Jerry Lee, Don Priest, and Bryan Harley

Recorded March 4, 2020 Archived March 4, 2020 38:40 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019724


Friends and former colleagues, Jerry Lee [no age given], Don Priest (74), and Bryan Harley (35) reminisce about how they each met and began working at CMAC. They reflect on some of the challenges they faced in opening the organization and why it's been so important to them to provide affordable and accessible community media resources.

Subject Log / Time Code

JL recalls when he first became executive director of Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC). BH, the current Executive Director, talks about where CMAC is now.
JL recalls how he was involved with CMAC before becoming the ED, while he was still working at PBS, and why he wanted to be involved in public access television.
DP recalls first coming on board with the organization because he was told to do so and why he decided to become more involved.
BH recalls how he first met DP when taking his class at Fresno State, and what he did after college before coming to work for CMAC.
DP, JL and BH remember the process of looking for a site for the organization and eventually opening CMAC at its current location in downtown Fresno.
JL and BH reflect on how the board made sure CMAC was affordable. JL recalls another effort to make resources accessible by teaching high school students how to work video and audio equipment.
BH reflects on some of his proudest and fondest memories of CMAC: a summer camp for kids and a recent program that made resources even more accessible for those who could otherwise not afford it.
JL reflects on being proud of the growth of CMAC and its staff.
DP reflects on being proud to have so many of its students becoming CMAC staff and taking pride and joy in the craft of television. JL, DP and BH reflect on the importance of the experience of acquiring knowledge of how to work with multi-media.
BH talks about what is in CMAC's future.


  • Jerry Lee
  • Don Priest
  • Bryan Harley

Recording Location



Partnership Type



StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:05 Hi, my name is Jerry Lee and I'm old enough to be retired.

00:11 Not going to give the real age. You are you're kidding if you think I am and today's date is Wednesday, March 4th 2020. We are in Fresno beautiful, California and I am with Donald priest and Bryan Harley and they are both my former employees and very good friends.

00:36 Gave, my name is Don. Priest priest just like a priest I'm 74. I don't care. It's good. I'm happy to be 74. Today is Wednesday, March 4th 2020 where in Fresno and I'm here with Jerry Lee and Bryan Harley who are my former friends colleagues and in one case of former student.

00:58 Hi my Bryan Harley. I'm 35 CU how much gray hair I have you might think I'm old. Today's date is Wednesday, March 4th 2020 and we're in Fresno California and I'm with Don priest and Jerry Lee and yeah, we are all former colleagues and friends and and Don was my former professor.

01:24 Let's let's kick this off by explaining that.

01:30 We all had something.

01:33 To do with creating Community media access collaborative. I found out how many years ago was it that I found out that I was going to be the executive director and I had no staff and we had no facility. I guess that would have been 2011 is when you transitioned so that roll from just being a board member. It's true cuz I retired December in Fresno State and then basically just transitioned over here. Yeah. I remember at your retirement party at at Fresno State first one that I stood up you said you were retiring and I said I'm taking him cuz I need someone to head up my education department at CMAC out.

02:31 And

02:33 Bryan I had my eye on them all along because he just knew everything.

02:44 And it scared me that I if I didn't get him somebody was going to so I grabbed him and then the other part of the equation was hiring a chief engineer in that was Terry Dolf if we can have four people with us, he'd be here to be here. Yeah, great guy.

03:08 But I hired these gentlemen.

03:14 And then I had a staff and we still didn't have a facility or any equipment Community Brian talk about what community media access collaborative is not our purpose is a nonprofit organization. That's really all about empowering people in our community to be able to share their stories using media. The idea being that there's new people in our community are not being heard for whatever reason. I know they can't afford access to these resources or they've just never been exposed to it. Never been given an opportunity to communicate this way. So helping those people connect with what we have to offer.

04:06 And that hopefully they're connecting our community better. I having these conversations through media.

04:14 How many members now 650 members know what I remember when we were just first starting up. We went to San Jose to kind of see what another Media Center look like and they said they had around 600 members and we just thought boy. Are we ever going to get to that point? Can you remember like when was the very first how did this all start for you? You know it getting involved with CMAC. I made it was many years before you were the one second of director was the vice president of valleypbs the PBS station for all of central, California, which is right across the street from our facility are CMAC facility.

05:05 And I came to strangely enough a meeting of individuals who sue Buskey came to town and Sue is the quintessential.

