So far this year, Bowdoin Cable Network (BCN) News has not aired a single episode. While there are plans in place to air the first one early next week, the program will not continue to run weekly segments on the network as it has in past years due mainly to a lack of student interest.
"There actually hasn't been enough interest on campus to fully staff an episode and it takes a fair number of people...we're also just sort of recruiting people that [might] do it this week but they're not sure if they're ready to commit for the entire year," said Executive Producer of BCNews Gillian Baptiste '11. "[I hope] we can sort of get our act together to put out this episode, but I don't know yet what [will] be in the months to come."
"We film everything on campus ...we did "Closer" [the Masque and Gown production] last week, so I mean we have a bunch of footage, it's just that we don't have anyone to introduce it, so there's no way to make a story," said BCN General Manager Zac Skipp '11.
As a result, the program will be considered on a week-by-week basis.
"We're definitely going to be taking it as it goes and as the interest sort of waxes and wanes, if you will," added Baptiste. "If the interest is there we'll put out an episode, and if it's not then we'll focus on other shows on BCN," added Baptiste.
However, along with this lack of interest, the lack of an operating server further hinders BCNews. BCN operates two channels, 40 and 41, that are available throughout campus. While it is usually the case that the first broadcasts movies, which are selected on the basis of student votes, and the second serves as a channel solely for BCN productions, thus far this year, both channels have been airing the same movie content, with all BCN productions available only online.
"One large problem with BCN this year is that we don't have a server yet to run BCN...so we've ordered a new server...[but] each server is custom built [so] they can't really give you an answer of how long it'll take," said Skipp. "But I would say within the next month we'll have a server, and we'll have it up and running. And with the new server we'll have a channel instantly."
Former anchor and producer Dana Borowitz '08 explained how the show, created in 2004, has evolved.
"I started at BCN News in the spring semester of my freshman year, as a correspondent, and became an anchor/producer in the fall of 2005. During the time I worked on the news program, it developed from being rather bare-bones to being a pretty legitimate operation. We had many different correspondents, shot stories on location, had features, editorials and, with the help of a green screen, a very dynamic set," Borowitz said.
As the program developed, so too did its influence upon the community.
"We got to be very creative and captured a lot of the moments that made Bowdoin special in those years. On a more tangible level, during my time at BCNews and then as the head of production and development for BCN in my senior year, I was often asked to talk to prospective students who were interested in communications," said Borowitz. "Bowdoin does not have a communications major, and so BCN provided an outlet for those students who really wanted to get jobs in media or entertainment after college."
Current student opinion reflected this influence.
"I think a lot of people did watch it and I think it was a good way to keep people in the loop...it updated [you] if you wanted to be quickly aware of what was going on, on campus," said Kara Nilan '11.
"I definitely agree with that, I think that even though I didn't consistently watch it, having it on in the Union or just having it be an option was an interesting way to spread news to the Bowdoin campus," Katie Bergeron '11 added.
The program has also helped students to gain a foothold in the outside world.
"BCN News has been important for both BCN and Bowdoin [as] it allows students to gain some very practical skills that nicely complement our liberal arts education," BCN alumnus Steven Bartus '08 said. "Many BCN alums have used these skills to get jobs in the entertainment industry, something that probably would not have been possible without their experience at our network."
Fellow alumnus Nathan Chaffetz '08 agreed.
"I had my own segment called 'The Bowdoin Reality Check.' In those segments, I often took stances that were not widely popular, but that I felt the campus needed to hear. It was an invaluable activity for me, I owe my [past] jobs at "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" and "South Park" to BCNews."
Although both Skipp and Baptiste expect the news program to blossom more in the spring, as three permanent reporters will return from their semesters abroad, BCN as a whole seems to be shifting away from a news-based organization towards one grounded more in creative projects.
"It's interesting this year, because it's not that we haven't recruited the same number of people, it's just that ...this is the first year where the lower classes just aren't interested in doing news and now they're interested in...creative development and managing the station," said Skipp.
"BCNews is just one of many shows that BCN does. So although we love having BCNews as a weekly segment, and it's been our only weekly segment...since 2004, that's not our only thing. Our mission is to make sure we're a media outlet for the entire campus, so if there's not enough people interested in BCNews, there's no problem with not having BCNews. BCN's driven by student interest and not by BCNews," he said.
This student interest in creative development has led to the production of many new shows, most of which are spin-offs of popular reality television serials.
"The first show that we've actually produced is coming out next Thursday...it's going to come out in Kresge [Auditorium] and then on the website. It's Next, like the MTV Next, with Bowdoin students. Daniel Dickstein '12 is the guy and then there are three sophomore girls who are his suitors, so it's pretty interesting," Skipp revealed.
"[And] we started Cribs this past weekend, it's all off-campus houses and professor houses so we've got all the houses lined up, now we're just filming them and seeing how long it takes to edit each episode. And then we're going to try to do Cash Cab and we're thinking about...game shows at Super Snack, which would be fun and easy and I'm pretty sure people would participate because its Super Snack," he added.
In terms of the future, BCN is confident of staying relevant, with greater publicity and public presence acting as the foundation.
"I think that it's not that people aren't interested, it's just that they don't know what's going on, so we're just trying to get ourselves out there more, [and] we're hoping that both viewership goes up and that more people join BCN as members [as a result]," Skipp said.
The first of these attempts to gain a greater presence can be seen in BCN's recent work with other student organizations, as well as their efforts to "work with people, get their video needs met...talking to people about their personal ideas, their projects and what they want to do, and making those ideas come into video form," said Skipp. "We're just working on sticking to our mission to be the media outlet on campus, and it doesn't matter if you're part of BCN or not, we want to be here to make sure that can happen."