Information Literacy According to Freeman

All of us carry bias. Our beliefs and opinions are influenced … When we first meet someone, we already have a narrative we tell about them, just by looking at them.  DANA STACHOWIAK Literacy Now

Acts of Journalism, Acts of Literacy

Journalists must check their biases daily As best they can. The Fourth Estate Journalism Code of Practice sets forth principles and practices for fairness and accuracy, accepted sources All too often the power brokers and balance Often troubling. These principles and practices are a necessary awareness for people engaging in ‘acts of journalism.’ Reporting tells about events, situations, and in a watchdog role, problems. Framing and social empathy elevate newsgathering to the “Seek truth and report it” ideals meant to enlighten the public. What the public deems to be true is seen as necessary for justice and the foundation of democracy and fundamental to the role of journalism.

Australian journalist, editor, and educator  Alan Sunderland suggests that the most obvious change in journalism is that it is no longer solely the preserve of the professional journalist. He is working on an updated code that can serve people committing themselves to acts of journalism every day as they work to inform their communities about matters of public interest.

Our existence is an experiment in democracy.

Citizen journalism is part of our birthright.

Discerning Reliable Information in All that is Freely Spoken is Challenging

What is free speech? Is it a prayer, picture, song, rap, poem, story, tweet, blog, flag, bumper sticker, money Campaign financing, or video Even video captured via smartphone? Is it what a politician says to followers, a preacher to congregants, a conversation at dinner, a lesson in a classroom, a made-for-TV movie? Is it strictly related to the First Amendment, and therefore, the role of government? Should the message, method of delivery, and speaker, each be subject to scrutiny? Can comingling perceptions about the speaker and the method of transmitting a message heighten one’s sense of the message’s believability? Is government, when engaging in crowd control, as people exercise their right to assemble, obligated to ensure equity of viewpoints for those choosing to assemble? Sometimes rights compete, and that is never simple.

Is it saying whatever comes top of mind: what a bully, robber, abuser says to a victim? Or is it intentional speech? How is truth-telling, and the source of truth, important to the discourse on truth in the modern world? Debates among the early Greeks found a correlation between belief and truth for the teller, and the listener’s perceptions of the teller’s morality a potential danger to democracy. In contrast, some posited that evidentiary truth, inclined toward science and fact-finding, may better serve a democracy founded on the exercise of power by the people, equal before the law. Their word for free speech which ranged in meaning from chatter to truth depending on its usage was “parrhesia.” This text presented by French philosopher Michel Foucault in his discourse on the problems of truth, argues that parrhesia is a risk to democracy.

Greeks: Democracy … is condemned to give equal place to all forms of parrhesia … Because parrhesia is given even to the worst citizens, the overwhelming influence of bad, immoral, or ignorant speakers may lead the citizenry into tyranny, or may otherwise endanger the city. Hence parrhesia may be dangerous for democracy itself.

Foucault: Thus this problem … of a necessary antinomy between parrhesia—freedom of speech—and democracy, inaugurated a long impassioned debate concerning the precise nature of the dangerous relations which seemed to exist between democracy, logos, freedom, and truth.
Source: Parrhesia and the Crisis of Democratic Institutions: Discourse & Truth, Problematization of Parrhesia – Six lectures given by Michel Foucault at the University of California at Berkeley, Oct.-Nov. 1983

A long, long time ago, civil discourse—person to person, face to face, or in a letter—became public predominantly by rumor A custom kept alive by my grandmother in a small town in Vermont. The printing press modified speech by both expanding the audience and ceding power to those in control of the tools. Speech to more than one person at a time is about access: the right to assemble Now with social distancing, media ownership, and rules of engagement. For example, the perils of a hot mic and not yelling fire in a crowded place.

In the digital age, free speech is morphing once again. There are more challenges for those of us committed to the ideals underpinning this freedom. For advocates, free speech is broader than a constitutional right. Speaking freely embodies the concept of speaking truthfully and boldly, while aware of the obligations and risks. Most advocates embrace the idea that the absence of speech to counter radical views is dangerous for all, but few would suggest they are absolutists, putting individual speech above all else. In a Free Speech Center article, September 30, 2020, David L. Hudson Jr., professor, attorney and first amendment scholar, wrote that even Justice Ginsberg, “…balancing First Amendment rights against a variety of other interests,” sometimes supported “opinions that did not favor First Amendment claimants.” Some countervailing rights were copyright, discrimination, and situationally qualified immunity, putting safety first, also part of the ethical standards of journalism.

“For the most part, those are our ideals, our treasured First Amendment and the notion that in our nation we are many and yet we are one … “

Source: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Feb. 2017) In a discussion moderated by NPR’s Nina Totenberg and co-sponsored by the Newseum and the Supreme Court Fellows Association in Washington.

Many endorse inclusive and reflective discourse. St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit Order and an influential figure in the missionary, educational, and charitable works of the Roman Catholic Church, suggested that reflection entails removing oneself from the situation to look at it independently and objectively. Objectivity is an essential tool in a world full of information in all forms inclusive of disinformation which is intended to mislead and in the case of government would be called propaganda. The prevalence of disinformation was a significant precursor to our review of our role and adoption of a #LiteracyInformation Resolution.

WHEREAS, disinformation has always existed but the unprecedented communication power of the Internet and social media, linguistic virility (misinformation spreading quickly from person to person behaving like viral mechanisms) has reached epic proportions …

Before the nearly universally accessible Interweb of commerce and resources, people depended on public libraries to search for information or conversations with elders. Today, reliable information is available with equal footing to the cancerous misinformation, disinformation, and ‘spin’ information by vested interests. Equal footing necessitates tools for discernment Some would save the word discernment for understanding if one is called to a life of faith. It is difficult, even challenging, when thoughts and prayers are inadequate.

Misinformation causes real harm to people’s lives, health, finances and to democracy. We need good evidence on how to tackle it. | Media and Information Literacy Research  FullFact Briefing 2.2020 supported by Luminate

Recognizing the challenge and the peace of mind that come with understanding, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provides media and information literacy resources that align UNESCO’s mandate to “promote the free flow of ideas by word and image”. The higher goal is ‘Building peace in the minds of men and women’ Not the peace that surpasses all understanding.

