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The Public Media Corps Gathers Steam

Public Media Corps logoCurrently in its pilot phase, the National Black Programming Consortium's Public Media Corps project (PMC) is designed to increase broadband adoption and public media creation in underserved communities. It does so by placing fellows skilled in journalism, education and digital media production in local information hubs, such as public broadcasting stations, schools, museums, and community centers. The project launched in late June at American University with a week-long bootcamp that immersed PMC fellows in the latest theories and practices of public media 2.0. The Center for Social Media is helping to incubate and document the project, so I'll be reporting on it periodically here between now and December, when the DC-based beta test ends.

As NBPC Executive Director Jacquie Jones explains in a post on the Knight Commission site, the PMC has multiple goals, including gathering on-the-ground data about digital media use in low-income communities, working with community members to identify local information needs, and creating collaborative networks among local partner sites. PMC uses "a service core model to encourage and support healthy, hyper-local twenty-first century community information ecosystems, using public media assets and tools as a driver of demand," she writes.

The project has already generated much interest from within the public broadcasting community. It landed a front page story in Current, and made its public debut at the SilverDocs film festival with a panel discussion that was broadcast live on the Michael Eric Dyson show. Julie Drizen of the Association of Independents in Radio blogged about her experience of meeting the PMC fellows as one of the bootcamp speakers: "Our country has a long tradition of creating 'corps' to get young people involved in service work in communities across the country. While other corps aim to improve the quality of live on a local level, the Public Media Corps could have a broader, long-lasting impact: changing the face of public media to better reflect the real/New America."

DC locals are also starting to pay attention to the PMC, as evidenced by this post from the Columbia Heights Media Project: "I’m so happy to see that PBS and the NPBC are making the effort to reach out to the community and take action steps towards closing 'the opportunity divide.' It’s no doubt that they have attracted some fierce players with this fellowship program… At a Silverdocs panel about the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund I witnessed firsthand the way that these individuals are critically thinking about access and pushing PBS executives to do the same."

The fellows will spend the first phase of the 6-month beta test getting to know their sites and the two DC communities they're placed in—Anacostia and Columbia Heights. PMC Fellow Latoya Peterson describes her experience to date on the blog she edits, Racialicious:

I’m placed at Howard University Television (WHUT) and so far we’ve learned about upcoming projects, some of their educational outreach and how programming works at the station. We’ve also learned a bit about the challenges in public media. We noticed that a lot of public spaces (like libraries, radio, television, and museums) do not work together as often as they could. And we are working to understand what a model for a new public media could look like.

In addition to that, we’re struggling with an ambitious project – community mapping and strategies for engagement. As we are starting to map the resources for each community (and will probably end up on the streets, canvassing to find out demographic information, access to technology, and digital literacy data) the struggle looms large. Can we make a valuable impact in just six short months?

If the energy and creativity that PMC fellows demonstrated at the bootcamp is any indicator, the answer will be yes. Check back here in the coming months to follow the project's progress.