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It Takes a Community Media Center

The Community Media Center (CMC) was founded in 1981 as Grand Rapids Cable Access Center (known as GRTV ). It is one of the first public access stations in the nation to expand beyond public access television to provide a range of media tools, training and transmission options for community members and nonprofit organizations.

Among them, the five affiliates offer numerous projects and services.

GRTV provides cable access production and broadcasting used by hundreds of volunteers annually. It houses Community Media Services, a fee-based video production company that creates multi-media presentations about nonprofit organizations and their issues;

MoLLIE , a hands-on video production learning tool used in schools; Youth Kulture, a teen group that focuses on relevant issues and broadcasts programs of interest to youth; and CMC's educational services. Recently it launched “Classic Arts GR,” an in-house monthly production showcasing the classic arts offerings in the city.

WYCE is a community radio station staffed by volunteer programmers who air folk, blues, jazz, rock and worldbeat music without commercial interruption, but with public-service announcements. WYCE promotes local musicians and bands and annually hosts several concerts, premiere among them the “Hat Trick” Series, during which the audience passes a hat to donate to a pre-selected nonprofit organization. Recently WYCE branched out in a collaboration with GRIID to provide a weekly talk radio program, “Catalyst Radio.

” The format consists of feature interviews with community organizations and a community calendar.

GRIID (Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy) provides media literacy training on numerous issue areas such as media and racism, violence, democracy, gender, and healthcare. It oversees a “Progressive Directory” of nearly 100 nonprofit organizations interested in staying current on proposed legislation and opportunities for activism, and has a lending library of political books, videos, and newspapers. For weeks prior to an election, GRIID monitors network coverage of candidates and issues and reports its findings in its annual Teledemocracy report. It hosts a website of nonpartisan voter and candidate information, and provides a forum for televised candidate debates on GRTV.

GrandNet offers a web server and technology services for nonprofit organizations. It maintains a public computer lab and offers monthly classes in computer and Internet skills.

In 2005 CMC will acquire its fifth affiliate: the Wealthy Theatre. This 300-seat historic theatre was saved from a wrecking ball seven years ago but failed to thrive as a rental arts venue in its center-city neighborhood. The CMC will offer film series, lectures and video presentations, walk-in computer and video production training and broadcast, concerts and a recording studio.

The Community Media Center is more than the sum of its parts. As one young volunteer said when he left for college last fall: “The Media Center bears the mission of ‘building community through media,' and I had always assumed that meant through the programming resulting from our West side headquarters. As my days wind down at this place, I've come to realize that the real community-building had nothing to do with what was showing on channel 25. It was inside the walls of this place, on all the truck shoots over the years, the times in the edit room when you worked with someone to figure out why a video refused to capture, the conversations held over an equipment check-out. The community we have built here may not be as expansive as GRTV's coverage area, but it is just as diverse, and equally, if not more, important.”

To learn more about the CMC and its affiliates and to view MoLLIE videos, visit www.grcmc.org.

We learned shortly after we went to press that the author of this article, Community Media Center Executive Director Dirk Koning passed away.

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