WVU SOJ launches new Main Street Mobile App
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 07:09
The West Virginia University Perely Isaac Reed School of Journalism is striving to overcome the digital divide as it moves forward and empowers rural communities in West Virginia.
The SOJ launched its Mobile Main Street app yesterday.
Mobile Main Street is a nonprofit project developed to pioneer multi-partner, community-based mobile media and to pilot new economic models for media via a networked, hyper-local publishing system using all mobile tools.
"It is a mobile publishing tool, but it is so much more than that. This is designed to empower rural West Virginia to leapfrog the digital divide," said Maryanne Reed, dean of the School of Journalism. "Mobile Main Street builds on our school’s rich tradition of civic engagement by adding yet another project."
Mobile Main Street is a free, open-source system for community mobile publishing tailored to serve community media and community interest organizations.
The system is designed to be a flexible, cooperative publishing tool that can seed mobile literacy for small businesses and media groups, nurture home-grown mobile networks and help fuel local mobile economic activity.
Team leader and Assistant SOJ Professor Dana Coester said she was excited to plant early adaptation seeds within the five pilot communities.
"A lot of people wonder why we are going to these rural communities without the infrastructure and technology and with all these challenges," Coester said. "But early adaptation is a higher risk tool that reduces aversion to change.
"This whole process has been nothing but challenges – but that’s not a reason to keep from doing it."
Coester said she was excited for the change and empowerment the app has already created.
"I have great affection for Tucker County. When we held our first interest meeting, 10 businesses were present, and of those only two even had smartphones – some didn’t even have a webpage," she said. "To me the story is that we now have 75 businesses, and some of them are tweeting up to 50 times a day.
"That’s something that wasn’t even on their radar a couple of years ago."
Lisa and Frank Minney – owners and publishers of "Two-Lane Livin," a magazine based out of the rural Gilmer County community of Stumpstown – are among the five pilot communities for the app.
The Minneys serve as the monthly magazine’s only staff members, taking on all duties, including layout, publishing, advertising and delivering the publication to the 17 counties it covers.
Lisa Minney said the School of Journalism’s West Virginia Uncovered program approached her when the publication was only a year old.
Before the School of Jounalism approached her, Minney said she had never heard of a mobile app, manually entered all of her posts on Twitter and used an outdated program to run her webpage.
"When they came to us, we were only a year old," she said. "Now, five years later, we owe many, many of our publication’s successes and where we are today to WV Uncovered."
Minney said "Two-Lane Livin’" plans to utilize the mobile app to promote its content and also to publish information vital to their own community.
Senior advertising student Lauren Draber first became involved with the program last year in Coester’s class.
Now, a year later, Draber has joined the team as the project coordinator, working on what she believes to be an extraordinary opportunity.
"The experience itself is phenomenal," Draber said. "This is something not a lot of students get their hands on."
Coester said her ultimate goal is for West Virginia to become a leader in economic growth through moblie apps such as Main Street.
Democratic West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said he believed the School of Journalism’s efforts through Mobile Main Street are vital to the state.
"Rural communities should have the same opportunities as urban ones. That’s one of the most important lessons I learned when I first came to West Virginia as a VISTA volunteer in Emmons, West Virginia," he said.
"I’m happy to see that West Virginia University not only recognizes that need but that they are taking steps to fully connect rural West Virginians through the Mobile Main Street program."
Coester also announced a competition to find a sixth pilot community for the app.
For communities interested in entering the competition or for more information on the Main Street Mobile App, visit www.mymobilemainstreet.com.