Welcoming_cropped

#MediaScot – a focus for new community media

Leading figures from across Scotland’s new media sector are gathering at an Edinburgh school today (Friday 22 April) in a unique opportunity to learn from each other about how they can take more control over local news gathering and media production for their benefit of communities across the country.

The “Media in Scotland’s Communities” conference is taking place at Castlebrae Community High School in Craigmillar, organised by the charity Media Trust, where I have been working since late 2013, and the University of the West of Scotland.

The event brings together dozens of media activists, writers and publishers, journalists and academics as well as young film makers and students from Scotland and the UK to begin to map the future for new community-based media in the country.

The event marks the final stages of Media Trust’s 3-year flagship programme, Do Something Brilliant, which has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and which has delivered dozens of specialist training workshops to charities, social enterprises and small businesses in every region of Scotland since the project began in 2013.

I have had the unique privilege of travelling from Orkney and Lewis, to Ayrshire and the Borders either to run one of numerous training sessions or to film editions of the Community Channel programmes which I’ve produced, with the help of some outstanding young presenters and reporters, such as Farah Bradford and Ted Simpson (pictured, below).

Farah + Ted

Farah Bradford and Ted Simpson presented the March 2016 edition of the Community Channel’s Do Something Brilliant programme from Craigmillar.

However, we chose to locate this event in Craigmillar because this part of Edinburgh has been the focus of a key element of my work in the last year, assisting in setting up the area’s new hyperlocal news website, the Chronicle Online.

A key opening contribution to the day will come from Kathryn Geels, whose extensive study of the current state, and future of hyperlocals across the UK, Destination Local has just been completed.

Participants at the conference will be running masterclasses and technical workshops in how to produce sophisticated media materials on smartphones, opportunities for crowdfunding new media in Scotland, and the role of education in helping communities take control of media and news in their own areas.

Myself and the other co-organisers, Jennifer Jones and David McGillivrary from UWS, believe the event will help set the national agenda for the future of community media – and new media more widely – both in Scotland and the UK.

As well as the technical workshops, film screenings and panel discussions, there will be a number of stalls provided by partner organisations such as the Thistle Foundation and Digital Sentinel.

The University of the West of Scotland’s mobile campus will be based at the school for the day and will be both an editing space for the journalism students and young film-makers taking part as well as the intake point for contributions from wider flung hyperlocal websites, such as The Bristol Cable.

IMG_2193

Castlebrae Community High School headteacher, Norma Prentice

Our enormous thanks go to both the staff and students at Castlebrae for their generosity in agreeing to host the event, despite having also to accommodate students from the local primary school which has been evacuated because of the Edinburgh city-wide schools PFI reconstruction work.

Training for the Chronicle Online will take place at The White House in Craigmillar

Craigmillar’s Chronicle Online

Training for the Chronicle Online will take place at The White House in Craigmillar

Training for the Chronicle Online will take place at The White House in Craigmillar

After months of planning, Scotland’s capital should see the first community news website of its kind being launched in the city in the autumn, serving Craigmillar and the surrounding area in the south of Edinburgh.

The post-#IndyRef flourish in new media has seen the creation of a number of politically-oriented websites, as well as the ground-breaking, crowd-funded investigative journalism website The Ferret. However, none of these so far has had the resources – or inclination – to cover local issues, politics or personalities.

The ChronicleOnLine will seek to change that.

Media Trust has been asked to play a part in training new bloggers and reporters on the community news website – from newsgathering techniques and the ethics of social media to video production and podcasting.

It is clear that there is not just a glaring need for more local news online across Scotland and the UK, but a massive appetite in areas like Craigmillar as well as enormous enthusiasm within the community to take part in the project.

Funding for the training has come from the local authority via the Portobello and Craigmillar Neighbourhood Partnership and we hope to bring together local bloggers, students with an interest in media, journalism and coding, designers and game developers, as well as community activists and archivists – all of whom, we are certain, will bring a huge range of expertise, experience and energy to the website.

A series of workshops, held at Castlebrae High School and a local community hub, The White House, has already mapped scores of possible opening stories, news sources and issues which could feature on the site in its first weeks. It is likely some of those involved in these start-up workshops will continue to develop the website through a proposed community editorial board.

