LkldTV Celebrates Lakeland Via Video Storytelling

LkldTV buildingA distinctive downtown building has become home to a growing crew of creative storytellers who use online video to document the diversity of life in Lakeland through LkldTV.com.

LkldTV has its official debut Friday at 6 p.m. when dignitaries gather under the curved canopy at Massachusetts Avenue and Cedar Street for a ribbon cutting.

But its staff has been posting videos to Facebook and YouTube since last fall, with production values and storytelling skills blossoming as the team has grown to six staffers and about a dozen freelancers.

Despite the similarity in names, LkldTV and LkldNow are independent organizations. That said, we’re on friendly terms with each other, and the editor of LkldNow sometimes works in the LkldTV facility.

Executive Producer Jen McLaughlin turns to the organization’s mission statement to describe the kinds of stories they cover:

“LkldTV amplifies the diverse voices of the Lakeland community by sharing compelling hyperlocal stories that inform, entertain, inspire and transport.”

And she returns to the diversity theme in describing the team she’s assembling: “We want to create a freelance crew as diverse as the stories we want to tell.” Her still-growing team ranges from filmmakers just out of high school to photojournalists with more than 30 years experience and a wide range of interests.

LkldTV is the dreamchild of Randy Borden, who bought the former Firestone Building in 2011 and began outfitting it with professional video, audio and live-streaming gear. He turned one large room into a performance venue seating 200-plus, and that has become home to a new non-profit, LkldLive, which has started staging entertainment events.

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To turn his dream into reality, Borden last year hired a CEO — Chuck McDanal, former IT and operations director at The Ledger.

McDanal, a man comfortable with spreadsheets and multi-layered project lists, set out to build an organization and hire a team. It includes:

  • Executive Producer McLaughlin, a Lakeland High and FSU graduate who worked in TV production in New York (“CBS Evening News,” “Judge Mills Lane Show”) before returning home.
  • Producer Calvin Knight, a photojournalist for more than three decades and former photography director at The Ledger.
  • Editor Frank Branca, who got a film degree from Full Sail University after developing videography chops shooting skater videos.
  • Creative Director John Pitts, a news and commercial artist who was visual and systems editor for The Ledger.
  • Administrative Assistant Ariel Brown, who grew up in Lakeland.

McDanal is interviewing candidates for sales manager, the last major position for now. The sales manager will oversee LkldTV’s revenue model, which will center on advertising in the videos and on the website, including show sponsors and segment sponsors.

Borden has given McDanal and his staff a runway to get the station off the ground, but has set a timeline (McDanal won’t say how long) for it to become self-sufficient.

(Borden deferred to CEO McDanal when asked to comment for this article.)

On LkldTV, expect to see lots of personality profiles, stories about trends and the arts and profiles of businesses and organizations. Don’t expect to see breaking crime stories or regular meeting coverage.

A recent video created by LkldTV Producer Calvin Knight:

“The goal is to highlight the interesting things about Lakeland,” McDanal said.

Adds McLaughlin: “The part of the vision that means something to me is helping support the local arts scene. Bringing in a crew of local people and allowing themselves to express themselves is supporting local arts. We’re bringing local people to tell local stories.”

When a big event is approaching, LkldTV’s approach will be to highlight a person behind the scenes who does interesting work to prepare for it, she said. Example: a look over the shoulder of a winning BBQ team captain preparing to return to Pifgest.

Some ongoing series that McLaughlin’s freelancers are working on include:

  • Aeipathy – Robyn Kurdas explores groups of artists and musicians doing similar work.
  • From ScratchJoni Bing profiles local artisans.
  • Lakeland Bio – Regular stories about “good people doing good things.”

As LkldTV matures, the website LkldTV.com will become its main distribution channel, with support from its presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, soon, Snapchat.

McDanal doesn’t foresee a LkldTV station on cable TV, although he can envision a channel on streaming devices such as Roku or AppleTV.

“We want to put the stories where people are, and currently people are getting news from social, mobile and Internet,” McLaughlin said of the strategy.

There are currently no plans for a live news show, but it’s a direction McLaughlin can see heading someday.

Photojournalist Michael Wilson’s video essay on Lake Morton: