SAMPLER (Southern Appalachian Media Project for Literacy on Environmental Renewal)

Photo of Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president, digital innovation, American Public Media from the Knight Foundations blog.

February 20-21 I got to attend the 2012 Knight Media Learning Seminar, thanks to a travel grant from the Alliance for Appalachia and housing and wining and dining by friends who teach at Florida International University. I even got to meet DigiDave (David Cohn) after all these years of being friends online.

In preparation for the Seminar, I'd been working on putting together a project I've dubbed SAMPLER: Southern Appalachian Media Project for Literacy on Environmental Renewal.  You can make a tax deductible donation designated for SAMPLER to the Ohio Valley Environmental Coaltion at RAZOO.com  (which takes a smaller cut than paypal or even the non-profit, justgive.org.)

We're working to strengthen regional coverage by creating an alliance of  journalists and citizens to provide in-depth reporting on regional topics including sustainable development and transition from dependence on the mono-economy of coal mining, especially the destructive practice of mountaintop removal, as well as a mechanism to crowd source such efforts and critique coverage that is biased or stenographic.

The Challenge for Information in our Region

Many areas in Southern Appalachia are covered  only occasionally by the national dailies, often with no real feet-on-the-ground understanding of the complexity of local issues.  Regional papers providing balanced coverage tend to cover one state, although the problems are endemic.  Citizens often don’t understand the difference between pr, spin and good journalism.

We plan to do real journalism

We're taking our definition from the Society of Environmental Journalists and want citizens to be able to gain the knowledge they need for meaningful civic engagement and the skills to create and publish  stories, photos and videos of their communities.   Journalists will be able to cover topic they could not address as meaningfully alone. The project will use a website, twitter, facebook and other social media to provide content to national media.

Our Allies

The Alliance for Appalachia (and its twelve member groups) and the Institute for Southern Studies, publisher of Southern Exposure and Facing South have already expressed interest in being our first partners, as has the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of KY.  In addition to journalists, we plan also to work with  other citizens groups, local libraries, schools and colleges and legacy media organizations.

We are also in the process of applying for associate membership (due to the small size of our budget) in The Media Consortium, whose active projects include funded collaborations on coal, campaign cash and the occupy movement.

Jeff Deal, IT specialist for Appalachian Voices has been helping us with mapping programs.

Existing Resources

Existing projects which can serve as resources/interface include Spot.Us and the  Public Insight Network. We're want to pursue membership in the Investigative News Network and the Society of Environmental Journalists.  We've approached folks at The American Independent and would like to work with the new non-profit taking over NewsTrust, once the transition announced sometime in March.

Tell us your ideas for SAMPLER

Do you have a story you'd like to read about or write?  Do you know of a resource or ally we should contact?  Add something in the comment section to this post or write to CommunityPoweredReporting (at) gmail (dot) com.