05:24 Angel, I guess of media centers Nationwide and she came here to give a presentation and I came across the street because it was in the same building. All right, when when are building was the Metropolitan Museum that very first community meeting? Yes here and I thought at the time of this is so cool.

05:48 And of course it came with lots of people going on. This is just like the movie where Wayne's World Wayne's World Wayne's World Wayne's World and it's like no, it's not. No, it's not this is serious stuff.

06:08 And what year do you think that was that was like meeting 2008, I believe 2008 in the law in California surrounding in table franchising was in 2006 who was helping the City of Fresno cannot negotiate throttle cable franchise with Comcast. And that was before David became a thing like City of Fresno high order.

06:43 Sorry, it could have been was probably an even earlier than 2006 when you get to be my age time becomes irrelevant. So but I mean that you guys were working for a very long time to make CMAC a reality 10 years before we even open group of conveners and Don room and I were both conveners Terry Dolph. Chief engineer was 2 at the time. What do you remember like? What about it made you want to get involved? Cuz I mean you were over at PBS. Why did you want to be part of this? Cuz I wanted to go out of my career in a blaze of glory know it was it was so

07:32 Exciting

07:34 To be part of something so Innovative and like you said this community it baby every Community but this community Fresno Clovis and environs

07:49 Has so many people who have fabulous stories to tell and no way to tell it.

07:56 And with CMAC we were going to get not only money to get a facility. We were going to get equipment.

08:10 And we were going to get the opportunity to give people a voice.

08:22 And it was just too tempting to pass up. I've been at PBS for 13 years and you know, once you do one auction TV off and this was just a new challenge and I just wanted to be involved cuz Community media.

08:45 Community while what we call Camino media now, which has been down for like 30-40 years is Public Access Television, right me that's been around in other communities for a really long time cuz I was actually back East really not here at least in the way that they have it now cast video one little cable and how I understood that the staff at the kennel they dictated with the program that was they decided Community people were involved in the production and you could go in and maybe pitch an idea for a show but if their staff didn't it wasn't that show real Public Access that wasn't true public access the difference between what was and what seemed

09:43 Phil what that mean what that Nish pecan and I got involved because the university said too cuz I was working on campus. I would have never knew that I was teaching but once I got there and saw what it was like this is pretty interesting to see how do you remember how you first heard about it or it was call it was the dean of the Arts and Humanities which was Louis coaster at the same time called me into his office and in his in his way of saying thanks. He said don't we have this thing that you are going to be a part of it always starts with a meeting and then I went to the meeting and listen to everybody talk and came back to the lease and reporter. Danny asked me if you think this can work and I said, yeah, I think you could work.

10:43 But it's going to take some work and then is okay. You're on the committee. You just reminded me. You are the one. One that told me about Brian. Yes, I will and I told you about all the staff. Yeah. Yeah, but some of the things where you Brian I met at a coffee shop. We met at Starbucks Starbucks. Talk about what is this thing called cement?

11:19 Remote start early meetings were in a restaurant right? We didn't have an office now and not yet. We were meeting at Starbucks and then he's won restaurant where I forgot to turn off your car off and the people in Fresno and the interest we had in the meeting was my student, but I was afraid to say it because we used to have the production office and that's where the equipment was at. The students would check in and out and it on my way of dealing with it cuz that's when I first got the job they wanted me to be responsible for that and I try but I can you know what I was wanting to do. So I got them to agree to let me hire a couple of students distance and so they would never the ones who would come in and run the office and Bryan was one of those.

12:18 Along with Andrew Michael nickname, that would not be appropriate for work. He owes, you know, he would answer any question solve any solve any catastrophe that was happening and he went to LA and you happy graduation, then he came back and then about the time that he was coming back. I was getting involved CMAC and when we started looking for staff, he was the first person that I recommended because I knew that he would be a great resource for this. I remember well. Yeah, cuz I first met you I took your class and CJ 1 113 beginning intro to Studio production yet and then

13:18 I found out about the B Sharp video club, right and got involved with that and I think my sophomore year and I think even before I graduated I kind of heard of this thing called CMAC cuz we were as students we are contributing. I think it was around four hours of content every Monday that would are on channel 96. Yeah, but that was when we called it wasn't CMAC yet seen that it wasn't like the Fresno Chance Fresno Channel City Council meetings would still air on the channel. What is all being run through channel 18 PBS at the time and as a student, I just got like 4 hours of 4-Hour block on Mondays, maybe Mondays and Wednesdays I go this Monday.

