CAT-7 is focused on wider community participationStaff members at CAT-7, the community access TV station for Cloquet, Carlton, Thompson and Esko, are hoping to grow viewership and inspire more community members to get involved with creating programs for the station."I want people to know 'it's your station.'" said coordinator Eric Lipponene.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
CAT-7 wants to hear from you. In fact, staff members at the community access TV station are hoping to build a two-way relationship with viewers that involves more give and take on both sides.
“I want this channel to be more than PSAs [public service announcements] and public meetings,” said CAT-7 Coordinator Eric Lipponen. “I want it to be entertaining and I want people to know ‘this is your channel.’”
While Cloquet’s community access cable channel isn’t new to the area, CAT-7 is in the process of reinventing itself … again. Paid for by Mediacom cable subscribers as part of the franchise fee – and according to federal law –the station had its first of many lives in the basement of the old library, now the Carlton County Historical Society. It’s also had studios at the public library and under the high school auditorium. CAT-7 makes its current home in rooms located near the high school’s metal shop, at the back of the building.
Staff members are still reorganizing after recent remodeling efforts at the station that include a dropped ceiling, a new sound booth and a new stage set that wouldn’t look out of place on any news channel broadcast. The untimely death of longtime CAT-7 coordinator Jeff Korpi was a tremendous loss to the station as well, and left Lipponen as the sole programmer for a number of months.
Now the station is fully staffed for the first time in a long time and those videographers are enthusiastic.
“Duluth has its TV news, I want CAT-7 to be an informational community outlet for this area,” Lipponen said.
When the new coordinator says that, it doesn’t mean that he’s planning some kind of nightly newscast with well-paid and perfectly coiffed television anchors narrating breaking news stories about Carlton County.
That isn’t, after all, what public access TV is all about … unless those anchors are community members who decide they want to put together a nightly newscast and not get paid for it.
“There’s a fine line between people wanting Eric to do something versus the real purpose of public access television, which is for people to have ideas and do it on their own,” said Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger, who oversees the station as part of his job with the city. “Public access is just that. If you want to bring the kids down and do a show about your dog running way, you can do that. And staff will help you if you’re not trained.”
Lipponen said there’s long been a difference in philosophy between CAT-7 and Duluth’s four public access channels. While Duluth offers training – for a fee – and allows certified residents to check out equipment and create a show on their own, Cloquet has followed more of a “let us help you help yourself” path.
“Jeff [Korpi] preferred to run it here as more of a ‘we’ll be there with you the whole time’ thing,” Lipponen said. “When you wanted to shoot a school performance, he wanted to be there with you. I want to carry that on. We have [staff members] Michael Foley, Brandon Middlesworth and Jason Mitchell, we can come out and help you set up, pick shots, everything, so you can get it done without any errors like leaving the lens cap on or something like that. We like to be a part of it the whole way through.”
Of course, CAT-7 staff will still shoot community events like they always have, be it the Halloween parade at Churchill Elementary School, Carlton’s Winterfest or the recent Esko Grandparents Day.
In fact, Lipponen wants the communities outside of Cloquet that have access to CAT-7 – including Carlton, Esko, Scanlon and Thompson – to know that the station belongs to them, too.
“Last graduation season I shot the graduation ceremonies in Cloquet, Esko, Wrenshall and Carlton,” Lipponen said. “I aired all those graduations on 24-hour marathons for two weeks. It was very cool.
“Cloquet people weren’t so surprised, but other communities’ parents were pleasantly surprised and their principals were ecstatic to see us there. I want people to know we can do those kinds of things.”
Right now regular programs featured on the channel include Harry’s Gang – perhaps the Northland’s longest running political talk show at 30 years – along with “Thunderzone,” a half-hour program with Kerry Rodd about sports teams at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. On Sundays, CAT-7 airs a total of five different church programs featuring Queen of Peace (12:30 p.m.), St. Paul’s Lutheran (2 p.m.), Our Savior’s Lutheran (3:30 p.m.), Cloquet Presbyterian
(5 p.m.) and Zion Lutheran (6:30 p.m.).
Other shows under discussion include a music show and a possible revival of the Craft Corner.
Lipponen said he is open to training community members, something he did so that FDLTCC could shoot its own football games, which then air on CAT-7.
“She [the FDLTCC camera person] came to me two or three times for training; I had her practice setting up and taking down and getting good shots – anticipating where the ball is going – stuff you learn after many years of doing this,” he said, noting that he has that experience. In return for the footage, Lipponen burns a DVD of each game for the coaches to use when reviewing footage with players.
The cable station has the capability to burn up to seven DVDs at one time, something Lipponen said they may offer to community members for a fee in the future.
Nearly all of the equipment at the station is top-of-the-line, from the cameras to the duplicator to the hard-drive system that runs the channel. Because the editing system is out for repair now, the station currently “shoots to air,” but that will change when the system is returned.
“Jeff Korpi championed getting the best of the best,” Lipponen said. “We’re the only community access television channel in the northern Arrowhead area that uses this hard-drive based system. The rest of them run off DVDs. It gives us greater capacity and it also gives us the ability to program many shows on the fly. The entire day is programmed through that, so I’m not sitting here putting in DVDs and switching them out like everyone else is.”
Fritsinger said the city is also hoping the school district will take advantage of the station, especially since it’s located at the high school.
“Let’s get the school district and kids involved and see what they can come up with,” Fritsinger said. “In the metro area, you see a lot of different things that communities are doing with their public access channels.”
If people have ideas for new programs or events the CAT-7 staff can record, they are asked to email or call the station.
“I just want to see growth in everything, both in the studio and in the field,” said new part-time technician Michael Foley, who has a broadcasting degree. “I hope there’s more demand for CAT-7 and a wider variety of content.”
More about CAT-7
Mediacom subscribers can find CAT-7 on Channel Seven; non-subscribers can request a box from Mediacom to access the channel if they’d like. To contact CAT-7, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the studio line at 879-1814. PSAs may be emailed or mailed to CAT-7, 1000 18th St., Cloquet, MN 55720.