independent media

New York Times on Philly's Media Future

Local indy media – particularly the Philadelphia Public School Notebookgot big props in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine. Calling it "notably well written" and a place that "breaks stories," the Times also highlights editor Paul Socolar:

Its editor, Paul Socolar, may be something like the journalist of the future. He is earnest, dedicated to a cause, foundation-financed and, to this point, read by a narrow audience. I=2 0accompanied him to a press briefing for the rollout of the Philadelphia school district’s $3.2 billion budget. He quickly imbibed a thick handout filled with charts and long columns of numbers and jotted down questions, which seemed a bit sharper and harder to answer than those asked by the reporters from the city’s two dailies.

Having known Paul for 15 years, it’s well-deserved kudos to one of the city’s most humble, hard-working and principled journalists and to a paper that’s filling in what traditional media has too often ceded – solid beat coverage with an investigative and spirited mission. Plan Philly and Media Mobilizing Project also earn mentions for coverage in areas where big media has lapsed, namely development and immigration.

But clearly the “star” of the story is PNI’s Brian Tierney, and not always in the most flattering of ways (note: “gentleman’s club” congressional testimony not particularly emblematic of his diplomatic skills).

July 29: Community Media in times of popular struggle, political mobilization, and repression

Event:
"Community Media in times of popular struggle, political mobilization, and repression- from Venezuela to Oaxaca to Honduras."

Date:
Wednesday, July 29
Time:
6:30pm-8:30pm
Location:
Central Library
1901 Vine Street
Skyline room- 4th floor

Description:
Social movements throughout the hemisphere are fighting for a better future; one where land & indigenous rights are recognized and communities have control over their resources. But, how do they tell this story when the corporate media is controlled by those they are fighting against: a powerful few who exploit resources for profit and repress the movements that challenge their greed.

What the Wi-Fi?

*I posted this comment as a response to the thread on the Phila Story: Learning from a Wireless Pioneer, but wanted to post it on its own for those not following that long thread*

The future of the Wi-Fi network and Wireless Philadelphia is a topic of discussion that will take weeks or months of ongoing dialogue. I hope that yesterday's events were the start of a discourse that will feature front and center the needs of our city's poorest residents to get access to affordable, quality Internet services. The Media Mobilizing Project is now working to make sure those voices are heard and those communities are at the table, so I'll leave it up to them to share their next steps.

But I'd like to offer some thoughts.

First, the reports of the death of municipal broadband networks are greatly exaggerated. And repeating that false spin only gives ammo to the cable and phone companies that don't want the competition, yet aren't meeting our nation's communication needs. The U.S. is neck and neck with Estonia, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to broadband access. Congress has not acted (although took an important step with the movement of some bills from a Senate committee earlier this month). Many many many cities and towns are still planning to deploy networks, but they are re-evaluating whether to follow our model or create a new one. And many already have deployed networks, some of which are much more ambitious than our system here.

What is now clear is the future of this system does not include Earthlink. While under a ten year contract, the company will most likely sell the system. There may be other private buyers, and they will be bound by the terms of Earthlink's contract. Whether City Council or Wireless Philadelphia have the authority to change those terms is not clear to me, but I'd bet my lunch money any new private buyer will push for it.

But instead of handing the keys over to a new prospective owner, I hope we seriously consider other ownership models. The New America Foundation report outlined several, and you can read it at http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/philadelphia_story
I don't think Philadelphia has "lost" a great deal yet, but we stand to. If we abandon this network -- which was and still is a good idea -- we will reinforce every stereotype of this city and its leaders as being foolish and incompetent. I for one am tired of such rhetoric. Perpetuating it only gives excuses to those who'd rather not do the hard work that makes stuff work and cities run. We're smarter than that, so let's act like it.

It's not time to stop and throw our hands in the air. It is time to stop expecting that private companies will meet all of our basic needs, especially those of our poorest residents who are not very profitable "markets."

It might also just be about time for the city to take a holistic approach to our communications needs and assets and how they work together. I don't want to over-burden our public access friends who are busy with the business of building the new station, but public access is part of the goals of a city connected just as Wi-Fi is. We have an amazing group of people in this town at Prometheus Radio Project that build community radio stations. Yes, right here in Philly these rock stars have the expertise that people as far as Kenya clamor for.
I've already mentioned MMP, and you can read more about their work helping immigrants tell their stories in Saturday's Inquirer at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/12275071.html
Say what you will about the Inquirer, but it's one of the few locally owned independent newspapers in this country. I could go on.

I'd argue that as a city, we have undervalued or ignored many of these assets because they don't make money or create that many jobs. Or we just don't know what to do with them. They do, however, help sustain our democracy; make our city cool and hip; give platforms to those ignored by mainstream media; teach vital skills; and allow independent artists to distribute their work.

Let's put our heads together and figure out how we, as a community, can support and sustain this growing independent media infrastructure. That's the kind of media empire I'd like to see thrive here. Comcast can and will take care of itself.

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