Up Close and Personal

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Citizen Journalist Kristina Kehrer Reveals All

Whether she’s delivering cookies or picking up a camera, Kristina Kehrer is always a welcome presence at CCTV, where she’s been covering Cambridge people, places and perspectives since 2013.

“I literally had a calling; I just knew,” Kristina said about her interest in Cambridge Community Television. “I had spent the last six years writing a book — I was about six months away from finishing it — and I said, ‘As soon as I finish this book, I’m going to go to CCTV.’ I did not know why, I did not have a gameplan, it was just a calling.”

One thing she knew for certain without even entering the doors: “Cool shit was going on there.”

Though she never “had a pull” toward media, “I just envisioned myself with a headset and a clipboard. I knew I wanted to press some buttons, and that’s all I wanted to do,” she said. And thus, Kristina walked into CCTV’s doors one chilly autumn evening all those years ago.

It was, as she called it, “instinct,” and it ended up being a pretty darn good match.

After attending orientation, and feeling overwhelmed by the vast and plentiful options CCTV offers, Kristina took a look at the NeighborMedia program, which would put her on the path to becoming a Cambridge citizen journalist.

“I realized that seemed well-suited to me because I have a natural sense of curiosity — also known as nosiness — and I was also very familiar with my neighborhood. I knew that I liked to write, so I did think that I might be well-suited for that,” Kristina said.

But the Wellington-Harrington resident, who had no previous journalism experience, would go on to do a lot more than writing as a correspondent for NeighborMedia.org. She’d go on to become a nationally recognized, award-winning video producer; would win CCTV’s “Producer of the Year” award on a couple of occasions; and more than her fair share of times has hosted and produced episodes of CCTV’s flagship program, “Cambridge Uncovered.” She became embedded in both the CCTV community and the greater Cambridge community, and now had a platform for sharing Cambridge news and information she wanted her neighbors to know about.

But Kristina admits she didn’t take her role as a community journalist all that seriously at first. It wasn’t until her first couple of stories were produced — one, a video featuring one of her heroes, Bob Bittner of WJIB-AM radio; the other an article on Harwell Homes, Cambridge’s first and only low- to middle-class cooperative — when she realized the weight, responsibility and level of respect her position as a NeighborMedia journalist carried.

“All I had was my little flip camera, but I took it seriously because he took me seriously. It just felt instantly like such a magical little video,” Kristina said of the Bob Bittner piece. “I thought this was really cool: I had a cool reason to go meet Bob, I had a legit reason to get to talk to him — someone I admired — and it felt like a wonderful way to go places, legitimately, with a purpose, places you may not otherwise be invited into.”

And with regard to the Harwell Homes article, “I took it seriously when I got some email criticism from the [Cambridge] Civic Journal guy. I took it seriously because I thought it was interesting that he was nosing into my business, and for whatever reason he thought he needed to comment about this. I thought, ‘Whoa.’”

Overtime, Kristina would graduate from a self-taught user of the simple flip camera and iMovie editing software to the “big boy cameras” and Final Cut Pro X editing software available at CCTV. She learned them both through Cambridge Community Television’s media production classes that are available to both members and the general public.

“When I was ready, that’s when I jumped into the Final Cut courses. It was a very scary transition to go from the flip to the bigger cameras, but it was a natural progression of growth,” she said.

The nice thing about learning at CCTV, Kristina said, is that it’s a safe zone. “If people are fearful that they’re going to fail, CCTV is a very safe place to fail. If you’re interested, try, though you probably won’t fail at CCTV, but it’s a better place to try than somewhere with higher stakes and pressure.”

In her four years at CCTV, Kristina has taken countless classes taught by dozens of professional media makers, and she says she’s liked every one.

“I don’t have a favorite because I’ve always learned at least one kernel of very important information in every class I’ve taken, and I’ve very much enjoyed many of the teachers on a personal level,” she said.

As a NeighborMedia contributor, Kristina calls her beat “eclectic.” Her favorite pieces include a profile on Jenny the Juggler — “she’s wacky, it’s wacky, it all turned out really cool”; and an upcoming video on a “lady cop of Cambridge” that she’s “really excited about.” But the most personally important and poignant piece for Kristina was a sit-down interview with Steve Morse, rock critic for the Boston Globe, on the death of her favorite musician, Tom Petty. While that interview was viewed by Tom Petty fans nationwide (she had a Florida fan reach out to her), another piece she did, on Sarchioni Variety store, went Cambridge-viral.

“I kind of consider my NeighborMedia slant to be me,” Kristina said. “I am the Cambridge. When I walk through my life, what do I encounter?

And she’s not afraid to get up-close and personal.

“I’m not afraid to ask the ridiculous question or the really nosey question. I like to ask people what I want to know; I don’t like just the generic question — or if you do ask the generic question, don’t just ask it and let it sit there. If there needs to be a follow-up question, ask it. I guess when I’m talking to people, I’m just talking to them.” Kristina said.

And if you’ve been to CCTV, Kristina is likely one of the people you’ve talked to.

The CCTV community is highly intoxicating. It’s there when you need it, but there’s no pressure, and it’s not suffocating,” she said. “I would say that comes down to the crew, the staff, the guests, the collaboration part of it — that’s what makes it more enjoyable.”

All of Kristina’s pieces can be viewed anytime at NeighborMedia.org.