Une infinité du couleurs

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Photo: “Busy Hands Selling” by chauromano is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Americans are as fascinated by exotic foreign fashions as people of other nationalities are by American style trends. We adopt each other’s clothing, but we rarely go beyond the superficial to discover the aspirations we share or our mutual frustrations and heartaches.

Earlier this year, Columbus poet and university professor Douglas Gray published on his Downtown Writers website a call for submissions to Jewish Family Services’ ongoing civic journalism project. The local social service agency is celebrating its 100th anniversary by asking for volunteers to interview and write about some of its clients, many of whom are immigrants, who have benefitted from career and family assistance.

Shortly after offering to participate in the project, I was paired with a Senegalese woman raising two small daughters here in Columbus. She enthusiastically described the successful clothing design and manufacturing business she once owned in Dakar, and she lamented her inability to resume the work she loved after moving to the U.S. We shared a pleasant two-hour conversation that occasionally challenged her English and my rudimentary knowledge of French. Her story was captivating.

Jewish Family Services is encouraging writers of all ages, cultures, and skill levels to participate in its civic journalism project. Articles produced by volunteers will be published on the agency’s website or in its brochures in an ambitious and creative endeavor that combines public relations with community building.

Contributing writers are provided with a small amount of biographical data on their interview subjects and background information about Jewish Family Services to help them prepare questions. Interested volunteers can contact Jewish Family Services at 614-231-1890.

Tell me more about hyperlocal citizen media

Roosevelt Avenue
The street where I live could easily be home to Sally, Dick, Jane, and Spot, yet it boasts a marvelous diversity that makes it much more charming. Residing in this little suburb is an expensive habit, but there are incalculable benefits.

A group of people in my community recently formed a commission to assist city officials with the selection and implementation of new digital technology. At least a couple of the volunteers are interested in community building and hyperlocal media, which is why I attended one of their meetings earlier this week. I thought a few intrepid citizen journalists might have initiated a community news website, but the commission’s work is still in the discussion and planning stages.

It pleases me that the technology commission created a Yahoo! Group forum where its work is documented for all to see. The city’s technology director urged the commission volunteers to make their business transparent. Citizens unable to attend the commission’s meetings can still chime in with comments in the Yahoo! Group forum.

The proliferation of startups designed to facilitate online communities makes the prospect of choosing an online service for hyperlocal media daunting. Ideally, a local community website’s concept and design should be appealing to citizens of all ages. Above all, it must be easy to use. Free is also good. A company that shares its revenue with contributors whose articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos attract the most viewers is certainly nice.

I’m trying to identify existing grassroots media website services that might interest my neighbors. Here are just a few:

451 Press

AmericanTowns.com

Backfence.com (closing)

EveryBlock

Front Porch Forum

Hyperlocal Media, designing sites built with Moveable Type

ismyhome.com

Newsvine, recently relaunched with new options for hyperlocal groups

Ning

Outside.in Patch

Pegasus News

revver, for video sharing

SlideShare, for audiovisual presentations

Topix

YourHub.com

Can you name other hyperlocal community web services like these? Please feel free to chime in here with a comment or a link. There’s a lot of territory to cover, and your comments are appreciated.