I had the pleasure of attending a gathering of PEG Access people in the beautiful town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin last week for the Wisconsin Community Media Spring Conference. This two day event drew over 100 participants and featured some great workshops, luncheons and a Media Festival Banquet to recognize some of the best programming being produced across the state.
I attend quite a few of these events across the country every year and it's always interesting for me to "take the pulse" of the region I'm visiting. I'm happy to report that the Community Media Movement's heart is beating strong up here among the beautiful lakes and hills of the upper mid-west. People seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their programs and the dialog we shared during the workshops illustrated a strong pulse of activism and advocacy. This is what makes these gatherings so special for me. People are drawn to this work for many reasons. But I think we can all agree it's not simply for the money. Quite the opposite. Many of the participants I spoke with were part-timers, volunteers, board-members or simply station volunteers who have found a place in their communities. There's very little pretension or bragging (something you hear constantly in the commercial broadcast industry). Instead, people wanted to share stories about how their programs were making a difference, and they were constantly probing for insight into how they might improve their work and continue to evolve with the technical landscape.
I'll end this post by giving a "shout out" to Mary Cardona, the Executive Director of Wisconsin Community Media. Mary is another true "PEG Access Warrior" who has been working in this movement for many years. We tried to figure out when the two of us might have met at a similar kind of gathering somewhere in the Central States Region back in the 80's. It's always gratifying to run into these old friends and fellow compatriots while traveling the country in this brave new age of digital communications. I believe that people like Mary play a very vital role in the continuing struggle we all face to define our roles in this ever changing media landscape. Mary brings wisdom and thirty-plus years of experience to the table. Something we desperately need. Us old warriors have a responsibility to continue reminding people of the strong, deep roots we as Community Media Activists have put down in our communities. We need to continue nurturing these roots through regular gatherings, workshops and learning opportunities for the next generation of warriors. We need to remind our communities of the long, hard struggle we've all been part of. And we need to continue talking about the bigger picture, the context of a world caught-up in a social media revolution that is being shaped by commercial forces, rather then the practical, reasonable people who step-up and volunteer their time to make our communities, and our world, a better place.