New show tackles student issues

Tessa Pelias

By Christina Merced

In the basement of the old Urbana Post Office, University students are filming the new public access television show “Inside Out.”

In the men’s bathroom, the show’s crewmembers transformed the attached locker room into a production set with a purple carpet, blue couch, and black and white photos of Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X. A midnight blue and purple “Inside Out” graphic logo is tied around pipes above the couch.

Tamika Jackson, senior in Communications and member of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, created the new television program with help from University faculty, students and local residents.

On Saturday, the development and production stages came together for the taping of the first two episodes. The program is a talk show with two co-hosts, Jackson and Mike Conley, senior in LAS. Each episode will discuss current issues in education, politics, racism, sexuality and entertainment.

“We try to combine (education and entertainment) because we feel as young adults we’re interested in both,” Jackson said. “We already have CNN telling us what they think we want to hear or what they think we want to know.”

Jackson said she was inspired her sophomore year by a communications class taught by Professor Bob McChesney. She approached her friend and mentor, Kevin Shine, to discuss a possible television show and felt motivated to pursue her interest in communications.

“He just encouraged me to do it and not to expect someone else to make my moment happen for me, but rather to go out for it myself,” Jackson said.

Brian Johnson and Jason Chambers, associate and assistant professors in Communications, and John Jennings, assistant professor in art and design, mentored the group. Jennings also created the “Inside Out” logo.

The show has no primary source of funding, but receives studio space from the Independent Media Center, Jackson said. Urbana Public Television is also lending cameras and lights for the tapings.

After the first eight episodes, “Inside Out” will also appear on Channel 19, Chicago Access Network Television, in Chicago and Channel 3, Community Access Television Services, in Bloomington.

To help keep the show afloat, the students are applying to become a registered student organization to receive SORF funding, Jackson said. They also want to try to get grant funding from the city of Urbana.

Although the show is a collective project, the 22 students each have their own production priorities. There are researchers and writers, camera and lighting people, a hair and makeup person, advertising and public relations people.

“Drop It Like It’s Hawt,” is the title of the first episode and is about popular dances. Episode one will feature clips of Dance 2XS, an international hip-hop group on campus, and an interview with Cynthia Oliver, professor of dance.

The second episode titled, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is a more controversial show presenting the issue of “gay bashing” in the United States. Reverend Jerome Chambers, president of the Champaign County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, discussed the issue of socialization and homosexuality.

“Don’t focus so much on the difference,” Jerome Chambers said. “Let’s embrace the similarities.”

Co-host Conley said he hopes people will watch the show and will be encouraged to openly discuss different social issues. The show will be good for the University and surrounding community because there is possibility for change when it comes to the issues discussed, he said.

“The issues that are talked about on the show are real,” said Brian Sims, a University alumnus and member of the Musical Experience, which will appear throughout the episodes as the house band.

Kaitlin Morris, a crewmember and junior in LAS, also thinks the show could be a positive force throughout the campus. Morris said she views the University as a divided cultural space, but said even if the campus does not unite, the show will be good because it will present different viewpoints, especially on provocative topics such as racism and sexual orientation.

“We want to be controversial, but definitely don’t want to offend anyone,” said Alan Davis, associate producer and senior in LAS. “I’m hoping once (the campus sees) the show, that they’ll support us.”

Ashley Pettil, sophomore in LAS, who works in public relations for the show, is trying to connect with the local community through sponsorships, especially caterers to help feed the crew and guests. The show will be advertised through its own Web site, a Facebook group and throughout campus. The show is also discussing promotional giveaways and access to new music from J-Records, Jackson said.

There will also be five live-audience shows where people can participate in question and answer sessions. “Inside Out” will premiere Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 6, Urbana Public Television. There will be 15 episodes this semester, each 30-minutes long and will run every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

“You don’t have to RSVP to be in the audience, but we like to know who’s going to be in the audience (because) we have promotional giveaways,” Jackson said. “It’s not just an average local show.”