive officer at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; Ali Jaber, dean of the Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication and Journalism at the American University in Dubai, and managing editor of Dubai Media Incorporated; Joe Karaganis, program director of Media, Technology & Culture at the Social Science Research Council; Ernest J. Wilson III (pictured), dean of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; and Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University discussed key developments in public service media.
Most of the participants found the conference to their liking; some expressed criticism that it was not long enough to contain all the ideas that were incubated in the panel discussions. Almost all suggested taking the moderators up on the idea of continuing the dialogues online.
“What will work is to open this conversation to these people at the table,” said Zuckerman, who added that the pursuit of effective public media would benefit from tools that have been hugely networked by broadcasters. “Public broadcasting has always had a deep commitment to public media. And I think if you scratch below the surface you’ll see that there are a lot of companies willing to gather around this idea of a new public media space.”
Harrison was praised by Wilson as a highly effective advocate for conscientious public broadcasting, and she expressed her optimism that even better times lay ahead.
“I think our glory days are still ahead and I think they will always be ahead,” said Harrison, calling “digital diversity dialogue” the “true” public service.
Despite the focus on public service and public broadcasting, the interplay with commercial media was an issue that the panelists looked at closely.
“What is exciting about this conference is some of the ideas that have gotten resistance from commercial outlets have been given play here,” said Clark. “How to move beyond the brand, how to expand the brand, to evangelize…part of the urgency of that is bringing the international participants in. It’s about free speech, it’s about self-government, how to demonstrate the truth itself. I feel really great about being here at his conference sharing these issues with some of the most brilliant people I know.”
Karaganis was one of the panelists who offered a constructive critique of the conference’s limitations, adding his thoughts on what the media space should look like and what the participants in public life expect – and what is expected of them. He also proposed a one dollar broadband tax to help fund a institute for public media.
“It’s been very, very rich for me and has given me some questions to reflect on,” Karaganis said. “I think what’s still missing from this discussion is that there are a range of things that are not sustainable on their own. I’m struck by how tenuous they are. There are very few durable institutions in this space. A social and regulatory compact to insure that there are institutions in that space that not only operate action to action but over the long term. I look for ways in which this conversation can grow, either in the context of Beyond Broadcast or not.”
Jaber said that barriers exist that limit international players in new media from being heard and from being relevant and accessible.
“New media and its public are basically white American boys talking to themselves,” said Jaber, who added that he hopes for the future of media in the Arab world to hold more relevance in its content and interactivity for people outside the West. “You have created a tool that is specific for the white boys and we as foreigners feel as though we have to compromise our stories to break the components of our stories in order for them to fit the Facebook. Beyond Broadcast has to have an educational facet or side to it in order to be able to contribute to the international community or dialogue. Whether it’s a democracy or not.”
Kleeman added that there were not enough youthful voices in the discussion and that the most compelling ideas of the day came from the panels of under-30s. He said that it was perhaps time to examine the disparity in age in the upper echelons of broadcasting, given the strides being made in new media by younger professionals.
“Where are the 30 yr old voices in public broadcasting?” said Kleeman. “We shouldn’t be in charge anymore.”
Finally, the international participants were given special recognition by Dean Wilson before the conference officially ended and the attendees repaired to the closing reception – and their respective blogs and tweets. Wilson also asked for the dialogue to continue online.
“I hope we can keep the conversation going,” said Wilson in closing. “If not you, who? If not now, then when? So, see you soon.”
Web 2.0 and the Future of Media
Beyond Broadcast 2009’s afternoon panels continued with “Web 2.0 and the Future of Media,” at which attendees used structured global scenarios in small groups to create alternative five-to-10 year visions of the future media environment. The final scenario narratives created by each group are set to be posted to the conference Web site, publishing the best ideas of the collective on a world “beyond broadcasting.”
Session leaders included communication professor Patricia Riley, plus Annenberg Ph.D students Laurel Felt, Zhan Li, and Shawn Powers, who led a highly animated session with his group of attendees.
Riley, who runs the Scenarios Lab at USC, said policy, training and government and resources have to be in place to take the next step in case studies such as these. She invited the participants of her group to join in the immediate posting of the panel’s results online following the discussion.
