Editorial: The digital mirror of Amherst Media, Amherst Bulletin March 3 and 4th, Daily Hampshire Gazette March 4th

Community television programming provided through Amherst Media -- the former ACTV -- has long held up a mirror to public life in Amherst. As its name change suggests, this is a cause that's grown beyond television, as it exploits new digital technologies to give that mirror new dimensions.
As reporter Bonnie Wells explains in a story on our front page today, Amherst Media is tapping into new tools fashioned by our age's revolutions in communications technologies. Instead of focusing on feeding video images to TVs in residents homes, the organization is diversifying what it does and how it does it. Today, that can mean turning on a personal computer and finding that an audio podcast created by the Amherst League of Women Voters has turned up automatically in a subscriber's files.
Under the leadership of Jim Lescault, Amherst Media seems to be taking it to the next level -- and this is great news for people who share our insatiable appetite for information about local affairs.
It isn't easy to change an established organization's assumptions. But since he arrived in 2007, Lescault has worked to help the 35-year-old group use emerging technologies both to fulfill its historic function and invent new ones.
In her story today, Wells describes how the organization's studio hosted a gathering that enabled local families of Cambodia heritage to hold an Internet video conference on diabetes with people in 18 other places around the country. It is increasingly opening its doors to community groups through an aggressive outreach program.
Asked to describe why they do what they do, Amherst Media's leaders aren't shy.
Wendy Bloomenthal, the community outreach coordinator, speaks of providing nothing less than empowerment. Lescault, the executive director, says Amherst Media is in the free speech business. These are widely shared values and they make clear why Amherst Media occupies a central place in our community's ongoing conversation.
As they curate their own news digests, by combining mainstream news outlets with all the options the Internet offers, consumers can and should review the offerings from Amherst Media.
While the old ACTV offered classes in video production, and served in that way as a community media school, the organization is offering new training that can help fulfill its own programming ambitions and raise the overall level of what's being produced. For example, the center says it is the first community media center in the U.S. to earn the status as an Apple-authorized training center for Final Cut Pro, a widely used video-editing software program. For a fee, people can learn the program at the center.
Meantime, it continues to rely on a deep bench of college-age interns to make up the crews that televise public meetings. In that way, Amherst Media is exporting video production skills across the country, as these interns go on to other projects.
Amherst Media is also nurturing citizen journalists through instruction in blogging. Done well, citizen journalism enriches the stream of available information about civic life. News consumers today are, more and more, in the driver's seat.
All in all, Amherst Media is on a path to make the essence of what it does -- the sharing of local information -- more meaningful, more accessible, more rapid, more diverse and more convenient. Its content streams live on a revamped website -- amherstmedia.org -- where archived digital video can be called up on demand.
Consumers expect access and convenience in our digital age. We salute our friends at Amherst Media for making such great strides forward in serving the public interest.