NCMR Day 2: I collapse into an exhausted stupor

First, I must report that Jen Howard, one of the amazing folks at Free Press (formerly one of my colleagues at MAP) was a touch disappointed in my review of the party Thursday night, which she planned. She also informs me that the company that handled the drinks had said that non-alcoholic drinks were free and they were definitely NOT, supposed to charge me $2 for a bottle of water. So I will conclude that Free Press (and Jen) are amazing at everything, including planning parties, and just got ripped off.

And so they proved on Friday Night. Or so I am told. It being Shabbos, I retreated to my room. Alas, I therefore missed the further inspirational remarks of Commissioners Copps and Adelstein. However, I urge all those benighted souls who, like me, missed it, to check them out in the video archive.

I do urge everyone to pay particular attention to Copps’ proposed New America Media Contract. I will have more analysis of this when the brain cells start workng again.

O.K., here is how Harold spent his day. It is a rather disjointed, personal approach that skipped most of the main events with the real news makers. Which is why I don’t call myself a “citizen journalist” (but more on that below).

O.K., the brain is going on serious overload and I probably won’t make much real sense here. I will hopefully, over the next week or so, have some time for reflection and general digestable trends. But here’s how I’m feeling at the end of day 2.

I am still blown away by the size of this conference. It is minimum 3000. From what I gathered from Bob McChesney’s comments this evening, it is hard to get an exact number because they have just been letting folks in during the day.

What is significant here is the level of inclusion and cooperation. I am seeing a lot of folks for whom media is their second issue, because their first issue is (fill in the blank progressive cause). But the progressives increasingly get the message that without media reform, you can’t control your message. “Framing” and street theater only get you so far if the media can make you invisible, or slant coverage to keep you from getting seen as real people with serious grievances.

Another important trend is the tension of “old media” types and “new media” types starting to come together into a “movement to reform all media.” At one time, most media reformers that focused on broadcast media totally uninterested in the internet and the digital divide as a problem entirely separate from media ownership and its crushing effect on the free flow of ideas. And you could find plenty of folks focsed on spectrum reform or other tech issues that regarded “old media” as dinosaurs unworthy of attention as they were on their way to extinction. Only a handful of us bridged the gap. But people are increasingly making the connection. This conference helps bring people together to realize that it’s all different aspects of the same struggle. The people interested in reforming radio so that it is not a wasteland of hate speech and payolla and the people putting up wireless nodes are not competitiors or unrelated issues. We are all just doing our part using our own skills and focusing on our areas of interest, but all part of the same wave of people determined to live as free people in the land of the free, not corporate serfs taking whatever we are given and grateful for the benevolence of our corporate overlords.

O.K., specifics. Went to an early morning meeting to help folks organizing for the next round of statehouse battles on franchising. I am hopeful that Michigan will be to “franchise reform” what Pennsylvania was to muni broadband — the defeat that turn into a rallying cry that awakens the public. Sadly, it meant missing Senator Bernie Sanders’ talk.

Next I went to Citizen Journalism. To recap from memory: Jay Rosen described his project at PressThink, which is an effort to take Citizen Journalism to the next level by facilitating cooperation between citizen journalists in different geographic locations. Chris Nolan, of, was rather hung up on why we still need traditional media because blogging is not a substitute. To which I say DUH. This is why I don’t call myself a citizen journalist. Certainly there are bloggers who are journalists who are using this platform as opposed to a traditional platform. But I consider these rarities.

I conceptualize blogging as a return to an even more anceint human art: conversation. Once there was a time when folks gathered together to talk about meaningful issues of the day like “should we revolt against the king” and stuff. “Town meeting” wasn’t a press trick for our leaders and demogogues to manipulate the masses media and stoke the faithful. It actually meant folks comming together to talk about stuff and decide things. Blogging is doing a lot to bring that back, with the sometimes happy (and sometimes not) side effect of leaving a permanent record.

So I’m not “reporting” here, which is why what you read here sounds like me talking. So I felt no obligation to go cover the “real news” panels. And folks can ignore this if it ounds rambling. Which it does at this point, so moving on . . . .

The other thing I reacted to was Nolan’s opening anecdote about telling a friend and fellow reporter she was off to the Conference on Media Reform and getting the response: “Reform it? How? What do these people want?” Hey, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. I bit my tongue from shouting “stop making a crappy product.” Because one of the main reasons circulation is dropping and ratings are droping for “traditional” media is that their product has been getting crappier and crappier for some time now. But they could get away with it because they assumed their audiences were mushrooms that would take whatever shit got dumped on them. Turns out, not so much.

Then there was Christopher Rabb of Afro Netizen. He was brilliant. He made the point tha we must not deceive ourselves in thinking we’ve achieved Nirvana of diversity online by giving every young, white, ivy-league educated male a voice. Importantly, Christopher did not say this in a bad way. It was really about a recognition of reality. The question for me however is “where are the bottlenecks?” Is it access? Training? Lack of role models? As someone outside the community of interest, I can only guess. And you can’t get the results you want without knowing what the actual problem is.

Then it was off to a opanel I did with Dharma Dailey, Mike Calabrese, Sascha Meinrath and Michael Lewis. Dharma, Mike C and Sascha I knew before, but I had never met Michael Lewis. He is doing some very interesting things in Harlem with wireles community networks. The panel seemed to work fairly well. Dharma moderated and gave a good basic introduction while trying to engage the audience. I spoke about the history that has gotten us to this point. I outlined what I see as the major policy issues confronting community based wireless networks and muni netowrks. In the community space, how do we make these projects sustainable? In the muni space, how do we ensure that muni systems remain accountable and useful to their entire community and do not come to replicate the cable model. What is the role of government owned and/or operated facilities? How should non-commercial private networks, commercial providers, and municipal netowrks (whether municipally owned or municipally sponsored) relate to each other?

Michael Calabrese discussed the federal policy questions around spectrum reform (particularly white spaces) and network neutrality. Michael Lewis spoke about his experience working with Wireless Harlem, and how it emphasized the community building aspect of a community-based project. Sascha ronded out the presentation with his discussion of the Commons Project to develop information about available network resources to share capacity and bring down transport costs.

While only half-wy through the day in this narrative, it is alread 1:30 a.m. here and I have to do a 9 a.m. panel. So the rest must wait. I’ll just say again that the $2 bottle of water was not Jen Howard’s fault.

Stay tuned . . .

One Comment

  1. Much appreciated.

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