Tag Archives: Citizen Journalism

Open Government Doesn’t Just Happen

Since my recent week in Washington DC I have been more than ever aware of transparency issues as they unfold at the national level.  And I have found myself musing with admiration about the real work of those who labor relentlessly and outside the public eye to tweak the gears that open the system.

There are those who maintain that the Obama administration is not living up to the promise of transparency.  And there are those who think Rome was built in a day.  I saw progress midst massive technological and political change.  As a citizen advocate without portfolio I am often overwhelmed – though undaunted – by the acronym-laced dialog and reporting from the political pros.

One of the most citizen-friendly activities in which I participated in DC was the webcast sponsored by Open the Government and the Center for American Progress.  That superb program was enlightening, even entertaining, and definitely accessible to the public at large.  It’s available online to anyone who wants a quick review of what’s happening in the access arena – with a chance to meet some of the key players including White House staff,  representatives of the press and good government groups.  Check it out.

There are legions of committed, informed and ardent advocates for access at work every day on Capitol Hill, in the bureaucracies and in countless committees, task forces and interest groups.  Most of their work is widely accessible through the mix of social networks.  While it is clearly impossible to track all that’s happening, my advice is to keep on eye on some of the key players, e.g. Open the Government, OMB Watch, American Library Association Washington Office, Society of Professional Journalists, and, even more important, to stay in touch with the  arm of your own professional or good government organization that commits time and energy to open government issues.

From my citizen perspective these bold interactions offer hope.  Access to information creates a mighty thirst for more access to more and better information – and a profound appreciation of good information at the moment of need or interest.

Still, there is a gap – a chasm – to be breached.  Investigative journalists crave access.  Their insatiable public depends on their access and on them.  What happens when the ranks of the journalists diminish and the owners of the mighty channels of communication fail to meet their monetary demands.

Since my Sunshine Week in DC I have had the chance to participate in a dynamic conference at MIT sponsored by Journalism That Matters (JTM).  That conference brought together librarians and journalists in what must have been the first-ever open discussion of joint purposes, issues and possibilities.  It was a great complement to the DC experience — More about that in another most.

From KFC to Chinese Child Care in NE Mpls

Larry Yan approaches the day with gusto – whether the day begins at the original Chinese Child Care Center in Roseville, at the Chinese Child Care Center on Pierce Butler Road in St. Paul or the sparkling new Chinese Day Care and Preschool that straddles Northeast Minneapolis and Saint Anthony Village.  He will need that energy as he tackles the challenges of caring for and teaching scores of eager children, age 16 months to four years – now nearly 60 children at three sites.  Young learners are tackling the basics,  learning their numbers, colors, foods and more in English and Mandarin Chinese in an environment graced at every turn by music, art, dance  and Chinese culture.

My introductory poking around took me to the brand new Northeast site.  Larry has to be a magician.  He’s somehow managed to convert the former Kentucky Fried Chicken on Kenzie Terrace with bright walls decorated with art, a playground carved from nothing, and a warmth that inspires growth and learning.  I couldn’t help but notice that he has even exorcised the grease smell, which Larry allows took considerable doing.

Passing drivers may not even notice the simple “Chinese Day Care and Preschool” sign that’s been posted for several months.  Neighbors don’t realize that Larry and his wife Junxia Li have been at work for over a year, preparing for the first class of learners who arrived in September 2010.  They gutted the building, replaced the electricity and plumbing, completed massive stacks of forms for permits, licenses and financial reports.  They hired two qualified teachers and made arrangements for professionals to provide dance and music instruction.  They tested every inch for safety, painted all of the concrete block walls, and covered every wall with vibrant colors, letters, pictures and inspirational thoughts.  They made arrangements for fresh lunches to be delivered each day by a small local restaurant

The details are nothing new to Larry and Junxia.  This is their third child care/preschool site.

It all started eleven years ago when Jungxia  started a family day care center at their Roseville home.  In no time they had exceeded the home care limits and had aggregated a waiting list.  When Jack and Jill moved out of St. Christopher’s Church on Hamline and Highway 36, they seized the opportunity and opened their first facility.  Four years ago they opened a second child care center/preschool near the Yinghua Academy in St. Paul.   Though some of their young clients are adoptees, that number is dwindling as China puts limits of foreign adoptions.  Other children come from Chinese or mixed families.  None of the Centers is neighborhood based – children from throughout the Cities and from far-flung suburbs are dropped off each day to immerse themselves in the language and culture of China.

Larry positively glows as he talks about the special features of the child care and preschool programs.  There’s folk dance and music, celebration of the Chinese New Year, a “graduation” ceremony for four-year-olds headed on to kindergarten—an event that draws over 300 friends and family members to a grand event at St. Christophers and that features each “graduate” in an individual performance representative of Chinese culture.

Larry came to the US in 1989 as part of an exchange program with the University of St. Thomas where he enrolled in the Curriculum and Instruction program at the UST.  Junxia and their young son joined him 3 ½ years later.  Larry taught at Breck in Golden Valley, then took a turn at the travel business.  Meanwhile Junxia was building the family business at home, ready to take the plunge to open the first center in Roseville.

Larry and Junxia have plans.  Though the enrollment at the Northeast program is miniscule at present the school will accommodate 25-30 students. They will continue to work with Yinghua Academy in St. Paul and nearby in the former Putnam School in nearby Northeast Minneapolis.  They will outreach to nearby neighborhood and community groups. The children are already scheduled to perform in February for the Roseville Seniors!

Northeast Minneapolis residents and nearby neighbors in St Anthony Village have a rare privilege to welcome these new neighbors to the community.  Out with KFC and on with these young global citizens!

Huan Ying!  (Welcome!)

The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law

Horrendous losses in the legacy print press and the spread of access tools have inexorably combined to create the citizen journalist.  The fact is, we cj’s too often lack the professional journalist’s preparation for the task.  One thing that professional journalists understand at their core is their right to access and to know.  The First Amendment Coalition and the California Newspaper Publishers Association have produced a guide that promises to equip citizen journalists, bloggers, activists and public officials to know the possibilities and the limits when it comes to access.  The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law is a one-stop law guide on access and First Amendment issues. It’s written by James Chadwick and Roger R. Myers, both national authorities on the right to know.  The guide is available from the First Amendment Coalition.  Purchasers of The Right to Know will also receive access online to the full text of all court decisions cited in the book and access online to new legal developments and updates.  The book is $30 from the First Amendment Coalition, 534 4th Street, Suite B, San Rafael, CA 94901, (415) 460-5060 or online at First Amendment Coalition