Student Blogger Study USA

Community Media and Me – Syd’s story

A camera view screen obscures most of the shot of a stage set for a television program.

Every semester, one student from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Syd Stratman will be HECUA’s student blogger for the Making Media, Making Change program this spring semester. Syd is a senior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Studies in Cinema and Media Culture and minoring in Art. Syd completed the Making Media, Making Change program in the fall, and then chose to enroll in the program’s optional credit-earning internship component this spring. For more information about Making Media, Making Change and how internships for this program are structured, click here. Read on for Syd’s initial impressions of their internship at the St. Paul Neighborhood Network.

Why I Chose a HECUA Internship

I’m a non-traditional student, returning to school after six years as a professional in advertising. I just completed HECUA’s Making Media, Making Change (MMMC) program. Unlike other HECUA programs, MMMC is part-time and has an optional internship that can be taken during your other HECUA classes or after. With my work experience, I probably don’t need an internship, but I fell in love with the MMMC program and its community partner: the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN). The MMMC classes allowed me to dive into topics and learn about the power of media and how we can use it to create real changes and connections within our local, national, and global communities.

A woman in the foreground operates a large camera. A man smiles behind her.

SPNN makers at work. Photo credit: SPNN

Building Community Through Media

That’s where SPNN comes in. SPNN is a community access station and community media center, founded in 1984 with a mission “to empower people to use media and communications to better lives, use authentic voice, and build common understanding.” SPNN provides a great example of how social justice and media making meet, how representation in media affects community and culture, and the importance of access to media-making for underrepresented groups. They work directly with community members to both create media and provide a space for the community to create their own media. In addition to having cable channels that air media made for and by their members, they also provide classes and equipment. This is especially important for underrepresented people, because it gives them the skills and the space to tell their own stories.

When I met the SPNN staff it became clear to me that they believe in their mission statement. Every time I walk into the building, someone greets me at the front desk, and I can always get help with my current projects. When one of the producers at SPNN sets up a shoot in their studio, I always see people helping them, including other producers. SPNN is a reflection of the surrounding community. People help each other and work together to create a thriving community. Unlike the majority of the media world, there is no gate-keeping. They want everyone to create, to use their voice. Before the MMMC program I had never experienced a community media space. The idea of people working together and making media accessible felt like a utopian ideal that I would never see practiced. My experiences in media have always involved fighting over resources and gate-keeping information and opportunities. Seeing what can be honestly changed my life and filled me with a creative energy I haven’t felt in years.

An Immersive Community Media Experience

Starting this internship I expected to experience the stereotypical idea of an internship: grunt work, making copies, getting coffee, etc. Even if that was the case, it would still be a great opportunity to experience television production and how it intersects with the community. Fortunately my internship exceeded my admittedly low expectations. They filled my first few weeks with real work. So far I have operated a camera for a live television event, edited a trailer with complete artistic freedom, created motion graphics for program intros and directed an event. It isn’t all super fun projects but they understand and care about my growth. Current projects given to me include producing, shooting and editing behind the scenes videos for Candy Fresh, and more opportunities to direct and operate cameras for other programs. In a few short weeks I became more than an intern: they treat me like a peer. That is the magic of SPNN and the HECUA internship program. You get a chance to be immersed in an organization that is just as passionate about the work that you are and allows you to work shoulder to shoulder with them. This is not a typical internship. That is why I chose to be a HECUA intern.

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