Who said it couldn't happen in Western Mass?? Last Saturday (3/28), Morriss Partee, Jacklyn Stevenson Archer, yours truly, and a group of about 36-or-so cool folk pulled together and made the first PodCamp Western Mass happen at Open Square in Holyoke, MA.
And it was a great success! Check the PCWM Flickr stream to see all the happy PodCampers....
If there's one thing I kept hearing from folks was how much they were getting out of each and every session. Sessions were small (that's the great thing about a small PodCamp) which allowed for lots of questions and cross-talk. None of this top-down stuff.
Here are what were important highlights for me:
Bill Dusty of Springfield Intruder, a hyperlocal site for Springfield MA and Mike Dodds, managing editor for Reminder Publications (a hyperlocal newspaper) and blogger at Out of the Inkwell came and sat in on they hyperlocal journalism session I conducted. It was good to have some non-marketing folks at a PodCamp! IMO, the journalism community has to get out and breathe the air in other spaces besides those where the ink resides, and no better place is a PodCamp. Mike and Bill got to meet my friend Aldon Hynes who told them about CT Newswire, a project down in CT that pulls in all the press releases and distributes them on a Google group to those signed up on the group list. Aldon said that the reason for starting this group was that communications depts in local government have lost connection with the folks they should be sending press releases to, and with this group, it is easier to get information out to those who not only want it, but need it.
This is extremely important for hyperlocals like the Springfield Intruder, that are sometimes more on-the-ball (so to say) then the local newspaper.
I hope that Bill and Mike can get a list like this going for Western Mass! All three of them sat down after the session and did some serious talking.
IMO, the only way the news is going to change is by getting in touch with the grassroots--and the grassroots aren't necessarily going to come to the news, in special journalism gatherings. It's got to be the other way for new ideas to get into the stuffy old newsroom.
And Mike's a great guy! He really, really understands online community--how it functions, what it takes to do it right and maintain civility. He also gets that it is the responsibility of editorial staff or whoever is in charge of the community to enforce policies and NOT administer them according to who they do or don't like.
And a big, super-special shout-out to Steve Sherlock, blogger at Franklin Matters (and other sites), who came out from the eastern part of the state to help us with registration (and who helped us with Eventbrite when we got all throw-up-our-hands frustrated with it.) I've known Steve for a couple of years now, from seeing him at a number of events out Boston way. And now he's an honorary Western Mass'er!!
I had great conversations with Jeff Rutherford, who was/is a journalist now doing p.r. and related stuff. Jeff gets social media. Really gets it. And John Elder Robison, Asperger's researcher and author of "Look Me in the Eye"--who I had a very interesting conversation with about mommybloggers and geneology. Seems that John and I see different sides of the mommyblogger spectrum. He sees women looking to help their children with Asperger's. I see women who are interested in using their mommyblogger status to promote themselves. Ah, there are all kinds in this fascinating blogosphere!
Another great take-away was how many people are interested in bringing PodCamps to other parts of Mass. There was some talk of one out in the Berkshires and AuctionWally and I got to talking about doing one out in Barre, MA.
And that's the great thing about PodCamps. They don't need to be in major cities, with crowds of hundreds. They can be small. And small is beautiful!