7 Out of 50 Ain’t Bad
KLRU is turning 50. The Statesman did a great writeup about it in today’s paper, and I was really surprised to see my picture included in their story! As much as KLRU means to Central Texas, the station means so much more to me personally. I was working part time as an art framer when I started a second job as the overnight promo editor at KLRU.
It was May 2004, and I had just graduated from UT with a tiny bit of experience producing video, and two years working odds and ends jobs at the station. I had no idea how much those four call letters would come to mean to me. I learned how to operate a studio camera. I watched our pledge sets get built. I worked in the field on camera crews, learning the gear and procedure behind good interviews. I learned that if anything can go wrong, it probably will so you better be prepared to handle it. I forget there was a time when so much of what I do now was just something I was trying not to screw up.
There was my first promotion, to full time editor for the local shows. Then there was the time I interviewed the embattled then-Chief of the Austin Police Department. I pitched the idea as a segment for one of the shows I was editing, and was given the greenlight to produce it. I greeted the Chief and escorted him up to the studio for the interview. In the elevator, he looked over at me and asked, “So who’s doing the interview?”
“I am, sir.”
“Oh,” he replied looking straight ahead with mild irritation, “So, what, are you a student?”
The short segment turned into a 30 minute episode about the Department. KLRU encouraged me to produce a program that ended up being a dialogue between the police and the community they serve. A DVD copy I sent to APD was even used in their training classes for new cadets. Your pledge dollars at work!
I was given the opportunity to produce a new show with my friend Domenique. (I wrote about Docubloggers a while back, so I won’t repeat that here.) KLRU supported our vision for a show that would incorporate content produced by our viewers, and have as much to do with the web as with television. It was 2006, and the move put the station at the head of the pack when it comes to social media and audience interaction, a position that they still hold strongly today.
In the summer of 2007, KLRU received a small grant to produce a few minutes of interstitial content to air during breaks in the Ken Burns War series. Domenique and I dug in and started interviewing WWII veterans. Two interviews turned into three, and then into five, and ten, and eventually nineteen. We knew what we were collecting warranted so much more time and attention. The station agreed, and threw their support behind The World, the War, & Texas, a feature length documentary paying tribute to the contributions of Central Texans at war. The diverse array of experiences we included was something KLRU had right in their documentary, even if Ken Burns fell a bit short of the mark with his.
There was also the time Coldplay was blocking my way to the restroom. I was more interested that Michael Stipe was in the building to perform a few songs with them, and I really just needed them to move out of my way. I didn’t know that I was going to see their Austin City Limits taping that night, and become a huge fan.
I can’t explain why I ended up working in video production, it just sort of happened. I started doing something, and then kept choosing other things to do next until I looked up and realized I was a video producer and I loved it. I’m fortunate to have started at a place like KLRU where I was encouraged to pursue projects I was passionate about, and where doing so lead to one amazing experience after another. Those experiences are the cornerstone of the work I do today.
PBS is important, people, and all of us in Central Texas are fortunate to have a station like KLRU to call our own. Take a minute to appreciate this the next time you’re enjoying Sesame Street with your kid, or you find yourself watching a show about whales or antiques or cooking. Can you imagine what the next 50 years will bring?