14:04 We have a strong hours. And so I remember calling channel 18 and Sandy are feeds ready. I'm going to bout to press play microwave or something like that. And so that was kind of my first exposure to I guess what CMAC was going to become and kind of got me interested in being a ball and I would I know I would always a bug you and call you like to have a job for me yet. I'm graduating here pretty soon lot of kids that came out of that mcj program at least for video TV Film Production.

14:45 Where the movie kids wanted to go work in the movies go work in the industry. So I moved La just to see what that was all about, but it didn't work out for me my I found out my interest weren't really there and yeah when I came back in town and I was still asking you hey, what's going on with that CMAC thing? I think we were working the muscular dystrophy Telethon pH was doing good. And I was like, hey, how's it going? I'm back in town now. I'll see mr. Going cuz there was a lot of points where you thought of the the studio is going to be opening in a year, but it did happen quite come together yet. You were still searching for central location. That was that was a search Fresno State right until we found out that

15:42 Some of the dean's weather. I think that they have and that was the initial plan that we were moving in that direction, but then things happened to go up there. So then we kind of groups and said well, maybe we can put it in studio away in the main TV studio where the 4th at educational prefer. Our program was him CJ. Then we had several meetings about that and that didn't work as that's when we really started scrounging around and then the deal materialized to come here and actually that turned out to be the best because the city had this huge empty.

16:35 Building them the Met Museum went bankrupt and they needed to have somebody in here. So yeah that the mat went bankrupt and the city had guaranteed their loan to renovate the building cuz the buildings are almost a hundred years old now the whole night 22 as I'm home of the Fresno Bee but then was in the Metropolitan Museum for I think close to thirty years till they closed. But yeah, the timing was just right right you guys were looking for a spot in the city needed a tenant.

17:18 In some of the things I asked them for ask the city for in the back of my mind how it was going to be crazy to give us this and they did because they really wanted to send herself. It was a financially a really good deal and it got us off and running them. My first exposure to the building was I think of November night at I know I came across the street from Valley PBS.

17:53 And I had gotten the key to this side door and it was already getting dark. So it must have been five issue clock in the afternoon and I walked in and I went up the stairs and

18:10 The first look at it. You think I know this isn't going to work is too many walls, but the walls would come tumbling down, but I'm in there and it's starting to get dark and I'm all by myself in this huge building and I hear this.

18:27 Oh crap, I'm dead somebody on here. They're going to kill me. But we had a freight elevator that had a mechanical mind of its own and every once in a while later. Just move 6 in.

18:49 But that's how it is a little disconcerting. We are all alone in the building and I are stuck in Pine two floors and there's still two floors above us and one below and you know, the top floors are just beautiful and a beautiful panoramic view of the city now. Maybe we can move on to something up there and use that space maybe Sunday we can but we the plan was

19:24 That we wanted to make CMAC affordable right to everyone.

19:31 And so the board of directors

19:38 I decided to charge members $50 a year for everything for the use of all of the equipment for the use of the of the main studio for all of the lessons and I had a guy one time say why are you charged so much $50 and I said, when was the last time you took a date and went to the movies one movie with popcorn and soda pop?

20:10 And this is a whole year for $50 and that's been very successful. And while we found even among our other colleagues in California or doing community media. They charge a lot more for the resources unit isn't just a membership fee. It's a charge to take a class or it's a charge to take out this equipment. Are you studio? And I think we were really in the board was really intentional about making sure that it was money wasn't a berry or for someone getting involved and being able to tell their story in adamant about it.

20:53 You know, there's a lot of areas in California to with media centers that are affluent and they could probably get away with it. But here even our high school's you know, we have I always go back in my mind to what we got a van. We got a mobile production fan and that changed a lot of things because now we could go out to high schools and two colleges.

21:28 And and teach

21:30 And I think correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think the first school we went to with Sunnyside High School. And that's one of the poorest schools anywhere around and it's like Appalachia that beautiful building beautiful facilities, but the kids predominantly come from, you know families that just don't have a lot and how big was our first we were teaching Sports production football teaching them how to produce a football game high school football game. How many were in that first class though? There was probably 15 or so. Yeah 15

22:11 And you all did such an incredible job.