“This more than anything else an opportunity for those of you sitting in the audience to now participate,” said Riley, whose particular case involved a fictional newspaper taken over by a conglomerate ownership. “Our job is to say what we think about the approaches (presented by the case model) and to get reactions to this particular case.”
In his hypothetical case study, Powers introduced a scenario that involved a massive political upheaval in India, calling these recent (fictional) political developments “the greatest demonstration of democracy in the world.” In examining the role of broadcasting 2.0 and how it might look, Powers encouraged ideating from the participants, reminding them the solutions were “open to negotiation” and that it might be an unrecognizable hybrid of approaches.
“This is likely to be one of the key debates – is it news focused, or focused on cultural programming?,” Powers said. “I don’t think it would be an ‘either or’ – I think it would be a mix – a particularly Indian mix.”
Participants picked up and read their scenario materials during a break in the daylong sessions and engaged in structured, collaborative dialogue.
Such a dialogue was moderated by Li in his group, which mulled over a heated international media policy debate on the future of the Internet in Africa, held in South Africa – in 2014. Closely watching this fictional summit is China, which is now seen as a neo-colonialist player in African affairs.
“In this scenario we are imagining an African media context dominated by China, which doesn’t have that same involvement with NGOs, multinationals and international media,” Li said. “How does China exercise its power most effectively here, and how does Africa? We have ethical norms here and geopolitics here. Let’s think of ways to involve China effectively.”
It was the consensus of many in Li’s group that 2.0 will open up Africa to options in the realm of commerce that were not previously in the mix, even if those options are not provided by China – widely thought of to be on the cusp of superpower status in 2009.
Felt facilitated a discussion looking at the challenge of networked journalism in Western Europe of 2013, when a collaborative network alliance of regional news organizations – set up to counter the meltdown of traditional media in our time – is itself in danger of disintegrating. The model in this case needed major adjustment, and the participants did not disappoint, engaging in a lively and productive debate and promising to continue the conversation beyond Beyond Broadcast.
“Here we are where the interests of journalism do not coincide with the interests of governments,” said Felt, whose model presented a scenario in which a mass defection to citizen journalism eroded the credibility of locally produced content. “What can we do incentivize collaboration between journalists in this situation? I think we have some great suggestions for piecing together what the solution should be. It seems that none of us seem very enamored of this network solution.”
One of the more creative ideas that got the room humming in Powers’ group was the proposal of an “NGO reality show” to provide Web 2.0 storytelling options in this model.
“That’s a good idea,” said Powers to the participant who proposed it, laughing. “I think you should pitch it.”
Tomorrow’s Public Service Media Entrepreneurs
A general afternoon session discussing “Tomorrow’s Public Service Media Entrepreneurs” featured younger content producers and media consumers sharing their views on their generations’ media consumption habits, methods and values.
Moderated by Jesse Thorn, the host and creator of “The Sound of Young America,” the panel included Desi Burnette of the Media Mobilizing Group; Sara Harris, producer of Youth Radio L.A.; Mayra Jimenez, youth reporter for Youth Radio L.A.; and Anyi Howell, a reporter and producer for Youth Radio L.A. The panel discussed ways in which young citizen journalists are bringing news stories not covered by national and local news outlets to a surprisingly wide audience.
Burnette, who makes documentary news stories focusing on community issues, told the panel about those in the community who end up displaced by urban “renewal” projects and how these stories were rarely told. They are now told, Burnette said, within and outside of the community via Twitter, photos, sound and video bytes, podcasting and social networking sites and other new forms of transmission, allowing those groups who are fragmented to talk to each other.
“We’re journalists and were building a media infrastructure,” Burnette said. “This larger project is bringing all of these issues and people together…It aims to bring all of these people together as part of this larger movement to end poverty. And we are working on a blog space that we’ve created for people to share thoughts on the stories that we are creating.”
Harris, in her position as producer and mentor at Youth L.A., said that youth media is a potential touchstone for many other types of growth.
“What we do is very much about a collaboration between journalists and youth entrepreneurs, sharing media wherever possible,” said Harris. “The radio stories we do, while they keep to the standards of NPR, it’s also an entry point for other types of media to happen.”