As part of the training, Media Trust will again be working with Jennifer Jones from the University of the West of Scotland, applying many of the lessons and techniques in community journalism which we developed as part of our work all across Scotland during the 2013/2014 Digital Commonwealth project. There will be a wealth of local knowledge and practical expertise in community journalism from Phyllis Stephen, founding editor of The Edinburgh Reporter website as well as support from the designer and illustrator, Sonya Hallet.

Organisers of the project, which include social enterprises in Craigmillar, community activists, schools and the local library, hope the site will go online at the end of October.

The first of the training sessions is scheduled for 02 October.

Why does it always rain ast demos? Me with NUJ colleagues on anti-austerity protest. Birmingham, October 2010

What’s actually wrong with the Scottish media?

Why does it always rain ast demos? Me with NUJ colleagues on anti-austerity protest. Birmingham, October 2010

Why does it always rain at demos? Me (left) with NUJ colleagues on anti-austerity protest, last time around. Birmingham, October 2010

Which should bother us most:

a BBC news executive is shifted sideways (very belatedly) after repeated accusations of bullying and a staff threat to strike if he wasn’t moved?

a perception that the BBC is institutionally biased against Scottish independence and its (especially on-line) supporters?

or the thought that traditional TV audiences are literally dying off and changing viewing habits sufficiently to trigger seismic cuts to public service broadcasting.

There’s an intense and at times highly divisive bebate going on in Scotland right now over control of the media.

But there’s an equally intense debate going on across the UK over ownership of the media and access – and it is one which has been at the heart of a struggle for generations over who controls the media, and over what the newspaper proprietors, ministers, broadcasting moguls and web owners say.

For people like me, it is a massive concern that the views of trade unions and people at work are systematically under-reported in the mainstream media, and especially by our national broadcaster.

We know the story: company CEOs and market analysts get largely uncritical airtime while union reps on picket lines or besuited general secretaries can only expect hostile, frequently ill-informed, questioning and barracking on the same programmes because the trains, ferries or underground aren’t running.

It has always seemed to me not just unfair, but a travesty of any genuine notion of public service news provision.

And it’s not just me, by the way. A more detailed academic study of the issue by the Cardiff School of Jounalism came to similar conclusions.

So, years of seeing trade union, anti-austerity, anti-war, or anti-racism campaigns being under-represented on TV or radio meant I was not surpised (disappointed, yes, but not surprised) that people in the #IndyRef campaign concluded the mainstream media were biased against them.

But is that the most urgent problem right now?

This week, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom released one of its most detailed examinations for years of the state of the sector.

The timing of the report is critical.

The BBC director general Tony Hall this week announced 1000 job cuts at the Corporation because of a £150m shortfall in licence fee funding.

That in turn has triggered fears that this could just be a precursor for yet another jobs cull at the BBC as a result of the renegotiation of the Licence Fee and the wider BBC Charter Review.

It its report, Ofcom found that “[Public Service Broadcasting] PSB channels spent just under £440m less in real terms in 2014 than in 2008” (p 13. 3.1).

It goes on: “Scotland [is] one of the main beneficiaries of the shift in production out of London and the only Nation to see an increase in spend on nations programming, up by 14% since 2008. Nevertheless, higher proportions of audiences here (21%) feel negatively portrayed, compared to respondents in most other areas of the UK.” (3.52.3)

BBC funding figures are notoriously opaque and are always challenged by those in Scotland’s creative sector, but the contrast between the BBC’s financial case and Ofcom’s conclusions about negative portrayal is still pretty stark.

But the most worrying numbers are not part of the Ofcom report. Instead they are being hinted at ahead of next week’s budget: that the BBC will have to take on the £600m cost of paying the licence fee of everyone over 75; and a further £200m if the government rules it is no longer a criminal offence for other households to evade the licence fee.

Remember, the BBC’s licence fee income is around £3.7bn a year.

The Chancellor is sharpening his axe and the all-male, all-white, mainly Conservative Culture Media and Sport select committee of MPs seems pretty unlikely to stay his hand.

And all this is before we even begin to look at the problems facing the press in Scotland, from the “challenging” state of finances at the parent company of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, to some of the long-term plans being tested out by the US owners of The Herald/Evening Times titles, or alarm over the threat to their revenues and coverage from Google, Facebook and the BBC expressed by the owner of The Scotsman and a stable of local papers around Scotland and the UK.

