Please note: this is the original description of a temporary mediapool, meant to support coverage of events and then become an archive. Since the idea has grown and we now also want to be able to build permanent mediapools, like around a subject or meant for national use.
The Media Pool & News Portal Model
updated, July 7, 2003
The Media Pool & News Portal Model is an internet based model of news gathering and exhange which is meant to facilitate a special media effort for an event or campaign. The first (very limited) experiment with this model was the 'Joburg Media' web site, joburgmedia.net. Joburg Media provided a platform for information-exchange about the 2002 UN Johannesburg Summit on sustainable development and has now become an archive. (A report in Dutch is available).
The platform only uses 'E-media', such as web sites, mailing lists, newsgroups and Internet radio. These channels are already capable of transportation of text, pictures and audio material and high quality video will follow soon. This makes it possible to keep the cost low for both the initiators and everyone using the platform.
Of course the material can still be used by non-internet based media, like newspapers or radio stations.
This platform is especially useful when concers arise that an event or campaign may not get a fair share of media exposure, due to the complexity of the subject or because the subject does not appeal to the mass media. Examples are UN conferences, anti-war campaigns, aid campaigns, etc. In most cases the platform will be a temporary project, but the web site can remain as a permanent archive on the subject.
The platform is one of the tools which can be used in a general effort to build 'new independent media'. It is not a medium itself, is not trying to re-invent the wheel and does not want to 'compete' in any way or replace anyone or anything. It is an independent exchange, guide and portal, for the benefit of all. It wants to safeguard the availability and accessibility of relevant news on the chosen subject, supporting both everyone producing information and everyone using or spreading information.
The Media Pool is the basis of the model:
- It is a platform where everyone can exchange material, such as press releases, comments, interviews, pictures, etc.
- The form is a web site where one can:
- upload and download text, pictures, audio and video
- make links to external web pages with relevant material (especially inviting webmasters to do so)
- All uploaded files are available for free, so anyone can download and use them. (Links can be made from the Media Pool to copyrighted material)
- Example of a Media Pool (Joburgmedia.net, not sorted on date yet)
The aim is to:
- Provide extensive coverage of the subject, regardless of mass media coverage
- Facilitate a free and independent exchange of news and background information
- Provide outreach for anyone producing media material, like NGO's, activists, delegates, journalists, photographers, etc.
- Provide free to use material for (NGO) media, journalists, webmasters, mailing lists, newspapers, radio stations, etc.
- Generate an extensive archive on the subject, which will remain a free facility
The Media Pool is not meant to be a flashy web site with a lot of design, it is made to be simple and fast. Therefore things can be highly automated, needing only minimal technical maintenance. The plan is to adapt or develop free to use (open source) content management software, minimizing the cost and effort to build a Media Pool.
The availability of a web server with sufficient bandwidth is all that's needed to start a Media Pool in its basic form. If it is possible to devote more time to the Media Pool work, one or more editors can greatly improve the overall quality, by making corrections, helping users and even gathering material themselves.
In short: The Media Pool ensures the availability of as much 'raw' media material as possible. It provides a low cost 'do it yourself' exchange between anyone seeking publicity and everyone looking for news. It is an independent, non-commercial facility, next to the mass media.
The Media Pool allows for extra facilities and services to be provided when funds and/or volunteers are available. This is the labour intensive 'News Portal' part of the model, the (optional) added value.
The extras may be different for each project, but obvious options are:
- Providing a chronological overview of the news
- Providing a selection of material on specific subjects
- Active news gathering by the editors
- Providing background material on important news items
- E-mail mailing lists for both news selections and for open posting
- Services for media and NGO's without direct Internet access (like providing low bandwidth non-text material by E-mail)
- Example of a News Portal (Joburgmedia.net)
The News Portal can offer a number of services, ranging from a comprehensive overview for interested citizens to a 'one stop shopping' resource for the busy journalist.
Temporary project: easy to plan and cheap
A major advantage of the Media Pool & News Portal model (compared to other tools and media) is that each project is a temporary one, with a clear, short time span. Each project needs a (small) team, working on finding funds, announcing the project, preparing the platform, etc. But for the majority of people who are using and feeding the platform, their involvement is only needed for a few days or a few weeks (depending on the event or campaign in question). This makes it easy for people to plan their contribution.
Special software for projects using the Media Pool & News Portal model is developed. There is a Dutch description available.
As soon as this free software is ready, the technical part of a project will only need funds for server space, configuration and bandwidth. Depending on the traffic to expect and the available technical know how, this may vary from 500 to 5000 euro/dollar. In many cases these services can be donated by an organization which is benefiting from the project or willing to sponsor the project.
