Spotlight: Cranford – Darkest day gave way to its brightest future

by Christine Hoffman, Staff, Cranford Television

PEG TV35 in Cranford was born in 1986 with the help of then Township Committeeman Dan Aschenbach, who understood the benefits of public access to his community.  It started at the high school but was moved to the township to give greater community access. That is where it remains today.  Cranford resident H. Edward Davenport was asked to help lead the effort to start it up.  He had little funds, so he gathered old and used tech equipment and duct taped it into a station that instantly brought local news and interesting stories to Cranford.  Ed worked full time at pharmaceutical giant Hoffman LaRoche.  He headed its media department which was tasked with making commercials and worldwide product announcements.  But for years he volunteered every night at the station and slowly molded the beginnings. 

With Cranford residents Ron Brown and Jack Duffy, the three labored for hours on editors like the Toaster, to produce shows such as how to make a good Irish soda bread and the opening of our community center.  The station back then brought in many high school volunteers who are now working in areas such as homeland security, the MLB network, and Fox sports.  TV35 occupies the lower level in our municipal building.  In 2011 Hurricane Irene swamped our local river, which came flooding into the station.  We had at least 4 feet of dirty water in our studio and control room.  Everything was ruined by the floodwaters.  However, TV35’s darkest day gave way to its brightest future.

A good insurance policy enabled the station to leap into this century and allowed us to up our production quality.  We now have our third main Tricaster, the Tricaster 2 elite.  Our live events are brought in with our Live U 300, and we have three Mac editors with adobe premiere pro.  Our studio, recently named the H. Edward Davenport studio, has three Hitachi SD cameras and gray and green curtains for virtual backgrounds.  We use SCALA as our billboard software and are in the market for a new affordable one.  Unfortunately, our request to fund new software was rejected last year.  We have a mobile truck for our graduation coverage and football games. 

When our old box truck died, the township’s sewer dept gave us their van.  After it was sanitized, we moved in our mobile operations, including a Tricaster TC1.  Our coverage is hyperlocal and adds another voice to the community.  We show all the regular meetings of the township committee, planning and zoning board, and the BOE, high school graduation, Memorial Day parade, prom and pre-prom parties, church services and townwide events.  We have shows that focus on town, health and education issues. 

The goal is to give leaders and residents a chance to have their say and to add to the conversation.  Some of our more popular shows include Cranford Cooks, which is named after a Facebook group here that highlights culinary dishes people are making and eating.  On our show, residents share their cooking tips and recipes with each other.  Our high school football, baseball and wrestling teams do well, and so they too are our most popular shows and we cover them on a regular basis.  We do try to cover at least one game in each varsity sport per year.  With talented home announcers and now the addition of graphics and replay, our residents, alumni and extended Cranford families can really enjoy following their home teams and neighbors.  We have a small town feel, and Friday night football brings us all together. 

During the pandemic, TV35 brought residents coverage of high school baseball’s Last Dance series.  We gave our town a bit of a respite, something to have fun with during a dreary time.  People held small family gatherings outside on their patios with their TVs, eagerly waiting for the games to be on.  Our team eventually won the whole contest, easily beating top notch private schools, and hundreds of people were able to watch through us.  It was the town buzz.   In the last few years, we have averaged more than 300 shows that we produce per year.  TV35 has two part-timers who work on a daily basis, and several people who work hourly to help with editing and live shows.  We always welcome volunteers.  TV35 programming can be found on channel 35 on Comcast and Fios, on Facebook and on CranfordTV35 YouTube.  While we eye the HD channels longingly, we fear changing location to such high numbers on the dial would confuse our senior citizens, who are among our most loyal viewers.  They rely on us to connect them to the community.  TV35 started as, and remains as, a labor of love.  The staff pours tremendous amounts of time and effort into producing shows and keeping up with technology.  Financial constraints keep us at bay, but the station does its job, which is to show the community a reflection of itself and to promote conversations to move the township to new levels.