Public Media Corps Takes DC

“Today’s public media must do more to fully reflect the public’s needs and personal welfare; do more to engage community members at the local level. America needs ‘informed communities,’ places where democratic values of openness, inclusion, participation, and empowerment thrive across all appropriate media. The practice of such a model ensures that communities are open, officials are accountable, and that the public is engaged.”

This is the powerful and focused mission of the Public Media Corps (PMC), which launched this week in Washington, DC.

A project of the National Black Programming Consortium, the PMC has selected and trained 15 fellows to embed themselves in various organizations inside Washington, DC’s African American and Latino communities. For six months, they will work in schools, libraries, museums, community centers, and a local public media stations, such as WPFW-FM, WEAA-FM, WETA-TV and WHUT-TV. During their residencies, PMC fellows will teach and engage people in multi-platform media-making to fast track their adoption of broadband internet.

Our country has a long tradition of creating “corps” to get young people involved in service work in communities across the country. While other corps aim to improve the quality of life on a local level, the Public Media Corps could have a broader, long-lasting impact: changing the face of public media to better reflect the real/New America.

I had the pleasure of meeting the group of fellows last week during their intensive boot-camp at American University. This is an inspiring, confident cohort of “digital natives.”

I shared with them the stories of successful MQ2 projects that could serve as models and learning opportunities for them and the communities they aim to engage. MQ2 grantee Shea Shackelford, creator of the Place + Memory Project, was on hand to provide audio training so that fellows are conversant and comfortable with the ins and outs of recording, editing, mixing and uploading sound.

The PMC shuttled over to the Silverdocs film festival conference for a panel on “Building Community Through Technology,” moderated by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, host of a new national radio program based at WEAA. Other panelists included Maxie Jackson of NFCB, Jessica Clark of the Center for Social Media at American University, Stephen Gong of the Center for Asian American Media, Charlotte Spann of Anacostia High School, Jacquie Jones of the NBPC, and two PMC fellows.

Public Media Corps is the brainchild and beta-baby of Jacquie Jones, but she refuses to take the lion’s share of the credit. Jones told the audience that the Public Media Corps is the result of many years, many conversations and the hard work and vision of many people (including AIR Executive Director Sue Schardt) who want to change public media as we know it.

I look forward to following the progress of the fellows and offering my support as they do just that.