#InformationLiteracy Initiative

Community TV is not the media. It is a resource for citizen media makers, some who may strive to commit to acts of journalism. It is a public resource for expression which may also be seen as necessary for justice and democracy. Both creators and consumers are to be encouraged to confront their assumptions about how the world works. It is the responsibility of creators to release accurate material, and it is the duty of consumers to be aware of what sources can be relied on and what contents can be trusted as well.

The purpose of our #InformationLiteracy initiative is to help efface biases in our communities at-large where there may be strongly held non fact-based opinions being espoused. There is always more than one truth, but democracy works best when many truths are heard for the purpose of governance.

Community TV Creation Story

Community TV organizations are committed to providing the tools & stage for free speech. However, the roots in our creation story are entwined with the lack of opportunity for some stories to be told. Our existence is an experiment in democracy. Citizen journalism is part of our birthright.

Advocacy for the underserved voices, first-person stories, and local stories is at the heart of our movement, not, “I have an opinion. I deserve a stage and a microphone” To amplify that opinion. Similar to our constitutional founding fathers, advocates have concerns about balance, power and representation. Unlike our founding fathers, citizen media advocates are a rainbow of representation. Advocates believe that communities can come together when they can identify shared values and reach a consensus on concerns and representative responses. This belief is the democratic bedrock of community television.

Community TV: Public, Education and Government Access

WPAA-TV is not a news organization or a media production house. It is a regulated community resource charged primarily with enabling pubic access television. The public access aspect of Community TV is about enabling citizens to be media makers.

In 2007, regulators expanded the role of WPAA to include aspects of Education and Government access television. Education access was intended to be a platform for distance learning and a resource for media education. Government access, a public affairs venue, was to provide transparency on the actions of the government on behalf of citizens with gavel-to-gavel production of government meetings and public hearings. WPAA was also to be a resource to provide the community with updates on the actions of government from elected officials and civil servants.

Media Training in Community TV Organizations

Exemplification Do as I do is one method of improving literacy. Freeman social media posts selected to exemplify substantive and accurate analysis will include the hashtag #Information Literacy. Selected articles, research or opinion pieces are meant to tackle trending misinformation. Expected topics—justice, health, and government action—are those most often connected to purveyors of social engineering or fraud. Criteria for selection of content to be redistributed in the #Information Literacy are reliant on research, data, primary sources, relatively unknown facts and triangulated with credible sources.

The design of future producer training will strive to provide equivalency with pre- and post-production knowledge. Basic understanding of what differentiates content, i.e., news vs. opinion, ethics, issues, and challenges; objectivity in representing reality; and practices such as labeling, citing sources, and other efforts to be transparent will be part of pre-production training. We will go a step beyond design, setting a tone with elements such as the use of color, metaphors, and typeface appropriate for the subject matter to accountability, responsibility, and intent.

Although documentaries are constructs of truth, they can reveal conspiracies or be conspiracies. Style choice and execution can amplify the credibility of any production, even those produced with the intent to bend the truth.

Technical challenges with audio or video could keep a story from community TV distribution. This is less so with content. Content cannot be censored if it complies with being noncommercial, is not slanderous or obscene. Since lack of technical viability has the highest likelihood to prohibit content distribution and comes with a substantial learning curve, technical training is foremost in preparing prospective users as citizen media producers.

Content can be improved, not censored. Training can improve watchability. The media makers’ goal, after all, is not making media as much as it is having their voices heard. Therefore, from the onset, community TV organizations were actually required to provide training. For decades that training has been of the ‘lights, camera, action’ variety, and post-production editing.

Our Spiritual Communities Inspire Me

A Tradition of Service
WPAA-TV has done its best to carry on our decades-long tradition of sharing faith community services as TV with the homebound. With COVID-19 many more are homebound.
Same Day Sunday #NowMoreThanEver

Since social distancing became a way of life, WPAA-TV expanded its commitment to local faith communities to share their worship experiences as Community TV. How people gather to worship has been among the changes in many lives. Among our changes were welcoming new to us communities of faith: Christ Presbyterian Church and Church of the Resurrection.

Returning to In-Person is not an option for everyone
As communities are gathering again in their physical spaces for worship, I reviewed our TV cable-casting arrangements for equity and viewing predictability. The following schedule was adopted by the participants.

Same-Day Sunday support to communities of faith has been a priority for the governance team of WPAA-TV since its inception in 1993. Board membership initially included members of local church camera crews. Having a key to the building made Same-Day Sunday possible when the production of the service required access to the tap dubbing machines and distribution tape decks.

Did you know that the longest-running program on WPAA-TV is the 8:00 AM Monday morning replay of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Sunday Service. For nearly thirty years members of the ladies guild have watched the service together as they participated in other church activities. That morning replay as well as 5:00 PM on Sunday continues to be on the schedule along with a few other long time arrangements.

The next longest-running program is the UCC-First Congregational Church of Wallingford I am not sure how long it has played at 3:30 PM, but I do know that Robert Berlepsch was the longest-serving volunteer crew for any program in Wallingford. I miss seeing him every week. For me, that was seven years of Sundays.

For decades some of the most avid users of community TV channels in the country have been faith communities or independent pastors. This is one of the few rare ways Community TV in Wallingford has been like Community TV in other towns.

I have enjoyed watching all the flavors of virtual togetherness this pandemic has brought forth within each of your faith communities.
It is personal …
Since March, providing this community support has been a 5-hour commitment rather than 3 hours. And if you know me, you know I am not a person of faith. I am however committed to community building. Supporting all of you were you gather in a community is part of that avocation.
#Staywell #KeepWatching #WeAreInThisTogether

Freeman ‘On Social Media’

… bubbly, bubbly, bubbly. What a relief it is.