However, there is good reason for hope that we can challenge this. Or at least some of it.

It is good news that the Scottish Parliament and the government here will finally have a say over the future of the BBC as part of the Charter Renewal negotiations.

But there is another way of taking on these threats from ministers, editors and proprietors.

First, for instance, many months – actually, years, when you count them up – of relentless and dignified argument by NUJ reps at BBC Scotland resulted in the former head of news and current affairs being moved on. He’s been moved on to the office dealing with the BBC’s case for Charter Renewal – which doesn’t inspire staff with a ton of confidence, but they tell me it has already made an enormous difference to morale and output on the newsroom floor.

Another NUJ campaign to prevent a veteran trade union rep from being made redundant at a local newspaper in South Yorkshire led to his sacking threat being withdrawn.

A campaign of industrial action last month at a string of local newspapers across London managed – remarkably – to secure the support of the Mayor, Boris Johnson and a significant number of his fellow Conservative MPs, resulting in talks to withdraw the editorial cuts threat.

I am not surprised that very little of this ground-up, workplace campaigning has been reported by the mainstream media. These are trade unionists, after all.

Nor am I that surprised that Ofcom’s very detailed breakdown of viewing figures and ages, or examinination of Facebook metrics by Ashley Highfield, the Johnson Press boss, isn’t going to light a fire for those working to build a new media landscape in Scotland based on public disenchantment with the post #IndyRef BBC.

But if those leading the debate over the future of the Scottish media after the Referendum ignore this stuff, they risk leading this flowering, new politically-minded media in Scotland into a cul-de-sac where the opinions, skills and careers of the sub-editors, designers, producers, coders or videographers don’t matter.

And that’s not much of a public service, either.

So, it’s time for people to stick up for public service journalism and news – and it’s time to stick up for the BBC.

Mumia needs urgent medical treatment

Honorary NUJ member, Mumia Abu Jamal has spent more than 30 years in jail - much of the time in solitary confinement

Honorary NUJ member, Mumia Abu Jamal has spent more than 30 years in jail – much of the time in solitary confinement. Image via Mumia’s official Facebook page.

Supporters around the world of the jailed African American journalist Mumia Abu Jamal are extremely alarmed to hear that, more than two months after being admitted to hospital because of complications related to his diabetes condition, his family says he is being denied access by state authorities to the medical treatment he urgently needs.

At the time he was admitted (30 March) to an intensive care unit at a clinic near the Pennsylvania prison where he is being held, he was in diabetic shock. The emergency came just a few weeks after blood tests conducted within the prison which his family say should have revealed he was suffering from diabetes.

A report on his medical condition from earlier this month indicates that he remains extremely ill, has lost a lot of weight and is using a wheelchair because of swelling in his feet and legs.

Some supporters say his current treatment amounts to “medial execution through neglect and malpractice” and they want the PA Department of Corrections to allow independent specialists to treat Mumia’s diabetes and severe eczema.

Mumia Abu Jamal was the first person to be granted honorary membership of the union and we are proud to be able to call him a colleague.

It is our view that Mumia is the victim of one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice arising from the civil rights stuggles of the 20th Century.

We in the NUJ firmly believe the criminal justice system has blighted the life of a man who was clearly targeted because of his work as a campaigning journalist, exposing corruption and racism.

To deprive him now of the medical attention he so desperately needs is a further and unnecessary act of cruelty and inhumanity.

The NUJ has joined other trade unions as well as Mumia’s family and friends calling on the Pennsylvania state Governor Tom Wolf to intervene to allow daily visits to him by Mumia Abu Jamal’s family and to permit Mr Jamal’s choice of medical specialists to treat him.

We are also urging the Governor to take steps to allow him to be released and to put an end to this monumental miscarriage of justice.

Mumia Abu Jamal has consistently denied the allegation that he killed a white officer, and despite a lengthy campaign to obtain a fair trial, his appeals have been consistently refused.

During three decades on death row he has faced the stress of twice being given execution dates – sentences that were later halted following worldwide campaigning for his cause, which also led the authorities in 2011 to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.

There is a petition on Change.org calling for Governor Wolf and the head of the Pennsylvania prisons department, John Wetzel, to allow Mumia’s own doctors to visit him and prescribe treatment for his long-term illness.

