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For the Media

Media That Matters: AU Experts Explore Change-Making Media

Several American University film and media experts are available to discuss a variety of issues related to creating media that matters.  Each will lead presentations at the Media That Matters 2011 conference, held Thursday, February 10, and Friday, February 11, at American University’s Katzen Arts Center. This year's theme, "Storytelling across Platforms," focuses on today's evolving media world in which publics can engage with creative projects across platforms such as radio, the Web and mobile devices, as well as film and television.

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Fair Use for Media Makers

Fair use—the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances—has saved many media makers money without jeopardizing their own royalties, but not everyone understands when fair use applies.  “Lack of understanding of when fair use is appropriate can be a crippling problem for anyone who creates,” said Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media, the organization hosting the conference.  The Center for Social Media is noted for its fair use codes of best practices, the most longstanding one of which is for documentary film. Other codes address fair use for online video, media literacy education, communication scholarship, and OpenCourseWare. Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi of AU’s Washington College of Law will lead the Fair Use Workshop the first day of the Media That Matters conference.   

The Truth about Wildlife Films

The nature film genre, long considered a powerful tool for conservation, has become an entertainment juggernaut, bringing astounding high-tech action sequences and intimate glimpses of animals’ lives to viewers hungry for a secondhand experience of the wild. But this success has dark side, says Chris Palmer, veteran wildlife filmmaker and director of American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking. A dark side driven by money, sensationalism, extreme-risk taking, misrepresentation, and even the abuse and harassment of animal subjects. Palmer’s latest book, Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom, explores the ethical dilemmas nature filmmakers face—he will discuss the issue at Media That Matters.  “Audiences see personalities on shows interacting with wild animals as if they were not dangerous or, at the other extreme, provoking them to give viewers an adrenaline rush,” said Palmer. “Mostly, the animals just want to be left alone, so it’s not surprising that these entertainers are seriously hurt or even killed on rare occasions. On one level, it’s that very possibility the shows are selling.”

Designing for Impact

Making media that matters means more than creating media on behalf of a social change issue—it means making media that has an impact or mobilizes people to act. And in the digital age, when movements can rapidly take hold or change direction via social networking and other mediums, being able to adjust one’s approach to continually foster impact is critical, says Jessica Clark, research director at the Center for Social Media.  During Media That Matters, Clark will discuss ways in which media makers can rethink impact assessment by drawing on insights from “design thinking”—a methodology that combines empathy, creativity, and rationality to meet user needs and drive success. “Design thinking can help media makers to understand their work as a continual problem-solving process conducted in dialogue with partners and publics, rather than a one-shot production with outreach tacked on at the end," said Clark.

Radio: On the Cutting Edge of Storytelling

Radio may be the oldest form of broadcast, but public radio is on the cutting edge of using digital technologies to reach out to a broader audience. “Recent innovations, such as the animation of oral histories by StoryCorps allow us to use more tools to engage new communities of listeners that might not otherwise bump into these compelling narratives,” said Jacquie Jones, a scholar in residence at American University and executive director of the National Black Programming Consortium. Jones will moderate a discussion examining innovations in radio storytelling and how other media makers can follow suit. The work of StoryCorps, which focuses on a question and answer session between the subject and person to whom he or she is close, will be featured along with two other dynamic new experiments in public radio—Snap Judgment and State of the Renunion. All three projects include voices and stories that broaden the horizons of storytelling within pub

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