Tragedies occur daily, but when a tragedy occurred in the viewing area of Worcester (Mass.) Community Cable Access (WCCA TV13), the station undertook an effort to foster healing among the town’s residents rather than just document what had happened.
That tragedy occurred in December 1999 when six Worcester firefighters died fighting a warehouse fire. The Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse, located five blocks east of the town’s central business district, caught fire on Dec. 3 and raged for six days.
In the studio, a group of interns produce a program for Worcester Community Cable Access (WCCA) TV13. Photos courtesy of WCCA TV13
It reached five-alarm status and attracted firefighting companies from all over the city and neighboring towns. When it was over, six firefighters were dead. The deaths of so many firefighters at a single event focused national attention on Worcester—the second largest city in Massachusetts—attracting hundreds of reporters and a visit by then-President Bill Clinton. With such a large number of reporters “there were interviews, there were people talking about it,” said Mauro Depasquale, WCCA TV13 executive director.
However, the station had a different focus; it wanted to help the community heal by bringing it together, he said. The result, a group of volunteers produced a documentary called “Surrounded by Love, A Community Reflects.” The film “showed how people came together; we came together for the families, and we gave back to the fire department,” Depasquale said. It reflected Worcester’s community spirit, including WCCA TV13, where the sense of community translates to all aspects of the station and its programs, he said.
WCCA TV13 was founded in 1986 with only two full-time employees and one part-time assistant. Depasquale recalls “literally” climbing out of windows to fix equipment. By 1989 WCCA TV13 was producing just over four programs and conducting a single training class. Today WCCA TV13 operates on an annual budget of about $712,000—which mostly comes from city contracts—and the station owns the building it resides in. Nonetheless, the station still conducts fundraising efforts such as its “Capital Campaign,” which is to pay for facility renovations, and its “Circle of Friends” program, which encourages individual donations.
WCCA TV13 is currently serving 70 producers who pay an annual membership fee of $45 to use the studios to create their own programs that are broadcast over channel 13. During 2011, WCCA TV13 produced over 2,850 first-run programs covering much of the community. The programs’ topics range from local and community news, community arts and culture, education programs, candidate profiles and political debates, non-profit and business outreach, self-help programs, health and wellness, public safety to music and entertainment, ethnic heritage, sports and do-it-yourself.
In the control room, a WCCA TV13 staffer and interns edit content that is broadcast over the access channels or is available from the station’s online video archive. From left they are Rob Forrey, Kyle Tomizawa, Jennifer Pichierri, WCCA’s staff corrdinator, and Josh Serebryannik.
In addition, WCCA TV13 has an online archive of past shows. There are over 2,150 videos on demand, and over 14,000 videotapes in the station’s library that have not yet been converted to digital formats. The channel has been a pioneer at using digital media including with wireless transmission, according to Depasquale.
ONLINE USE GROWS
With the rise of online video and social media, WCCA TV13 has seen an increase in the use of the facility and equipment, an increase Depasquale credits to the training the station provides. That training ranges from introduction to television and news journalism to production classes and workshops. The station even offers afterschool programs for youths. WCCA TV13 has a number of youth-related local music and news programs that have won several awards. The program “Young Views Real News” partners with broadcast professionals to create a youth news program, and there is a sketch comedy program called “Wacky Factory.” The station also has a partnership with the 11 local colleges, and provides students with internship and production programs.
In addition, adults and seniors comprise a large portion of WCCA TV13’s viewers, and the station provides programming on legislative issues, mobilizing volunteers and constituencies when there are issues that may affect the quality of life, Depasquale says. Those programs even connect with local radio stations that produce audio versions of those shows. Depasquale says there are great social benefits to having people sharing their stories. “Everybody’s story is so important, and that has meaning,” he said. It enables the audience to “learn about their neighbors,” and the viewers “understand that they are not alone and other people share their experiences, whether that is joy or struggles.”