Archive for journalism

Want to read my writing? Check People’s Production House

In order to simplify my life and give the company that pays me the full value of my work and energy, I will now be posting to my blog on the People’s Production House website. RSS feed coming soon.

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Report from the Queens hearing of the Broadband Advisory Committee

The NYC Broadband Advisory Committee held its fourth public hearing on Monday, March 3, at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Much thanks to New York Greater Metropolitan Area chapter of the Internet Society for documenting the hearing. His detailed summary and a full audio recording is available on the ISOC-NY website.

The highlight for me was when former Senator Larry Pressler, who authored the 1996 Telecommunications Act said, “If it is found that in New York City the spectrum and the broadband is not totally out there, that would be a tale that needs to be told.” Indeed.

Councilmember Brewer asked him a question about E-Rate, the federal program to fund Internet access in schools and libraries, and he agreed that it needs to be revisited. As it is now, the federal government tightly restricts E-Rate funds so they can’t even be used to cover access for administrators; they can’t pay for necessary hardware or training; and they can’t support public access, even though schools pay for bandwidth to be available 100% of the time while school is only in session about 15% of the time. In other words, E-Rate is easy money for the big Internet service providers.

If the BAC, or even just Brewer, is pondering reforms to federal policy, that is an extremely positive development. To date, very few municipal broadband task forces have addressed themselves to this area, even though there are many current regulations that hamstring their efforts to improve local infrastructure and expand high speed Internet access. Any worthwhile municipal broadband plan must include policy reform at the federal level.

Although I had already testified at the first hearing in the Bronx, I testified in Queens to offer new suggestions for increasing public engagement in the process, specifically among immigrants who are not aware the process is going on or who cannot attend daytime hearings.

I tried to play a couple of clips from interviews we’ve done – Arturo Mendoza, a construction worker who lives in Ridgewood, Queens, (in Spanish) and Beverly from Canarsie, Brooklyn (in English) – but we ran into technical difficulties. Ironically, that just drove home the point that we need to do more to include people like Arturo and Beverly – working people with limited access to the Internet – in the city’s broadband expansion deliberations, since they’re the ones the process is supposed to serve. (Many more clips are available on the DEI section of the PPH website.)

Councilmember Brewer responded positively to that notion and said she had just been discussing it with Andrew Friedman of Make the Road NYC. She suggested a supplemental event with that specific focus. PPH is now exploring that possibility with our partner organizations. I’m also preparing a brief to distribute to the city’s ethnic press through the New York Community Media Alliance.

I should be clear that, while some people who should be a part of the process have not been able to participate, the Broadband Advisory Committee, Brewer’s office, and Diamond Consultants (working for the NYC Economic Development Corporation) have included a vast range of perspectives. Diamond surveyed library patrons in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and a random sampling of public housing residents from across the city. While the library survey was only in English, the NYCHA survey, which was distributed by mail, was in English, Spanish, simplified Chinese, and Russian.

Those surveys are each only one of many sources of information for Diamond’s report, which could be released anytime in the coming weeks. The report will include a presentation of findings, as well as a complete plan for expanding Internet access throughout the five boroughs. The Broadband Advisory Committee is also supposed to present a report within a year of its inception, which would be April 17 if you start the clock from their first meeting.

The BAC will be holding its Staten Island hearing in the near future. I’ll post details when I have them.

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PPH at the GMC

This Sunday is the 5th annual New York City Grassroots Media Conference. You should attend!

PPH will be there in force. Abdulai, Radha, and Felix from our Community News Production Insitute are doing a workshop on “Reporting from the streets: Workers Redefine Media Justice.”

Radio Rootz, our youth program, is doing a workshop on creating a vox pop, which is like a quick way to capture the views and voices of multiple people on the street. The workshop is not listed in the conference program, but it’s at 12:15pm in room c112.

We’ll be handing out flyers with info about the Rootz workshop. We’ll also be handing out flyers letting people know that they can invite the Digital Expansion Initiative to visit their organization to discuss the city’s plans for expanding access to the Internet. There are big things on the horizon for your computer. If you don’t know about it, drop us a line.

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People’s Production House in New Orleans

This is an opportunity for you to support some very important work.

People’s Production House spent much of the last two weeks in Biloxi and New Orleans, working with grantees of the Ms. Foundation in the Gulf Coast. My colleagues (I was holding down the fort in NYC) worked with local residents to produce radio segments about their lives and the ongoing process of recovery, leaving them with production equipment, new skill-sets, and customized how-to materials.

It looked a little something like this…


… but I assume it sounded a bit different in the doing. That video was shot and edited by renown movement videographer Jacquie Soohen, over the course of a single day at Renaissance Village. Thanks, Jacquie!

Renaissance Village is the largest FEMA trailer park in the country with over 500 families (built by The Shaw Group, a large Louisiana firm cozy with Bush, on a no-bid contract after Katrina). The residents are understandably distrustful of outsiders, especially journalists. But there is an amazing youth center there and Abdulai Bah and Deepa Fernandes from People’s Production House have, over time, been welcomed into the park’s community as allies.