My name is…

Tommy Whitelaw lobbies MSPs during a recent event at the Scottish Parliament

Tommy Whitelaw lobbies MSPs during a recent event at the Scottish Parliament

Joan Whitelaw was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2007.

When that happened, her son Tommy parked his previous life to care for her until she died in 2012.

Those five years have informed his new life.

Tommy Whitelaw is now almost constantly on the road talking to health care professionals, medical students and hundreds of others across the NHS in Scotland and England, telling the story of how one small gesture by a nurse visitor to his mother’s home – when both she and Tommy felt at their most isolated and near to despair – made a colossal difference to how he was able to cope with her declining health and mounting care needs.

Amidst the sometimes harrowing details of how Joan Whitelaw’s physical world changed forever as dementia took its toll, Tommy says the greatest tragedy is how the illness erased a great love story from her memory: how she met and married Tommy’s father and their lives together.

It is an experience of loneliness, of a patient’s world shrinking – sometimes to anonymity – which has also informed a new campaign to try to help restore dignity and self-esteem to hospital patients.

Kate Grainger is a consultant doctor who is also terminally ill with cancer.

Her campaign hopes to encourage NHS staff to introduce themselves by name to help build a relationship with their patients.

She says: “I firmly believe it is not just about knowing someone’s name, but it runs much deeper.

“It is about making a human connection, beginning a therapeutic relationship and building trust.

“In my mind it is the first rung on the ladder to providing compassionate care.”

That connection is something which healthcare professionals in Scotland say they have already begun to make across dementia care.

Ruth Mantle, consultant nurse with Alzheimer Scotland, said: “[It’s about] taking the time to find out what really matters to that person, who matters to that person, who’s the best person to speak to, to get that information.

“We use tools such as the ‘getting to know me’ tool up here in Scotland.

“So, absolutely we can all make those small, little differences to include someone’s experience.”

Pledges to ‘make a difference’ are at the centre of Tommy Whitelaw’s Dementia Carer Voices campaign, which features in the latest edition of Brilliant Scotland series on the Community Channel.

When we filmed a lobby of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament organised by Tommy Whitelaw’s campaign and Alliance Scotland, the new First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon told us: “Every single, individual pledge that’s made adds up to a transformation in how we care for people with dementia and people who care for them.

“And as long as I’m in politics and as long as I have got any influence in government my pledge is to help and support people who are working so hard to make life better for people with dementia.”

According to official estimates, there are more than 650,000 unpaid carers in Scotland.

Campaigners believe there are in fact tens of thousands more – many of them may not even realise they are a carer.

They hope new legislation – due in the Spring – will help improve conditions for carers across Scotland, through providing individual Support Plans, non-judgemental care assessments and greater responsibilities on local authorities to provide cover to allow carers to take short breaks.

Many also believe one single change could everything for carers: a living wage.

Taken together, they say, both elements would allow carers to manage their role and have a life outside caring.

Said Tommy Whitelaw: “Over and above any policy or strategy, it’s people who change lives.

“And I think the highlight so far on the tour is just meeting those incredible people who are passionate – and compassionate – and want to really do their best to care for people.

“And we’re trying to help them with that story, but also to find out the little things that get in the way of allowing them to do that.

“So along with the pledges we’re asking people: is there anything that would stop you fulfilling this pledge?

“And if there’s a way we can support them, to allow them to fulfil it, we’ll do that.”

Brilliant Scotland will be repeated on Saturday 7 February at 06.00am.

The programme is available on-demand on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/CommunityChannelTV

Navigating consent

Media Trust filmed a training session on consent run by the Rape and Abuse Support group in Aberdeen

Media Trust filmed a recent training session on consent run by the Rape and Abuse Support group in Aberdeen

Recent research by the National Union of Students has found that almost one-in-ten women have said “no” to sex but have been ignored.

It comes amid a vital debate over the issue of sexual consent, triggered by the new guidelines issued last week to police and prosecutors by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.

The guidelines will require investigating officers to ask alleged rapists whether they claim their victim had consented to sex and if so, how they knew she had given consent.

Filming at a recent training session for students in Aberdeen organised by the Rape and Abuse Support group put the guidance into sharp perspective for me.

The RAS student ambassador Tashana Khan said: “Unfortunately a lot of students around the UK and here in Aberdeen have reported that they have been victims of things like sexual harassment, ranging from street harassment and cat-calling, inappropriate touching in clubs all the way to serious forms of sexual assault.

