Accessible media about placemaking includes articles (e.g. Lisa Rochon in the November 25 Globe and Mail), webcasts (e.g. last year's National Endowment for the Arts panel discussion here), and the currently touring film by Gary Hustwit, Urbanized. In my home town, the Seattle Times' "Seattle Sketcher," Gabriel Campinario, often champions placemaking concepts through his regular, community-based illustrations.
Since writing my article
last week on how best to portray city life, I have been pondering which
form of media is best-suited to convey the stories of places where
people want to live.
Based on my own familiarity with the role of public comment and
expert testimony in regulatory decision-making, including the
influential voices of citizens at a public hearing, I began a search for
compiled, consolidated voices on a variety of topics addressing what
makes a livable place. I wanted more than generic "happiness surveys" and similar, more data-oriented presentations.
I concluded that we need more than instructive YouTube videos, such as the Streetfilms series.
Rather, we need a syndicated, 60 Minutes-style production, which
offers interviews about the universality of placemaking, while
distinguishing the narrative, custom stories of varied communities.
Then, I discovered such a radio show is already at work, on the other side of the country, in Miami: Place Matters, with Dr. Katherine Loflin.
From my direct follow-up with Loflin, it is clear that the show is off to a promising start.
Place Matters runs Thursday at 11:00 a.m. EST on Miami's WZAB, 880-AM. It is podcast accessible,
and Loflin's interviews and unique focus are well worth a listen.
According to Loflin, it is the only nationally focused radio show in the
country explicitly devoted to placemaking:
Through the show I wanted to bring on representatives of
diverse systems in "community" (i.e., political/municipal leaders, young
people, corporate, philanthropy, researchers, planners, university
presidents, filmmakers, celebrity, technology folks, everyday residents
etc.) and have them at some point testify how their work and/or
background informs a discovery or conclusions that "place matters." My
thinking was if you could look at my guest list and see a very diverse
group of folks coming to the same conclusion on the importance of place
from their perspective, it would make a powerful, almost universal,
As a veteran, former program director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and lead national expert on Knight's Soul of the Community
project, in partnership with Gallup, Loflin is no stranger to the
relationships between people and place. The study's findings on what
ties people to their communities helped to frame the show's
Loflin explained the project as backdrop to her pursuit of a radio show:
We had been doing well-being studies for a while. They
have been called happiness studies, well-being surveys, indicator
projects, and the like and they stay important. But they only tell half
Soul of the Community went further. To understand our
experiences and existence, we looked at personal outcomes in the context
of place -- why people wanted to live where they do -- and why location
matters to them to begin with. We then derived roadmaps of indicated
action. These roadmaps are available for further use to help grow
people's attachment to a place and perhaps impact economic growth as a
When we spoke last week, Loflin's graduate degrees in social work
with journalistic and community practice concentrations were clear. I
asked her about the show's goals, and about the challenges of
translating placemaking to the public over the air. She replied
The show was an experiment at first. But clearly audience
interest and feedback shows a continued need for a 30-minute shot of
placemaking each week, perhaps even an hour, as this topic continues to
take off and take root across the country.
Through the show, I wanted to raise the placemaking conversation,
reflect that conversation back to the field and provide a platform to
show the wide range of sectors coming to the same conclusions about the
importance of place. I think I am off to a good start, but there is more
to do and many more stories, ideas, research findings, and thought
leaders to showcase in order to move the field forward.
Loflin's "good start" is notable in its diversity, and often builds from Soul of the Community findings. The
first show featured PPS's Kent in late September. Loflin's further
shows have featured several on-the-ground examples in Detroit, Toronto,