All other available funds can be spend on personnel, often making it possible to put one or more professionals in charge of the project for a few weeks.
Needing only a relative small budget for a well defined project, helps a lot in finding funds. In many cases it will be possible for NGO's to finance the platform themselves, actually building their own media channels.
Needed: a general domain name
A big help would be to have a good general domain name for these media platforms. In the Netherlands we already claimed mediapool.nl. Mediapool.net would be nice, but is squatted by a speculant. As soon as a name is found, this will be registered and made available as a general start page.
This general domain name can save a lot of work and money: It is not needed to find and register a domain name for each project and less effort is needed to make the project web site known. (E.g. 'Joburgmedia.net' could have been something like 'Mediapool.net/joburg').
Suggestions for a domain name are most welcome, contact us!
Will it work?
That depends on a number of factors.
A good team of reporters, researchers and editors with knowledge of the subject matter can pull off a lot by themselves. But such a team is not always available. Often it will be up to the people involved with or attending events themselves to run the show.
Here we encounter a general problem: Most NGO representatives, activist, delegates and politicians don't see it as their task (yet) to report on the events they are attending. Many do not even report back to their home base. And their home base, even when receiving news, often does not distribute the news further to colleagues or to the media. But especially in the case where the mass media fail to cover things, these people are the only ones who can provide news to the outside world ...
One of the main aims is to provide an outlet for their use, which minimizes their effort. A single submission of their material (even in a 'raw' form) will be enough to 'spread the word'.
The same applies to anyone wanting to raise awareness on the subject. Using the Media Pool & News Portal as a resource, they don't have to gather the news themselves and can spend more time on distributing it.
Depending on cooperation and people sharing and forwarding material, each project must make a maximum effort to:
- Publicize the facilities widely, pointing out the benefits of using them
- Recruit people as part time 'reporters', providing a bit of input
- Recruit people who want to forward the news to their networks, local media, mailing lists etc. (the output)
- Advertise the project to (NGO) media, local radio stations, webmasters, (E-)magazines, etc., as a resource for news
- Provide friendly and fast interfaces and custom help for all options of the Media Pool/News Portal web site.
With enough people contributing to the input and output for the Media Pool and News Portal, a complete chain can be built, independent from and bypassing the mass media. And many chains can be built, for all kinds of purposes and networks, by all kinds of organizations. Even when the mass media ignore a subject, this self built exchange can deliver a news flow.
Of course a Media Pool & News Portal project must also be promoted to the mass media, appealing to their traditional role as 'guardians of democracy' and 'governments and business watchdogs'. Being a 'one shop stopping resource', the project should have appeal to the busy journalist.
However, the current trend towards commercialization and monopolization in the mass media is moving away from this traditional role. Furthermore, topics that don't sell or aren't entertaining will be covered less and less.
In this context, a general awareness must be established: At this moment, the only real remedy for 'lack of media attention' is not to keep on begging, but to build your own media. As the Indymedia's say: "Don't fear the media, be the media". One of things that will make the mass media think, is the simple fact that we will bypass them if they fail, and do the job ourselves.
The Media Pool & News Portal model is a tool for building new independent media. It is a very practical tool to exchange information, is cheap, scalable, temporary, etc. But it completely depends on cooperation by the people involved in the 'news event'. As (NGO)delegates, specialists, politicians and observers on the spot and at the home base, they must develop a 'news mode' and learn how to share their news, knowlegde and material. The Media Pool & News Portal enable them to do so in a structured, non-intimidating manner and publicize their material in a open news platform.
So besides very practical, each project is also educational and empowering. It can clearly demonstrate the efficiency which can be reached trough cooperation and co-producing. This is a major advantage which independent media can have over traditional media organizations, which are geared to fierce competition and the selling of information. They often waste many resources by doing the same job as the competition. This platform in contrast facilitates a cooperative effort by many to 'spread the news'. Based on cooperation and appropriate technology, it can have the edge (in both speed and depth) over many traditional news channels, as was already demonstrated by the first, small Joburgmedia.net project.
As with many independent media projects however, both those envolved in the subject and those benefitting most from the project first have to develop the skills needed. People must be recruited and educated to record their news and spread the news of others. Again and again, until it is second nature to all involved.
Next lesson: Cancun *). See you there?
Boyd Noorda, Socia Media
*) The september 2003 WTO meeting in Cancun, Mexico, probably will be the next occasion a when Media Pool and News Portal will be built. See cancunmedia.net