Westborough TV adjusting to life in a pandemic

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By Jennifer L. Grybowski, Contributing Writer

Westborough – Westborough TV (WTV) provides television and online programming of community and governmental events, but when the pandemic hit last spring, WTV had to make some adjustments.

“The biggest thing for us is that we had to shift a little bit of what we were doing, and a little bit of how we were doing it,” WTV General Manager Karen Henderson said.

Normally the staff would cover major community and school events as well as some government meetings. That all changed when the state was put under government-issued stay at home orders this spring.

“We have been trying to make up for the lack of actually being able to gather and have those events as we have in years past,” she said.

Now WTV’s coverage is heavy on the municipal meetings.

“Transparency in government has never been more important,” Henderson said. “It is a tough time to feel you can’t go to a meeting or can’t view a meeting. It is difficult now because you can’t have public meetings and yet there is still a lot of work to be done in town.”

WTV has been providing coverage of more meetings than ever and making sure those meetings go out live, sometimes broadcasting and recording up to four meetings in a day.

“I feel we are doing a great service by recording those meetings,” Henderson said.

WTV’s coverage also includes more religious programming than ever including weekly services for five different churches, as well as special services for holidays.

“I know a lot of people will watch online but there are many who don’t have the ability to watch online or can’t find the service, or don’t want to sit at their desk or kitchen counter to watch,” she said. “They want to be comfortable on the couch and watch as a family and so it is important to make the services available on cable channels. The TV aspect has been really nice for people.”

Another new program is “What’s Up Westborough?” featuring drone footage of different places around town.  But the star programming in recent months has been the community events.

“So many of them got canceled and ….we had to figure out how to work together with the schools and the community to bring things to people in a different way,” Henderson said.

For example, during the high school senior week, WTV was able to bring some traditional events to people via television, including graduation ceremonies. Henderson said sometimes thousands of people were tuning in.

“It’s a really cool thing,” she said.
Original programming included interviewing residents in the studio, edited with some footage of appropriate landscapes around town.

“In a time where we couldn’t have common unity, we were still bringing people together to feel like they have this community,” she said. “It was different and much more difficult, but maybe much more important to do than normal.”

WTV relies on funding from the cable companies, and that funding is based on the number of viewers/subscribers. However, Henderson said that in the past six months many people have canceled their cable in favor of streaming services, and so funding has decreased.

“It is something we will keep our eye on,” she said. 

Overall, Henderson is proud of WTV’s response to the pandemic and said there have been positives that have come out of it.

“One of the things that’s been really nice is having to pause a bit and make connections in town,” she said. “I love making connections to different departments and committees, but we are also working with community groups in a different way and there has been a lot more coordination and collaboration…We’ve had to brainstorm ways to bring people together virtually.”

For more information, visit http://westboroughtv.org.