22:18 Teaching them how to do that. They I remember the first game. I was out there like a proud papa, you know a peacock's try to move it around and they did everything they ran all the cables. They ran the cameras. They they ran the audio booth and the switcher and all of that. The only thing they didn't do was the announcers because they just didn't feel qualified. I think to do that it we've sensed tried that though with certain Sports. Yeah, cuz Hey some kids want to be down there.

23:05 Yeah, but we didn't have 3 hours or 5 hours early and you know those struggling let me know. It was a great experience and the kids really learned but it took all that time to get ready and even said before kickoff for still not ready. So it was a it was a it was a challenge that first year though. They won an award Alliance for Community media for a prize for student to sports broadcasting. So yeah right off the bat they they were doing a great job and then I knew I give me right then it was this is working.

23:46 And it's just going to get better and better and better man. So, what's your

23:51 Fondest memory of CMAC or what's what's the thing that

23:56 I don't know. It's you cherish the most in bed and memories are CMAC your experience with cement. What's what stands out?

24:07 It's hard to pick one a couple. I don't know cuz we've had so many different sorts of milestones and some you are like milestones for the organization summer like your own personal miles.

24:28 Well, I'm

24:30 I'm particularly proud of you know program that we just did last summer.

24:37 Cuz we're a couple Summers now, we've been we've had these little summer camps for young people interested in digital media. And these are kids who are younger than could we probably generally serve with a lot of our programs and services in the normal workshops that we have every week kind of cater to maybe High School age and older people but with the summer camp we were kind of looking at how do we get involved with younger kids like 8 years old 13

25:13 And also is a summer camp where they came in for a week 4 hours a day and and we put a camera in their hands and let them create a short film and just the feedback might that we got from the parents about how much their kids enjoyed this. I mean, it's just really rewarding. I know like one of the people that got involved that very first year was like a it was a vendor of ours guy from Comcast my granddaughter live in Stockton. You want to drive down to Fresno to enroll her in this week-long. Summer camp is like yeah, so he drove drove down and I think they stayed somewhere here for the week. And I just she had an awesome time. I was just incredible.

26:06 But really I'm proud of that happened last year was we changed up our model a little bit. So it had been in the parent or Guardian paid a fee for the kids to be involved. But we changed it this time and we decided to partner with the Fresno Housing Authority and went out and got a grant that would pay him for everybody's time. So the students didn't have to pay any fee and the students they targeted for the program or all living in Fresno housing properties. So lower income in a Section 8 housing a lot of them outside of the Fresno area and some of the poor more rule farming communities. They they got bust in for 3 weeks and half the time we did digital media and half the time we partnered with bitwise.

27:06 Teachers like computer programming so the kids learn computer programming for the other half of the camp.

27:13 It looks like this is so much closer to what I wanted the summer camp to be really making sure that we're helping the people who need our help the most not just people could afford to put their kid in the camp, but people who can apply that finding a way to make that possible. So that sticks out to me is just like a program of ours that started one way and evolve to be even better in terms of who were serving.

27:46 I think

27:48 And like Brian said that's a tough question cuz there were so many positives. In fact early on we celebrated everything we celebrating celebrated getting the equipment to work. In fact our our grand opening where the mayor came and other dignitaries came and cut the ribbon. It was a Friday the Thirteenth the thirteenth and the most hellacious Thunder Shrine, in fact, it flooded into the basement and shorted out all of our and all of our broadcast line. So we were only on AT&T at that time Comcast hadn't hooked us up yet with our channels and that rainstorm the flooded basement wiped out our connection to AT&T. So I has all the dignitaries are here cutting the ribbon at the channel goes down.

28:48 In retrospect

28:54 I think what I'm proudest of is just

29:00 The overall

29:03 Growth of the organization particularly the staff I have raved about this staff and I think I raved about him to the point where some of the staff people started thinking out loud this guys blowing smoke up.

29:20 But I wasn't I mean

29:23 We hand-picked everybody on board the staff.

29:29 And they with almost no exception weather was

29:35 Is a bumper to

29:39 But the staff is just incredible not only with their knowledge of the mission and their acceptance of the mission, but their knowledge of broadcasting of the equipment of all of the steps. It takes to produce something.

29:59 And and get it on a channel.

