Introducing Clay-mation: Former councilor taping Lincoln meetings for YouTube

Posted June 10, 2012, at 3:21 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Town and school leaders don’t have their meetings broadcast over local community access television, but they do have Samuel Clay, and that is proving to be just about as good.

A three-term Town Council member who ran unsuccessfully as a write-in candidate for the RSU 67 Board of Directors last November, the 28-year-old Clay has been taping council and school board meetings and posting them on YouTube.com for about a month. Given that the effort has been advertised only by Facebook.com postings and word of mouth, it has drawn a pretty good audience, Clay said.

“A little over 1,200 people have looked at my videos so far,” Clay said Sunday. “I have had a lot of people thank me and have heard a lot of good reviews so far.”

The closest local-access coverage is provided in the Katahdin region, where volunteers record governmental meetings regularly.

The five school board and two Town Council regular and committee meetings have been posted raw, with no editing, right from Clay’s small Sony Handycam camcorder. The sound quality is merely adequate and the picture, thanks to his tripod, is steady, he said.

“I don’t want people to think I am trying to manipulate anything,” Clay said of the lack of editing.

Clay’s brother, council Chairman Steve Clay, said that Samuel Clay’s efforts mark the first time council meetings have been televised fully. Northern Penobscot Tech maintains a local-access channel, but Clay said he believes that it has never broadcast government meetings.

“They haven’t had an impact on council meetings,” Steve Clay said of the broadcasts. “Just the day after there is a meeting, people will ask when the meeting will be up” on YouTube.

“It is great for people who can’t make it and want to catch the meetings,” he added. “It is good enough so you can hear. It isn’t high-definition broadcast quality, but it is good.”

Samuel Clay doesn’t get paid for his efforts, but they don’t cost him much, he said — just time. Still, they can be a grind. The video uploads have taken as much as 19 hours for one recent four-hour school board meeting, he said.

Establishing local-access television coverage of government meetings in the Lincoln Lakes region is a good idea, but nothing Clay plans on advocating just yet. As a former councilor, the taping is just his way of staying involved and drawing more people into the world of local government, he said.

“Some people just have to work. Sometimes you can hear two different stories about what happened at a meeting. Now, hopefully people will say it is right on YouTube,” Clay said. “It gives people chance to reflect on what happens and look. It makes the process a little more transparent.”

The videos are available at http://www.youtube.com/user/lincolnmainemeetings.

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