We have the ability to expand on this partnership and make some more great radio, but we need to raise a bit of money to make it happen.

The next step would be to build a direct relationship between the peer trainers of Radio Rootz (People’s Production House’s youth program) with the youth of the Teen Learning Center. Learning from people their own age is the best way to cement the Renaissance Village youth’s skills and desire for media making. And it would certainly expand the Rootz trainers’ abilities. (Rootz peer trainers are New York City high school students or recent graduates who have spent at least a year in the Rootz program.)

If you would like to support this effort, please consider making a donation of $50 or $100 through our secure online donation page.

Thank you!

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Further restrictions on soldiers’ Internet usage

Starting today, the Department of Defense will begin blocking soldiers from accessing some of the most popular websites on the Internet, including YouTube and MySpace.

The increasing use of such sites compromises the security of the DoD’s unclassified Internet known as NIPRNET, according to a newsletter put out by the Commander of US Forces in Korea. The newsletter also warns soldiers to be alert against identity theft and the sharing of sensitive information.

The website blocking comes less than two weeks after the military imposed new restrictions on soldiers’ blogging.

The May 11 “Bell Sends” newsletter from Commander B.B. Bell describing the new restrictions says,

To maximize the availability of DoD network resources for official government usage, the Commander, JTF-GNO, [Joint Task Force, Global Network Operations] with the approval of the Department of Defense, will block worldwide access to the following internet sites beginning on or about 14 May 2007: youtube.com, 1.fm, pandora.com, photobucket.com, myspace.com, live365.com, hi5.com, metacafe.com, mtv.com, ifilm,com, blackplanet.com, stupidvideos.com, filecabi.com”

(You can see the full newsletter from this website here or from the original military website here. From what I gather, this journalist broke the story.)

The banned websites all promote online interaction based on the sharing of photos, videos, music, musical tastes, or personal information. Some, like MySpace offer the opportunity for soldiers to blog their experiences. The Pentagon operates a channel on YouTube.

Last year, the then-Republican House of Representatives passed legislation that would bar access to such sites for minors using government-funded Internet access, for example in schools or libraries. The “Deleting Online Predators Act” (DOPA) died in the Senate.

The bill would have forced libraries and schools to bar minors from accessing any websites or chatrooms where they “may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material; may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or may easily access other material that is harmful to minors.”

I’m with Seth Johnson and the Dynamic Platform Standards
Project
on this one, that you can’t block such sites and still honestly call it the Internet.

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AMC 2007: The Time to Register is Now

The 9th annual Allied Media Conference:
“Breaking Silence, Building Movements”
June 22-24, 2007
Detroit, MI
www.amc2007.org

With just two months left until we gather in Detroit for the 2007 Allied Media Conference, winter has finally fled the midwest. The conference program is taking shape and the website is humming with anticipation. That means it’s time for you to pre-register.

Pre-registration is the lifeblood of the AMC. It’s how we know what size venues to secure, how many bicycles to prepare, and how many programs to print. Your registrations also provide most of the funding for the conference.

Aside from ensuring the best conference possible, your pre-registration gets your organization listed on the participants page, gets you prime location for your display table, and – for the next 5 people who complete their registration – gets you a FREE 1 year subscription to Critical Moment, Southeast Michigan’s premier news-and-views publication.

Make this conference happen by registering now at www.amc2007.org/register

Thanks for all of your support!

The AMC 2007 organizers
www.amc2007.org

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Democratizing the Beltway talk shows

In media reform as in most political endeavors, direct action gets the goods. You don’t like the questions the corporate media are asking the decisionmakers? Ask ’em your own questions.

The big news in the DC news biz every week is who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows – Face The Nation (CBS), This Week (ABC), and Meet The Press (NBC). Those shows send out a press release with the lineups every Thursday.

Competing news agencies send interns or other rookies to sit outside of the corporate media studios in case the guests want to make any statements after the interview. There’s a microphone stand set up outside; sometimes the guests stop there on their way out of the interview and take some questions.

Those other news agencies don’t send more seasoned reporters because they don’t expect to get any of what they consider useful footage there. Also, this all takes place on a Sunday morning when many of their employees would rather be in bed.

A couple of months ago, some enterprising media activists joined the post-talk show gaggle in order to ask the questions no one else is asking. The project is called The Washington Stakeout and is the work of DC Indymedia veterans and Sam Husseini, best known for his work with the Insititute for Public Accuracy.

If you check the site, you can see the Stakeout asking questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons of John Edwards and about pre-Iraq war intelligence of Colin Powell.

Washington DC is basically a series of concentric boxes, each one designed to keep you from thinking outside of its borders. It’s refreshing to see this kind of imaginative yet straightforward media activism in this town.

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