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PubCampSTL: Not too late to jump in

On Aug. 14, I attended a first-of-its kind event in St. Louis. The result was about six hours of conversation among people who live in the St. Louis area and people who work in public media. We talked about things ranging from empowering young women and non-accredited schools to how the Internet is changing local news and what media literacy means in the age of the Internet.

This event was Public Media Camp St. Louis, or PubCampSTL, for short. Why the variety in topics? PubCamps (they're happening across the country) are set up as "unconferences." Instead of a format in which sessions and speakers are arranged ahead of time, unconferences' agendas are set by the people who attend.

First, we all met in KETC's studio for a breakfast and to plan our day. NPR's Andy Carvin led this opener and had us go around the room introducing ourselves with our name, three words that describe us and a session we wanted to lead if we had one. Present were St. Louis public media employees -- Tim Eby, general manager at St. Louis Public Radio; Jack Galmiche, president and CEO of KETC/Channel 9; and Margaret Freivogel, the Beacon's editor, were all on hand -- people active in the St. Louis online community, people interested in the media, people active in volunteerism or politics, the variety was impressive.

Sessions we proposed were written down and put on a big board at the front of the room. After everyone had a chance, Andy combined similar sessions to reach a total of 16 sessions: KETC had four spaces we could meet in and there were four time-slots.

The session I proposed was combined with a few other sessions. It was the first of the day, and I co-led it with a woman named Deborah. We talked about a pretty broad topic: The Internet and local news.

Some of the issues we touched on: Some stories aren't being covered. There is a wide variety of places you can go to consume news. There are some barriers, real or perceived, to contacting the media with information. It is easier than ever for someone to get their own story out to a wider audience. St. Louis has an active blogging community, and many are about serious topics. Part of public media's job is to tell the public's stories.

As you can see, it was a pretty broad conversation to have in an hour. One thing that was expressed multiple times was that people wanted a way to continue the conversation.

One way that can happen is through the wiki that Andy Carvin has set up for the PubCamps. A wiki is just a collection of Web pages that's editable by anyone who signs up. This wiki is about all the PubCamps that are going on around the country.

PubCampSTL has a collection of pages, but two of the most interesting after the conference are the session notes page and the action items  page. On the former, you can review what happened during many of the sessions and on the latter you can discuss and plan how to move forward on any of the ideas in your sessions. If you attended the conference and signed up with an email address, check the address for an email from Lauren at KETC about this, too.

To join in on the wiki, you need to sign up: On the right side of any of those pages should be a box that says "To join this workspace, create an account." Click that link and follow the instructions. The system will send you an email to confirm you're you, so find that email and click the confirmation link. Head back to the wiki (click any of the links above, for example) and click the "Already have an account? Log in!" link.

Once you're signed up and logged in, you can edit a page by clicking the "Edit" link near the top (make sure to click the save button at the bottom when you're done). You can also leave comments on a page in the "Add a comment" box at the bottom.

If you're having trouble, leave a comment on my post here or send me an email at bjones@stlbeacon.org and we'll figure it out.

Thanks to everyone who came out and contributed to the discussion at KETC. It was exciting to see so many people interested in the St. Louis region and how the news is important to our community.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Brent is the senior data visual specialist at St. Louis Public Radio.