Remember cable access TV shows? They provided local audiences some of the most interesting, entertaining and also boring and sometimes silly programming we ever saw.
I specifically remember a talk show where sock puppets interviewed each other about political affairs, a cooking show where the chef seemed either drunk or high, and a wonderful program about art history taught by a nun.
Nutty or not, these programs also gave communities valuable broadcast airtime to discuss local issues and highlight local programs and projects.
And while cable access shows have all but disappeared many cities and a few school districts and colleges still have their TV channels. If they use them at all, they air their council/board meetings or as community "bulletin boards" - essentially simple graphics with music promoting local festivals and 5K runs. Hardly the best use of digital technology.
That's a shame because this under-used resource could be turned into a powerful workforce development and civic engagement strategy.
Imagine using local workforce development resources to train under and unemployed local workers to use digital tech to produce local shows. They learn a valuable skill that could lead to better-paying jobs in today's digital economy. The shows they produce become important sources of local news and information - something sorely lacking in many working-class communities throughout SoCal.
We're already working with a few cities to develop this very approach but the potential is significant.
Cities can also partner with local colleges and school districts to include digital video production to their curriculum. Community colleges could offer Multi-Media Journalism (MMJ) or Digital Content Producer programs - courses that can actually lead to jobs. We've created an MMJ program that not only trains the storytellers of tomorrow but also creates local, bilingual, community journalism "newsrooms."
And if someone wants to create another public affairs show with sock puppets, why not? It couldn't be any worse than what you find on MSNBC or Fox News.