It was a good day for a few unanticipated reasons. Another volunteer, Kay, agreed to handle the kindness aspects of our daily social media presence, the public face and outreach for WPAA-TV in the persona of Freeman Penny Quinn, 1st, Free Speech Ambassador. It was not pure altruism. Being a highly valued volunteer—compensated, but not at market rates—would net her $1250 for the year. Optimistically, we would, in due time, see a return on our virtual kindness investment with a commitment from grassroots donors. With over 1500 Freeman friends there are more than a few birthdays, anniversaries and life’s milestones to acknowledge each day. We have a few contributors who cover this investment in Freeman’s indirect appeal to the hearts of his followers to enchant future followers.

There are approximately 18,000 cable subscription-based households in Wallingford. Four thousand households contributing $1 a month would be life-changing for us. We would like to think this a reasonable goal. Our committed community reach is light years away from this critical benchmark needed for meaningful—in a connected to our mission sort of way—engagement.

When Freeman reached 500 friends Exceeding my dozen on social media, friends management began to add mileage to my already overstretched self. Every nonprofit administrator I know has been overwhelmed by the need to engage on this new front: social media. For many administrators, Pages and Groups often go unattended for days or weeks. I committed to daily interpersonal engagement. To augment Freeman’s milestone messages, I initially co-opted a delightful free blue bird emoticon, #FacebookSticker, Mrs. Rose Bird, designed by Joey Ellis—it was blue and a bird—conceptually on target. Sketches of a birthday cake and candle to blow out, two love birds, celebration of wins, sadness, brokenness, frustration, perspiring wellness, running late with a big watch on the wing, DIYness with a toolkit, a shake it off attitude, or stop right there sign and some key phrases like ‘Hi!’, ‘Please?’ and ‘Thank you!’ made the work with images spot on. But as right as Joey’s Mrs. Rose Bird was, she was off-brand. I decided to contract with a local comic book artist to sketch our ambassador of free speech for the growing opportunities for virtual kindness.

Freeman was already a decade old when s/he became a brand emoticon. The Freeman sketches, according to design specifications, were to look like the costumed mascot that had attended community events since 2008, and similar to how Mrs. Rose Bird handled life’s milestones: birthdays, sadness, illness, love and various reasons to kick up one’s Webbed heels. The artist was another highly valued volunteer—compensated, less than market rates—but after five fifty-dollar sketches taking longer than the contract suggested, it was time for me to Photoshop the bird. Freeman, with a speech bubble encouraging the receiver to “enjoy the next trip around the sun,” has been the most common act of outreach kindness. With theme-based Photoshop enhancements, an array of congratulation images were designed for graduations, sports achievements, retirement, new car, new home, new driver, beating cancer and welcomes for additions to the family including newborns or other family special additions such as adoptions, pets and grandchildren.

Freeman Kindness Messages

Facebook shows which friend’s birthdays are happening today, yesterday and tomorrow. The Freeman’s friend birthday list is how the work day starts. This handful of posts feeds the algorithms. Later, Freeman check-ins yield the next layer of algorithm induced engagement—friends’ posts about family too young or too feeble for Facebook or wise enough to not to be on it—folks having life’s milestones who will make up the next round of Freeman well wishes To grow household awareness of Freeman.

Freeman, the persona entity, is a shared login. This means we must have a consensus or policy on branding, style and copywriting, schedules and targets, and cross-posting including video guidelines. These evolve, as all things technological, more rapidly than what we can keep up with. In 2020, Pages can now post on Groups. If that posting option were available in 2015, the Freeman persona may not have been created. The Freeman existence is a breach of Facebook policy. It was suggested by several millennial teachers who found they needed a pseudo identity to have their personal or adult life exist on social media. For me, or so I thought, it was just adding to the long list of my other names I am not Freeman per say #AnybodyCanBeFreeman.

There is much more to communication in stories and on media timeline on behalf of the community to the community. To achieve outreach results, the volunteers behind Freeman must check in a few times a day. Social media consumption and interactivity is consuming regardless of how many productivity tricks like cross-posting are deployed. So far we have found that the key to our goal of being interpersonal seems to be three five-minute logins daily for kindness. Friend familiarity is important Sadly, friends can live on Facebook beyond their earthly years.

The Origin Story
By now I hope you are wondering what does a penguin, a blue bird affiliated with oceans in Asia, have to do with Wallingford. There are a few stories that preceded the one where a board member finds himself making snide remarks about the silly No, he said stupid and horrible Freeman sketches to the artist that was often at the station, not realizing he was talking to the artist who indeed had nailed the design assignment Oops.

The story of the blue bird begins with my stepdaughter, Heather, several wire hangers, masking tape, glue, five-yards of plush blue fabric, a bolt of white felt, and a yard of yellow. I did not inquire, merely watched the transformation happening as the family assembled during the evening news. There were some vestiges of the Cronkite era with the gathering even though the family had likely not sat together for dinner. Typically, the kids caught up with the events of their dad’s day, took a moment for anything that the news had to offer that was attention grabbing and dispersed by the time sports commentary began. For a few weeks the hangers and masking tape were part of this intersection in our lives. Eventually, the creation was obviously a head of a blue creature Nothing scary. Once the crafting began to take form, there was a clear opening for my inquiry, “So, what is that going to be?”

‘So’ is a ‘let me catch my thoughts’ word I edit out of videos every day. Its absence strengthens productions by suggesting the speaker is in command of the subject matter or interview. The listening experience is enhanced as is the perception of the speaker. This absence is good. Sometimes it can take several hours to enhance a video product by removing these anomalies to suggest a presenter’s cohesiveness in speech. Often this investment in making a project cohesive and succinct is missing in Community TV. Much of the content is raw interpersonal engagement by non-professionals. So, the word I used to open discussion about what was now a head exposed my hesitancy to embark into unfamiliar territory.

“It is Prinny,” she replied.

I remained clueless about a fictional race of creatures affiliated with a video role-playing game coming out of Japan. I would eventually come to the following understanding sans all the references to the PlayStation games Words that were Greek to me.

A prinny is a small, usually blue, pouch-wearing penguin-like creature with disproportionately small bat wings. When thrown, they explode on impact. Prinny reincarnation lore has them embodying demon souls of humans who led worthless lives, redeemed by servitude and good deeds. Some storification has them as mascots, and others transform them into heroes. A common trait of prinnies is their upbeat attitude.

Flashback: Community Building 2007
Our prinny goes to ConnectiCon 2007, the comic-con at the Hartford Civic Center. A comic-con, short for comic (book) convention, is where fans of sci-fi, roleplaying games, and of course, comics, congregate in costume with other fans, creators, and experts to do all activities fans engage in from panel discussions to parties. Local attendees of ConnectiCon 2007 are departing and returning to the WPAA’s Center St. location, home of the TV show Planet Access, which delves into the same content sphere Other worldly distractions, hooey foolishness, gobbledygook multi-million dollar industries and independent fan-geek entrepreneurs.

That same Friday evening, there was a planning pow-wow at the Center St location with members of the town’s Save Main Street movement, WPAA volunteers and myself. Our agenda, “What role, if any, would WPAA play in the next chapter of the turn of the 20th century Queen Anne T-shaped home built by Roger S. Austin, adjacent to the Town Hall. Could this town-owned property, with a destiny again in limbo—Historical Commission lawsuit—be our future home?”

Heather, aka Prinny, returned from ConnectiCon bursting with energy just as the emotionally exhausting discussion about 41 South Main St. was adjourning. During the Save Main Street meeting we agreed to move forward on the building rescue despite concerns about it being three floors and an overarching concern about decades of neglect. We struggled to get consensus on next steps, leadership, and mostly, a strategy for positive visibility.

Maybe out of pure fatigue, several of us saw potential in the prinny positivity. The upbeat prinny was instantly enlisted as our mascot. Heretofore, Prinny was destined for the back of Heather’s closet to keep company with Pac-Man and a red leather corseted costume with a saber accessory representing a character whose name I do not recall Or maybe never knew. Prinny’s first public appearance would demonstrate that in our haste we neglected to factor in that the volunteer in the costume was the upbeat ingredient.

2008 Introducing Ambassador of Free Speech

Heather gifted the costume to WPAA and garnered support of her friends to make posters that supporters could hold as they stood aside the prinny. [Save Main Street] [Support Citizen Voices] [I support WPAA]. That was in June. In October, our prinny appeared with Save Main Street people at a Town Council Meeting described as contentious. The after-meeting photos were adorable and subsequently used in the mascot naming contest.

October 24, 2007 American Legion building inching closer to sale?
After a wide-ranging discussion Tuesday night, the Town Council in a contentious party-line vote approved the first steps in a plan to sell the town-owned American Legion building … It was approved by a vote of 5-4, with Democrats in opposition … concerns about parking and … a request for proposals would yield poor results and could be used by the town to argue the building is not marketable and should be demolished.

Unexpectedly, the Town Council Chairman addressed the prinny directly. He said “Blue chicken at the back of the chambers, do you have anything to add? Frozen chicken may have been more accurate. The fluent and conversant Heather was not the volunteer under cover of plush blue prinny this time. The volunteer inside the prinny costume failed to reply. The chairman hit the gavel on the table and that concluded the meeting.

By December, WPAA would be publicly an integral part of the Save Main Street discussion. The governance step preceding that status included adoption of a resolution in October that tied this initiative to our mission.

The board passed a resolution inclusive of these criteria:

WHEREAS, most communities with Community Access are well served by Public & Government Access Television with government underwriting the production costs of Local Government Meetings; and
WHEREAS, the preservation of community buildings is much like preserving community memory; and

WHEREAS, Wallingford Public Access Association, Inc. could build community awareness of its own purpose rooted in the preservation of democratic ideals concurrent with uniting the community in the preservation of its downtown landscape.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that Wallingford Public Access Association, Inc. seeks to acquire the American Legion Building adjacent to Town Hall on So. Main Street in Wallingford for its future home in accordance with the procurement process to be designated by the Town Council.

As the appeal to the community for support of our acquisition proceeded, I came to understand that a few of my presumptions were faulty. More importantly, our mascot needed to be more than a charming handshake. Prinny needed to be a brand and ‘Blue Chicken’ would not do. Prinny needed a name and a voice Other than mine.

From Prinny to Blue Chicken to a Brand
WPAA decided to have a ‘Get to know WPAA’ event on the Parade Ground in front of 41 South Main St. We were advised that The Parade Ground is considered a town park so we completed the park use application well in advance of our May event. We began designing promotion of our name our blue penguin contest.

Freeman Costume

Ultimately, we had our attorney call the Mayor’s Office to determine the status of our permit because mysteriously, nothing was allowed to be scheduled to happen in this park without his permission. He was of the opinion that only town sanctioned events were allowable. It turns out this was indeed just his opinion. Nothing restricted Parade Ground use prior to his Mayorship. Quite to the contrary. The Parade Ground had been a place for citizens to assemble without a permit for centuries which was why it was excluded from the park permit process.
It was a lovely day In the neighorhood with a bounce house and a VCR-TV combo playing VHS archive tapes of shows from the 1980s and 1990s. Several name suggestions were put into the collection bucket. Many included some reference to Penny for penguin. A year after the prinny was enlisted as a mascot, s/he was being photographed with eight-year old Jeff who, with the help of his Grandma Freddie, won the naming contest. The blue penguin was reintroduced to the world on Facebook as Freeman Penny Quinn, 1st, Free Speech Ambassador with a birthday equivalent to the WPAA incorporation date.

Freeman, accompanied by Jeff in his blue penguin hat and penguin hand puppet awards designed for the occasion by Heather, became a Facebook persona with a greeting for new friends:

I say to all my new friends: thx for becoming my friend. I want to be the feather that tickles you to service, tells you a best-kept secret, supports your voice being heard, and encourages your informed participation in democracy. This will make sense if you know I am a blue penguin called Freeman P Quinn, 1st Ambassador of Free Speech at Home of Free Speech at WPAA-TV. #wpaatv, #powerfulWildFREE4arts #AnyoneCanBeFreeman #YourTownYourStationYourVoice
Please Follow WPAA-TV and Freeman for community notices and 'what is playing' updates for local TV.

Small Blue Penguin

As we made the transition from a prinny to a penguin to be more accessible to a larger community, I realized it might be useful for everyone to know something about blue penguins. What I uncovered was remarkably aligned with how we are as a collection of engaged people.

-Penguins are birds, but they are unable to fly A bit like cablecast and broadcast.
-Each penguin has a unique voice What we preach about people.
-Blue penguins are mainly nocturnal. They perform most of their activity during the night in small groups of ten or less When we are open to for Make TV with small crews.
-Blue penguins are not migratory. They stay close to their colonies most of the time Hyperlocal.
-Blue penguins as a species are not endangered but some populations are threatened Our Wallingford Story so unlike Waterbury or Windsor or Wethersfield or West Hartford.
-Blue penguins perceive their environments through visual, auditory and tactile stimuli It is all about what we see and hear, and ultimately come to feel.
-Blue penguins breed underground but will make use of man-made cavities Our cow barn was dug into a hill and the 1st floor is partially underground and if you have ever seen our sets you know we make use of whatever is at hand.
-Community Birds: Blue penguins move in groups Better together.

Freeman’s story much like our own is about adapting to do what we do together in the public interest in media of all kinds with community building giving a beat to the heart With Kindness.

Sharing kindness is definitely easier as a rallying response to a crisis. Communities apply a balm to their collective pain with acts of kindness. These acts echo forth in applause, newsworthy human interest stories, and virtual story sharing and thank you initiatives. They may tumbleweed into viral stories which easily overshadow, in the media amplification, the purity of aha moment intentions.

‘Feel Better Soon’ was the initial interaction between Freeman and Kay. A prolific user of Facebook, it was a tool in her survival kit as she contended with personal health challenges. The algorithm increased my awareness of her story. She asked for donations of bottles eligible for redemption to help with her uninsured medical bills. I had been routinely giving a large black garbage bag full of returnable bottle to an older Hispanic gentleman who was dumpster diving for discards at the bar next door. I would see him on Sunday mornings. Community TV is a seven days a week adventure. I went to the station to support our Same Day Sunday Initiative that enabled communities of faith to reach the homebound the same day as the service. I did not know his story, just his humility. But knowing Kay’s story made me redirect my redemption bottle behavior. The irony of giving away $5 to $15 worth of bottles belonging to WPAA-TV to random people as I sought discounts and gifts in these amounts did not escape me I am the girl who walked miles along the roadsides of my hometown for bottles discarded from car windows for the $.02 and the America the Beautiful Act of 1965. The coincidental disappearance of the dumpster diver was a relief much like the relief of being able to turn over, with basic instructions for daily posting of Freeman images, the Freeman kindness tasks to Kay.

Postscript: Coming Clean

As Freeman gained more friends, the ability to be Freeman became an awkward exercise in value testing for reasons beyond the sheer volume of interactions. I had been in need of a social media respite for months. I was feeling compelled to silently middle-finger the world more and more. This was about the time of the 2016 election.

Being Freeman, as the ambassador, consists of hundreds of virtual encounters with people The person behind the brand never met. The majority of worldview and values expressed on social media by Freeman Friends do not align with mine Or others behind the brand. Being Freeman with awareness versus rote rules of engagement is what I imagine hitting one’s head against a wall feels like. There is raw, naked awareness of the contact as the pain above one’s eyes makes cracks in your heart. The throbbing lingers as you push through to the next virtual encounter. Maybe a smile is on the horizon. Maybe congratulations to offer. Maybe a R.I.P., and taking a moment to pause for the life of a stranger. The micro-aggressions released into the world are the manifestation of the dystopia of our time That must not overshadow the intentions of the Freeman brand. The real person behind each encounter collects the particle dust of all of them. Some days are sunshine and others make you want to shake your middle finger at the world or at least at a few people in it I cannot be more honest than that.

A data phishing meme appeared on Facebook which promised Meyers-Briggs insight into values and priorities based on social media behavior It’s easier to hack people than computers and I was about to prove it.  The questions did not appear to be risking my passwords It was more of the exploitation variety. I decided to use this social engineering tactic for some research of my own. Both Freeman and Susan would submit responses. I envisioned this as proof that the brand and the person were indeed engaging in the world differently That was the proof I needed.

My virtual social interactions as Freeman were confirmed as more upbeat and affirming than mine Bubbly, bubbly, bubbly. What a relief it is. I was succeeding externally with the dichotomy. Internally, not so much.

It turns out there is something about getting to know strangers, even from behind a persona, that eeks out humanity. Kay could not resist adding her own kind words or worldview to her acts as Freeman. In six months she was exhausted, and made ‘my medical condition’ excuses to indirectly quit. I returned to the daily task with a sense of renewal and some insight into scoping out future Freeman ambassadors. The time on task needed to be limited. The images did not require additional text. Humanizing with a name would be enough. Engaging more with individuals already confirmed as friends with mission awareness was needed. Future humans behind the brand needed to be better than I at exuding kindness in person and less entrenched in a political or moral worldview. I also knew I needed a human who would feel connected to the role, and if so, do things that I might not otherwise do. And so it was, the next Freeman immediately added value by asking me if I were aware that I referred to Freeman as ‘he.’

Who is watching?

Ironically, our TV audiences are basic cable subscribers for which we have no data: no totals, no demographics, and therefore no context such as “What percent of subscribers are basic cable only?” Individuals that can afford cable packages are highly unlikely to be our viewers because they choose to pay for entertainment channels that they can watch on-demand.
Most of our active producers believe their audience is either viewing their show via the Internet stream or after the fact on YouTube or on more likely on Social Media therefore they do not care even care about how their show is scheduled after the first play. When we do hear from viewers, most are commenting on the curated content that actually is educational access content and should be viewable on the education channel. We know a few regularly tune in to listen to the #GoodEnough2Share Independent News Democracy Now.
I obviously believe in what we do together since I give 60 hours or more of unpaid time a week to this idea; but honestly, it is impossible to really know if the channel is what is necessary vs. the functions related to channel management. Is the place itself as a space for fostering talent and empowering action our truer purpose.?
Regarding the channel, I just needed to say it …

It would be nice to have subscriber and viewer data to understand who we are fighting for.

