By Katie Sobiech
“Two and a half years ago I got let go from my job at an electronics company,” Monica Baird, a videographer at the Akronist, said.
“I had no experience whatsoever with video and now I’m putting up videos on the Akronist. I’m learning all kinds of things like video, media, journalism, and what does that mean, and how to put a story together,” Baird continued.
This is what makes the Akronist stand out from traditional media outlets. They allow everyday citizens to post videos and stories on their website http://www.akronist.com, regardless of their past experience.
“Monica has worked her way up and is now a paid staff member here,” said Chris Miller, Director of the Akron Digital Media Center and Community Investment Officer for the Akron Community Foundation.
Times Are Changing
The Akronist, a partnership between the Akron Community Foundation and the Akron-Summit County Public Library, is funded by the Akron Digital Media Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Akron Community Foundations.
“Initially there were several of us that came together with the concept that we see sort of a transition happening in traditional media. We’re seeing a lot more power being given to people by the internet,” Todd V., one of the Akronist’s Co-Founders, said.
“At the same time, I’m a painter, and I was frustrated with the lack of media coverage for arts in our area,” he continued.
So they decided to work together to change news reporting as we know it.
“We’re embarking on a new media model that is part of many models across the country who are experimenting with new ways of doing things, new ways of telling stories and sharing information, because it’s vital to the community,” Miller said.
Looking for Local Storytellers
“We’re looking for people who want to tell stories about their community and be storytellers in the digital age. We take people through a crash-course-curriculum that allows them to learn different ways to tell stories – from a written story, to a story with photographs, to a story with video,” Miller said.
The purpose is to help cultivate local storytelling and community news, with a focus on nonprofits, arts, entertainment and social issues.
The media center was officially launched in 2010, but has been in beta-mode. They moved to their new location on the first floor of the downtown Main Library this past February.
Everyone has a Voice
The unique thing about the Akronist is that everyone’s voice can be heard, and its community focused.
“We can get online and find the news of the nation, or world, at the touch of a button, but to find what’s going on down the street from where you live is a little more difficult. So we’re also engaging in a model called ‘collaborative journalism’, which is an evolution of citizen journalism,” Miller said.
Part of collaborative journalism is having professionals and non-professionals working side by side.
“We edit the Akronist as you would edit a magazine or news website, so we add credibility to the equation. We raise our standards of how we produce videos and how we tell our stories to the standard that professionals uphold,” Miller said.
After taking their Journalism 101 class, citizens can start posting their own stories.
“With the new media model, we’re finding that we’re giving voice to people who normally wouldn’t have a voice. We’re also getting unique perspectives on stories you wouldn’t find from a trained journalist or beat reporter,” Miller said.
Teaching People to Tell Stories
“Our adage is ‘let’s teach people to fish instead of giving them fish’. So we’re actually teaching them to do it themselves and to be responsible for their own information,” Miller said.
They’ve developed a curriculum, and free classes are available for anyone who would like to come.
They also offer a cutting-edge computer lab that community members can use. They’ve invested in equipment such as 27-inch iMac computers, state-of-the-art video editing and design software, and video camcorders.
“We offer all the necessary tools to be a digital storyteller for someone who might not even own a computer or have Internet at home,” Miller said.
The center is open at the Main Library downtown from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Watch for next week’s story which will go more in depth on their classes, the transition from traditional media and the importance of hometown news!