This week we launch the Open the Room Project, which provides community journalists, citizen activists and town administrators with step-by-step directions to build a scalable, affordable system for streaming public meetings, events and sporting contests.
The project was inspired by citizen activists who are streaming town council meetings via smartphones to Facebook Live. Our work is the culmination of a 2016-2017 fellowship with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Open the Room solutions include software automation that negates the need for traditional broadcast television equipment or crews. Some hardware options are portable; others require permanent installation.
We address the following realities with Open the Room:
- There has been a profound decline in citizen involvement in local communities. Voting in local elections in nonpresidential years is less than 15 percent.
- Local journalism is suffering financially due to the shift to digital distribution of content. One consequence is fewer reporters available to cover local governments and meetings.
- Consumers cutting the cable cord reduce the amount of funding available to support local access channels — which historically cablecast town meetings — and their staffing.
We’ve highlighted emerging technologies that will allow users to cover more local meetings and events — even local sports — with better than acceptable video and audio quality at a much lower cost. Local journalists, activists and town administrators can engage with residents to create highly targeted community groups using the same social media techniques as major media outlets, celebrities and sports stars.
Effective use of social media, coupled with these technologies, can open auditoriums and meeting rooms — and playing fields and gyms — bringing residents together to build robust local online communities.
The ultimate goal of our project, as Aaron Burr sings in Hamilton, is to help every local citizen be in “the room where it happens.”