Our Bones Are Good Internet Connected World

In an Internet connected world, can or should Community Access TV, as we know it, be sustained? Yes and No.

Everything this experiment in democracy has at its core remains a vital part of sustaining democratic communities: building community through the production of ideas, opinions, stories, news, information and/or performance while valuing free speech, individual expression, inclusion and diversity. There is no comparable network of local organizations dedicated to being ‘of, by and for’ the voice of the people. If seen collectively, it is the largest television network in America. However, it is not a monolith. As a network, Community TV stations, many organized through the Alliance for Community Media, have shared principles, values and leaders that keep them from being rudderless, but they are as different as they are alike.

The Internet’s potential for worldwide connectivity provides many opportunities for expression and the possibilities may include a variant on this experiment someday. But thus far there is no Web amalgamation of local entities that is anything like community TV. As an experiment, it represents the diversity of America. It engages people agreeing and disagreeing about what makes a difference to them locally where they still have the potential to influence outcomes.

Yes, the Internet changed Community Access TV as it has many aspects of daily living. The Internet provides the infrastructure for a variety of information collections and services within the World Wide Web. For Community TV it is another tool for content delivery.

If the Internet is ubiquitous and free to all Ignoring those pop up ads and digital divide will the eroding uniqueness of local television still be desirable as local television?

• Comfortable watching of content from a living room recliner Smart TVs already let you view YouTube this way;
• Sharing the same viewing experience as your neighbor Smartphones already let you share links to what you want others to also see;
• Community projects bringing folks together to tell community stories The social distancing pandemic has made virtual meetings a mere calendar entry away;
• Commercial-free viewing Assuming the local station is not infiltrated by self-promoters; and
• Hyper-local media that is not controlled by corporate media But may be captured by self-appointed power brokers.

For now, Cable TV Community Access is a delivery system for hyper-local content: content important to the shut-ins who cannot attend church Who are not Internet savvy, commuters who cannot attend a public meeting Although they are likely watching a replay on the Internet, a child proud of his/her report or talent as it is shared with everyone in town, immigrants learning a new language as they listen to the same news stories in two different languages, or new homeowners eager to learn about their community.

Few singular events change a world view. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I believed that what the Internet could not be, or easily replace, was the potential to meet and gather in person, teach, discuss and share what is local based on the reasonable needs and interests of a community. Then the socially starved world experienced the rise of the racial justice movement in rallies, protests and online conversations creating more community engagement opportunities than community TV could envision supporting.

2020 has been nothing but evolutionary, eclipsing 1965: the bridge in Selma Alabama, the race riots in Watts, The Voting Rights Act, Vietnam War, Medicare, the Gemini Space Program, Mini-skirts and CT imposing a 9% Gross Income Tax on cable companies that was still being adjudicated in 1990 before the FCC.

Social distancing and essential business guidelines made some community TV stations go dark temporarily, or become a platform for archival reruns or virtually attended message boards, or as was the case for my station, busier than ever as essential media. Essential media stations assisted with online graduations, extended redistribution of online faith-based gatherings, and repurposed online community conversations into digestible resources. New content included fitness programs geared toward the silver sneakers generation and a children’s storytime in the late afternoon.

As people gather virtually, there is a palpable hunger to engage in person. So what is the real and future need for physical spaces to make media? There is a need for youth to discover, learn and experiment interactively with technology, and elders to stay connected inter-generationally in a public space. Locally WPAA-TV and Community Media Center is preparing to be that public space. We are not yet all we can be but our bones are good.

Juneteenth Guest Blog| to Freedom …

Juneteenth to Freedom, My Grandmother and Me

By Alease Annan, Marketing Manager; founding member, One BRIC Racial Equity Steering Committee @BRICBrooklyn

“Let’s go, Alease!” my grandmother who I am named after would yell as she put on her apron and walked into the kitchen at our home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It was always hard to pull me away from my favorite after school cartoon, DuckTales. “I’m coming, grandma!” I politely and respectfully yelled back to let her know that I was on my way.

It’s June 19, 1990-something and my grandmother, Alease Whiteside (I’m Alease Annan) and I are preparing for our grandma/granddaughter cook-a-thon to prepare for her annual Juneteenth Freedom Dinner.

In our house Juneteenth was a big deal—a really big deal.

As a Black woman, who came of age in the 1980’s and 90’s, I have undoubtedly experienced racism and discrimination. My grandmother, however, grew up in the Jim Crow American south in the 1920’s and 30’s experiencing, witnessing, and feeling a level of hate and racism that I cannot imagine.

My grandmother never explicitly outlined the terror and discrimination she experienced growing up for fear of scarring me but I could see it. I could sense it.

Through her pain though, there was incomparable beauty, immense joy, Vogue-like style, and unmatched skill when it came to the culinary arts. Simply put, my grandmother could cook.

Sweet potatoes. Cabbage. Collard greens. Salmon steak. Turkey wings. Mashed potatoes. Fried chicken. Potato salad. String beans. Macaroni and cheese. Yellow chocolate cake. Chocolate chocolate cake. Sweet potato pie. Cornbread. “I know I’m forgetting something. What am I forgetting?” my grandmother would ask me. Always wanting to be helpful I excitedly said, “Banana pudding, grandma!” She would gently cup my face with a sweet smile as a sign of approval that I had done well.

As I meticulously tore the ends off each string bean, careful not to take off too much, my grandmother would talk about Juneteenth and why we celebrated. “As my mother would tell me and her mother’s mother told her, Juneteenth was the day we received our freedom. It’s a way to honor my grandparents, and my great-grandparents, and my great-great grandparents who were slaves. Their sacrifices are why you, your mom, your uncles, and your cousins are here. We must honor the ancestors. That is why we celebrate.”

