BBC broadcaster visits MCLA in North Adams


NORTH ADAMS -- Junior Katie Johnson and her classmates at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts are interested in reporting on the Hoosic River Revival project in North Adams. They're not sure what direction they should take.

"I'm just wondering how we get people's opinions," Johnson said during a group meeting in Professor Michael Birch's advanced television production class on Thursday.

"Maybe we could go to a City Council meeting," offered her classmate, senior Zachary Mongeau.

The man sitting between them offered his thoughts.

"That's a good idea," said Mark Kinver. "In the good old days of journalism you could use this as an excuse to go out to a local coffee shop and ask the person behind the counter what they thought. There are so many ways to tell this story."

Kinver is an environment reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and his visit to Birch's class coincided with his three-day residency at MCLA as this year's Hardman Journalist in Residence.

"Finding stories" has been the theme of Kinver's visit, and he has been working with the college's journalism and broadcasting students and faculty. Kinver has been encouraging them to embrace new technology and social media, as well as the "tried and tested old fashioned way of picking up a telephone" to gather sources and stories.

The students in Birch's class will tackle two environmental stories -- the pollution of the Hoosic River and proposals for its rehabilitation, and the unexpectedly devastating toll Tropical Storm Irene took on The Spruces mobile home community in Williamstown in August 2011.

The broadcast media students will make documentary films on those issues. The student teams include sophomores Vanessa Jordan and Kaleigh Anderson and juniors Matthew Tedesco, Jeffrey Vecellio and Abby Mulholland, in addition to Johnson and Mongeau.

"Kind of like journalists, we're trying to get to the bottom of it," said Vecellio, a North Adams native who is part of the Hurricane Irene documentary team.

"I live in the community and was quite aware of the devastation of this," Vecellio said during Thursday's proposal presentations. "I want to dig a little deeper."

During his residency, which began on Tuesday, Kinver has been impressed with the questions students have asked him about his trade.

"It's been a pleasure for me to share the information I've gained through my experience knowing there's an appetite for it," he said.

Birch has been teaching the advanced television production class for the last decade. He hopes students will embrace both the technical and social sides of storytelling in depth.

"Through the process of sound and image colliding they can open up a situation for an audience to view in a different way," he said. "The other hope is that students will take something away from the experience that they'll never forget, and can look at their own communities in a different way."

Although Kinver's residency officially ended on Thursday, he plans to stay in the area for the remainder of this week. It is the international journalist's first visit to the United States.

To reach Jenn Smith:
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