Putting the Public Back in Public Media

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: Putting the Public Back in Public Media (partial)

Think NPR and PBS are just broadcasters? Think again. Public media is no longer just a one-way street. In many towns, NPR and PBS stations are the only locally-owned broadcasters, and their mission to serve the public demands that they develop new ways of engaging and strengthening those communities. They’re convening Barcamp-like unconferences called PubCamps all over the country, allowing local techies and citizen journalists to forge collaborative projects with NPR and PBS stations, both online and offline. Public media staff work with volunteer coders, creating software for public media organizations that otherwise lack the capacity to develop it on their own. Public media engages communities in new ways that go beyond those annual pledge drives, challenging them to work together for the common good. They’re putting the public back in public media – right where it should be. This ain’t your father’s public broadcasting. Come learn how people are plugging into public media – and how you can get involved.


PublicMediaCamp brings journalists, community and developers together. publicmediacamp.org

Unconference – takes a conference and flips it on its head. Participants have greater control of the conference than the organizers do. The attendees aren’t just audience – everyone is expected to be a presenter as well. In the tech world these are usually called BarCamps.

Summer 2008 NPR opened up its database through API. Stations wanted to collaborate with their communities. Think of PubCamp as an open source event – a convening format for collaboration to get the ball rolling rather than sitting on the fence about ambitious new projects.

On average a PBS member station has 1.5 staff devoted to their web presence. They generally feel isolated within their station. PubCamps let the public jump in and help that station. Citizens step up and start coding. People volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, etc. – this is very similar. People believe in public media and are willing to step up. A great way to demystify the experience of building something for public media.

How do we define public media? Is it a concept or a specific org? Decided to target libraries and schools. Provided a radio reading service.

In one panel, high schoolers talked about how they use digital media, how their teachers reacted to it, etc.

Broadus: We made it a state-wide event. The PubCamp wiki includes everything – how to organize, what to expect, etc.

[Left session early]

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