Editorial: A true community station
front, Alicia Brody of Westhampton, talks with Paki Wieland of Northampton at the NCTV open house and anniversary event Saturday afternoon.
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James Sullivan of Shelburne Falls talks about his experience with NCTV while being videoed by left Margarita Maiz and Brianne Zulkiewicz, both interns with the station at the open house Saturday evening.
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It’s not “The Voice” or “NCIS.” And it’s fair to say that most of the programs that air on Northampton’s community television station don’t fall under the category of edge-of-the-seat viewing. That said, NCTV provides the community with programs of real local meaning.
Last weekend, the station marked its move five years ago into its community studio at Northampton High School on Elm Street with a party celebrating its achievements since then and honoring the work of its staff and volunteers.
As NCTV’s executive director Al Williams put it, the station’s move to the high school represented more than relocating. “It was also about becoming separate from Comcast,” he said. Since parting ways with the cable giant, which had run a sleepy community access station in an out-of-the-way spot on Bradford Street, NCTV has sought — and largely succeeded — in energizing the community to embrace the opportunity the station affords: airing programs produced by people about local issues, events and newsmakers.
With Williams leading the way, over the last five years, NCTV has signed up some 500 members, from Northampton and beyond, and trained about the same number in media production skills. One of the station’s latest efforts is Paradise City Press, which seeks to highlight what is happening in Northampton, from business to politics to sports, through citizen journalism and community storytelling. That project recently netted the station an award from the Alliance for Community Media.
The station’s kudos are well-deserved. It keeps residents informed about what city leaders are discussing, issues that will affect their taxes, city services and the future of their neighborhoods. In recent months, NCTV has aired forums on the charter changes being considered by City Council, filmed the protest in August of the Northampton Association of School Employees and covered councilors’ debate over whether the city should adopt the state’s municipal health care reform law.
Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz now hosts a monthly show, where he fields questions from residents and discusses city projects. Called “The Mayor’s Report,” the show kicked off in August with the mayor conducting a tour of the new police station on Center Street.
NCTV viewers have enjoyed shows about community events, activities and groups: the city’s Transperformance, Northampton football league action and a look at the committee behind Florence’s Sojourner Truth Memorial. There have been many shows produced about or by area folks, including interviews with the owner of a new cafe in Northampton and the self-propelled trash hauling business, the Pedal People. NCTV cameras have been on the scene for a presentation about a city-sponsored refuse and recycle rally, a high school production of “Pinocchio” and interviews with Vermont Yankee protesters shot by resident Paki Wieland, an NCTV producer.
At a time when a plethora of distractions, from video games to smartphone texting, threaten to weaken our social connectedness, the station provides a sense of community. NCTV shines a light on the projects, dreams and concerns of Valley residents and, in doing so, brings people together around shared interests.
More importantly, it gives residents the means to exercise their rights as citizens of a democracy by keeping them informed and engaged in their government and providing common ground for discussion. And, by putting the microphone or video camera in their hands, NCTV gives community members a voice, an essential piece in keeping any democracy healthy.