“So I think that’s another reason why we need to talk about these things and promote active, enthusiastic consent.”

The idea of “affirmative” or “enthusastic” consent has been part of the lexicon of campaigners against sexual violence for some time and groups such as those in Aberdeen will welcome its endorsement by one of the UK’s most senior legal officers.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, toolkits to prosecutors will “spell out situations where a potential victim may have been unable to consent due to incapacity through drink or drugs, for example, or where consent could not reasonably be considered to have been given freely due to the unequal relationship of the parties involved. For example, if the suspect held a position of power over the potential victim – as a teacher, an employer, a doctor or a fellow gang member.”

When we filmed their training workshop for the latest edition of the #BrilliantScotland series on the Community Channel, RAS violence prevention workers also said that what should be a basic issue of assent is easily complicated by peer pressure, social mores, downright bullying or the inexperience of young students with drugs and alcohol.

RAS worker Francesca Bellei told us: “It is a very simple concept: ‘yes’ means yes and ‘no’ means no.

“But real life often presents us with situations that can seem more difficult than that to navigate.

“We also believe that there are very strong social constructions that tell us things about consent that may not be true.”

The students and the RAS facilitators went on to discuss how the law in Scotland is also changing – even though those changes are not coming quickly enough for some.

Reforms to the Scots law principles of corroboration are likely later this year.

These are partly in response to official figures which showed more than two thousand domestic abuse cases a year could not be prosecuted because of insufficient admissible evidence.

So the RAS campaigners hope their work among students and the wider public will help raise awareness of both consent and corroboration, to help put an end to blaming women for rape.

“For too long,” said Alison Saunders, “society has blamed victims for confusing the issue of consent.

“But it is not they who are confused, it is society itself and we must challenge that.

“Consent to sexual activity is not a grey area – in law it is clearly defined and must be given fully and freely.”

#BrilliantScotland 4 also reports from Fife on the hopes and concerns after last year’s #IndyRef of 16 and 17 year old school students who will become the first under-18 year olds to vote in a general election in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

Elsewhere in the programme, we spend time playing “frogs and sharks” with a daring and enthusiastic group of nursery school children learning to ride a bike as part of CTC Scotland’s fast-moving Play on Pedals project.

Brilliant Scotland is broadcast this evening at 9.00pm on the Community Channel, again tomorrow at 07.00am and will be repeated on Saturday 7 February at 06.00am.

The programme will also be available on-demand on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/CommunityChannelTV

Get involved – or you’ll get left behind

16 and 17 year olds will vote for the first time in a UK election in 2016

16 and 17 year olds will vote for the first time in a UK election in 2016

Remember all the talk back in September about how politics in Scotland had changed forever?

Less than five months on and with fewer than 100 days to the next Westminster election, how’s it really looking?

One one side, widespread public scepticism and a wave of community protest have played a large part in the Scottish government’s decision this week to call a moratorium on fracking.

On the other, the swings and roundabouts of the Smith Commission mean that young Scots will become the first under-18s to vote in the Holyrood general election next year, but still won’t get near a ballot box in May 2015.

However, there’s palpable impatience to have a say among 16 and 17 year olds who are just as informed, inquisitive and engaged as their parents or elder brothers and sisters about the future of Scotland as a whole as well as their own communities.

Jack Baker – a student at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline – said: “The world is changing.

“So everyone – no matter how young you are, no matter how old you are – you have to be involved with the change, or I think you’ll get left behind.”

For the latest edition of Brilliant Scotland – to be broadcast from this Sunday (1 February) on the Community Channel – we went to meet students at Woodmill High because one of them, Erin Rooney had made a film last year encouraging young people to register to vote – and to examine the issues carefully in the run-up to the September #IndyRef.

“People need to get informed,” she says now, looking ahead to that historic Holyrood election in 2016, which will see 16 and 17 year olds cast a vote for the first time ever in a general election anywhere in the UK.

“They definitely need to look and see what they want, and not just go for it when it comes to voting.”

Says fellow Woodmill student Beth O’Reilly: “I think [politicians] could sway my vote if they were more engaged in social media.”

Another, Kenneth Peffis, believes it is a mistake for politicians to take young voters for granted: “You didn’t see the politicians walking around schools [during the referendum campaign] seeing what young people are thinking or asking 16 or 17 year-olds about how they’ll vote.”

