By Elke Hautala
At the edge of Seattle Center, deep in the heart of Public TV station KCTS 9; a unique experiment in news and collaboration is forming. It’s called Hive Media Lab and the public is not only invited but also encouraged to participate.
On Friday February 9, 2018 – a mixed group of media makers, journalists, corporate employees and community organizers followed a bright green hexagonal pattern down a winding path to an open door. Affixed on the wall to the right, for a touch of creative nostalgia, was an old-fashioned “on the air” radio sign.
A comfortable space with modern décor that seemed to pulse with energy and the glow of possibilities beckoned. The perfect marriage of unusual partners was reflected not only in the evening’s guest list but also through the beautiful branding on everything from cookies to table signs contrasted with glimpses of state-of-the-art tech in each corner. Elegant touches aside, the goals they are seeking to accomplish have weighty implications far beyond the cozy space.
“What is the biggest challenge facing media today…” read a white board with a handful of colorful Post-it notes gathered beneath it. “Diversity, control, distorting the truth and fake news” were just a few of the concerns that had been shared.
“The Hive is the intersection between news media, the tech community and creative services and so the whole idea is to bring people together to have conversations to solve big media issues,” explained Linda Farmer, Communications Manager for Comcast in Washington.
With a nearly $1 million investment, Comcast is the founding sponsor of the lab.
Linda explained that Comcast is committed to expanding access to technology and that Hive Media Lab is the 8th of 12 innovation labs opening across the country.
This one, however, is unique in Comcast innovation lab family. This is the only facility that focuses on the needs of the news media. Linda pointed to the general disruption of the traditional news media model. How and when we connect with news media and how it intersects with and serves communities. With this understanding of changing formats, concerns and media consumption – where do we go from here?
Hive Media Lab sees the issues of today as an evolution of the traditional form and an opportunity for collaboration to bring about solutions. “This is the only one of its kind in the country” Linda said, “most innovation labs are housed in universities or big companies.”
Accessibility makes Hive Media Lab unique, it’s in a space dedicated to media and it’s open to the public. Anyone can come in and submit an application for a problem that they would like to solve with the Lab’s support.
Establishing community partnerships is a goal of the Lab. From traditional news media such as The Seattle Times to non-profit groups such as El Centro de La Raza or alternative media such as The Seattle Globalist – a wealth of possibilities is out there ready for the creative spark of an individual or group to become a catalyst for change. State of the art broadband, WiFi, video tech and recording software are the tools available for making it happen.
It’s not just the tools either but also the support of the talented folks at Cascade Public Media, well one talented individual in particular with quite possibly the best job title ever, Innovation Lab Director Brian Glanz.
“If you are in tech and you are not also in media, then you are doing it wrong and if you are in media and you are not also in tech, you’re doing that wrong.” Brian told me when discussing the intersectionality between these two fields. He went on to explain that in the early days they will be seeking to spark collaboration through bringing innovators in both areas together for events.
“We don’t live in a broadcast forward world anymore…” he continued. “We live in a world where distribution of media decisions, and a lot of the media being made, is being made by regular folks with a phone in their pocket and that’s a beautiful thing. It certainly changes the game for all of us…”
Why Seattle for this experiment in innovation? Anyone who has been a resident and experienced the uniquely Northwest brand of creative spirit, coffee fueled optimism and entrepreneurial endeavor, particularly during the growth of the last decade, can probably answer this. Rob Dunlop, President/CEO at Cascade Public Media put it best when he said, “they are and have become a center of entrepreneurship, of technology, of spin out organizations that are looking at problems in new and interesting ways.”
Now that the exclusivity barrier of innovation labs has been lifted, what comes next?
“We should find problems that we can’t solve alone,” Brian Glanz said. Committed people with a vision have changed the world but not without the support of collaborators. It takes a movement to effect change.
As Mr. Dunlop mentioned, we have experienced tremendous growth and success in Seattle but along with that comes complex challenges that require thinking outside the box for solutions. At least now we have a place, a support system and even a Director for tackling these issues together. Now it’s your turn Seattle.
For further information on Hive Media Lab visit here.
Check out this link to find out more about KCTS 9/Cascade Public Media.
Visit here to see more on Comcast’s sponsorship.