New director assessing Easthampton Media’s role in community

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  • Jeff Mastroianni, Easthampton Media’s new executive director, pauses in the studio control room during a tour with the Gazette of the organization’s offices in Eastworks on Jan. 19. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jeff Mastroianni, who started in November as executive director at Easthampton Media, is photographed at the organization’s studios in Eastworks on Jan. 19. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Media Executive Director Jeff Mastroianni talks about the several feeds the organization offers during an interview with the Gazette on Jan. 19. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jeff Mastroianni, who started in November as executive director at Easthampton Media, is photographed at the organization’s studios in Eastworks on Jan. 19. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Media’s new executive director, Jeff Mastroianni, pauses in the studio control room during a tour with the Gazette of the organization’s offices in Eastworks on Jan. 19. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ukulele artist Joe Trapasso, left, of Northampton and Alex Terrill of Terrill Productions use a studio at Easthampton Media on Jan. 19. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/23/2022 12:11:22 PM
Modified: 1/23/2022 12:10:05 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Public access television has evolved significantly over the past few decades although much of the public’s perception seems to have remained in the past. Jeff Mastroianni hopes to expand that mindset.

Now three months into his role as Easthampton Media’s new executive director, Mastroianni is in the process of reorganizing the nonprofit’s space and assessing its future. Easthampton Media’s space is still relatively new as the organization moved into suite 102 of the Eastworks building during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.

“I truly believe in our mission: to support our local communities through the services we provide, to empower our citizens by helping them exercise their right to free speech, and give a voice to the voiceless,” he said. “Perhaps the most important thing (especially these days) is to help preserve our democracy and provide transparency to our local governments. Our biggest challenge is in getting people through the door, to come in and see everything we have to offer, and to see that we are an amazing resource.”

Mastroianni replaces former executive director Jenn Ramsay.

Before coming to Easthampton Media, Mastroianni worked as the director of technologies for Amherst Media and was in charge of production since 2018. He also worked at a community access television station in Brattleboro, Vermont as a content manager and technical director.

Prior to his time in the community access realm, the North Adams native worked in the human services industry for about 15 years, nearly eight of which were spent as a developmental health provider.

Currently, the majority of Easthampton Media’s focus is centered around coverage of meetings in Easthampton and Southampton as the pandemic has continued to shutter activities and events.

Mastroianni says he hopes to establish more partnerships with area nonprofits as well as the schools. He did note the additional time has provided an opportunity to better assess where his team is at and plan for when things will get back to “normal.”

The nonprofit is also looking to add a few interns. Interested applicants should email a sample of their work and a resume to Intern@easthamptonmedia.org.

Like many nonprofits, Easthampton Media faces concerns with its funding source. Community access is funded by a percentage of local revenues from cable companies. Each municipality negotiates its own contract.

With more people turning away from cable television and tuning in to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, the cost for community access to do is business is going up, said Mastroianni. And to maintain the community resource, he says it’s important Easthampton pivots to remain relevant.

“The perception of public access is the anti-maskers ranting at the school board or it’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ or ‘Wayne’s World.’ It’s not wrong, but it’s also not completely accurate,” he said. “It’s whatever you want it to be. Granted, there are some limitations here, we’re talking no-budget productions versus multi-million dollar productions, but it’s whatever you have the desire to make it.”

With the media center’s relatively new space, Mastroianni reiterated how it could be rented and its production services utilized for hire. Easthampton Media also has the capacity to digitize residents’ VHS tape collections. The phrase “public access” is also something he’d liked to see go by the wayside and be replaced with “community media.”

“Public access has a stigma. With community media, at least there is an identity there … we should be a mirror for the communities that we serve. People in the community have this facility at their disposal for a very reasonable membership fee,” he said, adding that it’s currently only $20 per year for individual memberships. “We can do a lot more with a lot fewer people than was possible when I was growing up. We have automated cameras we can have someone sitting, directing and being the operator of three cameras — while it takes more work, but it’s doable.”

Beyond that, community media isn’t just about television anymore. Easthampton Media also provides podcasts and video podcasts.

With each membership comes access to professional video, audio and multimedia tools as well as equipment training from staff at Easthampton Media.

In the coming months, the media center will also be working on upgrading its equipment. Much of the nonprofit’s field production equipment has passed its end of life and Mastroianni hopes to have that upgraded during this budgetary quarter.

One of the things he’s appreciated most about being in the community access field is becoming intimately familiar with all the events happening in a particular community. Covering each moment of a project or initiative from start to finish is among the many reasons Mastroianni says he continues to be invested in community media.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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