As part of the programme, I’ve been working with student and journalist Ted Simpson, from Edinburgh University. He is editor of Nomad magazine and has been my political correspondent for this and a pre-#IndyRef report on young people and politics in Scotland.

Ted says: “Politicians need to play their part in reaching out to young voters, be it through social media, regional student forums or visiting schools to talk to students about the issues that really matter to them.

“This way, young people can continue to be engaged in politics.

“And they’ll know that their vote – just like in the referendum – really can make a difference.”

Part of the Brilliant Scotland programme features drop-in Gaelic classes at the Coffee and Craic café in Glasgow

Part of the Brilliant Scotland programme features drop-in Gaelic classes at the Coffee and Craic

Engagement in social media is a thread running through much of this fourth edition of the Brilliant Scotland series, from the Facebook postings by Scottie dog shop mascot Gillebrìde at the Coffee and Craic social enterprise café in Glasgow, to the tireless blogger and dementia care campaigner, Tommy Whitelaw.

As the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders issues new guidelines for police in England over how they investigate issues of consent in rape cases, we join a workshop on consent and prevention of sexual violence by student ambassadors for the Rape Abuse Support campaign in Aberdeen.

I’ll write a bit more about this early next week.

Elsewhere in the programme, we also spend time playing “frogs and sharks” with a daring and enthusiastic group of nursery school children learning to ride a bike as part of CTC Scotland’s fast-moving Play on Pedals project.

Brilliant Scotland will be broadcast at 9.00pm on Sunday 01 February and repeated at 07.00am on Monday 02 February and again on Saturday 07 February at 06.00am.

The programme will also be available on-demand on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/CommunityChannelTV

Digi film-making – a quickfire workshop for #Citizen2014

Filming with digital inclusion activists at the near-legendary Kirkwall Library (Orkney, May 2014)

Filming with digital inclusion activists at the near-legendary Kirkwall Library (Orkney, May 2014)

The current generation of smartphones is often called the Swiss Army Knife of community media – a stills camera, video camera and editing suite, audio recorder and mixer, keyboard, web portal and social media dashboard all in one package, depending on what apps the user has installed.

Of course, none of these functions can replace a high end DSLR camera, still less a recording studio and a newcomer to these apps and this kit is no substitute for an experienced photographer or sound engineer. However, community media is often about getting the very best results from budget-level equipment – and for many community activists and voluntary organisations, that will mean using what you have in your pocket: your phone.

This evening’s workshop is a quickfire, hands-on introduction to how to get the best from your smartphone for short on-line video making: a rough guide to framing shots, capturing good audio and editing.

If you are planning to be part of the #Citizen2014 community newsgathering project, we hope the workshop will be a useful introduction to on-line video and a chance to meet others in the #Citizen2014 crew. Coffee tin tripods are optional, but we will point participants to some of the on-line guides and resources which will help build and refine your skills.

We are at Beyond The Finish Line on Trongate. The workshop starts at 6.00pm.

Community journalism links 2014 Commonwealth to Common Weal

#Citizen2014 will operate from Beyond The Finish Line social enterprise incubation space in Glasgow city centre

#Citizen2014 will operate from Beyond The Finish Line social enterprise space in Glasgow city centre

As hundreds of media workers from around the world converge on Glasgow ahead of the start this week of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, many will want to make sure their reporting reflects at least some of the real character of the host city and its communities, not just the sport extravaganza.

So I am thrilled to be part of a pop-up community journalism initiative in the city centre which opens its digital doors just as the Games’ opening ceremony starts.

The community media newsroom for #Citizen2014 is based at the social enterprise “incubation unit”, Beyond The Finish Line, in Glasgow’s Trongate.

#Citizen2014 itself will run for the duration of the Games, with reporters covering a range of stories from the fringes of the Games themselves but also from some of the communities and individuals around the city whose voices are seldom heard in the mainstream media.

The project is a partnership between Media Trust, the Digital Commonwealth, the social enterprise SomewhereTo_, which seeks to re-function derelict buildings and urban spaces for use by young people, Mind Waves and Beyond The Finish Line. #Citizen2014 will run a programme of daily reporting based around themes ranging from culture, regeneration and resilience to legacy and the idea of the Common Weal. We also expect to run a series of workshops and media surgeries, depending on the needs and skills of the reporters taking part.