Harris then showed footage of Karina Vargas, who documented the San Francisco Police Department’s shooting of Oscar Grant on the platform of a BART station.
Howell, who was held and detained at gunpoint in the Bay Area for a felony he did not commit, told the story of how racial profiling – and how it plays out in real life – compelled him to go into the particularly social-justice brand of journalism that has become his trademark.
“I was thinking about things I could go through on a regular basis that would be dismissed by the 10 o’clock news,” Howell said of his early inspiration. “That kind of experience, racial profiling, introduced me to telling stories on multiple platforms. From this original piece of expression, the original telling of the story, I got to experiment…into telling of instances of other racial profiling. Beyond the production value of it, I used this incident to organize a police forum in Berkeley. It not only increased my journalistic awareness, but also what a story can do once it’s produced and how it holds us accountable to each other.”
A late morning panel, moderated by communication professor François Bar, explored the “Mobile Voices” project that empowers first-generation immigrants in Los Angeles to publish multimedia stories about their lives and communities directly from mobile phones.
This panel explored questions of media production through demonstrations of the Mobile Voices project by some of its participants. Panelists included Annenberg’s Sasha Costanza-Chock and Carmen Gonzales; Amanda Garces, Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA); Madelou Gonzalez, Institute of Popular Education of Southern California; and Gabriela Rodriguez a programmer with the Independent Media Center.
“What we’ve tried to do with this project is to find out what stories people want to tell and how they want to tell them,” Bar said. “These people don’t have computers, they don’t have broadband, they may not have the skills to interface…but cell phones are universal."
Garces, whose work with IDEPSCA works to counter misinformation leading to disenfranchisement in immigrant communities, described how sites such as the Minuteman Project incite hate toward immigrant laborers, and she posed a question to the audience.
“When you think about media representations of the immigrant community, what do you think?” said Garces, showing a trend by racial-oriented hate groups to marginalize that community. “If you go and Google ‘day laborers’ you read that they are the most violent, that they are rapists and criminals.”
But IDEPSCA’s Gonzalez showed data of immigrant workers and day laborers and how they use their cell phones for professional aims.
“We wanted to know if this population had cell phones,” Gonzalez said. “Seventy eight percent of the workers we surveyed used cellular telephones, relying on their cell phone to do their jobs, and they used them a lot – 98 percent of them for work. We are trying to train communication journalists to portray their own reality. I think we’ve come a long way in learning with them. We hope it will create civic engagement and action within the community.”
Rodriguez, a programmer who often works with Bar, showed slides illustrating exactly how this technology is used by those in the Mobile Voices storytelling project.
“The idea is to contribute what we are doing back to the community,” Rodriguez said. “We use cheap phones to send cheap media to the Web, and then to the phones; messages, text, video and from there we get that info and post it at the site, and from there people can download the content or send it to their phones again.”
“These are our stories,” said Theresa, a volunteer at IDEPSCA for several years who covers some of the 12 million undocumented workers. “I do my stories on the street, on the bus, on the metro. Through the Mobile Voices project, it gives us the opportunity to show different kinds of life.”
Costanza-Chock said that despite advances in technology, costs for multimedia use on cell phones in countries served by the project are still high, but a way can be found around that problem.
“In the U.S., all the mobile phone providers have free MMS, at no extra cost above the regular call cost structure,” said Costanza-Chock. “When we move to other places that don’t have the same open-source gateway, we will try to use participatory design and build the system around those needs and low-end phones that these people already have. We’re also exploring phones that deliver better photos.”
Bar added that funding for the project was crucial for continuing its work and he thanked the Annenberg Online Communities and the Social Science Research Council, which gives grants to those organizations and projects targeting partnerships between universities and social service organizations.
Costanza-Chock then dismissed the panel – and the audience – to the outdoors, asking everyone present to participate in an impromptu posting project of their own.
Maintaining Editorial Quality in a Participatory Environment
One of the second panels in the June 5 sessions of 2009’s Beyond Broadcast, “Maintaining Editorial Quality in a Participatory Environment,” brought media leaders out to discuss the proliferation of misinformation, untold stories and the how interactions on blogs, Twitter and the like struggle with balancing truth and fairness in reporting.
