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Minnesota Public Radio goes to camp

A unique collaboration to benefit public radio, MPR and maybe all of media for that matter took place at the studios of the Minnesota Public Radio on July 12.

The Public Radio Camp was organized by Dan Grigsby and those behind Minnebar and Minnedemo here in the Twin Cities along with MPR. The “camp” was positioned as “a new community event” and the purpose was to examine “the tons of really interesting content, data, audio, meta-data and feeds” and to spend the time “collaboratively remixing and mashing up these goodies.”

The designers, bloggers, journalists, Internet types and plenty of MPR representatives (about one for every non-MPR attendee) assembled in the deluxe UBS Forum. The space had been lined with work areas complete with large whiteboards indicating there wouldn’t be much observing but there would be plenty of brainstorming. Within minutes the group divided into what resulted in four groups: Data Access, User Generated Content, News Visualization and Nuevo Radio. My time was spent in the Nuevo Radio group, a name I gave it as a spicier take on radio. Besides nouveau seems so snooty. The results of it and the other collaborations are briefly reviewed below.

Data Access API: One glance at this group and you knew the developers were hard at work with plenty of tech talk and activity. As described on the Public Radio Camp wiki this group felt it would be really useful for users, developers, media and MPR itself if there were one universally accessible source (API) for searching all MPR content by location, time, keyword and article. It appears they are already hard at work to bring this to fruition.

User Generated Content: This group addressed helping people build news stories and their content, possibly to be used by MPR through the use of a how-to guide that could be posted online. They looked carefully at the process of developing a story and where collaboration could occur. They indentified ways the public could address everything from interviewing to writing, editing and producing. The real potential for such an idea is following up those stories that have a shorter on-air shelf life.

Nuevo Radio: The group sought ways to keep relevant to its listeners. User-generation was a focal point as well. Where the group described above focused on an online play, this group built on the idea of a “civic journalism center” or even coffee shop concept. A location where people that are inclined to be more participatory could gather as well as have access to the necessary tools and resources to build content. The idea of merging this plan with public libraries was also discussed. Other ideas included shuffling the on-air programming schedule on a regular basis to showcase the offering available online to be heard at the listener’s convenience and using HD channels to provide raw interviews and video to accompany on-air content.

News Visualization: This group looked to give visual life to the content of news stories produced and heard. Similar to a category cloud familiar to many who read or produce blogs regularly, the result of running an RSS feed through Wordle (see below) was “art” that would highlight the topics and words that dominated within the stories. Of course this would change throughout the day. As noted by MPR’s Bob Collins, someone commented that this is a new version of the “weather ball.”

Clearly the camp will bear fruit for MPR as the station continues to enlist the talents of this “enthusiastic” group, as MPR’s Julia Shrenckler noted. Hopefully it will lead to not only allowing those in this group to derive satisfaction and perhaps compensation for these ideas but that radio broadcasters beyond MPR will act on what is being learned and attempted.

MPR has discovered the power of enlisting “the crowd” to build its product. Merging old and new media, technology, and people is a noble effort and has every chance of elevating the quality of journalism as well as the expectations of radio consumers.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 07/29/2008 - 10:09 am.

    But, of course, MinnPost still won’t be allowed to sponsor or advertise on MPR or any of its new channels because, um, I forget why.

    Maybe you should interview Bill Kling to see why some collaboration is good, but collaboration with MinnPost is not.

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