By Katie Sobiech
“We’re getting really positive stories from the community that you won’t see in other places. We’re covering a lot of social issues, non-profits, community and neighborhood events that you normally wouldn’t see covered in traditional media,” Chris Miller, Director of the Akron Digital Media Center and Community Investment Officer for the Akron Community Foundation, said.
The Akronist will have an opening ceremony May 17th from 4-6 p.m., celebrating their new location at the Main Library downtown. All are welcome to come explore, take new classes, and learn how to post their own stories on the website (www.akronist.com).
Transition in Traditional Media
The tide is turning when it comes to traditional media.
“Traditional media is facing an economic crisis as with many other industries. People, news reporters, writers, photographers and designers are losing jobs because of corporations struggling. The way people consume media is changing and print media is declining in use,” Miller said.
With the decrease in printed media, there is great need for other types to emerge.
“With economic declines in media companies and financial struggles, there’s still a need for people to get information. There’s still a need for someone to get news about their neighborhood and city,” Miller said, “So what we’re doing is trying to fill in those gaps that aren’t being covered by traditional media by training people in the community to be able to tell the stories of their community,” Miller continued.
Most people want to know what’s going on in their hometown, or even better, their neighborhood.
“An interesting thing about Akron is that other cities of comparable size have a number of broadcast TV stations. Some have 3 stations. Akron unfortunately does not have a dedicated broadcast TV station so there’s a need for video and broadcast content that people are not getting,” Miller said.
Miller started his journalism career working for weekly neighborhood newspapers.
“One thing I realized when I worked at the newspapers was that people are incredibly loyal to their hometown neighborhood newspaper, more so than their metropolitan daily papers. They feel a sense of ownership over that information, whether it’s birth announcements, obituaries, DUI reports, what kind of clubs are meeting this weekend, or churches getting together for bake sales… What would seem mundane to other people is very important to people in that community,” Miller shared.
A group of local citizens’ creative juices began flowing, which led to the starting up of the Akronist.
“I thought, ‘why not take the model of digital media, the new landscape, and really cater that to a local audience?'” Miller said.
Those at the Akronist want community members to have a sense of creativity and ownership of the website and its news stories.
“What’s exciting about this project is that we want the community to dictate what it is and what it becomes. We want people in the community to drive this vision. We’re trying to be as interactive as possible,” Miller said.
“Traditionally, media is a one way street. I turn on the TV, or radio, and a message comes at me, but media is not interactive,” Miller said.
Miller wants to see the media world become more interactive and so offers many interactive opportunities at the Akronist.
Members of the community gather nearly every week for free classes to learn how to film and become journalists and storytellers.
“It’s always really exciting to see someone come in and be overwhelmed by the technology because it seems like it’s a lot, then all of a sudden the light goes off and they’re so excited to edit their first video. It’s a blast,” Todd V., Co-Founder of the Akronist, said.
Students appreciate this free learning opportunity and hands-on experience.
“I just love the storytelling projects. I love interviewing people, discovering the non-profit community here in Akron, and the community involvement that’s here,” Theresa Attalla, Program Assistant at the Akronist, said.
Attalla began by freelancing for the Akronist, and recently became a Programming Assistant.
“Working here and with Americore really opened up my eyes to all of the things Akron has to offer,” Attalla said.
You don’t have to have experience with cameras or writing to get involved. That’s what their free classes are for, and you work your way up.
“When I came they were talking about storytelling, and how everybody has some kind of story that they need to get out to other people. So that’s what I did. I came here, learned video and how to edit. It was phenomenal,” Monica Baird, a videographer at the Akronist, said.
The Importance of Digital Literacy
As the digital age grows, so is the importance to be in-the-know and educated on the many different aspects of it.
“The divide between someone who knows how to use digital tools like the Internet, and someone who doesn’t, is going to be as significant as the divide between someone who knows how to read and write and someone who doesn’t,” Miller said of the future.
“Digital literacy is important because in the near future people are going to have to rely on digital technology to do everything from paying their bills, to searching for jobs, to communicating with their family,” he continued.
If you are interested in taking classes or checking it out, the Digital Media Center is open at the Main Library from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
To become a community journalist or see their training schedule please visit http://www.akronist.com/training.
To check out their stories go to: http://www.akronist.com.