“What’s at stake when local news and information flow doesn’t serve all members of a community equally well? How can people respond?”
These questions lie at the heart of Information Stories, a riveting series of twelve three-to-five minute videos that show how people can overcome the powerlessness caused by living in an information vacuum. Combining the power of video storytelling with raw personal experience and the strong will to overcome obstacles, Information Stories highlights the critical importance of information to the healthy functioning of communities and the ability of ordinary Americans to live happy and healthy lives.
But make no mistake: there is nothing ordinary about the extraordinary people at the center of these stories, or the efforts they have made to improve the quality of information–and the quality of life–in their communities.
For example, we meet Loris Ann Taylor, Arizona-based executive director of Native Public Media, who explains how she went from growing up on a reservation that relied on a town crier to give the news to working, as an adult, to proliferate broadband availability and public radio stations throughout Indian country. See her video here:
The Information Stories series was conceived by law professor Peter Shane, who served as executive director of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, and filmmaker Liv Gjestvang. Professor Shane wanted to find a way to make the Knight Commission issues more compelling and concrete for the everyday public.
“The Commission explained why ‘second-class information citizenship is looming’ for many Americans,” said Professor Shane. “I hoped to motivate activists around the country to pay attention to their local information ecologies. I want them to ask whether everyone in their communities gets the information they require to meet both their personal and civic needs.” (Peter gives a great overview of the entire Information Stories project in his Huffington Post blog announcing the launch of the series and website, Digital Stories Dramatize Information’s Role in the Lives of People and Communities.)
Other storytellers we meet are:
- Martin Macias, Jr., a young Latino radio reporter and organizer from Chicago, who explains how he learned what it takes to really hear his own community;
- Maureen Mann, a New Hampshire state legislator who tells how her move to a media-poor part of the state led her to create an online newspaper that turned neighbors into journalists;
- Brenda Jo Brueggeman, a “hard-of-hearing” writer and professor of English, who explains how she came to understand the struggle of deaf people to be part of the flow of information around them – and the life-and-death stakes of being excluded; and
- Joshua Chisholm, a faith-based community organizer from Camden, New Jersey, who explains how he works to help people overcome the sense of powerlessness that arises when they live “in an information vacuum” generated by people and institutions that benefit from the public’s “lack of understanding.”
These Information Stories expose personal experiences with information deficits, obstacles to the free flow and exchange of information and other hurdles that are all too common in communities across America today. The good news, as each of the Information Stories shows, is that motivated, committed citizens can use a broad array of relationships, resources, tools and technologies to create positive and lasting change in their information environments and communities.
The videos are available on the Information Stories website at http://informationstories.org and on the InfoStories Channel on YouTube. Information Stories was produced with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.