Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Heading South for Continuing Education
On Building a Healthy Media Community

I'm headed back to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina today for part 2 of my continuing education on building regional media community. My friend Anton Zuiker has helped organize a
Blogger Bash for the Research Triangle area, yet the latest iteration of their unfolding conversation. In February, I went down for the Triangle Bloggercon, which was splendid.

Anton's extraordinary vision--about journalism, the web, citizens media and more--is a crucial component of that region's success in building community among media and storytellers (you can learn more about some of the converging threads he helps spearhead at his virtual community
portal, Blog Together). But he's hardly alone--the Research Triangle is home to an extraordinary collection of national-class resources when it comes to new media. There's former journalist Henry Copeland, for one, whose Blogads is at the forefront of creating a business model for bloggers. And there's Ed Cone, a nationally known blogger (and a really wonderful guy, as well) who is also a newspaper columnist. And there's the local paper, which has attracted attention from the entire newspaper industry for its hyperaggressive move into blogging and citizens media.

And there is a smart and personable serial entrepreneur, Bob Young, a co-founder of Red Hat (which helped make Linux open-source software more widely available), who is now trying to do the same for print-on-demand book publishing with his excellent Lulu.com platform (he sprung for donuts and coffee for 250 people in February, no small contribution). And there is both a journalism school and library sciences school at UNC Chapel Hill that are at the forefront of trying to understand where things are going in digital information. And there is an extraordinarily smart and personable academic named Paul Jones who somehow manages to be friend, mentor and model to Anton even as he is positioned at the intersection of digital technology, publishing and library sciences (his Ibiblio is impossible to describe briefly. I suggest you go there and look around for yourself). In short, this area has elements that are not easily replicable elsewhere. But that's not to say we can't learn from the best, and adapt whatever parts make sense, while we wing the rest.

In October, many of these same players staged a conference called
Converge South, and while I didn't get to make it down for that, I hope to learn more this week about what went on there. Both a journalism and a new media gathering, I admire the simple democratic language of convergence they used in explaining what it was all about: "creativity on the web for all people." The conference blog also makes reference to "exploring the digital revolution in publishing and expression." But their community's energy is boundless, as well as infectious. They've organized a podcasters' conference for January, and beyond that, Anton has an even cooler thing in mind for '06: a storytelling conference about blogging, oral history and geneology, dedicated to helping find and publish the oral histories of seniors.

Mr. Zuiker's marvelous capacity to
dream, married to his bias for collaborative action, is truly a thing of beauty. I feel humbled just to watch it all unfold.


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