Much has changed for the good with Wellesley government meetings since the start of the pandemic—most significantly that the bulk of the them became available online via Wellesley Public Media, often by way of Zoom. This was particularly valuable with meetings focused on COVID-19 updates such as those for the Board of Health, whose gatherings you typically had to catch live or not at all in the past.
Given that town boards and committees vary wildly in terms of attention to posting meeting minutes, and that some useful documents like the Select Board’s Friday Night Mail is no longer made public, we can always use more town government transparency tools.
Now Wellesley Media has rolled out new technology that by default shows closed captions of meetings (you can opt out), and more impressively, let’s you search for words within the transcripts. The closed captioning is helpful for those hard of hearing and also for those like me who might want the have the meeting on in background mode with no sound while multitasking.
The caption search technology debuted with the recording of the July 27 Wellesley Select Board meeting, as shown below.
The closed captioning isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to help find needles in government jargon haystacks.
Captions automatically appear, and you can click an icon at the bottom of the screen that let’s you search for specific terms within the transcript.
Peter Marx, president of the Wellesley Public Media board, says the technology will let you, for example, search a meeting for all mentions of the Upham Elementary School. “Gradually, we’ll bring this capability to all board and committee meetings we record,” he says
A current challenge Wellesley Media faces is how to support meetings to be held in a hybrid fashion, with some people on site and others remote. The local access outfit, which has ditched its own studio, has been building out infrastructure to make recording meetings easier across town, including at Town Hall, the police station, and Wellesley Free Library.
Wellesley Media’s goal is to bring as many meetings to the public as it can, in the spirit of more open government, Marx says.