Podcast open the doors

Podcast open the doors

: Ernie Miller asks a great question: Why isn’t Congress podcasting itself? Every committee and debate should be available for us to hear.

I’ll take it down a few levels and suggest that every town board and school board should be podcast. I’ve long wanted to see local services enable citizens to video these meetings because, ironically, the very reason I care most about what happens in them — I have kids — is the reason I can’t attend them. But I’d watch them, I used to say.

Well, who needs to watch them? They just sit and drone. Listening would work well — especially when podcasts can be searched and indexed.

We should all storm our town halls and demand podcasts (and then politely explain what podcasts and iPods and the internet are).

  • This is such a great idea!
    And when everything is tagged right…wow…talk about making information easier to attain.
    I hope that in my lifetime I see a world where people can make up their own minds by actually listening to/viewing information on their own and not having to rely on what soundbites someone else thinks are important.

  • You know, the more I think about this, the more excited I get too.
    Think about the community interaction this could bring up. After a podcast, it could be posted along with a fact sheet with detailed information that had been presented to the people involved in the discussion, and a comments section could be set up.
    Average citizens like me and you could log on, find something we were interested in, listen in, read for more information, and offer suggestions.
    Someone could then be responsible for compiling all the comments and presenting them back to whoever was involved in the first place.
    Could this change the way Congress actually works? Could this be the start of giving more power to The People instead of The Elected?

  • Speaking of politicians and community interaction via new media, John Edwards will be launching his own videoblog soon and will be accepting video questions from people from people around the world, to whom he will respond on the vlog. More here.

  • I learned recently that my small New Jersey township will provide the audio recording of any public meeting on request. They charge $5 for each CD, presumably a single meeting on each one. At those rates, their motivation to podcast is pretty slim. Still, it’s a great idea.

  • Couldn’t agree more. My only hope is that the UK catches up fast with podcasting and introduces something like this for all levels of decision making.
    Our democracy will be nourished and broadened by further access to these, often behind closed doors, meetings.

  • Jeff V

    Currently I video stream City of Troy, Michigan city council meetings live as it happens (www.troymi.gov) and I’m looking into podcasting as a way to archive meetings on the website. So, at count at least this local government worker bee trying to move bureacracy into the new media world!
    If anyone cares to watch the somewhat entertaining mullings of a large suburb north of Detroit, next meeting is June 6 at 7:30 pm. Maybe someone can let me know how it looks, since I never get feedback.

  • …and the money for this will come from where, exactly? We can barely keep our public libraries open these days and you propose that every last city, town, and village maintain digital media archives of their council meetings.
    The sad thing is that goofy shit like this does tend to get funded at the muncipal levels, to the detriment of places like libraries, because people hear things like “digital” and “online” and the taxpayers whip out their checkbooks instinctively, so well have they been trained to embrace any new technological fad, no matter how costly or inane.
    Go asking for a Proposition 2 1/2 override to pay for things like books or librarians’ salaries, however, and those same taxpayers howl like you’re asking for their firstborn.
    I’m not anti-technology by any means–most librarians are now at the cutting edge of computer science information technology, especially those fresh out of library school–but when ideas like this compete for my slice of the funding pie I want to see exactly how being able to see and hear every last “er”, “um”, and throating-clearing rather than read it in minute form is going to improve my fellow citizens’ lives so much so as to justify the cost involved (and the corresponding cuts in other public fundings).

  • I guess you guys never heard of C-Span radio, now streaming Real Audio of Congress 24 hours a day: see this link.
    I guess it needs a flashing neon sign saying “Podcasting” for Ernie to see it.

  • I think government podcasts are an intriguing idea, and the potential audience need not be limited to people who currently listen to podcasts. It doesn’t have to be so geeky.
    I just wrote an article, Podcasts, Congress, and Cable TV: The Happy Medium, that picks up on this theme you’ve raised and expands upon it to leverage existing media infrastructure. In short, I think cable TV systems might have most of what’s needed to distribute podcasts on demand. Not just government podcasts — any kind.
    This is cool stuff.
    – Amy Gahran

  • You can get C-Span on the internet, you know.

  • Jersey Exile:
    Do I think that funding should go to this? Yes. Space is cheap, and if the community already has a website being maintained, it wouldn’t be so much of a stretch to start putting this type of material out.
    Free, secure, high quality CMS systems exist and can even be installed for free my many web hosting companies so smaller communities could easily have a basic site up to host such things.
    I am not advocating this be done, “to the detriment of places like libraries,” but should be able to be done with very little funding.
    As for being able to reading meeting minutes, that might be great for those that have the time to read minutes from meetings. For me, and most of the people I know, time is a precious thing and if I can download a podcast from a meeting I might be interested in because I like the summary that I saw in my RSS reader, that I can download to my iPod, and take with me in the car on my way to work, or listen to at the gym…then I am much more apt to take part in the whole political process.
    And yes, I know you can stream CSPAN, but I would like for the information to be portable. And not just CSPAN, I would like more local information as well.

  • Does everyone but me have a long commute?
    This is a HORRIBLE idea. I have to agree with the librarian who, like the French, pans the idea but for the wrong reasons.
    Have you ever WATCHED city council meetings?!? They are endless and hideously boring as they plod through Robert’s Rules of Order and the recitation of things “for the record”.
    Give me a transcript! Give me the source documents! Who cares if bill 13874 is approved?!? What the heck is it?
    I can’t be the only person the planet who loathes the words “er”, “um”, and “like” and dead microphone time. I can’t be the only person who reads at least an order of magnitude faster than he can listen.
    I’d much rather pay for a transcriber, or two, than the storage space and bandwith required to archive and stream video of boring people saying boring things about documents that I cannot see (or hear).
    This is _SO_ much a solution in search of a problem.