A Project for Students and Citizens

Bayou La Batre: Week Five

In Bayou La Batre on July 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Angela Cleary is living democracy in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.  Originally from Birmingham, she is a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

The most popular way to spread news in Bayou La Batre is word of mouth. This informal style fits the personality of the small fishing town. People gather places to hang out and converse at The Bait Shop, Rodnockers, and the State Docks. They discuss issues that matter to them like the season’s catch, new businesses moving into the Bayou, and difficulties they are faced with. For the Vietnamese population, they typically gather to communicate in neighborhood Vietnamese grocery stores where they bump into their friends and exchange gossip.

More formally, there are news publications for those who are willing to actively seek them out. However, Bayou La Batre does not have its own newspaper. Bay Breeze serves the coastal communities of South Mobile County, including Bayou La Batre, Coden, Dauphin Island, Grand Bay, Irvington, and St. Elmo. The content usually deals with more entertainment rather than news.  The Connection is out of Grand Bay, but typically doesn’t cover Bayou news. The Mobile Press Register covers information as it is the closest major city.  However, local news typically doesn’t make the cut unless it is major news such as the oil spill.

I’ve noticed unequal access to the news for citizens with language barriers. There is a Vietnamese publication called Mach Song, which is based in Houston and provides national news. It typically covers BPSOS news, and international issues such as democracy in Vietnam and human trafficking. There are also TV and radio stations that discuss national news in Vietnamese.

Communicating electronically seems to be the most efficient way of getting news in Bayou La Batre. I set up a Google Alerts for Bayou La Batre that link to articles, typically from http://www.al.com, that relate to the area. Information is also spread through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook as well.  There is also Channel 3, a local station that displays announcements for the city. Even if you don’t have cable, you still have access to this local channel. City Hall’s Chad Seaman sets up the announcements to scroll like a screen saver for upcoming events, organization contact information, and other items of local interest.

A new development is the project of Howard Park, an Auburn University intern who is working with City Hall and BPSOS to create digital signage for the community.  Its purpose is to raise awareness and increase communication of important issues to Bayou La Batre. Much like Channel 3, there will be a continual scroll of information on a TV screen in City Hall as well as the BPSOS office. Howard is working to also have the information available in Vietnamese.

The Bayou HOPE project is being mostly communicated by word of mouth and personal interactions. We post flyers in stores and churches for upcoming events, but we realize getting the message to a large number of people is a real struggle. Some of the greatest responses and support come from casual interactions and conversation. We also regularly use the Bayou HOPE Facebook page, especially since we work with middle and high school students. We post everything from reminders, videos, pictures, and questionnaires to keep our followers engaged and communicate information. We have also created a Bayou Hope Twitter account.

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