Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Media Maturity

The last few days have shown some surprising examples of our local media and arts community taking some interesting steps toward becoming more accessible, innovative, and responsive to the community at large. In the title of this post, I use the term maturity in the psychological context, "used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner".

This past weekend's Independence Film Fest was a rather enjoyable gathering, even if some of the presentations were a little rough around the edges ("Can someone run that spotlight up there?"), and one movie had to be quickly substituted for another. The Avalon and the KAFM Radio Room served as fine venues for both informal viewing and enlightened interaction.

The celebrities that attended were pleasant and accessible; Lou Diamond Phillips spent time talking to my son and several other teenagers who had shown up to see Young Guns. Cliff Robertson, showing his age but still with a twinkle in his eye at 83, spoke about his beginnings as a reporter and writer, and was happy to take time to speak with and shake the hand of an obscure film buff or two.

Robertson is one of those actors who seems to enhance every movie he's in, whether or not he's the lead character. They showed Charly at the festival (which he won an Oscar for), and I personally enjoyed his roles in the 60's Batman TV Series and Three Days of the Condor. He also did a lot of excellent 50's television, from Playhouse 90 to The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

When I spoke with him, I told him that my favorite of his movies was the one he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in; J.W. Coop, a somewhat melancholy story of an ex-con rodeo cowboy out of touch with the 'modern' world. I saw it at a drive-in theater when I was 12, and it was the first time a movie made me cry.

I hope that the attendance and enthusiasm shown for the event will encourage them to return in the future. It was a fun and unique experience. Thanks to the Avalon for the dedicated staff trying to do their best.

Over the weekend, as the Grand Valley geared up for the first visit by a Democratic presidential candidate in 60 years, one of our local media outlets demonstrated innovative, service-oriented thinking, as well as creative leveraging of their broadcast resources.

KKCO Channel 11 dedicated an anchor, reporter, and from the looks of it at least 2 camera operators to the Obama event. Apparently unable or unwilling to sacrifice airtime on their primary channel (I guess there are a lot of Pat Robertson fans in GJ), the station used their well-established Internet video capabilities to stream the entire event online, and followed up with complete live coverage on one of the station's secondary digital channels along with their CW Network channel on Bresnan Cable Channel 13.

The result was pretty impressive for a station that has pushed innovation over the last few years. The only thing still lacking was real-time closed captioning.

This was a rather creative stretch for a Grand Junction market station. I believe that this is in large measure to the station being sold to Gray Television by the Varecha family.

The station and its' news employees appear to be much more responsive to suggestions and complaints than in previous years, especially in comparison to the station's first couple of years in business. Many people, including myself, were upset with the loss of Denver news and Bronco pre-season games. The previous owners were defensive, and at times came off as insensitive.
Most of those issues have been resolved creatively by the marketplace in other ways, but not without pressure from viewers.

The result is a media market that appears to be much more responsive to the viewer than in the past, and that commits resources more creatively. From the live Obama coverage (which I'm sure will be repeated should McCain come to town) to considerable use of the Internet to enhance on-air coverage of stories, we as viewers and information consumers are benefiting by having the resources available to be better informed of local events and issues.

The same credit must be given to the local print media. Along with leveraging online resources and making significant changes to layouts and the way their publications look, they are trying to retain relevancy and remain viable in a world where the manner in which information is spread to the masses is changing almost monthly, if not faster.

Great job. Let's keep it up.

No comments: