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Social hour wrap-up: Portland Media Lab and multimedia training


Did you miss it? Well then you missed a good time. Last Thursday about 23 people showed up at the Lucky Lab in SE Portland for the inaugural Digital Journalism Social Hour. We talked shop, we met new people, we drank beer. The only draw back was the noise of the bar. Things were so loud we could barely hear Cornelius Swart talk about the need for multimedia training for journalists. Despite that, the conversation was lively, and we asked Swart to write down some of his thoughts about the conversation.

Stay tuned later this week when we announce next month’s presenter and a (quieter) location. Mark it on your calendar now: Oct. 29. 7 p.m.

Last week I had the honor of being the first presenter at the new weekly DJP/SPJ social hour. It was very exciting and humbling to be speaking before such a group. However, the event was very informal and jovial and it was great fun having an opportunity to meet others in the field and hear about their projects. It turned out to be a great opportunity to talk about the project Portland Media Lab and the need to support, train and provide technical assistance to journalists during this time of radical technological transition. It is the hope that the Portland Media Lab projects can be of some assistance in preparing multi-media journalists, citizen reporters prepare and learn skills for the emerging digital news era.

I was happy to see a healthy mix of print journalists, bloggers and tech people there, with lots of familiar faces from BarCampDigital Journalism Camp, and the PIE opening.

As the publisher of The Sentinel, I essentially own two small media properties. One a monthly print publication covering N/NE Portland with a circulation of 27,000 units. The other is a hyperlocal website at that is one part news blog, one part open-publishing bulletin board. The site gets approximately 1 million hits a month. For the last two years I have tried to use both properties as laboratories for experiments for multimedia and interactive journalism and reporting.

These experiments have led to the supposition that there may be a need for a larger not-for-profit news center for the Portland media market.

While I tend to be a bit hammy when I speak in front of groups, I did my best to explain the Portland Media Lab concept as one dedicated to advancing journalism for the entire local market.

So far the PML has been a conversation amongst journalist, tech folks, and new media producers. Many of the participants at PML salons are active in the digital media conversation both locally and nationally.  Over the last six months the PML has conducted an informal needs assessment survey.

The PML has posted recommendations for projects and resources that the participants believe are needed to continue and expand robust public-benefit journalism. It is my hope that these recommendations can serve as a framework for those in the media market who are actively trying to assist the fourth estate regardless of what the current crisis the digital age has brought. With luck, an active community can not only coalesce to support and preserve the social benefits of journalism, but help journalism advance and evolve along with the potentialities new technology brings.

The PML recommendations fall into three categories:

  • direct assistance to investigative journalism,
  • training and support services for journalists, bloggers and citizen reports,
  • promoting the integration of news organizations and emergent information technology

Many of the projects identified on the PML site are actively being pursued by PML participants. For instance the Sentinel is experimenting with citizen reporting that is moderated and curated by professional editors,
Daniel Bachhuber has experimented with open notebook and wiki reporting, Michele Rafter has been providing support services for freelance journalist, and Abraham Hyatt has organized mulit media training and support networking services through Digital Journalism Portland.

The urgent need for journalists to learn multimedia skills has risen to the top the to-do list. The next project that should be advanced is the launch of a multimedia training program in which journalist and/or citizen reports are given training across platforms with their work exhibited through a publication partnership or network. The Sentinel will be the logical starting place until other publication partnerships emerge.

I hope that my presentation was engaging and gave some food for thought. I think that both the PML and the social hour have similar aims in that both are trying to provide a framework and a local touchstone for the very exciting vital conversation going on about the future of the fourth estate.

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