Gallagher: GrassRoots Community Network gives you a chance to shine |

Gallagher: GrassRoots Community Network gives you a chance to shine

R.J. Gallagher Jr.

“Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover.” — Homer Simpson

The mission statement for GrassRoots Community Network is to protect and nurture channels of open communication for the people of the Roaring Fork Valley.

GrassRoots was founded in 1971, and is recognized as America’s very first community television station. It took an inspired vision for a community to recognize the importance of a broadcast station managed and programmed by the people, for the people. No surprise it would happen in Aspen. I firmly believe that GrassRoots was the very first true reality show in the world. And that’s saying something these days as we watch reality television explode in viewership.

GrassRoots dances to its own beat. It’s raw and unrefined. It’s neighbors taking a position or talking about relevant events or not-so-relevant events. Together. It’s an avenue for the young and young at heart to express themselves and invite discussion on a broad range of topics with absolutely anyone who wants to join in. Come one, come all, so to speak. It’s your opportunity to shine the bright lights on anything you want. How cool is that?

The current vision statement for the GrassRoots Community Network: “We believe that the health of our community depends on inclusive communal problem solving. Just solutions are only possible with the active participation of, and free-flowing communications between, literate people and their organizations.”

GrassRoots provides an egalitarian, apolitical and nonjudgmental community media resource where democratic ideals are protected and nurtured. GrassRoots TV enables and encourages people to participate in civil discourse, experimental content creation, free personal expression and open access to electronic media distribution.

GrassRoots TV weaves together the interests and needs of politically separate but geographically and economically linked counties, municipalities and neighborhoods into a single Roaring Fork Valley community. It helps dissimilar individuals understand their common challenges, needs, values and dreams.

This public-determined communications link between individuals, their organizations and the community at large enlivens our freedoms of speech and assembly from abstract guarantees into powerful tools for creating and sustaining a healthy, vital and progressive community.

That is one heck of a vision statement, and I can guarantee you that John Smith, the original GrassRoots TV founder, did not participate in its development. But it does show how far the station has come since 1971, when Smith and David Wright first connected to the grid from Wright’s trailer in Smuggler Trailer Court. Who knew, right?

What the current vision statement also reflects is the depth of GrassRoots’ programming and the spirit with which the programming is created and presented. It also makes me realize that there is a serious direct and indirect cost to run such a broad-based venture. And that’s also where the community comes in.

You can contribute to GrassRoots in many ways. Develop and create your own show. The station provides the studio, professional cameras, lighting and sound. All you need to provide is your talent.

You can volunteer. If you are interested in learning television production and would like to volunteer your time, GrassRoots is always looking for help with studio and sound operations, technical directing, multi-camera field productions and fundraising events. You also can sign up for an internship. Internships at GrassRoots Community Network typically last between four and six months. As an intern, you will be exposed to every aspect of television production and broadcast, and personal projects are encouraged.

Another way to become involved is through business underwriting. Underwriting provides a perfect way for a business to make a difference and get positive recognition at the same time. I ask, how can a business owner go wrong within that kind of a relationship?

And of course, contributions in the form of the almighty dollar are greatly appreciated, because in the end, all of those lights, cameras and action cost money to shine on the talent and make amazing things happen. If you want to explore GrassRoots, check out its website:

I am a big fan of GrassRoots. I have been enjoying it since 1980. And I will be forever, because all of us in our community know that the show must go on. Right?

“Philantopia” is a monthly column of The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley. He has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including those of the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. His email address is