Katie Donnelly

The Public Media Corps, a public media and community engagement program, has published a working toolkit based on last year’s pilot program serving some of the most diverse communities in Washington, DC.

The Public Media Corps is an initiative from the National Black Programming Consortium with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ford Foundation.  The Center for Social Media’s Jessica Clark led an advisory group, including representatives from the the Association of Independents in Radio, the Bay Area Video Coalition, the National Center for Media Engagement, WGBH and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, which helped to guide the direction of the program. In May, CSM will also be releasing an evaluation of the PMC’s DC beta phase, which will includes data from observation, surveys, focus groups and interviews conducted over the course of the project.

According to the Public Media Corps website:

Based on other service corps models, such as Teach for America, the PMC is a new national service that proposes to promote and extend broadband adoption in underserved communities by placing Fellows skilled in technology, media production, and outreach in residencies at underperforming high schools, public broadcast stations, and non-profit community anchor institutions . . . Fellows will develop interactive web-based and mobile applications driven by compelling local public interest content; design and run training programs for influential community members who can extend the training into the wider community (including educators, parents, youth leaders and social service providers); and observe, document, and analyze patterns of use to inform the evolving national standards around 21st century skills and the recently announced national broadband plan.

From June to December of 2010, 15 Public Media Corps fellows worked with Washington, DC-based public media stations and community organizations to implement engagement projects. Before beginning their residencies with community organizations, fellows attended a weeklong boot camp at American University, where they received training in public media 2.0 concepts, community engagement, and digital media production. Fellows were specifically focused on diverse, low-income neighborhoods with a lack of broadband. They partnered with the following community organizations and stations:

Fellows began their community outreach work by conducting community audits that highlighted community concerns and existing community connections to public media. Working with stations, fellows were able strengthen relationships with community organizations by creating and implementing projects that served the unique needs of the community. These projects, described below, included media production initiatives, town hall meetings and digital access programs.

  • Digital Media Arts Club: The Digital Media Arts Club (DMAC) is an after-school program that engages high school students in media production, civic engagement, digital literacy, and career training. Public Media Corps fellows worked with DMAC students on a series of projects including ¿What’s Good DC?
  • ¿What’s Good DC?: ¿What’s Good DC? is a teen issues television program developed by Public Media Corps fellows and produced by WHUT. The show, whose hosts are from area high schools and Howard University, highlights community concerns and includes multiplatform engagement opportunities such as SMS polls. Eight episodes involving 150 students have aired.
  • Family Portrait Project: The Family Portrait Project introduced community members to their local library by inviting them to take a free, annual family portrait in exchange for signing up for a library card and checking out a piece of material. Families received free print and digital copies of their portraits. The photos, along with select oral histories recorded as part of the project, also serve as documentary record of the community.
  • Town Hall Meetings: Public Media Corps hosted a series of town hall meetings addressing the role of public media in education and civic engagement. Public media stations were integral in hosting and documenting these town hall meetings, which facilitated discussions between community members, public media stations, and government officials. 

The models that arose during the launch phase can be seen as starting point for other stations planning to implement the Public Media Corps program. The recently published PMC toolkit can serve as a guide for stations to recreate the Public Media Corps structure in its entirety or as a tool for managing one of the engagement models created during the pilot program.

The toolkit describes lessons learned during each aspect of the program, including working with an advisory board, recruitment and training, conducting community audits, working with local partners and implementing community engagement models. It also includes an introduction to Kindred, the online collaboration platform used during the launch phase, as well as a list of tools and resources that stations can adapt for their own programs.

The Public Media Corps anticipates that the models will evolve and change over time, and that stations will create new models to reflect and serve the needs of other communities looking to use public media tools to increase community engagement.

This article is part of our series on digital and media literacy education initiatives. Previous entries in the series include: PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab Program Ready to Expand, FTC’s Admongo Promotes Surface-Level Advertising Literacy, Holocaust Museum Repackages Multimedia Propaganda Exhibit for Media Literacy Educators, Common Sense Media Employs Comprehensive Evaluation Strategy for Digital Citizenship Curriculum, Digital and Media Literacy Book Review: Spaceheadz, and City Voices, City Visions Uses Digital Video to Promote Learning.