Community Media: Selected Clippings – 07/02/07

[ Ordinarily “Clippings” is just that – excerpts with links. Today’s post only has three items, two of which bear including in their entirety. First is Ron Cox’s Letter to the Editor of the Malden Observer. I know Ron won’t mind your reading it here in full. Last is a fairly detailed post regarding the Knight Foundation’s 2007 “News Challenge” grants – clearly Knight too wants to get the word out as much as possible. rm ]

Letter: Don’t be fooled by Verizon propaganda
by Ron Cox
Malden Observer (MA)

To the editor:

I am writing in response to a letter written by Jack T. Yunits in the June 22 Malden Observer that was, in fact, a response to my column “Keep it Local” dated June 15.

I found it amusing that Mr. Yunits, the former mayor of Brockton, criticized my article for being “totally biased,” when in fact he is now working for the Massachusetts Consumers for Technology and Cable Choice – an acknowledged Verizon lobbying group. And, he isn’t just an ordinary lobbyist; he is their president, whose job is to speak the propaganda of the company line, which is to support this misguided Bill S1975/H3385.

Why are so many former elected officials becoming lobbyists for major companies? Maybe it’s because once they learn the ropes of state government, they see the advantage in getting paid to sway their former colleagues and other government leaders rather than run every two or four years themselves. Running for office is hard work and it costs money. Why not just make money working for giant corporations?
But back to Mr. Yunits’s letter.

He talked about the consumer benefits of a competitive cable television market, and stated that most of Massachusetts doesn’t have competition. That statement is essentially not true.

Since the late 1980s, cable companies have been invited to every community in the state – but it has only been recently that some towns and cities have received that second or third cable provider. Why? Because it has taken several years for these cable providers to build their infrastructure.

It is not because the cities and towns don’t want them. In fact, the towns and cities have been begging for them to enter into competition. The reality is while Verizon has gone into many of these municipalities and built their FIOS network, they have yet to enter into negotiations with those cities and towns.

Just ask Somerville’s Mayor Joe Curtatone. He and the mayor of Boston are both ready to sit down with Verizon and negotiate, but they have yet to even respond to a request for a proposal. What are they waiting for? Could it be that they have a chance to change the process and get a better deal for themselves by passing this bill?

The question is not whether there is competition, it’s why isn’t Verizon joining the other cable companies in competing on the same level. Both Comcast and RCN have no problem negotiating with the rules now in place. Communities such as Wakefield and Woburn have three providers, and competition is just fine.

The fact is, Verizon wants to spread disinformation so that they look like a “friend to the consumer” when the reality is they are looking out for their own self-interest. When Mr. Yunits spoke of negotiations taking 12 months to two years, look up the facts; most communities have taken seven to nine months to get perfectly good consumer-friendly contracts that have benefited their city or town.

Don’t be fooled by Verizon propaganda. Talk with residents from other communities, especially in Texas where my brother lives. Verizon was able to pass a statewide franchise bill there, and ever since cable bills by all the providers have gone up – not down.

Keep it real. Keep it local.
Ron Cox, Executive Director, MATV

WIPO broadcast treaty defeated by web activists
Copyright add-on fails to find consensus
The Register

A controversial new intellectual property right due to be created by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has been successfully opposed by a coalition of web activists and the technology industry. WIPO has spent nearly 10 years gathering international agreement over a new deal for broadcasters which would give them intellectual property rights over broadcasts which would exist in addition to existing copyright laws.

But a campaign spearheaded by activist groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and involving thousands of podcasters and bloggers, joined with technology industry giants such as Intel and defeated the move last week. —>

Knight News Challenge 2007: unofficial guide for applicants
by Dave Domingo
Digital Utopia

Starting today, and until October 15, media innovators have a second chance to submit their projects to the Knight Foundation up-to-5-million-dollar News Challenge grants. “Before you apply, study last year’s winners”, the organizers recommend. A good resource is the fantastic series of interviews by E-Media Tidbits. But I found difficult to get the big picture, so here are the facts in a nutshell:

Criteria. In the 2006 edition, 1,650 applications where received and only 25 were selected, the grants ranging between $15.000 and $5 million. Gary Kebbel, one of the persons directly involved in the selection process, explained to Tidbits editor Amy Grahran that they were looking for projects which:

* Involved innovative uses of digital media
* Would help to build, bind or create a sense of community
* Focused on a specific geographic area
* Would make the results of their work available to all: free, open source, with open standards.
* Offered the broadest appeal and greatest replicability, and projects that will continue to grow and take on a life of their own.

