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Beth Gilbert Video Asks, Where's The Video?
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Wilkes-Barre Councilwoman Beth Gilbert is getting down to brass tacks on making videos of city public meetings available to the public.

She announced as such tonight, on video in fact.

Here's what's going on. Responding to one resident's question during her first (Facebook) Video Q&A about what is preventing such recordings from making their way to the public, Beth is visibly restraining herself in apparent frustration that there is no good answer. "I'm not sure what's preventing these videos being released to the public and posted on the city website, even the next morning.", she says.

Hallelujah! I mean, like right?

The issue is raised in the below video embed at counter spot 5:50.

Whatever logistical challenges there may be for this basic lack of communication with the public thus-far the real answer is that almost zero-bucks are given with respect to inexpensive technology bridging the gap between city business and a hungry technical class (i.e., everyone these days - who also by the way, aren't subscribing to cable where to mixed level such meetings are aired) by city leaders.

There is a proper way to go about such a production task. You have to have a quality camera, the means by which to digitize (directly or from analog form), and a place to upload and serve the resulting video from as universally as possible, preferably in a pleasant relevant framework like the city website. But one can simplify much of that process using simple off-the-shelf technology and any number of social media channels for free. Offhand, to me, the ingredients look something like:

  • A college intern (or maybe the city's paid social media engineer)
  • A smartphone camera (doesn't even need to be live with an active carrier, an unused smartphone will do)
  • A Wi-Fi connection (afforded by the meeting hall, presumably)
  • YouTube Live, UStream, Twitter's Periscope...take your pick - there are ways to "keep" videos accessible after the live events are over
  • ...or, just upload to standard YouTube after the fact. YouTube videos can be embedded within websites (such as the city website)

Where's evidence of this simplicity and inexpensive cost? Well, how about Beth's very posting of her own Q&A session? Doesn't seem like it exactly took a huge team to pull that off and yet it's probably the single most powerful outreach example in Wilkes-Barre government services since the Mayor's Help Line. I mean the first one a decade ago

You could also call in a professional to handle everything at much higher grade, though I speculate of course, much higher cost as well. The Luzerne County Council meetings are handled in this fashion by an outfit called Video Innovations. Gauging by the unrelated advertising launched from the same page as the council meeting content, it may be being done in trade.

Sure, It's "Kind Of" Being Done Now

Some members of the community attend these meetings and actually do produce and distribute video ad-hoc style, you can find examples in YouTube. These are helpful and I've personally reached out to thank many of these content generators whenever I've partaken of their effort. The problem is that, aside from the fact this is a baseline service our local leaders should be championing themselves on principle, these videos are sometimes truncated and often biased (many people video record the meetings in the spirit of "catching" members or the mayor lying, or to keep pressure on what is viewed as a corrupt process. You are left to enjoy the utility while begrudgingly indulging the context if you happen to disagree every politician is a crook.)

This demand for online video copies of every Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County meeting has been an issue lying in wait for someone in city government's first technical generation to up and nip. Someone exactly like Beth Gilbert. Given her apparent energy to look into this matter she may well wind up pushing for resolution of it, though, even if not, we can expect this to be the first pound of the hammer that is long overdue.


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