The poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island,” and never has that been proven more true than in the world of public access television - which I hope your city is enlightened enough to provide for you.
Some time back I rejoined the Alliance for Community Media, which is an organization which, in their own words:
ACM Mission: Promoting Civic Engagement Through Community Media
ACM’s Vision: We envision an ever increasing array of media channels, with communities demanding relevant, factual and hyperlocal content from respected sources. The Alliance for Community Media will be a recognized contributor, aggregator and leader in that movement.
Our guiding principles are: promote free speech, expand civic engagement through local media, collaborate with others, and act with one voice.
Can’t beat that with a stick.
I have been a member of the ACM on-and-off since the 1990s, as has been the public access station in Fayetteville, whether it go by the moniker Fayetteville Open Channel, Access 4 Fayetteville, Community Access Television or Fayetteville Public Access Television. When I served as board member of CAT, I attended several ACM conferences, and even attended on my own, when I was not a board member.
In addition, Fayetteville has been the host to at least one regional conference. Most Government/public access stations across the United States belong to the ACM.
Which brings us to the “No Man is an Island” aspect of public access television.
In Fayetteville, we have already seen how members of Fayetteville - and from even beyond our tiny borders - have used public access over the years, and how folks who may have political/social disagreements with each other can still work on productions together, and teach and mentor.
For over two decades, in fact, public access television in Fayetteville served as the region’s only true arts, entertainment, political, religious and what-have-you channel . . . with most of the programming provided by citizens of Northwest Arkansas.
The rich diversity of programming (and I know - I am combing through years of CAT documentation) prove not only the worth of the channel, but the rich creativity provided by so many citizens in Fayetteville and nearby communities.
But belonging to the Alliance for Community Media? What is the point in belonging to an organization made up of fellow access providers and producers across the country?
Well, as Fayetteville is not an island, the truth is that our city and station have benefited enormously from attending conferences over the years. Many is the time a manager, staff member or producer would return excited about things they had learned.
And in return? On more than one occasion folks from other stations learned what we were doing, or from the workshops attendees from Fayetteville may have presented at national or regional conferences.
CAUTION - IAM GOING TO BRAG HERE:
The access station in Sacramento, for example, still has a copy of the printed material I used in a workshop on how producers could promote their programming, a workshop I first gave in Washing DC, but also gave in Houston and Fayetteville.
Just for the sake of being practical, belonging to an organization like the ACM means that you can brainstorm - everyone learns from each other.
If an access station does not belong to it, they often find themselves at the mercy of those who would make up the rules as they go along, and just hope that no one notices, or cares.
Public access television is one of the ways in this modern age in which we attest that no, we are not islands, that YouTube - with its wonderful Siren’s Song - is essentially a solitary occupation. Public access is a song which brings in many voices, no matter their level of talent, and honors them all, and doesn’t make distinctions between the very wealthy and the homeless - both of whom have used public access in Fayetteville, than you very much.
Imagine . . . we have provided potential job training for the homeless!
We have all learned from each other, about our lives, our ideas, and talents here in Northwest Arkansas. Is there a political issue which hasn’t been addressed on public access?
How many new talents were presented to the world on public access?
How many simply shared their experiences with others on public access?
If I love Fayetteville, it’s largely because of what I have learned about my fellow citizens, on both sides of the camera.
And now, just because it’s such a cool poem
No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
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