Says Jennifer Jones of Digital Commonwealth: “We want to support people to report and alternative, community-focussed view of what’s happening in our city during the Games.

“We know there’s loads going on and people have a lot to say about it.

“We’re here to develop skills in blogging, photography and video and to share what people produce through social media. We’re really excited about it.”

Reports, images and video will be posted on http://www.citizen2014.net throughout the three weeks of the Games. You can follow the project on Twitter @Citizen2014.

phone-mic

On the road and on the wire

Training in Dornoch last month with the Digital Commonwealth project

Training in Dornoch with the Digital Commonwealth project, May 2014

“Digital inclusion” is a big buzz word at the moment,” Marilyn Slavin, director of the CK UK website tells me.

She is filming an interview for the My Brilliant Moment series on Media Trust’s Community Channel and she is concerned that many of those involved in trying to make the internet and all its devices more accessible are not looking carefully enough at what’s on their websites and how it’s written.

“We’ve been doing digital inclusion since 2004 and it should be further on.

“One of the reasons that I’m doing this film, talking to this camera, is to encourage more people to get involved and make their websites accessible, because if you make it accessible for people with learning difficulties then it covers a lot of other people: people whose first language isn’t English, people who have got literacy issues.

“If you get it right for people with learning difficulties all of those other folk will be engaged with what you are trying to say and your message.”

Marlilyn Slavin (r) with Maureen McGinn, chair of Big Lottery Fund Scotland at launch of Do #Something Brilliant Scotland project. April 2014. (pic: Simon Dalziel)

Marlilyn Slavin (r) with Maureen McGinn, chair of Big Lottery Fund Scotland at launch of Do #SomethingBrilliant Scotland project. April 2014. (pic: Simon Dalziel)

Marilyn’s comments were a wake-up for me.

I had just returned to a near-normal schedule of work after a knackering, but massively rewarding, trip to Orkney and the far north of the Scottish mainland in a final round of training workshops with the Digital Commonwealth project.

Watch this space for an extended report on the road trip and the wider project in a forthcoming edition of Media Trust’s #Brilliant Scotland programme.

In the meantime, there’s a flavour of the kind of work I was doing in this mini video, filmed with Jennifer Jones in Dornoch:

 

The focus of much of this training work is on how to get the best pictures and sound using low budget equipment. In the case of these Digital Commonwealth workshops, that usually means smartphones and tablets – sometimes with the help of catering-size coffee tins, as we found during one training session hosted at the Orkney Library in Kirkwall (below).

Filming with digital inclusion activists at the near-legendary Kirkwall Library (Orkney, May 2014)

Filming with digital inclusion activists at the Orkney Library in Kirkwall (May 2014)

The library has near-legendary status among book people for the breadth of its social media following and especially its presence on Twitter, so it was great to get a chance to visit the place and to meet such enthusiastic and committed people.

But Marilyn’s comments highlighted to me that training is only one part of opening digital access to wider groups across Scotland.

Speaking at this month’s DigiScotFest2014 event in Edinburgh, Michael Fourman, chair of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s landmark inquiry on digital participation, said “we have to start with the hardest places,” when it comes to digital inclusion.

One strong message from what I heard at the DigiScotFest was that this has to include those with all kinds of special educational needs as well as remote rural areas and Scotland’s austerity-hammered housing schemes.

For Marilyn Slavan, there has been poor progress so far on digital inclusion.

“It’s not fair.

“People with learning difficulties are customers, clients, they’re people that could attract organisations and they have got spending power, too.

“So a lot of organisations are missing out.

“People need to open their eyes and make it better, make it fairer, because at the moment it’s still not fair for people with learning difficulties.”

Media Trust’s My Brilliant Moment series is an outlet for groups or projects to speak directly to the audience about what they do, what motivates them and how they hope to make a difference to those around them.

The series is one feature of our Big Lottery Funded project Do #SomethingBrilliant, which gives charities and community groups a way of amplifying their message through programmes on the Community Channel (which has recently had more than 2m viewers a month), but also via the website, fortnightly newsletter and the Community Newswire, run by MT and the Press Association.

Groups can also send their calls to action to the Little Brilliant Things pages, which are an opportunity to encourage people to get involved in campaigning for change.