Lights, Camera, Information

Larry Saxton | 8/12/2009, 9:48 a.m.

While hosting €The Reporters Roundtable€ in 2005, a public affairs show which discusses issues that affect the District Government, and airs on DCTV cable channel 16, Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer newspaper, got the idea to do a television show. Rolark Barnes envisioned a show that would expand on those issues and discuss articles that appeared in The Informer.

Rolark Barnes sees €The Washington Informer News Show€ as a natural progression towards a vision her late father and founder of the newspaper, Calvin W. Rolark, had in 1964.

€My father started the Washington Informer Publishing Company, Inc., and about a year later he published a book called €Know Your D.C. Government.€ He also had a radio show on WYCB 1350-AM called €Sound Off€ for 16 years, which was an extension of what he was doing in the newspaper,€ Rolark Barnes said.

€Looking into his mind gave me the idea that he envisioned a company that would broaden the mission of The Washington Informer in other forms of media. He wanted to make sure that not only the African American community would get a positive perspective [of what we do to] improve the quality of life in our community, but also to speak to folks outside of our community, so they could see the other side of the story about what African Americans were doing, as well. He wanted us to continue to inform, educate, inspire and motivate,€ Rolark Barnes said.

Through interviews and panel discussions, viewers can now put a face to the reporters who write the stories.

€What we are trying to go for is a perfect synergy. If there is a story in the newspaper, we can touch on it on the show, and vice versa. It gives us the opportunity to follow up,€ said Mark Leeke of DCTV, who has worked on the show for the past three years in a variety of areas, including directing and editing.

€An example of that was when the Jena 6 cases were going on. We brought in a councilmember and an activist to talk about what was actually going on in the court case. In the next show, we brought in a photographer and another activist who actually went down South to the demonstrations to talk about their experiences. We covered the subject, but we covered it from different angles,€ Leeke said.

Norma Porter, who co-producers the show, is also one of The Informer€s reporters.

€Sometimes when I go out to report, I try to feel out what is a good visual element that would translate into television. Not all the people in our community read the newspaper, but [the show] could help those that don€t read the newspaper be enticed to do so because they are caught by the visual element of the show,€ Porter said.

Bob Thomas, director of Operations at DCTV since 2008, said he envisions a long and important partnership with the show.

€They provide a different form of news, not just the copycats you get on the main networks. They deal with what€s in the neighborhoods and the issues that affect D.C. locally,€ Thomas said, calling the show the anchor of their non-profit channel.

Ron Burke, marketing director for The Washington Informer, views the growth into a multi-media company as a win-win for the Informer, as well as the community.

€The TV show is non-commercial, so you can€t sell a product or a service, but you can certainly do branding to let readers, and viewers know who your company is. You can have a logo and a contact number, or you can underwrite a show for a fee, and basically get a billboard ad or an audio ad,€ Burke said.

€The overall vision is to become a multi-media organization, including the newspaper, the Web site, e-mail blasts to clients and the television show. We can reach readers, viewers and our community in a number of different ways with the understanding that the world is changing and people get their information in different ways. The issues that we talk about on our show affect our community,€ Rolark Barnes said.

Rolark Barnes also sees The Informer as having global potential.

€I€m finding Web sites, internationally, that are either quoting from, or pointing to stories we€ve done in The Informer.

€They know they are going to see positive news about the African American community and a perspective that they might not get in any other media that they might consume,€ she said.

The Washington Informer TV Show airs on DCTV Public Cable Access (Comcast channels 95 & 96) and RCN (channels 10 & 11) on Sundays at 1 p.m. and again on Wednesday at 8 p.m.