$12,000 was awarded to the Doc U program to support film-making classes for low-income adults in St. Paul. A great program, but like always, I think we could all benefit from a program like this getting an increase in funding. Doc U, a documentary filmmaking program for low-income adults. Recognizing how little representation of minority communities there is in traditional media, SPNN created Doc U to help people from these communities tell their own stories.
Since 2012, Doc U has enrolled 12 low-income individuals annually in an intensive documentary filmmaking mentorship program, with over half the participants being women and/or people of color. The filmmakers create documentaries on a topic of their choosing, with past films on topics as diverse as a Tibetan monk in Minnesota; antique bottle hunting; the search for a kidney donor; and more. 2012 participant Theresa Crushon’s film about local jazz legend Irv Williams won a Hometown Media Award for Best Documentary from the Alliance for Community Media, a national media organization.
There are a number of angles we could take on this issue, the most immediate being how might this be replicated in other countries, other states. A democracy flourishes on plurality, and on hearing other voices, even potentially unpopular ones. When a program like Doc U enables civil discourse, we can see positive adjustments and transformation to realize the best of the various visions our founders intended.
When you can train voices who have been historically disadvantage by reason of economics, for example, you move us closer to a scenario where our media outlets can return to delivering quality content for the public good. There are a number of aspects we need to consider in supporting such programs authentically. Are you promoting freedom of expression? Are you building not only an understanding but a commitment to professional and ethical standards? Do you have body of journalists emerging who will serve as ethical watchdog who are committed to hearing diverse voices and helping all of our society move forward? Will we be able to go beyond technocrat mob media, where the voice belongs only to the one with the cameras and the computers?
Our technologies are evolving rapidly to enable democratization in zones where historically, that hasn't always been implemented perfectly. There are different barriers that can be cited but this is why we must continue a march forward to enable those voices. From a community level we must do our best to ensure a stable network of financial support, because there are points where things have costs you can't get around. We have to encourage the fostering exchanges of expertise among countries and regions. We can work with each other to establish constructive international contacts, and sometimes we also have to be prepared to advocate on behalf of local media institutions.
This is a great development for SPNN and the Doc U program, but now all of us need to participate in ways that make it possible to help ideas like this reach their full potential.