Early advocates of Community Media enthusiastically believed that exposure to stories in conversation could create a more informed and connected community. The effort required was tremendous in order to produce stories three four decades ago. Good stories still require a concerted effort to research and produce. What has changed? Initially the expectation of quality was in the conversation itself not the media in which it was captured and shared.
Community Media has modestly evolved over the past three four decades within the context of the concurrent and gargantuan evolution of both media and technology. Its birth (1968-70) and solidification within the media landscape (ACM turns 40) after the golden age of TV (1950-60) following the Golden Age of Radio (1930-40), focused on the medium of TV with some footholds remaining in radio. In the 1980’s, public Internet began to emerge changing the media landscape and the potential for sharing information in a variety of mediums. It changed from ‘pull’ to ‘push’ technology with the introduction of apps and social media. After the year 2000, technology not only continued to evolve, obsolescence sped up, and tools in the hands of citizens expanded exponentially.
Where we are now has been labeled techno-info chaos. Many Community Media organizations are struggling for both technological currency and relevancy. To add to the challenges of an extensive landscape change, Community Media has not been devoid of self-righteous infighting. Nor has it been absent of the elevation of personal dreams over vision for all by those empowered to oversee community assets that are to represent local voices, welcome diversity and be commercial-free.
Sustainability is the struggle, but let us not forget that the early advocates wished to empower all to communicate with the tools of the day in order to make a difference by connecting their community and humanizing the ‘other’ through enabling underserved voices to be heard. This means that we are more than TV. But other things are changing and the community memory of advocates is a wee small voice in the techno-info chaos unless you choose to use Community Media to connect your community.
Footnote: When I see a hint of the original vision realized, it brings me to tears.