Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Sunny side up/ Eric Wotila
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Sunny side up/ Eric Wotila

Kelsey Lauer - July 6th, 2009
Sunny Side Up
Eric Wotila touts the ‘good news’ with Local Edition

By Kelsey Lauer 7/6/09

Eric Wotila’s cell phone rings as he puts the final touches on a
last-minute TV commercial for Swaffer’s Toyota of Cadillac. It’s the
painters, come to change the wall color in the new office of his video
production company in downtown Cadillac.
It’s an ordinary enough scene, but Wotila, 20, is hardly your typical
video producer. He started Freelancer Productions when he was just 16
without any outside assistance. He also made a feature-length movie at 14
and has created his own local newscast, called Local Edition.
“I’m pretty much self-taught. Google is my teacher. Like news, I’ll go on
and watch some CNN. Okay, they use this sort of angle; they shoot things
this way,” he says.
“I still do a decent amount of commercial projects. I do corporate
industrial marketing, videos,” he adds. “I do TV ads like this ad for
Swaffer’s Toyota that I was just editing here; I do a lot of web design.
But the main project I’m working on right now is the community newscast.”

Wotila has accomplished all this despite being diagnosed with Asperger’s
syndrome—a milder version of autism — at a young age.
“There are times when I felt as if I wanted to use it as an excuse; you
know, if something’s going wrong, it’s because of… But I never once have
used it as an excuse or said I can’t do this because I’m autistic or
something like that,” he says. “I had a psychiatrist that I worked with
for years to overcome it.”
And now, according to Wotila, his struggle with Asperger’s is mostly a
thing of the past.
“As (my psychiatrist) has put it, if I walked in and didn’t have the
medical records from years past, nobody would ever guess that I had any
form of autism,” he says. “In the years of Local Edition, it hasn’t
affected (anything) that much because I think I’ve, for the most part,
overcome it.”

Wotila’s latest project is a televised newscast created by Freelancer
Productions and focuses on what he calls “positive community news” in the
Cadillac and Traverse City areas.
“I’ve always felt there’s a need for coverage of good news in the
community,” he says. “We see so much of the ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’
philosophy, if you will, and my view is well, there’s definitely a need to
cover hard news, but I don’t think it needs to be all hard news. In fact,
I know it doesn’t need to be all hard news, and that’s (why) our angle is
local, positive community news from around Northern Michigan.”
And the community has been giving him some positive feedback about that
local news.
“I was actually grabbing some lunch at Quiznos earlier today and had a guy
walk up to me and say ‘You’re that guy from Local Edition, right? I really
enjoy your show,’” Wotila says. “When you see that the community
appreciates that little five minutes of positive news when they’re sitting
in front of their TVs, it really makes it worthwhile.”

Wotila had been pitching the idea of a televised community newscast to
Charter Media for a couple of years before Local Edition began, according
to the company’s advertising account executive Margo Jacobs, who helped to
bring the newscast to cable.
“We started with his Web site, working on promoting it through Charter,”
Jacobs says. “And it didn’t quite go the way we thought. We couldn’t put
enough dollars behind it at that time.”
It wasn’t until Wotila created a webcast version of Local Edition on his
own — then known as TVCadillac.com—that he made any real progress.
“Once I started the webcast, they looked at it and said, ‘Wait a minute,
this is really high quality stuff. This is a really good program. Yeah,
we’d be interested in this,” Wotila says.
Wotila knew where he was going with his newscast from the beginning, even
envisioning it on CNN headline news, according to Jacobs.
“It’s neat to be able to offer a good news segment,” she says. “I feel
good about being able to support him, but Eric has done all the work. It
has all been up to his tenacity and commitment to producing a local news
The show went on-air in the form of a five-minute newscast on CNN headline
news in Cadillac in March 2008, and hit the Traverse City airwaves about
six months ago, according to Wotila. It plays at 24 minutes after the hour
from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Besides recently moving his office to a larger location, Wotila has also
expanded Local Edition to include reporters Vic McCarty and Kris Darrow,
as well as a newly-hired sales rep in Traverse City. He’s even hired an
intern, Josephine Suhs, a friend since preschool, according to Wotila.
“He had me first just posting stuff on his site, and now he has me go out
and interview people and shoot short stories that he puts together,” Suhs
says. “I really like learning more about my community that I didn’t know,
and I really like being in control of what I shoot, getting the shots that
I think look good, being behind the camera.”
She adds that she especially appreciates the positive emphasis of the
“I think Local Edition is a benefit to our community because it offers a
lot of the good news that’s happening, rather than always hearing the bad
things. People don’t realize how amazing it is that Eric does it, with him
having autism and being so young.”

Wotila says he has been interested in video production for as long as he
can remember.
“When we were four-five years old, my sister and I would run around with
my parent’s old VHS, early ‘90s camcorder,” he says. “We’d run around,
videotaping little sketches; we’d make up little skits, I did some
stop-motion stuff with Legos, which, let me tell you, is not easy to do on
a VHS camera. (Around 2000) I got an iMac, and I was able to start editing
the video I shot. And it kind of just built from there.”
With his early video expertise, at fourteen years old Wotila was able to
tackle a feature-length film entitled Internet Detectives: Net Bandits,
based on a book of the same title by British author Michael Coleman.
“We made a movie out of this book a few years back, and that was a lot of
fun,” he says. “I look back and I think, I don’t know how in the world I
managed to do that with school and everything else going. We had 180
people attend a premiere at the Cadillac High School auditorium back in
’04, and a bunch of the local media covered it, which was pretty cool.”
After his work at the local public broadcast station TV2&98 in 2004, where
he produced another Cadillac-based newscast titled Lakeline News, Wotila
completed a six month internship in commercial broadcasting at Fox 33,
Cadillac’s Fox affiliate.
“I turned 16 about a month into the internship and I remember that because
I was able to drive to cover my own stories,” he says. “I learned more
from my six months at Fox 33 than I have learned from anything in high
school, from any of the college that I took. ”

“I see that he is going to have his own station some day,” Jacobs says.
“He’s going to take Local Edition nationwide some day. This is a product
that can basically be franchised into any market in the country.”
For now, Wotila says that he plans to stay local, although nationwide
coverage is a possibility farther down the road.
“I’ve grown up here, so I want to keep a focus on local news,” he says.
“The path I would be more likely to take (would be to) expand our coverage
to the rest of Northern Michigan. Literally, just a little more money and
a quick phone call and I could be on in the Petoskey area. The hold-up
there is the money factor.”
He also wants to expand the amount of community news that the show is able
to cover.
“Right now, we produce roughly one newscast a day—we usually have one day
with a rerun each week—but I’d like to get up to a few newscasts a day, a
few different updates there throughout the day,” he says. “(I’d also like)
to get Local Edition to float on its own so I don’t have to go out and
freelance all this work to just pay for the projects.”
Jacobs says she hopes to be able to see him do it.
“I feel like I’ve just opened a really good book, and that book is called
Eric Wotila,” she says. “Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to read that book
in its entirety. It’ll be one hell of a good book.”

For more information and examples of Wotila’s work, visit
www.local-edition.com/content or www.freelancerproductions.com/content.

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