SUNDERLAND — In an effort to bring the community, news and the storytelling process together, Greater Northshire Access Television (GNAT) has launched a two-part program called "The News Project."
It will highlight regular government meetings, local issues, and business and economic topics. So far, there's been a program on the Gear for Uphill Lyme event, a discussion with the Bennington County political party chairs and a state primary election wrap up. Eventually, the Citizen Journalism aspect will be added which will encourage community members to participate in gathering news and interpreting the story.
Only three weeks into its life, the project has released two segments, some blog posts and one long-form segment, with hopes to have a wrap up show twice a month, or more often. After realizing that commercial broadcast doesn't report on in-depth stories and that there's a lack of television coverage in the area, GNAT executive director Tammie Reilly brought on former Manchester Journal editor Andrew McKeever to help develop the project.
"We want the community to drive what they want to see, and to provide feedback" Reilly said. "That's going to be important. We don't always want to assume that we know everything that everyone wants."
The citizen journalism feature will focus on training the community to utilize digital tools to tell their own stories in written and video form.
GNAT has six full-time staff and about seven part-time videographers. Reilly said the capacity is always a challenge, but many skilled hats are shared, meaning everyone works together in every type of situation.
McKeever and Reilly attended a public access broadcast conference in Boston, Mass., on Friday that opened their eyes to the importance of regional news coverage.
"It's a much bigger world than I appreciated before," McKeever said. "There's a lot of activity at this level. Nationwide, as we all know, legacy media is under a lot of pressure. It's not like it was before. How many people were getting home at 6:30 p.m. to watch the evening news? There's an opportunity for grassroots community access media to step in and kind of help provide some of that content."
In terms of standing out and staying relevant, Reilly said that "people can tell when organizations have integrity." In a world of television versus smartphones and tablets, she said GNAT has the power to engage people together, which is something a machine or virtual reality can't do.
A full timeline for the project hasn't been identified yet, Reilly said, but in the fall GNAT has plans to do outreach to get feedback and will ultimately schedule classes for training.
"We have to get the segments ramped up before we add the other piece," she said. "Video production takes longer than people think it should."
The media hub has high-tech video producing and editing equipment available to the community as well as field production, studio production, iPad animation and GoPro basic classes.
Last year GNAT received support from 526 volunteers, held 377 training sessions and videotaped 281 government meetings. It offers 685 locally produced programs and broadcasts through Comcast to 7,000 homes in southern Vermont, according to the community report. GNAT covers 11 towns in the region and can be viewed online at www.gnat-tv.org as well as YouTube, Roku and on channels 15,16,17,8,10 and 18 depending on the town.
The News Project airs at 7:30 p.m. on channel 15 every day and the in-depth shows run at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-490-6471.