Come Learn TV Production with Award-Winning HCAT!

J.D. O’Gara
HCAT Receives National Award for “Heartbeat of Holliston”
Shown is HCAT members with the national Hometown Media Award it received in the news magazine show category for “Heartbeat of Holliston.” From left, Bruce Gilfoy, Lisa Hedrick, Chryso Lawless, and Don Cronin.
Issue Date: 
November, 2019
Article Body: 

They’re busy covering all the news in town, but did you know your own Holliston Cable Access Television (HCAT) recently won an award? In July, Melissa Kaspern, of HCAT traveled to Portland, OR, for the Hometown Media Festival, where they accepted the Hometown Media Award in the news magazine show category on behalf of HCAT’s monthly magazine news show, “The Heartbeat of Holliston” from the Alliance for Community Media (ACM).
“That’s our national organization,” says Don Cronin, HCAT Production Manager, who explains that August was the mark of the show’s seventh season. “It covers local news, events, and happenings, with a lot of resident profiles and in-studio guests.” “The Heartbeat of Holliston” includes pre-taped segments, which Cronin says are called “packages.”
“Mary Greendale actually started the show, and Chryso Lawless took over from Mary Greendale. Both are on our current board of directors,” says Cronin. “Chryso writes the script and has all the stories the anchors are reading. I have a separate column on the script, the director column.” Other volunteer crew members include Tom Cady, Bill George, Bill Binette, Christian Buday, Melissa Kaspern, Paul Saulnier, Deborah Moore, Brian Winston, Jay Wyman. Also, staff members are: Bruce Gilfoy, Lisa Hedrick, Chris McKnerney.
A specific episode of the show (6:3, which means, 6th season, 3rd episode) won the award for Best of Informational Talk Show Series Access Center Professional.
The story featured “a woman from Holliston who had donated part of her kidneys to a friend’s mother, who needed a kidney transplant,” explains Cronin, who points out that folks can see the episode at HCAT’s website,, where all of HCAT’s videos are available on demand. HCAT also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Cronin who’s been with HCAT nine years, has a lot of TV production experience, and he wants to emphasize that Holliston residents can come in and learn aspects of directing, producing and editing shows, all for free.
“My training is all hands on,” says Cronin. “We’re able to offer training on everything offered in the studio.” Cronin says the majority of folks want to learn to operate the portable cameras. Cronin explains that trained community members “could produce their own show, or become qualified to tape segments for “Heartbeat of Holliston.” Cronin will teach setup and operation of the camera “in terms of framing camera shots, testing audio levels, connecting the microphones, the white balance in the camera, and of course, the recording process,” he says. It takes about an hour and a half, to learn to set it up and break it down, and he’ll do a mock interview where his student will run the operation. Afterward, he’ll critique it.
“It’s hands-on, practical experience in every aspect of production,” says Cronin, who adds that training times are flexible to meet the trainees’ schedules.
Cronin says he hopes people in the community will not only find this free training valuable, but that they’ll consider honing and refreshing those skills by volunteering on HCAT shows.
“Our role is to train people on how to use this equipment,” says Cronin. “And then it’s up to them to produce shows that are of general interest to Holliston. With ‘Heartbeat of Holliston’ and ‘Just Thinking,’ we have anchors that help out that we rotate, but we have a shortage of reporters, people who can find stories. It’s a volunteer operation, and we would love to have people come in, even from home, or look at different (news) sources, related to school, town hall—not just hard news, but we’ve interviewed people who have a unique skill or talent. (That type of story) is custom made for ‘Heartbeat of Holliston.’”
The experience is great for students who will attend or have attended school for journalism. “Sure, you can get an internship (at a larger TV station),” says Cronin. “But they’re going to have you making photocopies of scripts. To get hands-on experience at this level is extremely valuable in terms of shooting and directing and editing.” Students under 18, however, must get a permission form signed by their parents or guardians that allow them to use the equipment.
Volunteers, says Cronin, “can volunteer on as many shows as they want,” he says. “It might be two hours a month. Others like to keep their skills updated.”
At the end of October, as it does every year, HCAT held a special reception at Restaurant 45 to thank its volunteers. If you are interested in learning to use the equipment and working on an HCAT production, contact Cronin at [email protected].