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Constantly interdependent

05.6.2010 by André Natta · → 1 Comment

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Magic City Art Connection (6 of 18)3.14 | 5.6.2010

There are much more online sources for information locally now than there was when this site started 3.14 years ago today.

Those numbers we shared via our Facebook and Twitter accounts back there in March should be making more sense now.

The recent conversations about the existence of an online news outlet have led several people to wonder (via email, chat and phone calls) what this website’s place is in the ecosystem.

I’d argue that as more voices continue to emerge, The Terminal’s role is easier to define for people than ever before.

We’re “micro local!”

That’s how Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) fellow Michele McLellan categorizes The Terminal in her list of promising local news sites. She’s compiled it as part of her research on the concept of community news sites and how they’re influencing civic engagement in an ever changing digital landscape.

This site was established to become a hub for Birmingham, AL though a better term to use nowadays may be a curator of what’s being said elsewhere.

Our news outlets are becoming more important than ever before, with each one, regardless of medium, being better at one area of interest more than anything else. The public is best served by the different perspectives each of these voices bring to any given topic, but currently we tend to stay within our own silos, not necessarily understanding the importance of truly “getting” the other side of the story.

The local opinion leaders, especially those that share their views online, also serve an important role in our city’s digital (and physical) information exchange. They help the media outlets see the city’s pulse, perhaps influencing how important an issue is to the general public.

I’d argue that several issues have received attention recently because of being the focus of blogs that are read by influential voices in the community. Here’s one of them – parking meters.

Local media realized the issue’s importance because of paying attention to all of its voices. The opinions helped continue to raise awareness.

Perhaps we view some of these stories as minutia now but it is always interesting how certain pieces eventually affect other broader issues in the region.

It’s been interesting attempting to pull together these various perspectives on computer screens across metro Birmingham. That’s what a curator’s job is – take different perspectives on an issue that currently exist out there and maybe get people to see just how they are intertwined. Every once in a while we get the chance to share an original story as well.

As The Terminal works to do this (and get better at it), it’s my hope that people realize that we need to be aware of all of the voices around us. If we’re successful people will know that the city can speak with one voice and know that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s from one person.

Perhaps the use of the word conversation has been flawed as it relates to this journey of storytelling and awareness that we’ve been on. Engagement is the goal of most outlets, particularly knowing that the information that you’ve shared can potentially influence the revitalization or renaissance of a city like Birmingham.

The hope is that for every post shared about an event, new website or inconsequential point of interest people will pay attention to the other issues that will have an impact on their lives and feel the urge to either learn more or do something about it.

It is a lofty, perhaps insanely idealistic goal, but it is one that hopefully drives the intention of every person that hopes to share another piece of the ever emerging story of the city at the center of Jones Valley.

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be included in McLellan’s list of websites (and the operators I’ve been able to meet both virtually and in person) and am thankful for RJI’s allowing us to share this visitors survey with you.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the survey after RJI has completed tabulating them and figuring out just how to work to improve. They’re offering to help in that arena as well and I look forward to what the results will help The Terminal become.

I’d argue though that many of Birmingham’s sources for news and information have learned a lot from each other already – sort of the way an interdependent community should be.

André Natta is the stationmaster for bhamterminal.com.

Photo: Magic City Art Connection (6 of 18). Josh Self/Flickr.

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1 comments
Albert Maruggi
Albert Maruggi

right on, I learned this about 25 years ago from Stephen Covey. Unfortunately many people either don't believe we are interdependent or know we are but also know that being a braggart is to their advantage. It's the type of person you don't want to be at a party, but always gets it right, always their idea, I'm hoping the social web will highlight for us all that it's best to understanding our interdependence. wonderful piece.