Field Reporting

I probably would have put this off much longer if the automated field report robot didn't start harassing me on a daily basis. Now I see you guys mean business.

Things are going well here in New York City. I think it goes without saying that I've been very, very busy. With what you ask? Well, I'll take it from the top.

In October the Digital Expansion Initiative was working hard ahead of the FCC hearing on "White Spaces." For those of you who don't know what white spaces are, you can check it out in detail here. But, for the short version, white spaces are the spaces between the television channels that travel through the air. In February of next year when the TV signal goes digital, these white spaces will be empty and unused. The FCC was deciding what to do with these empty spaces. Broadcasters wanted to keep the space for themselves because it's a valuable resource, but we thought it was better to allow the public to have that resource for broadband wireless through the airwaves. Fortunately for us, the FCC thought so as well.

To mobilize around this issue we used a wide range of grassroots strategies, partnering with local organizations here in New York and national groups in DC. There was a lot of letter writing and congressmemeber calling, but in the end the hard work paid off.

Since then I've been busy with trying my hand at some community radio journalism. I produce a monthly show here in NY on 99.5 FM WBAI called Global Movements Urban Struggles that features work from my trainees at the Community News Production Institute. I also report periodically for Free Speech Radio News and I'm currently working on a piece for them now. I also helped out with some election coverage for NPR which you can listen to here .

Overall the work has been pretty fantastic. I've been able to get involved in a lot and I feel like I'm doing what I should be. At People's Production House, we approach media advocacy in a sort of complete way: training people to do their own radio journalism while simultaneously making sure media and Internet policies remain as open and free as possible. This approach as really given me insight to the grassroots mobilizing. We can't just complain about change or wish it to happen, we actually have to empower our communities and move them towards change and let our representatives know that change is what we want.

I've been sad to learn that many of my fellow VISTAS have dropped off. I'm starting to feel guilty that I'm enjoying my site and wonder if there's something about the way the program is structured that has so many people dropping. It seems like there's very little in it for the individual to do the work we do. We get little respect and very little pay which can be tough in this recession (it's official as of today). I hope that the policy changes our new presidential candidate promises to bring in will address the hard work that VISTAS put in. He's a advocate for service and an advocate for change. I think we do both here at VISTA and I hope that we're given a little more for the time we put in. Still, I'm not complaining. I like what I do and I'm happy to do it.

Well, I think I've put my 250 words in for this month. Need to save them for next time. Many apologies for not keeping up with this. Till next post.

Comment from Morgan Sully on December 10, 2008 - 2:48pm

Hee hee,
glad the VISTA bot is on your tail about posting (it's on mine too).

In regards to your community radio efforts, two things:

fact: radio is HUGE in native communities throughout the US (this I heard from my co-director at NAMAC - Belinda Rawlins might know a bit more about it as I know she's really into radio). It's cheap(er), covers a broader range than some internet can and the tools have also been around longer than others (like internet, computers etc. Radio is also relatively easy to set up to cover wide rural spaces.

Laura Hadden: Laura is a fellow CTC VISTA and is doing some great community radio work in conjunction with her work at CDS. She'd be a great person to connect with to 'talk shop' if ever you needed to. She's building a good network of peeps out here in the Bay and I know she's all about the community organizing;)

Anyway, that is all. As for some of the VISTA's dropping off, VISTA is certainly not for everyone, though the low pay and (sometimes) lack of love/respect from orgs can make it difficult. This is something we at HQ are working on constantly improving - we certainly love our VISTAs;)

If you're site rocks, LIVE IT UP! We love hearing that and certainly advocate for ALL orgs providing as much support as they can to our VISTAs. If you do have problems, hurdles, challenges though, do talk to your VISTA Leader.

You're a VISTA before you're anything else. Rock it.