Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

TV worth watching

This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald in April 2008

The phone rang. It was Darla Stevens, then-executive director of TV30.
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The year was 1999, and she was getting back to me about my proposal for a new show for Tri-Valley Community Television. My idea was to interview local authors and feature programs that encouraged reading and literacy in our region.
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I knew it was a long shot. A banker with an English major was going to launch a new TV show?

Yeah, right.
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I’d watched TV30 over the years, and enjoyed its local programming designed just for the Tri-Valley (the station broadcasts to Comcast subscribers primarily in Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, and San Ramon). But I also knew the budget for the station was next to nothing. So my proposal included volunteering my time to produce and host the show, to solicit sponsors, to do post-production editing and to draw sketches of five famous authors to use as a backdrop for the set: Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou and Marcel Proust.
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So when I heard her voice of the phone, I didn’t know what to expect.

“I’m calling about the show,” she said. “We like your idea.”
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A few months later I was in the studio. My sketches had been professionally enlarged and were in place on the set. My first guest was sitting with me, a poet named Dr. Edmond Chow. I remember the rush of adrenaline in the glaring lights as the camera operator counted down the seconds and suddenly I was saying something about a new television show on community television and welcoming our first guest.
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And with that, “In A Word” aired its first episode.
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Since then, we’ve interviewed both local and nationally known authors, including Scott Adams, Frank Delaney, Elizabeth Berg, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Natalie Goldberg, and many more. We’ve promoted literary events and library programs, chronicled the success of Harry Potter to get youngsters reading, shot interviews on location, and gained sponsors, including Towne Center Books in Pleasanton.

After several years of hosting the show alone, I welcomed Kathy Cordova to “In A Word” as co-host and producer. She introduced the idea for a book club segment where we read a monthly book and invite local readers to come on television and discuss the work.

Kathy and I enjoy hosting the monthly, 30-minute show and promoting what occasionally seems like the disappearing love of reading in our country. We’re both regularly published writers, so our passion for the craft often spills over into on air discussions. We hope our enthusiasm encourages people to write their own stories or to pick up a book and read.

We’re especially grateful for the support we get from viewers who tune in to watch not only our show, but the other programs on channels 28, 29, and 30.
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With TV30 in the news lately, largely due to budget constraints, news producer and interim executive director Kevin Wing sees a bright future for the station: “All of us at TV30 are in the midst of this wonderful opportunity to do what we can to make the station an even better place to watch locally-produced television," he said. "We provide a necessity for the community that isn't offered with any other Bay Area television station.”

Wing said that all of the programs focus in one way or another on the Tri-Valley. “This includes programs of interest to our viewers, whether it's getting local news, watching a city council meeting, staying healthy, or finding the best coffeehouse in Pleasanton or San Ramon."
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Wing is especially encouraged that businesses underwriting the station are renewing their long-term contracts, and potential sponsors have inquired just recently about financially supporting the station. Sponsors such as Big-O Tires and Splashes Car Wash are promoted to the thousands of TV30 viewers through television spots.
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Certainly, the station faces budgetary challenges as it seeks to replace aging equipment, maintain its programming, and create a new vision given today’s Tri-Valley viewer. Since the station is funded in large part by Tri-Valley cities, the mayors of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, and San Ramon are taking an active role in studying and tackling these challenges.
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Writing as a TV30 volunteer who was lucky enough to see my idea for a TV show about books and authors become a reality, I know that TV30 is a gem in our community. The few employees of the station work long hours to bring us local programming, to air council and school board meetings that often run late into the night, and to ensure that our community television remains focused on serving the needs of its many viewers.

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1 comment:

she said...

what a great article and post jim!

in a word is one of my favorites on tv30 -and quite an honor/anxious/nervous/pleasure to be invited as a guest

very grateful for those experiences and memories.

and CONGRATS to you, for taking an idea -taking action- making it all happen, and grow, evolve

building a wonderful history and legacy.

the two of you together - kathy and yourself - a great team

true that i've come to know authors and purchase books, once foreign and now cherished, based soley on the lively, stimulating discussions i see on your show

and always a delightful surprise to see friends/neighbors from the tri-valley -familiar faces- contributing on the show

as well as the internationally recognized celebrity guests

keep up the great work and THANK YOU BOTH! love, ~s.