Public Access Television Channels Recognized as an Untapped Resource for Building Local Journalism

An article from Antoine Haywood and Victor Pickard published by Nieman Lab, a journalism “think tank” formed as a part of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, recognized the potential for public access stations like Public Media Network to produce local journalism as legacy sources are declining.

Like public access operations across the country, Public Media Network (PMN) has served the community for 40 years by teaching people how to produce homegrown cable television programs, broadcast coverage of local government meetings, talk show programs, public affairs, and special events.

 

“In addition to these community services — staples across all Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) access media — PMN also recently began focusing more on producing local journalism, such as stories on gun violence and encampment evictions,” states Haywood and Pickard.

 

Public Media Network’s Board of Directors set a strategic vision in 2018 to increase local media representative of the community. The Board identified the loss of local stories and the important role local journalism plays in the health of the community.

 

Haywood and Pickard explain, “PMN’s pivot demonstrates an untapped potential for public access stations to produce local journalism at a time when other sources are rapidly disappearing. Access to local news and information is critical, especially during pandemics, elections, and other high-stakes moments. Yet it’s increasingly clear that a profit-driven news system alone cannot provide everyone with the media they need to navigate daily life. As local journalism’s commercial model continues to collapse, public and nonprofit media institutions can serve as informational safety nets.”

 

“Public Media Network has built an information infrastructure to serve the needs of the community. Rather than replicating the legacy models of journalism, we are focused on equipping everyday people with the tools and ability to report on their own community”, says Matt Schuster, Public Media Network Executive Director

 

Raine Kuch, PMN's Community Documenter/Journalist, trains new community members on journalism ethics and media production.

 

“We want more voices to participate in creating our local news media. More voices mean our local coverage will have more representation and nuance,” said Kuch.

 

PMN’s programs, Neighborhood Voices and Civic Reporter Networks, focus on providing community-focused media and information that has slowly declined as local journalism has faded. The Neighborhood Voices and Civic Reporter Networks train people to be journalists and gives them the platform and tools to report on news in their community.

 

The Civic Reporter Network launching in January 2022 will train, equip, and pay community members to attend and cover local government meetings. Kuch added, “By providing brief reports on local meetings, we seek to increase civic participation,  making it easier for people to be engage with their local government.”

 

Pickard and Haywood highlight that “These [PEG] channels don’t specialize in producing conventional journalism, but as one recent case study shows, access media centers anchored by PEG infrastructure facilitate something that traditional newsrooms often can’t: diverse community engagement.”

 

Commercial market influences are impacting the tradition funding that PEG Access Channels have relied upon. Coupled with federal and state-level regulatory decisions that have eroded local control, Community media centers like Public Media Network face financial challenges.  Investment in PEG Access Channels is needed to expand and build a new communications infrastructure that produces reliable information and provides a forum for diverse perspectives and local voices. 

 

“The health of our community is impacted by our local communications infrastructure. Your help is needed to provide reliable information and a forum for diverse perspectives and local voices”, stated Schuster.

 

You can sign up for the Civic Reporter Network training launching in January 2022 at https://www.publicmedianet.org/blog/help-keep-people-informed-joining-civic-reporter-network

 

The full Nieman Lab article by Haywood and Pickard can be found online at https://www.niemanlab.org/2021/11/public-access-television-channels-are-an-untapped-resource-for-building-local-journalism/

 

You can make a donation to help increase local media at https://publicmedianet.org