Moderated by Adam Clayton Powell III, USC’s vice provost of globalization, the panel featured Nathalie Applewhite, associate director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; Ali Jaber, the dean of the Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication and Journalism at the American University in Dubai, and managing editor of Dubai Media Incorporated; Kevin Klose, the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and president emeritus of National Public Radio; and Rachel Sterne, chief executive officer of Ground Report, a Web site that offers hyper-local news and opinion.
Applewhite showed clips of interviews and poems shown online that have galvanized viewers around the globe to respond emotionally to the content.
“We want to stretch these stories out,” said Applewhite, describing some of PCCR’s partnership efforts with organizations that might help the transition from news into action. “We’re specifically choosing issues that are underreported, bringing our reporters into the public sphere. We work really hard to extend the reach of the reporting reporters who scan the blogosphere, identifying non-profits who can use our services. One of the frustrations for someone who reads international stories is that they do not know what to do. They’re so ready to do things, so what we’re trying to do here is to marry the two.”
Jaber said he hopes that the quality of journalism education could be equaled and translated – literally – into a successful venture in his native Dubai.
“I feel really honored and humbled to part of this distinguished panel,” said Jaber, whose efforts to set up a successful – and free – journalism and communication program in Dubai has been done in partnership with USC Annenberg. “I believe that talking about the cultural gap that there’s no bigger cultural gap than that between the Arabs and the rest, and we’ve been suffering the consequences of this gap and with our efforts to build a communication school in the Arab world this can be a modest step toward bridging a bit of this gap. What we are trying to do with USC is to take the curriculum here and to apply it to the Arabic language so that they know how to tell their own stories, to their own audiences.”
Klose questioned the direction in which mass media is going and the ethical issues that have changed little over the years.
“Every one of these stories I have heard this morning demands days or examination,” said Klose, who stressed the need for the media to pay attention to the verities of society in a democracy that he said is still somewhat experimental. “Journalism is basically an expansion of the most basic of human relationships which is bearing witness to something. It’s the most powerful of the communication pieces of human life. In our era today we are in a very slippery place where Photoshop can instantaneously change reality. People can’t be ignorant and free. We must bear witness. Journalism is like a university – it teaches persistence of thinking…and clarity in reporting what was observed. I believe that journalism is the oxygen of democracy.”
Sterne told the audience that Ground Report, as a for-profit, faces different standards and challenges in preparing and presenting media items to its audience, but that the impetus behind bringing the local to the global in citizen journalism remained the same in its grassroots form.
“What really frustrated me was the incredible disparity of what’s really happening in the world and what people know about it… this bothered me but I didn’t think anyone could do anything about it,” said Sterne, who receives reports from thousands of volunteer reporters, stringers and wiki writers in support of Ground Report posts. “We are always concerned with raising our standards and keeping pace. One of the best things that citizen journalism offers is context, and the mood has shifted regarding citizen journalism. We have been forced to trust our own truth mechanisms.”
Powell noted that blog entries and tweets about the panel had already made their way online during the discussion, but he also pointed out that many in the audience were using pen and paper to take notes.“One hallmark of a successful presentation is that people are actually taking out their notebooks and taking notes,” Powell said.
Telling Stories, Changing Lives
Beyond Broadcast kicked off its second day of panels and discussions at USC Annenberg on June 5 with “Telling Stories, Changing Lives,” a session bringing together filmmakers, storytellers and creators of new media from around the world “who have used technology and narrative to change lives and create new possibilities where none existed before.”
Moderated by Pat Harrison, president and chief executive officer for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the panel featured Michael Garofalo, senior producer of StoryCorps; Edward Greenberg, the founding director of Laughter for a Change; Ronni Goldfarb, president and chief executive officer, Equal Access International; Kevin Klose, dean of Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, and president emeritus at National Public Radio; Rey Ramsey, chief executive officer of One Economy; and actor-writer-director Robert Townsend, who also serves as president of V Studio.
“Public media as we know has been telling America’s story for over four years,” said Harrison, who added that the storyteller has now “left the couch” to begin blogging and posting on YouTube. “Technology has now made it possible for people formerly known as the audience to be historians of their own lives. Locally, globally…and now, constantly.”