30:04 They acknowledge that they're constantly learning and and growing and

30:13 It just incredible relief there for me to see it. I laugh there were times not always my truth, but there were times when we had staff meetings.

30:24 And they'd start talking technically and I sat there with a wise look on my face and Nod my head I had.

30:39 But I knew they did and that was the important part. Well, you know, nobody works at a nonprofit organization to get rich. So yeah, I mean our everybody works at CMAC they they work there because they really care about what we're doing and they care about our mission and that's and they're passionate about it. And that's I think that's just a recipe for you know, a really good staff cuz they want to be there and they didn't hear my prayer was prideful thing about CMAC is that all the most of those kids were my former Street? And it's all your fault. I can't think of anybody unless there's somebody new on the new lesson Fresno State and all the other offer infanterie graduate graduate.

31:38 Reward you sing for me with that. You know, they're all my kids. They really have all blossomed has been great to watch them grow. You don't just speaking as a as an educator. So yeah. Yeah, go do a scale year. You got it now shows a great job you did and everybody knows that and and they acknowledge that and that's one of the reasons that I had to have you.

32:04 And you came in and you formed all of our curriculum and and

32:11 Got us off the ground man. That was big with you when it was my turn to step away is okay. Okay. Okay you go do it. Yeah, that's why we still have strong Partnerships with the Fresno State two and we still have interns that come out of that mcj department that we all graduated from because we know the Cal bullet caliber of students that come out of that program and they're hungry to go to work.

32:52 And are hungry to work.

32:56 Yeah, what about you done with or I guess that was you or you're going to love the live production is always been one of my favorite things to do to process the content. The program doesn't mean much to me. But the actual doing of it, you know, setting it all up letting the cables choosing the camera positions, you know, getting sound clean all that stuff. That's to me. That's the joy of Television was the was the craft a lot of times. I didn't really enjoy what the program was, but the fact that we got up there and we did it and it worked, you know, that was there was always a big thing for me. So to be able to do that on a semi-regular basis.

33:52 And train kids along the way that was that was a joy, but that's something I really enjoy too. And I think that's sort of like still is the goal of the organization thought about like necessarily making the best program. It's about having an experience like a good experience and it's about building that craft and learning and improving not everybody's going to go make a m e a winning Emmy award-winning TV show, but you're probably going to learn something that's going to change your life in some way. You see the incredible enthusiasm of the members. I mean, sometimes they're so enthusiastic. It's like you need to tie a rope around their ankles to keep them on the ground because

34:44 They just love what what they're doing at it and sometimes they can't even believe that they have that opportunity because it's something they never dreamed they'd be able to do.

34:56 And I know I would have when I was that age. I would have killed to have something like CMAC in my life funeral. I was in high school aged kids. So it's just really rewarding to be able to bring that to people in Connect because of that now.

35:14 And for the future, what do you see for the future CMAC Brian? Well, you know our I think for Community media organizations like CMAC, we're more relevant now than ever before people might point to Wayne's World and say Public Access is an outdated thing concept, but really it's it's about Community storytelling and local stories rising to the top and we need that right now more than ever and what's changing funding model for local newspapers and other forms of media, you're saying the local voice disappearing in so many communities smaller communities where maybe the local community media station is the only form of local information for Stanley right now in Fresno. We're not at that point. And so there's other ways that we can

36:14 Contribute

36:17 But I think that's just going to keep shrinking and drinking and you're so making sure that there is a place where the community can come and have a voices going to just be more and more important as time goes on and our challenges is going to be again, like the newspaper industry finding a way to bond what we're doing and I'm cuz the media landscape is changing and we have to adapt.

36:45 But I am again. I think there's challenges ahead but the future is bright and I think what we're doing is really important.

36:55 That's not going to change now. I couldn't agree more it's and I'm just very proud that I had a small part to do with the piano with a big part to do well.

37:11 Both of you do

37:14 And the great lunches lunches just reminiscing about something so powerful and and so incredibly special.

37:36 That we can offer the community and that's what you all did putting this organization together is hard to do to make so many projects like this. I'm sure fail at some point. But the fact that you guys did it as we all did but the fact they were still here in 08 years later doing something to be said he had our challenges, but darn it we did it and we're still going still going.

38:11 Okay, I think that's just about everything, you know know the entire story of the humidity media access collaborative in Fresno, California now Gilbert 10 seconds of Silence.