Profiles. Most of the winners of the first edition are veteran activists and researchers in online media, but there is also a 20-year-old Information Systems graduate student. Even though profiles are hybrid in many cases, academics and activists are the ones involved in most of the winning projects:
9 were led by universities
7 by citizen media activists
3 by professional journalists
3 by software developers
2 by consultants
Only one mainstream media company (MTV) was awarded last year. For the 2007 edition, Kebbel suggested they wanted more “young people and more international applications”.

Content. The official categories for the News Challenge projects are Ideas, Pilot projects, Leadership projects, and Commercial products. Regardless of this, I feel that 2006 grant winners can be organized into five different kinds of projects: framework projects (6) aiming to be incubators of actual citizen media projects; software development projects (7), mainly in the areas of information mapping and content management; reporting projects (5), focused in citizen journalists’ training; games-as-news projects (3), exploring playful ways for storytelling; and other projects (4) ranging from citizen-media law databases to exploring new newsroom models. Here is a list of the projects based on these categories (I will be adding links to the projects websites as they become available):

* Framework projects: This projects are meant to foster new developments in citizen media software and strategies. Many seek to make journalism and programming students meet to create new applications.
o MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media.
o Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University journalism scholarships for programmers.
o Arizona State University’s Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
o Innovation Incubators Project, by seven US academic institutions, led by Park School of Communication at Ithaca College.
o Global Voices’ program to foster activist bloggers in developing countries.
o Steven Clift’s Ideas Factory.

* Software development: The first four projects are related to mapping information to make it more easy to access by citizens, relating it to specific locations.
o Adrian Holovaty’s Every Block, a public databases visualization tool inspired in his previous project
o Placeblogger, proposing an universal geotagging standard.
o Dan Schultz, works on a GPS-based news management system.
o Paul Lamb and Leslie Rule develop a GPS tracking system to tailor information for mobile users.

The rest of the projects in this category are focused in content management tools for citizen media.
o Village Soup will create an open-source version of their citizen media sites content management system.
o Benjamin Melançon is developing a Drupal module called Related items.
o JD Lasica’s blog Social Media will follow and analyze innovations in community media software.

* Reporting projects: These are mainly devoted to develop training for citizen journalists.
o MTV will fund youngsters to cover the US presidential campaign
o The Chicago citizen news site Chi-Town Daily News will train 75 neighborhood reporters.
o The Media Mobilizing Project by Indymedia Philadephia will train 40 immigrants to do video reports.
o Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker, a weblog fostering the debate between experts, public officers and citizens on this local issue.
o Jay Rosen will be blogging about how beat reporters can work with social networks to improve their reporting.

* Games as news: These projects explore gaming as a new way to explain news.
o The Gotham Gazette, a citizen news site in New York, will produce “news games” to engage their readers and help them understand local policy decision-making.
o The Institute for New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota will create prototypes that will let journalists develop game-like scenarios for community issues.
o Paul Grabowicz, at the University of California, will create a video game recreating the Oakland jazz and blues club era.

* Other projects:
o Citizen Media Law Project, at Harvard University, provides legal information and advice to citizen journalists.
o The Duke Chronicle, student run newspaper at Duke University, will explore new newsroom configurations for a digital converged environment.
o Dori Maynard will blog about creating and maintaining diversity in digital media.
o G. Patton Hughes will blog about making his hyperlocal web site,, a financial success.

Applications. The 2007 applicants must register before filling in the forms with their project data. This year you can make your project idea public in the News Challenge site and have feedback from other registered users to improve the project if you submit it early enough. Users will be able to rate the projects, therefore helping to the final decision of the Knight Foundation. Look forward to the list of public projects in the following weeks. Be inspired and inspiring, check the official FAQ for common doubts and… good luck!

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, citizen journalism, community media, PEG access TV, public access television, social media, video franchising, WIPO

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: