Grassroots media training

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This page is on Wikiversity as part of an effort to create and maintain a system for training volunteers to support community media production including web publishing, podcasting and broadcasting. It is on Wikiversity to invite the world to modify, expand, correct, and improve the list of topic and how they are developed and presented. Wikiversity seems an ideal host for such an effort, because it encourages a wide discussion of issues moderated by the Wikimedia rules that invite contributors to “be bold but not reckless,” contributing revisions written from a neutral point of view, citing credible sources -- and raising other questions and concerns on the associated '“Discuss”' page.

At the 2018 Grassroots Radio Conference Lisa Loving with KBOO in Portland, Oregon said that KBOO had a series of classes that it offered on a repeating basis. KBOO is a listener-sponsored radio station broadcasting 24/7 at 26,500 watts. Most of its content is locally produced by volunteers. Lisa said that 90 percent of the people who attend their news production classes never produce any news for KBOO, but they love the station and help it in other ways. Some of Loving's ideas in this area are described in her book.[1]

This Wikiversity initiative exists as an effort to create a broad training curriculum for KKFI in Kansas City and presumably other community radio stations. We hope that a recurring training program will attract more volunteers, who will help make KKFI's content more relevant to the lives of the people who are not well served by other media in KKFI's listening area, thereby increasing KKFI's audience and funding in a virtuous cycle.

Placing this on Wikiversity makes it relatively easy for people all over the world to contribute to this effort, including especially other audience-sponsored community media organizations that may offer similar training. (This is on Wikiversity with the hope that people in other parts of the world might help make this more general and useful for many similar organizations.)

This document is primarily structured under the following headings:

1. Selecting topics to cover.
2. Organizing topics for individual sessions / classes.
3. Plan each session.
4. Schedule.
5. Advertise.

1. Topics to cover[edit | edit source]

It may be wise to have an ongoing process for collecting feedback and ideas from the target audience and use the results to identify topics to be covered in the curriculum offered. The curriculum offered should evolve with changes in technology and the interests of the target audience.

Feedback might be collected via invitations to post comments on the organization's web site or via an email address. The organization could table at events frequented by the organization's target audience-sponsored, advertising the training curriculum and asking people for their interests and concerns.

People may also interview people (leaders?) in the target community about their needs, concerns and interests, as suggested by Nina Simon, in her book The art of relevance.[2] She also suggests ending each interview by asking, “Who else should we talk with?”

Another approach can involve stationing voice recorders throughout an urban area with invitations to offer comments about what concerns them, as done by the “Listening Post Collective”.[3]

1.1. The radio station's culture and policies
1.2. Techniques for recording sound and video
1.3. Editing recordings
1.4. Posting an audio or video file to station's broadcast system or to its web site other outlets like Wikiversity or the Pacifica network.

1.1. Culture and policies[edit | edit source]

"Culture and policies" would include new volunteer orientation that the station wants all volunteers to know.

Should this include a discussion of what is "community radio"? How should we describe it? "Community Radio" is a term that is used worldwide but is not readily understood by all. Should we call ourselves "listener-sponsored" radio or "listener-sponsored media,” more generally?

“Culture and Policy” also includes aspects of copyright law that are required knowledge for anyone who produces content for either a podcast or broadcast or both. Copyright law for podcasting is different from that for broadcasting. However, they are similar, and people producing content should know both, so whatever we produce complies with the applicable law -- and preferably is good whether the material is posted on our web site or used as a podcast or broadcast.

It may also be desirable to implement an electronic mailing list like, e.g., “” [not implemented as of 2019-06-30] to which volunteers can freely subscribe to help others, e.g., better use Audacity audio editing software, or learn about KKFI's capabilities for broadcasting events live from a remote site.

For people working with a radio station, it's useful to know the regular broadcast schedule. As of July 2019 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio, has multiple open spots for different kinds of events. For short pieces 3-5 minutes in length, KKFI has multiple spots between shows that don't always consume a full 28 or 29 minutes for a half hour slot. Shorter pieces can often be combined with a recording of a public event that was edited to 25 minutes, because that made more sense and was easier to do that to make it 28 or 29 minutes. In addition, KKFI has an hour for local public affairs each Thursday 7-8 PM in “Thursday Night Special”. That's followed by two hours of “Local Showcase”, which is sometimes available. “All Souls Forum”, 6-7 PM Wednesdays, is often available for other public affairs material during summer months. Local public affairs material with some urgency has sometimes been broadcasted on a Thursday, 5-6 AM, as “World of Possibilities”.

Local content of national or international interest might find a wider audience through the “”, a key sharing tool of the Pacifica Network, or their regularly syndicated "Sprouts", aired on 40-50 stations.

1.2. Techniques for recording sound and video[edit | edit source]

Smart phones are now nearly ubiquitous. We should find the best way to use them to record what we want.

We need to review the available options for improving sound quality with various kinds of external microphones. Inexpensive lavalier microphones are now widely available. In one test with a relatively expensive Zoom H4n Handy Recorder, the sound recorded from an inexpensive lavalier microphone was better than the sound from the built-in microphones.

Wind screens are available for lavalier microphones that are also quite inexpensive. It would certainly be easier to carry a lavalier microphone with its own wind screen than a standard wind screen for a device like the Zoom H4n.

A current challenge is finding an appropriate app to use on a smart phone, because some of the standard voice recording apps on modern smart phones turn themselves off after 30 minutes or so without warning. That's a major issue if you want to record something that lasts longer than the app's standard cut of limit. You don't want to learn after the fact that your audio recording app that worked great in a short test completely malfunctioned -- didn't record anything -- when you though it was recording a 90 minute event.

We could also discuss using more traditional audio and video equipment. Some people have Zoom or Tascam audio recorders that work great in many settings. If you have such equipment, you should use it when convenient. However, the need to spend the money for such higher end equipment is less today than a few years ago.

I have a Sony Handicam with a great optical zoom. However, my iPhone X takes better pictures except when I need the optical zoom.

When recording a public event for subsequent broadcast, it's often wise to get two or more recordings of the same event, if you have the equipment. The sound quality on one may not be very good, or one of the recorders dies unexpectedly.

Even with radio or podcasting, it's often good to take some photographs or video, because there may be opportunities to use one or more photos in conjunction with the audio. (Videos are typically 30 stills per second, and one can often take a short video with the expectation that some of those stills will capture more accurately what you want than others.)

1.3. Audio and video editing[edit | edit source]

Many volunteers will want to know how to edit audio files, e.g., WAV and MP3, to produce what they want for a podcast or a broadcast.

Audacity is free open-source software for audio editing. Commercial software for audio editing is also available, and people who use such insist that what they use is better than Audacity. However, Audacity is free and seems capable of doing reasonably well the most common tasks of audio editing. We should teach people how to use it.

For video, a popular full-featured editor is Adobe Premier Pro. Some organizers of events don't have their own people recording material, and if you offer them what you recorded, they are often very glad to get it.

Under certain circumstances, it may be desired to have a video in the relatively obscure but FOSS WebM format. Command line FFMPEG software can convert an MP4 video file into WebM format. This is great if you want to post a video with a transcript to Wikiversity, because Wikimedia projects like Wikiversity and Wikipedia don't want MP4 video, because it's governed by patents, and WebM is FOSS.

1.4. Publication[edit | edit source]

The methods for posting an audio or video file depend on the platform to which it is posted.

Wikiversity will accept a wide range of content as long as it is reasonably based on solid evidence.

2. Organizing topics for individual sessions[edit | edit source]

Someone needs to split the topics to be covered into pieces that can be conveniently covered in the time typically allotted to one class. One method that might help in doing this is an affinity diagram, where different people write different ideas on scraps of papers or cards or sticky notes and sort them to put similar ideas together. This can then be followed by estimating the amount of time required to impart the ideas to the target audience. Ideas requiring more than an hour or two of instruction time should be spit into two or more subordinate ideas. Related ideas requiring substantially less than an hour or so might be combined.

3. Plan each session[edit | edit source]

Professional educators often start class development by documenting the skills they want people to have after taking the class ("to be"), then comparing with what the target audience can currently likely do ("as is"). After these two are documented, it is then wise to prepare a test that could be given after (and maybe before) the class. If it's given both before and after the class, one can clearly tell how much learning occurred during the class.

It's often recommended to write the final exam before starting to prepare the course content.[4]

As this is done, it may sometimes be appropriate to revise the system by which topics are assigned to individual sessions.

4. Schedule[edit | edit source]

People are recruited to teach the different classes. For an ongoing training program it would be wise to have at least two instructors team teaching each topic. This way if any one person is not available at the last minute, the class doesn't need to be canceled. After a class has been taught a couple of times, it might be good to recruit a third person who could teach each class.

5. Advertise[edit | edit source]

The training curriculum should be advertised on the organization's web site. A broadcaster can include public service announcements about their classes. A newspaper or magazine can devote print space to advertising their classes. If the organization has volunteers tabling at community events, people tabling will distribute information about their class schedule in addition to asking people about their needs and concerns as well as inviting them to join the volunteer team and help the organization produce the kind of content they want.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Lisa Loving (10 May 2019), Street Journalist: Understand and Report the News in Your Community, Microcosm Publishing, Wikidata Q65115459

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Lisa Loving (10 May 2019), Street Journalist: Understand and Report the News in Your Community, Microcosm Publishing, Wikidata Q65115459
  2. Nina Simon (2016), The Art of Relevance, Museum 2.0, Wikidata Q65512555
  3. Listening post collective, Wikidata Q65512552
  4. What's a good reference for this? I believe I saw this in the 1980s in a book by Robert F. Mager, e.g., K. M. Beach; Robert F. Mager (1976), Developing vocational instruction, Prentice Hall, Wikidata Q65512496