Spotlight: Edison – Rising Above the Crowd in Edison

By Michael D’Amato, Station Manager, Edison TV

It seems these days we need to set our cameras higher and higher just to achieve a clear shot over a sea of raised cell phones – camera operators cannot be afraid of heights! More on that later.

Edison TV, one of the founding stations in the Jersey Access Group, has had a clear mission since I became the station manager in 2006 – to present the officials, organizations and residents of the Township of Edison in the best possible light, both figuratively and literally.

Did the mayor stumble on a word?  Fix it!  The singer cracked on the national anthem?  Edit it out!!

At Edison TV, we face the same challenges as other access stations – keeping up with ever changing technology.  We moved from 4:3 to widescreen in 2012.  A grant in 2013 resulted in studio LED lighting.  We started shooting in high definition in 2014 and launched social media pages that same year.  In 2015 we began broadcasting with Cablecast, which included videos on demand on the township website and live streaming of Channel 15.  The year 2017 included our one viral social media video, a Toys for Tots PSA featuring the Grinch – 4.1 million views on YouTube and more than 800 subscribers added because of one silly video!  A Grinch video produced the next year, which I feel was a superior effort, has garnered a paltry 5,000+ views – go figure!

And then there was the Pandemic.  I was at the station throughout the pandemic and had to find programming wherever possible, including every state COVID briefing, religious services and re-airing and re-packaging videos from our past.  That first spring and summer no one was allowed in the studio – well, almost no one.  I did give Ron MacCloskey permission to record a “Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey” episode at the station as long as there were no guests.  The result was he interviewed himself – strange days indeed.

Eventually meetings returned via zoom, closed captioning was added in September 2020, PTZ cameras were installed in the council chambers in 2021 and meetings were broadcast live on YouTube – all of this leading to a much deeper relationship with our IT Department, as you can imagine.

Social media reigns supreme, which leads me back to my earlier talk of cell phones and high camera placement – I’m pretty sure all of us are dealing with more and more members of the public recording events with their cell phones – they step in front of us and we have to ask them to move.  We move from camera to camera afraid we’re interfering with their shots!  In the photo, I’m standing atop a picnic table with 10-20,000 people around me – many of them recording with cell phones. How do we stay relevant?

Maybe we stay relevant by offering creative and professional video and sound recordings, we insert graphics and lower thirds that support the stories we are trying to tell (and what official doesn’t like to see his or her name and title flashed on the screen?) and we involve the public:  I often like to have what I call an “audience cam” at the front of the room or stage; you’re having a good time dancing and waving your arms? You’re on television! (and the audience cam also keeps people in the audience on their toes – they tend to at least look more attentive if they think they are being recorded). Most importantly, we post content to social media and the township website – I steer viewers away from our SD cable channel to our HD content. In conclusion, Edison TV has been producing hyper-local content since 1991. I’m in my 20th and final year at the station with no idea who the mantle will be passed on to. Hopefully it will be someone with fresh ideas and the same commitment to consistently producing professional content for an ever-evolving Edison community; hopefully someone who will rise to the occasion. Happy Holidays!