Using social media as a tool for empowerment, People’s Voice Media have helped to train a legion of community reporters in the UK and abroad. I talked to their community manager Teresa Wilson about their aims and aspirations.
“We’re not a media organisation; we’re a community development organisation. And how our community reporter scheme differs from traditional media training is what we call the ‘community reporter best practice’.
“This is where we take our reporters through the ethics and values that underpin putting material online. How to look after yourself and how to look after other people. We give everyone a community reporter badge – this badge is an indication of the standards they agree to.
“Anyone can learn digital skills, anyone can blog, anyone with access to equipment can produce and post films online but we want to people to feel part of a wider network, with these standards embedded into them.
“It’s a real joy to see people gain confidence with our programme. We train up a huge spectrum of people. Retired people and youngsters, students, people who are working, people who aren’t, people for whom English isn’t their first language. It’s all about giving people the tools to tell stories in the way they want to tell them.
It’s a joy to see people gain confidence
“What brings people on the scheme? For some people it is about skills, but for others it might be a particular issue that they want to address. And for others it is a general curiosity or a desire to be engaged, and involved with their local community.
“Community reporting isn’t a form of citizen journalism. The way we make the distinction is it’s not about news. Some of the content may be newsworthy but generally it isn’t and isn’t intended to be. Community reporting is about stories in their simplest form – stripped down and bare.
“If someone feels more confident and aware of what’s going on around them, they’re more able to get involved and participate in their community. They’re able to highlight the good news stories happening in their community and shine a light on all things that don’t ordinarily get picked up on.
When someone feels confident and aware of what’s going on around them, they’re able to participate in their community
“There is a lot of fear, misunderstanding and scepticism about social media in the mainstream media. We only hear when things go wrong. The Facebook parties that get out of hand. How Twitter was used in the riots.
“Without a shadow of a doubt digital and social media tools have the potential to empower people. How do we overcome reticence? We talk less about the tools and more about the stories. We emphasise how the tools are just a mechanism by which people can tell their stories and we always use the simplest, simplest tools possible so readily available or free software, like Audacity for audio.
How do we overcome social media reticence? We talk less about the tools and more about the stories
“Positive stories make people feel good so we encourage our reporters to concentrate on the good stuff. There’s enough doom and gloom, misery and mayhem out there. Upbeat stories can make a community human.
“We hope by building the number of reporters in the network – we have a goal of having 10,000 community reporters by around 2015 – sharing their stories, sharing their experiences we will build a real groundswell and cross-pollination of ideas. That’s the aspiration. A mass of content, a mass of voices from the community can potentially change media dynamics.”
And you can listen to what Teresa says about social media and community empowerment here