One year ago, we submitted a proposal to the City of Tucson with partners KXCI Community Radio and WaveLab Recording Studio to create a new community media center. In September of 2015, we were awarded the contract. The contract includes: continuing to provide community involvement to over-the-air television, marketing the City of Tucson and providing workforce training in media arts. Immediately after finding out the goods news, the hard work began.

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In our proposal, we recommended a shift in thinking and a creative upgrade. We didn’t want to step into the Public Access model without rethinking the best ways to empower citizens to create compelling content AND how to reach the most people with that quality video. Our next steps included some big moves: the democratization of content creation, the decentralization of the Community Media Center and Workforce Development programs (Public Access in Tucson had one building, we wanted to leverage spaces around the city) and the introduction of more channels of distribution (namely a robust – and super useful – web portal where you can view HD content).

Since earning this contract, we’ve rifled through outdated equipment from Access Tucson and bought new, quality stuff that will serve us in the modern, internet-driven world. We haggled with Cox about getting set up to go live from three locations, and we are fighting for HD. We built a complex but intuitive website for members to find everything they need to get involved and get their projects done. Now, we’ve began opening our doors to allow the community in, and started to offer them extremely cheap (let’s call it “community priced”) rentals of video equipment and editing bays.

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But here’s the thing: providing equipment to the community and airing citizens’ shows on television is not enough. You can’t neglect the shift into the future and call basic resources good enough. By ignoring how things are changing, we can’t truly mobilize our community (including our creative young people) or enable auteurs to their full ability. We want to help them tell the stories that matter to them and Tucson, in a manner that is modern.

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Through this process, we have found that public access show production has often created fragmented skill sets that don’t translate into the larger world. We don’t want to encourage our members to just show up, stand in front of a camera and have someone start recording them. We want Creative Tucson members to become well-rounded content creators, capable of developing an idea and growing it into the best possible product. We want them to understand equipment, editing, production and planning. We want to help empower future showrunners and producers with real capabilities. This is why we’re offering classes and internships with industry pros and a slew of relevant resources, in addition to well-equiped studios and modern equipment. The goal isn’t to make it difficult for anyone to make content, but to offer real value to Tucsonans in the form of tangible, take-them-with-you-forever skills. It’s not cool to just be on the air, it’s cool to make something that’s real, and really good. With this change in mindset, we think we’ll be able to create the foundation for better serving the community.

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We have just begun to grow Creative Tucson but we’ve already learned so much. And we’re super thrilled to make this a thriving thing. We know that if we can pull local creatives together and link them with CT partners and our resources, Tucsonans will be equipped to make products (podcasts, TV shows, online content whatever) that resonate and are of the world that we’re living in. We’re sure that together we can fully realize what noncommercial television can be.

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