Stories of Akron Digital Media Center, via YouTube
Chris Miller is director of the Akron Digital Media Center and a community investment officer with Akron Community Foundation. Below, he writes about an expansion of a citizen journalism training program at the Akron Digital Media Center made possible with support from Knight Foundation.
Where do you go to find breaking news? Chances are, your answer includes some sort of social media app, using some sort of mobile device. Social media has become the new town hall, where residents can interact with public officials, store owners, entertainers and one another from the comfort of their mobile devices, tablets and laptops.
Through the Akron Digital Media Center, we’ve trained more than 1,000 residents in multimedia community journalism and storytelling, from college and high school students to retirees and at-risk populations, such as the homeless and those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. Our grassroots program helps inform our community from a ground-level perspective and continues to remove the technological barriers to quality storytelling in the digital age.
The next frontier in our digital efforts is mobile journalism. Thanks to a $125,000 grant from Knight Foundation, we will take our training “on the road,” expanding to neighborhood sites throughout the Greater Akron area, such as branch libraries and community centers.
The program will enable these same residents to create real-time coverage using social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We also will employ a “train the trainer” blueprint, which will equip residents who train with us to, in turn, train their neighbors, family and friends, with the eventual goal of a neighborhood news and information network that feeds itself without our intervention.
Our focus on mobile media will enable us to rally residents to give a real-time glimpse of live events as they’re happening, using the free resources available on their handheld devices. During a recent all-day music and art festival in downtown Akron, we posted Vine, Instagram and YouTube videos as the first bands took the stage, and we were able to live tweet and post teasers to entice more residents to join the festival later in the afternoon.