Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Akron media center and website engage residents in new digital storytelling

Jan. 13, 2012, 8:57 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

On Wednesday Jan. 18, Knight will be accepting applications for the next round of its Knight Community Information Challenge. The contest engages community and place-based foundations in playing leading roles in meeting the information needs of their communities. This post is about challenge winner The Akronist.

The Akron Community Foundation has formed a new partnership with the local public library that will raise the visibility the foundation’s multimedia training program.

akronA winner in the second Knight Community Information Challenge, the community foundation established the Akron Digital Media Center training program and companion website, The Akronist. The site displays the work of citizens who receive training in digital media as well as partner organizations.

Chris Miller, manager of the project at the foundation, said the center will be on the first floor of the downtown Akron-Summit County Public Library, making it highly visible to library patrons. 

Chris Miller

The partnership with our local library system is a natural evolution of the media center,” Miller said. “Not only will we have more visibility and access for the public, but we'll be able to work with library staff to archive stories from community members and focus on digital literacy, a cornerstone of this project.

Launched in the Spring of 2010, the project has trained more than 500 Akron residents. Training was previously conducted at the local newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal.

Miller said the center offers free multimedia workshops in blogging, writing, photography, videography and video editing, as well as one-on-one mentorship so community members can be journalists and storytellers in the digital age.

It also offers a free computer lab and lending library of film and audio equipment, Miller said, so that anyone may participate in the program.

“I loved going to the Akron Digital Media Center's free Citizen Journalism Training classes,” said Akron resident Paula Willey. “The instructors were very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. I felt a genuine concern for the students. What a wonderful program for the community.” 

The Akronist.com publishes stories created by members of training program and media partners with a special focus on nonprofits, arts and entertainment and social issues. The site has amassed nearly 700 stories in one year, with thousands of page views and nearly a hundred hours of video viewing monthly.

Recent headlines included: "Attracting international financing to Akron's urban core," "Akron woman spins more than a good yarn," and "Northeast Ohio production group practices 'sustainable cinema,' reducing waste." The site also featured videos about holiday food programs and it has an interactive map that enables users to find stories about their neighborhoods.

In the coming months, the program also will rebuild another website, akrondmc.com, to provide more online training for residents.

Miller believes the program is succeeding in engaging residents in new digital storytelling opportunities.

“Digital media literacy is crucial to the success of our communities, and storytelling is a critical part of our culture,” Miller said. Thanks to Web-based technology, many people are visual learners and like to receive their news and entertainment through video and interactive learning.”

Additional upcoming projects include a “story center” at the library to archive video interviews with community members and a series of workshops and training that cater specifically to local nonprofit organizations. 

By Michele McLellan, Knight Community Information Challenge Circuit Rider