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Media Conference: Thousand Kites Project

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: media, independent press, media reform, National Conference for Media Reform, criminal justice system, radio, Thousand Kites, Appalshop, Amelia Kirby, Janine Jackson, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting,

One of the best (and most overwhelming) parts of a conference like this weekend’s Free Press event is the confluence of energized people, all armed with sharp ideas, many working on innovative, exciting projects. On Saturday afternoon, one project making innovative use of radio stood out from the fray:

Thousand Kites, a project of the Appalachia-based arts and education center Appalshop, is “a national dialogue project addressing the criminal justice system” that uses video, theater, radio, and the Internet to help people to share their experiences and motivate reform. Amelia Kirby, the project’s media producer, played several minutes of a radio call-in show for conference attendees during a session on “Connecting with Social Justice Organizations.” Over crackling phone lines, family and friends sent holiday wishes to incarcerated loved ones from whom they were separated.

Before one airing of the show, Kirby explained, they had a caller who was outraged at the premise, offended that they’d be doing such a thing for incarcerated people. After the show aired, Kirby said, the man called again. He had listened to the program. He had changed his mind—he’d never “thought of things this way.”

It reminded me of what Janine Jackson, from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, had said the day before, when someone asked her how media critics might also be activists. Her answer resonated beyond media criticism: To make change, she explained, you don’t have to necessarily change the institution. You just have to change how one person thinks about the institution.

For more on the National Conference for Media Reform, click here.