I've volunteered for Cape Ann TV for years — working behind a camera or in the control room, and for the past five years, producing and hosting "Cape Ann Conversations," a monthly show concerned with local and national issues.
I've enjoyed working with present and former staff members Sinikka Nogelo, Donna Gacek, Tony Ascenso, Bob McGlinchy, Andrew Love, Lisa Smith and Jennifer Lee Levitz and other volunteers, especially Lois Budrose and Rich Sagall.
I did a few "out of studio" shots in the beginning, but, in spite of Bob McGlinchy's patient efforts, never mastered the art of editing. I preferred working the studio cameras for Sinikka's live "Cape Ann Reports" each week.
Tony Ascenso first suggested a show of my own but it wasn't until I watched Democrats and Republicans exaggerating our differences in the 2004 presidential campaign that I considered it. I firmly believe that ordinary Americans have much more in common than political partisans and believed that showing various sides of issues would be something worth doing.
In April 2005, Rockport considered allowing alcoholic beverages to be served in local restaurants and hotels. I did two separate interviews that month, one with the "drys" and one with the "wets" presenting their case. Both were broadcast several times before residents voted to change Rockport's long-lasting dry status at Town Meeting that year.
During that meeting, a few residents told me about We the People, a local group involved in getting people together for civil discussions on a variety of issues and after talking with Nancy Goodman, one of the founders, it seemed to be the perfect beginning for my show.
The first "Cape Ann Conversations" was broadcast on May 18, 2005, on cable Channel 12. The topic was "respectful dialogue between people of opposing views" featuring Judy Wallace, a founding member of We the People and Walter Donnelly, a dialogue participant.
My shows during that year included interviews with Sgt. Cliff Alves, a Gloucester police officer and Army reservist after his second tour of duty in Iraq; Sally Takekawa, a peace activist and mother of a soldier who served in Iraq; Rosemary Haughton discussing her book, "Gifts in the Ruins: Rediscovering what matters most"; and Kathy Dwyer, a survival of incest and clergy sexual abuse, discussing her book "Healing into Wholeness."
One of my favorite shows in 2006 involved Rockport's Christmas Pageant with Ann Fisk and Barbara Brewer discussing the spiritual and humorous aspects of a program that transforms the little town of Rockport into a beloved bible story each year. It was repeated in December 2009 as a tribute to Ann Fisk, who had died earlier that year.
I also enjoyed conversations with people about YMCA and Elderhostel programs, Senior Center computer classes, and two women in their 60s who served in the Peace Corps. One, Mary Ann Camp, is also a Red Cross volunteer and the other, Carrie Parsi, hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this year and came in second in the 70-plus group in the 2009 Boston Marathon.
I was inspired by Amy Kamm and three Gloucester High School students talking about the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) program in 2008 and touched by the stories told by Capt. Kenneth Love, describing his experiences as part of a medical team in Iraq, treating mental health issues of the military. I was also impressed by Annisquam resident Sarah Hackett as she described 16 years of working in Haiti.
My favorite guests in 2010 were Rockport's "Miss America," Bea Waring, talking about her trip to Afghanistan, and Hilary Russell, director of the Berkshire Boat Building School, the man who taught me how to build a canoe in 2009 at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum.
Unlike most interviews, the set was filled with props — one full-size canoe and three models, a canoe, kayak and a coracle — in addition to one very charismatic instructor. I've never enjoyed an interview more than that one.
But it's time to move on and let others take my place.
I'd like to spend more time writing and look forward to watching new shows produced and directed by volunteers of all ages who will take advantage of the excellent training facilities and classes at the Cape Ann Television Studio at 38 Blackburn Center in 2011. For more information, go to www.capeanntv.org. or call 978-281-2443.
Eileen Ford is a Rockport resident and a regular Times columnist.