I’m in unnaturally chilly Miami (its projected to get down to the 40s tonight) at the WeMedia Conference and am currently sitting in an afternoon session about “advocacy groups who once relied on journalists are now making the news themselves”. The session is being moderated by John Bracken of the MacArthur Foundation and the discussion includes Jon Sawyer, Executive Director, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Ellen Miller, Executive Director, Sunlight Foundation (who in her introduction referred to herself as a serial entrepreneur).

The Sunlight Foundation uses technology to help bring transparency to the activity of our elected officials in the US. They get behind orgs like www.MinnPost.com – started by people laid off at Minneapolis Star Tribune; www.Congresspedia.com which, as it sounds, is a wikipedia-like site but where all articles are vetted before being uploaded- its a curated space; and the Center for Independent Media – setting up bureaus of ‘professionalized bloggers’ who are doing investigative stories and driving stories. For Ellen, one model of success of wemedia is John Marshall at Talking Points Memo.

At the Pulitzer Center they’re trying to fund good stories about issues that are not getting coverage in mainstream media. The discussion didn’t actually answer the question between risks and benefits of having nonprofits in the space of media creation- perhaps because its actually nothing really that new. … Then I let another fellow here borrow my computer because she was live blogging the session and her battery was dying on her. There are more notes from the discussion here.

Then it was off to my panel “Activist World: Social Networks for Social Good” – it was a great group of people (Joan Peckolick, Founder, Selfchec;James Carlson, CEO, Bucketworks; Deron Triff, Co-President and CEO, Changents – all projects worth spending time with), most of whom I’ll be going to dinner with tonight but the energy was low (we’ve all been going since 7am and been sitting in a LOT of panels by this point) and there wasn’t much time to talk but there were some good questions that circulated about how best to reach youth (most frequently referred to here as “millennials”) and also about how to keep the internet open, – the question poised to me was because we require a people to log into the Hub if they want to upload, comment, rate, interact. Hopefully the conversation will continue…

The last session was probably my favorite of the day – Indigenous voices discussion “Telling our own stories” ….

David formerly an editor at GlobalVoicesOnline (who WITNESS has worked tons with – they helped us incubate our Hub in the form of a video blog on the site from late 2006) – and his colleagues noted a need for connecting more voices to the rest of the world beyond those bloggers around the world who normally from middle, urban classes in the major cities so they started Rising Voices which trains people to blog, podcast, create online media outside of major cities (in rented internet cafes) to share their stories with the rest of the world. One of their first projects is Voces Bolivianas which is a group blog that was started in the Bolivian town of El Alto. The bloggers write about news, politics, health, history, etc. in Spanish and the site is also translated into English but its also the first blog ever to be available in Aymara – a local indigenous language. Cristina Quisbert, a history research who has published two books on indigenous history in Bolivia and one of the bloggers spoke about her experiences on Voces Bolivians and said: “our voices want to be heard not just in Bolivia, but outside Bolivia- those of you here can help us do that.”

Cristina apparently speaks Aymara, Spanish, English and French and David is trying to get her to start a blog in English. The model of Rising Voices trainings made me think about our own challenges ahead in getting content for the Hub from places like El Alto in Bolivia and elsewhere- and whether or not we should be thinking of channeling some of the WITNESS short term trainings to efforts related to gathering/generating content for the Hub. This sounds familiar and I think Sameer may have mentioned this in the past (he’s good pals with all the good folks at GlobalVoices and Rising Voices).

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