By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
The way we handle day-to-day life has changed since the stay-at-home order was issued. Local media stations, in particular, have taken it upon themselves to make meetings and activities accessible from the television or computer screen, along with producing a plethora of new programming. Westwood Media Center (WMC) is one of the organizations that has stepped up to the challenge and made the life of Westwood residents easier in this dire time.
Along with their usual programming, Westwood Media Center has made it their goal to ensure that residents have as much up-to-date information as possible about the coronavirus. “Some of our new content includes the series 'COVID-19 Update,' where we interview all town department heads to give us the most up-to-date information to pass along to residents. We've produced a weekly video to let people know what restaurants are open and how to order. We've produced a few different public service announcements for the Town of Westwood to explain to residents how to sign up for code red alerts, and for the upcoming elections. If any communication comes out from the town, we immediately make it into a quick video, such as road paving or what town buildings are open,” writes Executive Director Melinda Garfield.
Along with the COVID-19-focused programming, Westwood Media Center has also released some light-hearted shows that put a spotlight on many deserving individuals. “One of the cutest and most feel-good pieces we worked on was 'Life Doesn't Frighten Me,' where we asked our students from our after-school program to film themselves reading the poem. We just finished a piece about the high school teacher parade that went on last week for the senior class. We are slowly releasing our artists spotlights that we produced prior to the pandemic. And we are covering additional government meetings that we normally wouldn't be contracted to cover in order to bring the residents information they are looking for,” explains Garfield.
Some of these new broadcasts were created with senior citizens in mind. With the Patricia Carty-Larkin Senior Center closed, many worried about getting their usual exercise and activities every day. “We have always partnered with the Council on Aging to produce programming, but we feel that this is the most crucial time for seniors to have the ability to get their programs from home,” writes Garfield. “That is why we began airing different types of programming just for our seniors in town, which include exercise shows, the Governor's state address in its entirety, state public service announcements on how to stay safe, and musical entertainment.” Every day, seniors can view a selection of their favorite activities on channels 8 and 12 on Comcast, and 32 and 42 on Verizon.
“WMC felt that this was our time to shine," continues Garfield. "We have the technology and the understanding of the process of distributing video/audio out to the public. We feel fortunate that we are able to help the residents get the information more easily and quickly from our channels and social media. We hope that residents will recognize us as their go-to stop for news and events that are Westwood. In terms of the election, we've always carried candidate messages and covered candidate forums that were hosted by the League of Women Voters, but this year we just helped to plan out the process virtually.” On the night of the Candidate Forum, Westwood Media Center broadcasted the entire event live, making it available to people in their homes.
While residents are hoping to see the dangers of COVID-19 end soon, they can be assured that Westwood Media Center will be there to ensure that no crucial town meeting, event, or news is missed in the meantime.