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Tribble: We need to listen

Allyn Harvey

The tempo in the studio of GrassRoots Television heated up to a level three weeks ago that probably hasn’t been seen since the early 1980s – or maybe ever.

It was a few minutes before 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and all five high-schoolers who were about to go on the air looked a little nervous.

They had just finished two rehearsals of the opening segment of the teen talk show Be Heard! Aspen, and executive producer Chris Tribble was standing in front of them with one more suggestion about how to make things a little smoother.

“Why don’t you introduce the panelists by their names,” Tribble told host Tiffany Stone, “and then they can tell us their ages and where they’re from.” He stepped back from the set and gave the nod to station manager Brian Morrato, who was sitting at the studio’s control panel. Morrato called out “Standby Tiffany, we’ll be rolling in three, two, one -“

Stone took her cue and began the last rehearsal: “Hi, I’m Tiffany Stone and this is Be Heard! Aspen. Today we’ll be talking about stereotypes and dress codes, but first let me introduce our panel …”

Tribble turned his attention to a sound problem that popped up just seconds before air time: The panelists’ voices were coming over too loudly. After a quick conference, Morrato ripped off his headset and dashed to the back room to make the necessary adjustments.

Then Tribble stepped over to a young intern, manning one of three cameras, to show him exactly what shots he wanted from that angle.

A few seconds later they were live, and Stone introduced herself, the panelists and the program known as Be Heard! Aspen to the GrassRoots audience. The panel – two students from Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs and two from Aspen High School – spent much of the next hour talking about problems that come from stereotyping.

The show aired without a hitch. Once the hour-long broadcast was finished, the energy began to subside throughout the studio, although Tribble was already thinking up ways to improve the second installment, which was scheduled to be filmed the following week.

“It was different today because Chris is a professional producer. Most of our producers are volunteers without his experience or the time he has to work on it,” said Grassroots Television executive director Damian Panetta.

The roots of Be Heard!

Be Heard! Aspen is the local version of a program called Be Heard!, which aired statewide this fall on Denver public television.

The Be Heard! format is somewhat reminiscent of the talk shows that air Sunday mornings on network television: The charismatic host leads a discussion with a distinguished panel of experts on the day’s topics.

What makes it different from “Meet the Press” or “Washington Week in Review” is the fact that Be Heard! is hosted by a teenager, its panel of experts is filled by teenagers, and the topics of the day are selected by an advisory group made up entirely of teenagers.

The first six Be Heard! programs, filmed over two days in Glenwood Springs and Colorado Springs, addressed stereotypes and dress codes, teenage drinking and driving, the effects of the shootings at Columbine High School, fear of the future, prayer in school, and perceptions of teens. According to KRMA’s director of network programming, Donna Sanford, the programs were “well received by the target audience.”

Be Heard! Aspen, which is being aired exclusively on Grassroots TV, addresses the same topics and also incorporates clips from those original programs into the discussion.

“This is reality TV to me – real kids talking about the issues that really affect them,” Tribble said.

Tribble is the owner of Versatile Productions, a Glenwood Springs-based firm. The company has grown from a part-time venture of filming ski school classes into a major presence on several fronts of the television and video world.

Tribble is often tapped for his talents as a cameraman on skis. He has filmed skiing and snowboarding for NBC, ABC, ESPN and CNN. He was on the team that filmed the skiing events at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and he’s worked as a producer for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He also produces promotional and motivational videos for corporations.

Tribble said he first came up with the idea for a teen talk show about five years ago. “I wanted kids to be able to stand up for what they wanted to say.”

But what finally spurred him to action was an incident at his office a few years ago that involved one of his children.

His son, Jordan, who was 7 at the time, picked an inopportune time to seek some attention. “I was cutting film,” Tribble recalled. “Jordan was grabbing my arm and going, `Dad, Dad, Dad,’ and I was going `OK, OK, what? Not now.’

“Then something in me clicked: If we don’t pay attention to our kids, then they’re going to go out and get attention on their own. And we just end up getting mad at them.”

So Tribble worked out the details for Be Heard! He found the ideal spot to film the program – malls. He found the ideal host in Jasmin Delarosa, a teen activist from California. All he needed was some seed money to get things going. Then he found Compass and George Stranahan, who donated enough to produce six programs.

“Compass really got this program off the ground. George Stranahan stuck his neck out, and I stuck mine out. I really consider us both executive producers on this project,” Tribble said.

Tribble continues to work for corporate America. He expects to be filming the Winter Olympics next year in Salt Lake City, and he continues producing videos for large companies. But his dream is to turn Be Heard! into a national phenomenon, taking the show to malls and other places teens hang out all over the country.

So along with all his other work, Tribble is working his connections to find the underwriting needed to pull it off.

“It’s going to take quite a bit of money to go on from here,” he said. “We’ve shoe-stringed so far, but the next level isn’t about shoe stringing.”


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