Garofalo’s Story Corps, which is a public media project, involves two everyday people having a conversation, which is then recorded. The CD they make is theirs to take home and the second copy is archived. He has documented 25,000 interviews. Partnering with community organizations, he has expanded the reach to include more black and Latino voices.
“The idea was to let people know that their life was important,” Garofalo said. “What it can really do is to remind somebody that their story really matters. It’s a chance for people to leave their legacy. Many people who have participated have said that it’s the most meaningful thing they’ve ever done in their lives. These are stories of everyday people. It validates them in a way that’s really, really powerful.”
Goldfarb, whose Equal Access serves low-income demographics who have little to no exposure to new media and the Internet, showed slides of communities in Central Asia and Africa who have learned to express themselves in new ways via new media. Using radio, some video and increasingly folding in the use of mobile interactivity, Goldfarb said that local language content and “direct community engagement” gets produced and then distributed globally, bringing youth chat shows, town hall meetings, street theatre and multimedia data-casting to FM networks and a global audience – all making the local global.
“Today I wanted to tell how storytelling is a part of our methodology,” said Goldfarb, who also started a program called “Community Reporters,” training residents of remote villages who served as the “gateways of their communities” as they told stories about themselves. “All of us are here because we believe that the changes we are going through can shape the collective will, it can promote beliefs. What if we combine the power of the media’s scale to inform and educate with being able to feel a part of something? That’s the methodology of Equal Access.”
Greenberg, who used improvisation techniques to build community – and in the case of a group in postwar Rwanda, re-building – in areas and among groups having difficulty with basic communication, said he
“People tend to think of improv as having to be funny,” said Greenberg. “You just have to listen and pay attention and support the choices that are made by the other player on the stage. Instead of introducing conflict, you introduce agreement. With that sense of trust and positive interaction and the belief that you as a player do your best work by making the other persons look good, important life lessons are learned and great fun comedy is played. So how do we do it and combine it with the social service aspect?”
Klose spoke of the enormous responsibility, given the dangerous recent history of mass media gone astray, of those collecting voices for posterity to pay close attention to authenticity.
“This is really fascinating for me,” Klose said. “I think I can actually hear these stories about story. One of the issues we face is essentially authenticity – who is telling the truth and what is the truth? Most of us here come out of a tradition of a very open crossfire investigative understanding of our own society. And when we don’t look at each other carefully with a sharp focus, we go astray as a self-focused society. When we miss the authenticity, i.e., when we don’t hold it up to ourselves carefully, we go astray. It’s an issue that stands in front of all of us when we stand in front of a space that we all want to stand in front of. It’s a very complicated place. We can’t be spectators in a self-governing society. It depends on the power of collecting an authentic story and then projecting it.”
Ramsey, who once chaired Habitat for Humanity, said he wanted to talk about the “why” and the “what” of the context in which he works within One Economy – a job he said was fraught with both optimism and frustration.
“We're constantly throwing new legislation at people and new programs at people,” said Ramsey. “The fundamental issue is that the paradigm shift that has to happen with new media is that we can’t turn people into passive recipients of social services. It is to have choice, it is to have content and it is to have capacity. The three Cs. There’s a reason why things work better in middle-income neighborhoods. I focus on the public purpose. What is the public purpose that we need to serve? We have a lot of work to do, We need to spend more time together, being more intentional. We’re using media, we’re using technology...we’re using low-cost broadband.”
Townsend, a filmmaker whose first film, “Hollywood Shuffle,” made him a household name in the industry, also worked with Ramsey in developing V-studio – a virtual studio for public purpose media that uses ideas of entertainment-education to bring social causes to a wider audience. On the site, content is created along with interactive toolboxes that viewers can use to find out more information about the characters on the program.
“This has been inspiring to hear,” said Townsend about the Beyond Broadcast panel. “It starts with images. The television shows I watched as a child reinforced values. Now there is so much going across the airwaves that is negative. If you watch long enough, you will get the swine flu. But with new media, we can change the planet. A waterfall starts with the single drop. What we’re seeing on this panel is that single drop. We create content, but on the side we have a(n interactive) toolbox, using new technology and making it accessible and easy. We're coming up with apps on our own to make people’s lives better.”Enter USC Annenberg News Archive »back to top