“Neighborhood News Bureaus”

Why Access Sacramento? Why Now?
Part 3 of 5

By Ron Cooper

Outlined in our past two newsletters, I have described (a) our five South Sacramento County partner organizations (profiled each week in this newsletter), (b) key understandings from the “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell helping us to understand how significant change can be orchestrated in society by understanding how “viral epidemics” spread in a population by influencing a key few individuals who, in turn, impact others, known as the “80/20 principle” (c) insights into the 40% of the general population not currently utilizing the Internet to their full advantage, (d) connecting and explaining the concepts of “connectors” (youth under 35), “mavens” (respected community leaders over 35) and “salespeople” (broadband and cell phone technology companies eager to activate the untapped 40% of the market), and (e) how “hyper-local Neighborhood News” posted to a central web site (AccessLocal.tv) would be a valuable tool to commercial media outlets eager for news leads from communities they can no longer afford to cover with their own reporters. If you missed these articles, go to our web site and click on our newsletter archive www.AccessSacramento.org.

Today, let’s attempt to connect these concepts to Access Sacramento, now celebrating our 25th year in Sacramento County “Giving voice to the thoughts, dreams,opinions, and community events not otherwise seen or heard…”.

In her letter of support for our Knight Foundation “News Challenge” grant application, City Councilperson Bonnie Pannell expressed the feelings of many in South Sacramento County as follows:

“Image is everything….. If we do not define our communities, someone else will and often, not in our favor…. Access Sacramento has a long history… providing community access programs, free of charge, to residents from all walks of life to develop skills, tell their stories, and thereby empowering them and the communities they serve.”

Supervisor Jimmy Yee expressed his support of the project designed “to give voice” to his constituents in District 2 by stating: “Since the investigators and reporters will also be residents of the same community, tolerance and unity within the community will hopefully be encouraged.”

And from Dr. Deborah Travis, President of Cosumnes River College, “This area is challenged at its most fundamental levels. Households are struggling to master English language skills and many live below the poverty line. In an age when information via the Internet is so critical for residents to fully participate in the democratic process, many in this area are caught in the technology gap, and struggle to gain training and resources to fully engage the existing resources that might help them.”

Here are the key steps Access Sacramento is launching in South Sacramento County with the help of our community partners, local leaders, volunteers, and you. We are triggering a “community information epidemic” by following these steps:

  • Invest in state-of-the-art web site architecture (AccessLocal.tv) permitting use of remote encoding of all digital information, posted to specific individual and neighborhood “blogs”, freshened daily with hyper-local content, and reviewed by local commercial media for “leads”.
    Start with five, trusted community organizations, each at the center of diverse communities, and ask each to identify and train, as needed, “connectors” and “mavens” to routinely report about their distinct neighborhoods.
  • Expect each of the five sites will pose unique challenges and opportunities. Learn from these experiences as the “NNB” project grows and expands.
    As content is developed, partner with other media sites to expand distribution. Aggregate all related South County information to the site making AccessLocal.tv compelling and relevant to local residents and others interested in the area.
  • Beginning with English-Spanish content, continue to reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of the region and adapt as technology helps us to bridge the challenges of communicating cross-culturally.
    Share this new content both on-line, on our cable television channels, and streamed internationally on the Internet – think local, act global – yet remain true the “hyper-local” focus of our content, always informing our participants of where we “live” by inviting their participation through “tweets”, blogs, videos, audio files, music, movies, etc.
  • Invite broadband and cell phone companies to help us grow awareness of the web site and our unique “locally relevant social media”. In turn, they will increase the market share for their products, now more “relevant” to previously untapped communities and small businesses.
  • Solicit financial underwriting and support for these training and content development projects by applying for grants and advertising support from the business communities impacted.
    Share the lessons learned with other local groups, neighborhoods and community media centers. When successful, we will have “orchestrated” a tipping point in the creation and sharing of online content from neighborhoods and communities throughout Sacramento County.

Why Access Sacramento? Why now? Our Board of Directors realizes that public access community television has served a critical role providing training and production resources to thousands of Sacramento County residents for twenty-five years and counting. However, cable television channels now share attention with newer online content delivered via the Internet. Younger generations prefer these new avenues of communication and we have noted a widening “gap” in the preferences for media information delivery separating different generations. The NNB project attempts to bridge this divide by remaining consistent to our mission to “give voice” to all, yet updated using current Internet technologies. Where there are challenges, so too are there new opportunities for Access Sacramento. Together with your help, we shall bridge the “digital divide”, the “generation gap”, and the growing “void in hyper-local journalism”. Just don’t look down in the process.

Next week – “What have we learned so far?” (part 4 of 5 parts). Stay tuned….

Bridging the “divide”, “gap” and “void”.