I think my grandmother’s Juneteenth definition is great but I’m biased. Here’s how Wikipedia explains Juneteenth: “Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth) is an unofficial American holiday celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on 19 June 1865, proclaiming that all enslaved persons in the U.S. state of Texas were now free.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier, and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.”

As I got older and learned more about America’s deep seeded history of segregation, racism, and oppression, I proudly continued my grandmother’s annual Juneteenth celebration. The menu was much, much, much smaller but the amount of love and commitment to honoring the tradition was the same.

In light of the murders of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed while sleeping in her bed in Louisville, Kentucky by police, and Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed by criminal vigilantes while out for a jog in his Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood, America is experiencing a New Civil Rights Movement that has inspired people all across the globe to rise up and stand against racism and oppression. Legislators have taken notice and started implementing police reform measures as well as strategizing pathways to dismantling the policies and systems that adversely affect American citizens who happen to be Black Indigenous People OColor (BIPOC).

In a historic move, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth a state holiday on June 16, 2020. “It’s time we elevate this. Not just a celebration by and for some Virginians but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us,” Northam said. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo followed suit the next day and Texas declared Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980. Additionally, there have been efforts in Congress to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

From Juneteenth in 1865 to Bloody Sunday in 1965 to today in 2020, we’ve been fighting for freedom. With the global movement for Black lives and human rights, you can hear Black Lives Matter chanted in Berlin, Spain, Amsterdam, Ghana, Paris, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, London, Syria, Bed-Stuy, to the Upper East Side, to Boston, to Portland, and every state in between.

Through it all, My Black is still filled with 2008 Hope. My Black is proud, and smart, and fearless, and joyful, and all kinds of badass. My Black honors the ancestors and my incredible grandmother who taught me the importance of love, soul food cooking, and Black history. My Black is boldly marching and working to effect real change so that we’re not just freeish but FREE.

Were you salivating reading my grandmother’s Juneteenth Freedom Dinner menu? I was, too! I wanted you to be able to make your own Juneteenth meal, so I reached out to Chef Paul Austin, Owner and Head Chef of The Missing Ingredient catering and he graciously agreed to share his Rosemary Chicken, Roasted Baby Vegetables, and Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad recipes. Chef Paul is fantastic and has a special connection to BRIC as he has catered our B Free Awards many times. Enjoy!

Recipes: Rosemary Chicken     Roasted Baby Vegetables     Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salad

Board President Statement Joey Allard (2019)

I, Joey Allard, had the opportunity to be a leader and a learner while serving WPAA-TV as President until June 2019. My three-year term on the board is up in a few months but I have never been more proud to be a part of WPAA-TV. Looking back at the challenges we faced we have come a long way.

Discover Us:  As a board and an organization, we have worked hard to get people in the doors. We have done everything from handing out candy on Halloween while filming a live Halloween special to running a film festival for the town to participate in. As a board, we evaluate what works and try to execute it better the next time.  Being a part of an organization that runs primarily from volunteers is not easy. We have had board members disappear with days’ notice, members and crew of productions stop showing up and struggled to get new volunteers in the door.

Our primary goal was to connect to our town and show them the importance of Public Access. This has not been easy due to the lack of support from town officials who don’t see a value in Public Access. As a board, we have found this came out of not understanding what we are and what we do.

Social Media: Over the years, we have really made strides to put ourselves out there to our community through the use of social media. Through the day to day interactions with our social media account members of the community have become friends with our organization and began to view our content as well as participate in discussing involving current events happening at the station, programs, things happening in our town, and most importantly free speech.

Leadership is with a Team: All these factors forced our board to grow together and strengthen as we were the foundation of the organization and its key support system. Being a part of an organization that helps provide a voice and support free speech to our community has been a true honor. As our community relationships have grown and people have seen the impact we can have with one another.

Support New Leadership: My term as President ended but #wpaatv still has a long road and challenges ahead. As I look back I see the mountains we have already climbed and had no worries about our success. As I move forward I will continue to support and fight for public access on all levels throughout our community.

I Am Here For A Reason

For me the recycling of digestible speeches and non-threatening quotes is patronizing.

No, it is not existential anxiety, although it could be. I skip the few hours of songs, stories and speeches intended to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Wallingford’s Town Hall which I have attended thrice since 2002. It is now 2020 and once again I decide to go elsewhere, seeking relief from the superficial ubiquity of quotes.

As I understand it, until 2002, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wallingford was on the front lines of commemorating Dr. King’s legacy since Martin Luther King Day was enacted into law in 1983 as a Federal holiday.

Anyone peripherally familiar with my town might assume my disquiet is a hangover effect from the town’s very public controversy in 2000. This controversy was seen differently by life-long residents, newcomers, city leaders, union representatives, churchgoers, and young people my son’s age including my son, Houston. Amidst the very public turmoil, I get some video footage of Jesse Jackson speaking at our Town Hall. Reverand Jackson reminds us that he was with King the afternoon of his death.

In 2018, my community television station unexpectedly expands my understanding of this historic day in the local arena.

Beth, a life-long resident, decides to contribute to a show called CommUnity Conversations that brings two people together to share a topic from their individual perspective. Her first topic is Race in Relationships. Beth brings her new friend KiKi, a person of color, to WPAA-TV for a few conversations on their experience of being friends. In the very first three minutes of the conversation with KiKi, Beth weaves together many loose ends for me and illuminates my sentiment I am here for a reason. She affirmed I am indeed doing justice work. Beth’s story, in mothballs for decades, would otherwise never have seen sunlight. I consciously use a video clip from this conversation in our 2018 Video Annual Report.

The 25-second trailer soundtrack of the 20-minute Annual Video Report is as follows:

I’d be happy to share my story.
Almost on queue you hear crash.
Erin it’s back to you.
If we didn’t see a need …
I’m always hopeful.
I asked the magic question …
You can now go on your phone and register to vote.
What would you say is the take-home lesson from our story?
I wasn’t aware that the Ku Klux Klan was in Wallingford.

Each segment begins, “Welcome to our CommUnity Conversation,” and then the conversation continues with whatever the contributors decide to say.

