by Cathy Resmer
Sorry for the light posting. Had a busy weekend repainting the 2nd floor of my house and putting in wood floors. Oh, and I had to write a couple stories, too.
There weren't very many people there. Maybe a dozen or so audience members — total — throughout the day. Johnson's Community Media Day last March, which featured editors from the state's biggest papers, and some of its robust weeklies, drew only slightly more. This is a shame, because these inter-media conversations are rare. It's not often you have a chance to sit down with some of the most influential media-makers in the state to talk about how they do what they do, and how they shape public opinion and the public discourse. These JSC events have so much potential to help us understand the shifting media landscape in our state.
I'm not sure why the turnout was so low. Johnson appeared to have had a smaller budget for this event than for the one last March. I saw fewer ads, and we didn't get a fancy catered lunch like last Spring. But I don't think that explains it. If the panel had been held at Middlebury College, or even at UVM, I think there probably would have been a few more audience members. Johnson is too far, really, to attract a big or influential audience from the state's "big cities." JSC Journalism Professor Tyrone Shaw says he's considering moving the forums to other locations in the state — maybe have one in Montpelier, one in Burlington, one in Brattleboro. I think that's a good idea.
I hope they continue hosting these discussions. If nothing else, I find it useful to meet and connect with the people who own and run the media infrastructure in this state. I'm sure that other people would welcome this opportunity as well, if it were more accessible to them. I'm not sure how much the organizers promoted it, but I would suggest extending personal invites to other media and political types in the state, to think seriously about the composition of the audience as well as the make-up of the panel.
And the discussions themselves...well... I thought the blogger panel was really fun, but I feel like those of us on the panel were just having a good conversation amongst ourselves. I enjoyed meeting Paul Levasseur, of iPutney, and getting to see Brian, Jessamyn, and Bill, but did the audience get anything out of it? I'm not sure. We probably could have had a much livelier discussion if we'd had more audience members, and particularly more audience members who knew about or were interested in blogging and how it works. These people do exist in Vermont; it's just that not many of them were at JSC Friday morning.
Incidentally, I hope that we can continue that conversation at a blogger meet-up. Talking with these folks energizes me, and spurs innovation, which, I think, is the goal.
As for the afternoon panel on the state of alternative media, I think it was probably too diverse. I would have liked to have listened to Chris and Lise from iBrattleboro talk about their site — what works, what doesn't, how and why it's been so successful. It was too confusing to have Sarah from Radio Free Brattleboro on there, and Lauren-Glenn from CCTV, and Shay from the Vermont Guardian, and Perry Cooper, anti-sprawl activist, and me, and the iBrat folks. Too much ground to cover. I mean, in the course of a couple hours, we bounced around from the role of alternative newspapers, to the FCC crackdown on RFB, to how alt. newsweeklies are "urban, leftist" papers, to how activists can use the media to advance their causes, to how media consolidation (i.e. Comcast taking over Adelphia) affects democracy, to how frustrating it can be to explain the internet to people who don't get it. Am I the only one who got whiplash?
I wish we'd just talked about the alt. media scene in Brattleboro, and how they've cultivated it and gotten so much community support. The people on this panel really had some great stories, but I felt like there wasn't enough time and space to get into them as much as I would have liked. I kinda wish I'd been in the audience instead of on the panel.
That's my 2c. It's fairly critical, but I am grateful to have been invited to participate. And like I said, I think these conversations are vitally important. I hope they continue. And I hope they attract more interested folks. I'm sure Tyrone and Michael Schaefer at JSC would appreciate whatever feedback anyone has for them. Thanks, guys, for hosting us. I really appreciate what you're trying to do.
What'd everybody else think? So far, I think I'm the only one to post a detailed post-mortem. Everybody else just says it was fun.