The important thing

Crossposted from my Portland Community Media blog. View comments on the original post.
I learned of Portland Community Media back in January, when I first embarked on my long-distance job search, destination: Portland. I asked the alumnoids of my college for suggestions, and one person responded with Portland Community Media. “OH MY GOD!!” I thought. WTO strikes. Wiring stories about Oaxacan maestros up in arms. Rebellion! IndyMedia! Wait—IndyMedia’s hiring?

Three months later I was sitting in PCM’s conference room for what was the beginning of a long interviewing process. I learned that PCM was once Portland Cable Access. The name-change became official at 8 p.m. on July 20, 2004.

“We don’t really do print,” was the gist of it. “We do television and we want to expand into ‘new media.’”

A few months later, I was hired as PCM’s “New Media” CTC Vista. To give an idea, “New Media” = YouTube, Wikipedia, Blogspot/WordPress, Twitter, Facebook/MySpace, OhMyNews, Digg, StumbleUpon… Is it true? Media critics and techies perched on the same rooftop have been screaming it for years. “Print is dead!”

Perhaps I’ve become a curmudgeon despite that I’m in my tender 20s, but I disagree. Yes, the Internet has created a unique situation where we can create online communities that are truly virtual salad bowls of nationalities and cultures; from mountaintops to undulating deserts. The Internet is a democratizing force, and naturally, film and visual programming are also migrating to the web. Accordingly, the tube is about to get snuffed, too. A second casualty of the Web.

Well, let’s play with three word associations:

  • Media
  • Community Media
  • Portland Community Media

My own thoughts are as follows: Media is the plural of medium. Community Media is a way to frame the use of media, and while PCM embraces community, how much does it embrace various mediums of communication?

Consider this: Print is a unique medium that marries text and visual graphics. If done well, design sets the tone for a magazine, a newspaper. It draws readers to stories via images, stories they may otherwise not be interested in. There is also a sensuality to paper, of a page between your fingers that a slick computer screen cannot replace. Most importantly, it is the most familiar medium in the world. Every person knows how to draw or scrape or etch out lines on a sheet of something. As amazing as I find PCM to be, I have to wonder about what it means if we can only offer technology oriented opportunities to our clientele.

After 23 years, PCA became PCM in hopes that the change in name would prompt better and more multi-faceted service for Portland’s diversity. Although I’m new here and there is definite evidence of how things have progressed, I wonder whether PCM’s growth is more vertical than horizontal.

How many people do we exclude from our mission when we have technology as THE starting point, in spite of our classes? How many people in our own Portland do we assume are technology literate, or just technology-oriented? How many prefer film and Internet over another method of expressive distribution or community unity?

I am certain that those who would rally around print are in the minority, but if the idea is truly about inclusiveness and expression for all under-represented/misrepresented communities and of those who would choose to express themselves through media, then print is not something to be overlooked. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel in this area or duplicate the services of other media groups, but partnerships may lead to media of an unusual flavor. Zines, audio, graphic design, book binding… Why not “Flipbook Storytelling?”

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” Charles Dubois


Filed under: Internet, Portland, Storytelling, , , , , , ,

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