Spotlight: West Milford – Why We Do It
By Geoffrey Belinfante, External Relations, Chair
Working in Municipal and Community Television can sometimes be a thankless job —long meetings, municipal bureaucracy, aging equipment, and angry residents—they all come with the job. I suppose we all do it for different reasons, but I guess many of our members find it rewarding because they contribute to their stations year after year. For many, it’s like performing a public service–providing information to residents, allowing greater governmental transparency, and documenting the history of the towns we represent.
Sometimes there is a certain repetitive feeling to some of the things we do that may cause us to question that commitment. The same parades, the same celebrations commemorating the same events each year, and all those council and committee meetings that drag on for hours. However, every once in a while, something happens in a town that verifies the importance of what we do, and that makes it truly rewarding. Sometimes they are happy experiences, sometime tragic.
Sadly, last week here in West Milford we lost our DPW Director Ed Steines, who died suddenly at age 64. However, Ed was not just the DPW director. He also served as Director of the Office of Emergency Management, and as a volunteer fireman and West Milford’s Fire Commissioner. As you can imagine, he touched the lives of many township residents over the course of pretty much his entire adult life while working for the town.
As the Fire Commissioner and a volunteer firefighter, his home Fire Company, Company 6 offered to host a memorial service that was open to the public. Naturally the mayor asked WM77 to cover the service on very short notice. As many of you know, we are a very small all volunteer station with only four of our members who shoot. Despite the Saturday service, we were able to rally the troops and provide coverage so the residents who could not attend in person could view the service both on the channel and on demand.
While this was a sad occasion, it does underline the importance of Municipal and Community access channels. I recall another occasion where one of our member stations had to respond quickly to a similar circumstance. Several years ago, a beloved police officer in Summit was tragically killed in an automobile accident while on his way to work. Officer Matthew Tarentino was just 29 years old when a vehicle jumped the median on Route 78 and hit him head on. Tragically he left a wife and two children with another one on the way. Officer Tarentino served as the coordinator of the DARE anti-drug program in town and often appeared on HTTV in a show about all the good things that police do called “Off the Cuff.” As a result, just like Ed, he touched the lives of many residents of all ages. HTTV also had to rise to the occasion quite quickly. Since their staff is larger than ours and they already had footage of the Officer from his appearances on the station, they were able to put together a video tribute as well as cover the memorial service.
When you receive gratitude from grieving family members and thanks from your township officials, it makes all the late nights and bureaucratic wrangling worthwhile. For me, last week’s memorial service made it clear in my mind why our jobs are a little different than many jobs in the television business. It truly is why we do what we do. Thanks to all the JAG member communities out there who, like all of you, have helped our station.