Tomorrow morning, at some ungodly hour I’m heading down to London School of Economics & Political Science for the POLIS Journalism Conference 11.
The overview of the days panels & discussions taken from the POLIS website is
As well as WikiLeaks and the Middle East Uprisings, we shall be looking at issues closer to home: are newspapers still powerful? Where are the new watchdogs? How do you build media for democracy? What do we need to know for an informed society?
It will be about the big ideas but also the practical skills we need as journalists and the real world problems we face.
Others on the panel are
So all that said, what is DIY Media Democracy & what are the three really clever people and me going to be discussing?
Well I can’t speak for them, but for me DIY Media Democracy is about filling the gaps in where there is no mainstream local media or where there is mainstream media, but they are not holding power to account. It is about taking the information from your council and making it available is an easy to read format that promotes discussion.
This could be something as simple as
- Crawling the council website to find the relevant meeting dates agendas & supporting documents and sharing the link.
- Going to one of the many boring sub committee meetings and reporting on it.
It isn’t about being a journalist, it is about using common sense, a basic grasp of the English language, civic pride and some simple computer skills to help people engage in the democratic process in their area.
If you go to a sub committee meeting you can have a post about it up on-line within an hour or so of the meeting closing, the council who have to prepare full minutes, won’t be publishing anything for days or possibly weeks. The local media, depending on deadlines probably won’t get anything published until the follow day.
If people don’t know something is happening or have missed an item buried deep in an agenda, then there is nothing they can do to engage and influence the democratic process.
If you are feeling particularly brave / aggrieved / mischievous, you could use some of the online tools to start digging and poking around in to the often murky inner workings of your council. Have a look at the council spending data on the fantastic OpenlyLocal site, or use the equally good What Do The Know to make some FOI requests, if you really think you are on to something then mail firstname.lastname@example.org and ask the question, that way it isn’t in the public domain and you may get a scoop! Once you have got your information you may need some help, Help Me Investigate* is an excellent resource for getting people onboard to help you with your investigations. There are tonnes of other sites & resources out there to help you if you want to try DIY Democracy, just remember keep it simple & keep it legal.
I’m sure that there will be a lot more discussion around these and many other points tomorrow.
The days discussions will be live streamed apparently and you can follow the discussions and tweets on everyone’s favourite super injunction breaking micro blogging site, Twitter, if you like by searching for #polis11
*Help Me Investigate is currently offline, see this post for details, but follow the blog for details of when it will be back.