Odessa's first media hub was opened a year ago. How do you build your community with the help of media hubs? And what happens to the offline network during a corona lockdown?
In our increasingly digital working world, media hubs can seem like relics from another time. What added value can offline spaces offer compared to video conferences, emails, and group chats?
In Ukraine, the Public Media Academy (PMA) has been gaining experience with such "real" spaces for a year now. PMA is the training center of the UA:PBC, the public broadcasting corporation of Ukraine, and a DW Akademie partner. Odessa is located on the Black Sea in the very south of the country and is where the "Odesa Media Hub" was established as an attractive and modern co-working and event space. It offers media professionals, journalists, students, activists, and artists from across the region a locale where they can attend training sessions, discussion and lectures, interactive meetings, and film screenings.
For Stanislav Kalach, director of the hub, and Valeriy Stoyanov, the hub coordinator, the creative, free atmosphere is what makes the space special. In the "Odesa Media Hub", everyone can not only visit events but also implement their own ideas. From video blogs created in the Hub's editing room complete with digital library and mobile journalism equipment to lectures, discussion clubs, or press conferences.
With the "Odesa Media Hub", UA:PBC wants to contribute to the development of free media and related initiatives in the country, promote cooperation, and thus be able to meet the long-term challenges facing the media.
Since the opening of the hub a year ago, the number of participants and the range of events on offer has been steadily growing. It has hosted more than 60 events and almost 1,700 visitors are proof of this.
"A typical visitor to the hub is an active media worker who has not chosen this profession at random, who likes his job and is very active in using social media," said Stanislav Kalach. Another group is students who are curious and always looking for networking opportunities. In addition, the hub functions like a job market where aspiring media workers can meet potential employers.
"Third space": a place between home and office
The "Odesa Media Hub" is a place that, in a way, brings the benefits of social networks into an offline reality. Behind this is the concept of the so-called "third space." It comes from sociology and describes a common space that is different from a living space or a workplace. This place is a co-working space and cultural center at the same time and offers both opportunities to work online on one's own projects and to interact with "roommates" offline at any time. The "roommates" of a third space learn with and from each other, exchange ideas, mobilize and sensitize each other.
A media hub meets the coronavirus
The outbreak and rapid spread of the coronavirus are posing major challenges to this offline concept of collaboration. During the quarantine, the "Odesa Media Hub" now only exists online and is taking advantage of the opportunity to network beyond Odessa. Journalists and activists now gather online to exchange views on journalistic work during Covid-19 times in Ukraine, Europe, and the US. They share experiences in dealing with false reports and disinformation as well as findings on media consumption during the corona crisis. The possibility of meeting online ensures the sustainability of the hub as long as it cannot be used as a co-working space and offline training center.
And after the crisis? Will third spaces still be in demand after more and more people have been able to enjoy the benefits of working from home?
Among other things, the hub offers media professionals the opportunity to test expensive equipment such as drones
"You can't always work well from home, there are too many distractions," said Kalach. "The hub also offers a variety of jobs both inside and outside in the garden. For many, the opportunity to test equipment here is also important like a test drive when buying a car. For example, we have cameras and mobile reporting sets."
The head of the Public Media Academy, Olexandr Dmytrenko, is also certain that places like the "Odesa Media Hub" will not lose their attractiveness. "Online training and further education will be strengthened but offline offers will become even stronger," he predicted.
During the corona crisis, the services of the "Odesa Media Hub" take place exclusively online - the rooms are temporarily deserted
After a long phase with many digital offers and solutions, participants in the online training courses will like to be able to communicate directly with trainers and other learners again and no longer sit on their own couch all the time.
"For visitors, the atmosphere of the hub is very important," added Dmytrenko. "And this is not about the newly painted walls but the charisma of the people who work, organize events, and participate within these walls. Visitors first come here searching for emotion first and then content. Content alone can now also be found everywhere online."
Tips from Stanislav Kalach, head of the "Odesa Media Hub", on how the communication with the community works:
The opening of a new hub is planned for September 2020. The "Kyiv Radio Hub" near Maidan Square in the Ukrainian capital will house a radio and podcast studio, among other amenities, in addition to the classic co-working space.
The Media Hubs in Ukraine are part of a project to support public broadcasting in Ukraine, financed by the European Union and the German Foreign Office. Together with BBC Media Action, DW Akademie supports the transformation of UA:PBC, the Ukrainian state broadcaster, into a public service broadcaster. One of the main goals of the project is the establishment of the Public Media Academy as a digital and multimedia newsroom and a training center.