Unbreaking the News

Launched by students at Southern Oregon University, Sailor Boy Media Captures Diverse Voices in Local News Coverage

If you think that conventional journalism is broken, then maybe it’s time to get out and break some news.

That’s what Keegan Van Hook, Tripp White and Miles Treece concluded last year, when they launched the Us As We Are channel under the auspices of Sailor Boy Media. The home-grown, independent media production company seeks to cover important stories that they say are passed over by established media in the Rogue Valley. The team has also secured a partnership with Southern Oregon Public Broadcasting (SOPBS), further expanding their visibility in the Rogue Valley.

“It’s just something that started to happen after the murder of George Floyd,” said Van Hook. “And then all of the protests blew up across the country. I just felt the drive to start recording them for archival purposes.”

Van Hook posted early footage on the web, and to his surprise, people began to watch it. Van Hook and his team began filming with more intention and “once it started there [was] no reason to stop, so [we kept] going.”

Sailor Boy’s Us As We Are channel has covered everything from the Almeda Fire to the COVID-19 shutdown featuring interviews with locals and travelers alike.

The COVID-19 videos in particular show varied opinions about safety and the virus. Ranging from masked individuals who are maintaining their social distance, to unmasked folks who share their views regarding the pandemic with confident optimism. Some of these conversations can be intimidating, but Van Hook emphasized how important it is to keep an open mind when discussing these topics.

“I’m a person who comes away with the understanding that I actually don’t know anything, and that my assumptions about what I believe in reality are probably incorrect,” Van Hook said. “I look around and everybody I talk to has a totally unique way of looking at the world and they seem very confident. Clearly they can’t all be correct, so why would I be the one who’s special?”

Van Hook hopes that sharing these views will encourage people to remember that someone having an opinion that differs from your own doesn’t make the other person bad at heart. “[That person] came to that belief because of a whole list of reasons [we] will never be able to understand,” he said.

The three colleagues met while studying in the Digital Cinema and Emerging Media & Digital Arts programs at Southern Oregon University, and via student jobs at the Southern Oregon Digital Media Center.

Van Hook, who left SOU earlier this year, always had a dream of becoming a documentarian rather than a journalist. However, when he saw the lack of detailed reporting in the local news, he began thinking of how to improve it.

“There’s a lot of editorializing [in the local news] and the production value is often pretty low, so once I was in the mode of doing these videos, I realized that there was a niche that could be filled by actually talking to the community,” he said.

The team has received a lot of support from DMC manager and Digital Cinema instructor Brandon Givens, and other faculty in the Communication Program.

“Keegan, Tripp and Miles are doing really valuable work,” said Digital Cinema instructor Chris Lucas. “We need more eyes on what’s happening locally and more perspectives on the air, and this kind of independent, community-based media is an important supplement to the work of the mainline news organizations. Helping to generate these collaborative networks to do interesting and surprising work is what our media programs at SOU are all about.”

According to Van Hook, the team members are incredibly grateful for all of the support they’ve received from SOU, and have more videos in the works. Click here to check out their website and stay up to do date with the latest local news.

Story by Autumn Micketti (@mountainmusicwoman), Community Manager for the Communication Program at Southern Oregon University.

Earn BA/BS Degrees and Certificates in Communication Studies, Social Media & Public Engagement, or Digital Cinema @SOUAshland. #ThatIsSOU