“I am Beth. This is my friend KiKi and we will be talking about race in relationships today. So, for me growing up in Wallingford,” Kiki nods and affirms, “Right.” Beth searches for both her memory and courage This video will be seen in Wallingford, after all. She continues, “which was (hesitates and starts again) at the time the clan was very predominant. You’d walk down Center Street and you would see, you know, the sheets. Going to the corner store they were there. You would see the black hearses, Beth gestures as if outlining the route, coming down with the clansmen. They would go into this graveyard.” The iconic symbol of our town’s history. Again she describes the scene from her childhood before mentioning her feelings. “Umm, across from where the pizza place is AND I JUST REMEMBER STANDING THERE AND THE FEELINGS THAT IT GAVE ME. Some fear. Because no one ever really talked about it. Because nobody knew who these people were.”

KiKi asks, “And so you didn’t know,” they simultaneously say, “who they were?” Beth continues, “I didn’t know who they were. They were just these men in these sheets. It wasn’t like an open dialogue that we would have in the community. It was not like it would (casual gesturing) be like What’s up with this? It was just, you saw them. You kept quiet. You did not talk about what you felt. You did not talk about how it made you feel.”

She continues reflecting on this moment that does not come fully into view with some justification.

“And I know I was pretty sheltered and I grew up and everyone was the same color. Everyone thought the same way. The values! The morals! Everything was exactly the same! I did not have a lot of friends that were black. I never had the chance to communicate with anyone outside of my own race. I remember very distinctly there was a (she pauses and restarts) In Wallingford at the church near Archie Moore’s this being St. Paul’s Episcopal and Jesse Jackson had come in. And it had something to do with Martin Luther King Day, and (pause) what ended up happening is we had this (pause) I do not want to call it a protest but it was a march to the Town Hall. So we walked into the church and the clan was outside and they were all like lined up and they had their speaker with their microphone.

Let Me Interrupt with My Distraction
My phone buzzes. Its screen fills with Twitter news posted by the local paper. I am immediately jolted back to the present, 2020. I pause the video I am watching to ingest the news In Wallingford, technology eliminates need for police couriers. This breaking news is about the use of email to conduct the town’s essential business. It reports a new development that is only news because of our Mayor’s disregard for technology One of my pet peeves. The tweet reports on the absurd delay in the use of email replacing use of police couriers Email was created about the time of King’s assassination after all. The police will no longer be Town Council Meeting document couriers. For years, the Wallingford Police Dept. reported staff shortages in several budget workshops but continued to lose hundreds of man-hours each year to be used as postal couriers getting documents to Town Councilors in preparation for their meetings. Documents that could have been distributed via email decades ago. Notably, the distribution will be from one of the few email addresses associated to the town government to the personal emails of the councilors.

My personal Twitter feed describes me as a “community media frontline volunteer: discovering, capturing, producing & sharing stories to keep the engines of service & democracy going in my town #W06492.” From this vantage point, I re-tweet without comment and leave this distraction like so many in my day.

I Am Here
I take the video off pause to hear Beth recall, “They had their speaker with their microphone and they were yelling profanities and all types of things. And I remember walking out and standing there at the top of the steps where the church is and looking out and seeing them. And I remember shaking a little bit because they scared me.” She reiterates the awareness and the secrecy, “I knew nothing about them because it wasn’t something that we ever talked about But she wanted to talk about it now. Her friendship with KiKi emboldened her to reveal this childhood fear. KiKi picks up the conversation likely sensing the timeline was unclear. “How old were you when you first experienced the clan?” Beth replies, “I want to say as young as ten.” That would put her early experience roughly in the year that MLK Day was signed into Federal law.

This CommUnity Conversation happens in early 2018. Beth is now 45. She continues, “When we were doing that march I had to be in my mid-twenties.” When I hear this clarification I realize Beth and I were at the same event, differently. Beth would have been closer to 26 and a life-long resident of Wallingford. Me? I was here as a relative newcomer with angst about what my 14-year-old was experiencing in this town with headline news about this town in an Internet-connected world. One thing I do know is that when he traveled and performed at poetry events he referred to home as New Haven, the place he was born, not Wallingford, the place his mother bought a house.

Wallingford was the last municipality in Connecticut to close municipal offices for the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday. It was national news My AmeriKKKan town. Shamefully, it took a state law to move the pressure needle on the civil rights gauge here. There was much cloaking by the Mayor of underlying truths as he pitted poor elder taxpayers and unions against what was right In my opinion. That may be the year the voice in my head began telling me “You are put here for a reason.”

From #CitizenMediaMaven_TheLife Chapter I Am Here For A Reason

Hercules Arrived in the Neighborhood 5 Years Ago

Public Art has a whole new value in the time of Covid-19, at least in this tiger’s neighborhood. But we always knew it was a destination spot. Even Triple AAA agrees.

Ryan Christenson, a local mural artist, widely known as ARCY began touring the nation painting murals in 2015.
Finding a welcoming spot in his hometown was challenging. But today as outdoor seating at local restaurants becomes essential the tiger locals call Hercules will be watching diners at Jakes Tavern LLC. in Wallingford, CT.

What are the Responsibilities of a Board Member?

The Basics

  • Attend six meetings that focus on oversight and strategic direction of the organization
    • One of these is the Annual Celebration of Voices. Dinner, Conversation and Look Back
  • Participate in at least one committee: Outreach, Building, Tech
  • Or, Participate in an Initiative: Information Literacy, Civics Literacy, #SocialActionArt, Community Media Day
  • Attend committee meetings and attend to the tasks identified by or for those committees

Preferably, commit to a three-year term to increase the potential for WPAA-TV to serve the community.

Very Helpful

  • Network to increase awareness of WPAA-TV
  • Develop connections for viewers, users, and future financial supporters

Current Needs

We always need people with roots in the community. Key functions that need support are finance and marketing. In particular, one volunteer is needed that can onboard for the Office of Treasurer.  The strategic initiative is outreach to engage grassroots to discover us, view, participate and fund Freeman’s Purse. $5 a year from 4,000.

Reminder: Involvement in the production of shows is not a board function, so do not infer this to future members.