Pat Aufderheide’s Making Your Media Matter wrap-up

Pat Aufderheide, professor and director of the Center for Social Media at the American University, writes about the fifth annual event Making Your Media Matter, put on by the Center for Social Media and held on February 12 to 13.
February 19, 2009

Every year our annual conference Making Your Media Matter is our chance at the Center for Social Media to see the friends we communicate with virtually for the rest of the year. We also treasure our opportunities to meet new friends and allies. This year was amazing; I saw so many great friends, I made so many new ones. People came from Vancouver, San Francisco, LA, New York, Boston, and even Lagos, Nigeria! We had 300 people packed into a room, and each panel was packed with great info.

The theme this year was ethics – and more generally holding on to mission while making the business work. We started with the legendary (and 93 year old!) George Stoney, reminding the folks to ‘do no harm.’ (Thomas Allen Harris did ask about the people we actually intend to harm, like corrupt officials.) And then Gordon Quinn, the founder of 43-year old Kartemquin Films – one of the pioneers of cinéma vérité – showed us how he grapples with tough ethical choices in balancing film subjects’ needs with those of viewers. He talked, among other things, about paying all the participants equal shares of the profits of Hoop Dreams and getting PBS to accept the sight of breasts in the breast-cancer film In the Family.

We ended with a discussion of elegance, professionalism, experiment and craft in the making of ‘media that matters,’ as the Arts Engine people call it. Sundance’s Cara Mertes, Thomas Harris and Sean Fine (of War/Dance) fielded a discussion with Silverdocs’ Sky Sitney, and our evaluations showed it was one of the most popular events of the conference.

In between we had such a barrage of cool ideas for funding (Alyce Myatt showed off Grantmakers in Film and Video’s new website where you can pitch funders electronically, at and outreach/marketing (Scott Kirsner told us about and that our heads were spinning. We released a couple of new documents in association with it – Center fellow Barbara Abrash’s case studies of successful strategies in mission-driven documentaries, and a report by Kafi Kareem on the lessons learned from the making and marketing of Made in L.A. The best part for me was that it was really participatory (one of the evaluations said the best speaker was ‘the audience’!); we had so much good info coming in from the gathered producers, and so much good will. I hope you get to come next year.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.