Join us this summer on a ramble through Philly’s grassroots news scene, Local-style.
You may recall from last month that we’re now a part of WHYY’s News & Information Community Exchange – a new program aiming to bring more varied voices into mainstream media. What a blast it’s been, connecting with other independent newspapers, blogs, radio stations, podcasters… We’re all so different yet just as passionate, just as driven to find our place in the City’s zeitgeist.
This summer, we’re taking a break from the confines of geography to shine some light on our partners in citizen journalism! First up: Tamara Russell aka Proof of Consciousness – you can call her P.O.C.!
Founder & host of REVIVE Radio and Media, a multi-format broadcasting platform that reports on news, trends, politics, music, sports, art and more, with an emphasis on youth and Millennial viewpoints. REVIVE reaches 15,000+ unique users/month with honest, opinionated storytelling centered in African-American culture. As WHYY’s first N.I.C.E. partner, her excitement about how fast the project has grown is infectious.
You might recognize P.O.C. from “Mad or Nah?” — her twice-monthly WHYY series where she interviews people in the streets about local current events. TRUE STORY: Mad or Nah? is now a regular feature in The Local paper, starting this month. We’d love to hear your feedback, but let’s meet her first.
P.O.C. recently sat down with WHYY for a one-on-one interview about her experiences in community news. This Q&A has been edited from @WHYY’s Instagram Live video and made possible thru a partnership with N.I.C.E.
ERIC MARSH SR (community outreach organizer for N.I.C.E.): What got you started in creating news and media content?
P.O.C. : I started with Solomon Jones, back in the day. He’s still on WURD, and when you listen, you hear his passion, and the authenticity that comes off when he’s reporting and telling his story and really allowing people’s voices to be heard. When I got started with WURD, I was there as an intern for social media marketing. And one day on the air Solomon said I have a question and I want to hear from a Millennial perspective. And there were about three of us in the studio that day. He let us get on the mic and really give our opinion. And from there, I was like, This is what I want to do.
What has your experience been like, as a Black woman working in News & Information?
I never thought that something like Mad or Nah would even be able to be aired on a WHYY station. So when I went to pitch Sandy and Chris, I pitched a whole nother segment! Something very trendy, it was on another level coming from a Millennial perspective. And they were like, Naaahh, that’s not it. We want it real. We want that voice. Give us what you sent us the first time. And for me being an African American woman in this industry, that’s so special. I think Mad or Nah has always been successful is because I’m doing what I do best and WHYY is allowing me to just simply be myself.
What is do you feel you bring to Philadelphia’s News & Information ecosystem that nobody else delivers? What’s different about P.O.C. ?
One thing I will say is that I’m not from here. I wasn’t born and raised in Philadelphia, I’m from Washington DC and have only lived here about 6 years. Now, Philly has truly adopted me and taken me under their wing! But still, when it comes down to it, I am trying to understand the city for myself, as well as find a story for my listeners. I’ll ask different questions than people who are from around here might, and often my own curiosity and interests will lead conversations to unexpected places. It can be very intriguing and organic.
When you walk up to folks on the street, doing your interviews, what are some of the challenges that you face?
As you can see, I’m a Black woman with locs. So sometimes that can be very intimidating in certain sections of the city. Sometimes I get blowback because people didn’t know what was what, who was who. Also they’re always asking for credentials. And even now, in this age of social medial, some people really don’t want their face or their names out there. But really, when I’m in a neighborhood asking questions about the City, people want to talk. If I’m asking about Philly, Philadelphians will line up to have a conversation.
Tell us a little bit about what it’s like for somebody that might be interested in getting into news and journalism.
Love what you do. You definitely have to love what you do. It’s not easy. This industry is about relationships: you need to make connections to gain the access and resources you need to succeed. You also need to have relationships within the community, to meet them where they are, spend time with them. Not just for fun and music but to be there for back-to-school drives and youth activities and fish fries! I would also say these community relationships are one of the best parts of the job.
The number of guests that come on REVIVE Radio – and the variety! — is amazing, and truly engaging. Who have been your most memorable interviews?
I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to talk to so many different people. I’m always gonna say State rep Joanna McClinton. That was one of the best interviews I’ve had, because she did some preaching. And she did some politics — she was doing both at the same time. And this past year, one of the biggest hip-hop interviews I’ve done was Donell Jones, which was amazing. Getting him to talk about the new music he’s dropping, his old music, and the difficulties of being in the R&B genre of music. I’m a 90s baby, so to be able to listen to him then, and now being able to speak with him. That was a good conversation!
What are some of the things that you feel like you have, personally, as a goal for your future in News & Information?
I’d like to get on some of these panel discussions with WHYY and other news outlets, to bring a different voice to these discussions. I want to see more dialogue between demographics – as a Millennial, I’m especially interested in breaking the generation gap with WHYY’s audience. I want to keep working with good people like Chris Norris and yourself, to keep building a circle, a tribe, a community where we can reach out to each other and share what we know.
Shout out to Chris, our Community Contributors and Engagement editor here at WHYY. And N.I.C.E. was really his and Sandy Clark‘s brainchild. The concept of ”sankofa” – when you make it, you reach back to bring someone else along. That’s a practice that we want to continue to perpetuate and embody.
When it comes down to what Chris and Sandy are doing, they’re taking a huge risk for WHYY, in my opinion. When you think of WHYY, they’re first rate. For them to grab all these grassroots content creators, and to welcome us as we are! And introduce us all, and help us work together. I appreciate they’re willing to launch this program and let it grow without knowing exactly what we’re making here.
It’s so important to acknowledge that. You and the other partners are bringing fresh new audiences, new eyes and new voices tapping WHYY’s listeners into what makes Philadelphia unique.
And another thing about this program — when you work with most major networks, you have to represent them. With N.I.C.E., though, we’re allowed to represent ourselves. WHYY gave me my own individual page for Mad or Nah, which included REVIVE Radio and all my social media links. I truly appreciate that.
What would you say about somebody that’s interested in becoming part of N.I.C.E.? What are some of things you would encourage other content creators to bring to the table?
Come with ideas! Come with something to collaborate on. Also share something that is really you, maybe something that you do really well so we can all learn or benefit
What are some ways that folks can reach you if they want you to come out and talk to them and cover their event?