City seeks hip’ look with cable channel

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 23, 2001

City videographer John Allen films the Mississippi River from an overlook off Washington Street. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[07/23/01] Viewers of the city’s cable channel 23 will begin seeing changes in programming over the next couple of weeks, all designed to create a “hip” new look.

Since the first live broadcast in January, Vicksburg’s television station has been used primarily to broadcast community information and meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. But John Allen, the city’s videographer, said he wants to bring more to the viewers than the usually sleepy meetings.

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“We’re going to let the community see exactly what goes on in city government,” Allen said.

Hired by the new administration this month and armed with a video camera, Allen has been hitting the streets of Vicksburg and passageways of City Hall to create new documentary-style shows that are scheduled to begin airing in the next two weeks.

Allen said he also plans to add new backdrops and lighting to the city board room to make the meetings look more like television newscasts and less like a home movie.

“My goal is to make it look as professional as possible,” he said.

The new city administration, headed by Mayor Laurence Leyens, hired Allen to have a full-time person in charge of the 24-hour broadcast. Until now, the station has been run by city system information specialist Bill Ford, who also works with the police and fire departments’ radio and computer systems.

Ford said he is eager to work with Allen on a new look for the cable channel.

“Hopefully I can get back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Ford said.

Working with little money and no budget, Allen and Ford said they were able to scrap together about $10,000 to purchase additional production equipment. The start-up cost for the station had been about $8,000.

Allen’s background includes working with radio and television stations in Jackson. He is being paid $23,920 a year.

Using mostly his own equipment, Allen has already created a new logo for the city channel and is working on programs about the city pool, the Boy Scouts from Croatia and other local events.

“Getting the young people involved in the channel is one of my goals,” said the 21-year-old Allen.

With Allen’s addition, Leyens hopes to have the camera on in City Hall most of the time, especially during division head meetings and others that had been closed to the public.

He said his ultimate goal is to help get rid of what he perceives as the community’s mistrust of the government.

“I’m trying to get people involved in government,” Leyens said. “It’s to help sell Vicksburg to Vicksburg.”

Channel 23 reaches about 19,000 homes in Vicksburg and Warren County. Ford said that while he has no way of knowing exactly how many are watching, he is often stopped in the grocery store by people who have seen the broadcasts.

“From the comments I get in the community, more people are watching than I originally thought,” Ford said.