“PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” The famous quote from the Wizard of Oz is weirdly illustrative of technological life in the 21st century. Instant gratification to our curiosities is the norm. No longer are we destined to annoy our friends and coworkers with that nagging snippet of a song that you can’t quite place and certainly can’t hum. Search the few lyrics you remember and your answer will likely pop up. But from where? So ingrained is technology in our everyday lives that until recently we never stopped to think of the PEOPLE who are providing us that information. Present day cynicism of media sources runs rampant, often justifiably. People are a little more distrustful of the news they consume and many outlets themselves admit self-imposed biases. Sure, this holds true for large national corporations, but what about locally?
Ever watched a City of Rifle Council meeting or a Rifle High School sports game on Channel 10 or online? Have you ever searched for City information on Rifleco.org or RifleNOW.com? Chances are you never thought about who puts that information on the various sites. Well, it’s time to pull back the curtain and meet the City employees running the Rifle Community TV Department (RCTV) who are hard at work keeping you informed. Staff members who strive to create ideologies espousing honest, transparent and easy access to local information.
Michael Churchill, Community TV Manager, started working with the local TV station, Channel 10, when he was only 14 years old and his mother thought it would be a good way for him to get in some volunteer hours. He was already working at Village Inn where his father was the manager and at a family owned business that has grown to become the ArtillumA Dance Company here in town.
His work experience at such a young age clearly led to the development of an impressive work ethic. Michael became Assistant Manager of RCTV in 2007 and has been Manager since 2015. His philosophies and values are reflected in every aspect of the Community TV Department. Michael lives in Rifle with his wife, Shandice and his two children Kialynn and Kaden (with #3 on the way!).
Salvador Tovar-Guzman is another longtime Rifle resident who attended school here all the way from elementary through high school. He was also a college student at both Colorado Mesa University and Colorado Mountain College studying mass communication. When asked what he likes most about Rifle, Salvador looked contemplative before saying that “Rifle is reserved-almost exclusive. Quiet, but we get to reap the benefits of living in the mountains”. A passion for computer-aided design (CAD) and video editing led him to Rifle Community TV. Both gentlemen are very invested in the community they serve and passionate about providing Rifle citizens with easy to access, accurate, timely and useful information.
To see how their philosophies have become ingrained in Community TV culture, a little history is necessary. Community TV started out many years ago as a simple electronic bulletin board with a single contract employee. Today the department manages all of the workings of Rifle Community TV, all three City websites and various social media accounts. The staff also assists the City as a whole in the implementation of communication technologies.
RCTV has grown to having one full-time staff member, one nearly full-time staff member, plus six paid part-time employees and three volunteers who help out with larger events. Community TV covers everything from public meetings, local shows and concerts and youth sporting events to large community gatherings. Their coverage is then broadcast on a diverse range of mediums from Channel 10 to Facebook.
Their vision statement, to “[e]nhance the culture of Rifle through facilitating genuine community communication” embraces the concept of collective effort. Michael and Salvador see themselves as a conduit for information. One that all of Rifle can utilize for the communication of Community Affairs of an informational, educational, cultural, artistic, and/or historical emphasis. They highlight the distinction between “government” access television and “public” television. Public access television is often open to everything. Conversely, government channels must fit within the guidelines set by its organization meaning non-religious, non-commercial and non-political. It simply provides “as-is” information with no commentary or bias.
“We don’t have a personal buy-in. It is neither our job nor our role to taint the information”, explains Michael, which is why they provide what he describes as “gavel to gavel” coverage of their events. No edits, no clips. No sound bites. They aren’t reporters-they simply provide coverage. He analogized their role to being similar to asking a friend for a recommendation for a dentist. The friend has no financial interest or ulterior motive in providing a reference. They are just passing on experience. “People connecting to people”.
So where do we go from here? Michael and Salvador would like to see more local government and quasi-government organizations invite Rifle Community TV to film and broadcast their board meetings. This helps promote a sense of transparency and honesty among citizens and gives them a better understanding of local decision-making processes.
Continued growth into social media is underway. This will give the citizens of Rifle an even faster method by which to get their information. There are also weekly articles in the Citizen Telegram and videos on RifleNOW.org designed to highlight the people and projects of the City and the community. A program to help sum up a month’s worth of local activities for Rifle Citizens is in the works. Each aspect of Community TV is designed to affect the culture and foster human connections and human relationships. And with Michael and Salvador at the helm, Rifle citizens can most certainly have confidence in the content they watch or read. Honest. Transparent. Easy access. So read on fellow citizens!
And go ahead and close that curtain.
Rifle Rapport is a monthly article featuring the people and projects of the City of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact Kathy Pototsky at 970-665-6420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.