A Big Year

How will we move forward?

by André Natta

How will we move forward? Many will turn to that phrase for the next few weeks as we move from holiday party to holiday party, wondering what the future holds for Birmingham in 2013. It’s a fairly important year as eyes all over the world turn to Jones Valley as we honor, remember, and reflect on what happened here in 1963.

I’m interested in seeing how the city tackles a few digital issues in the coming year. How the city responds to those prompts and challenges will say a lot to the rest of the country (and the world) about how far we’ve come and how much farther we will go.

There’s plenty to focus on in terms of the city’s future. The progress evident by the cranes at Regions Field on the western edge of Railroad Park; the groundbreaking next summer for the new intermodal facility; and the new terminal at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport; all are signs that the only major city founded after the Civil War in the Southeastern United States is beginning a long-awaited renaissance. Finding ways to make locals aware of just how many good things are happening in the city and the region should be a top priority. The region’s residents serve as its best goodwill ambassadors.

We now have at least two web-based radio stations in the city. Most readers of this magazine will have had a better chance of hearing about Birmingham Mountain Radio than HipHopLiveRadio.com, a locally based hip-hop and R&B station that launched a little more than a year ago. This second station operates out of a fairly prominent location for our fair city—the long-time home of the Birmingham Realty Company (the one that grew out of the Elyton Land Company – the one that founded our city in the first place). Many will say these online ventures serve smaller niche audiences, and they do, but how do we create more channels while providing more opportunities to access?

The question also applies to how we receive our news. National surveys point out how often we get our news from television (as many as 50 percent of us according to one Pew Research Center poll—with that number continuing to decline over time) though we turn more and more to online sources. As the city’s newspaper of record prepares to turn 125, more and more local outlets are appearing or consolidating efforts, few of them are attempting (at least publicly) to tackle the issue of access for those who want specific information. We haven’t even gotten into the issue of reach.

It may not seem like it’s a big deal locally. There will be a lot of people looking in from outside digitally who won’t get as diverse an opinion of the city as they could, if we were a little further ahead in terms of connectivity. What does the coming year hold? Hopefully, a chance to plug in a few more people while expanding the web of possibilities for the city.

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