Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh I See! News in ASL !!!

Don't you hate it when you're watching the news and the Closed Captioning (CC) is behind, incorrect, or even doesn't show up??? I hate it too! I finally found a good website where I can watch everyday news in American Sign Language (ASL).

"Our vision is to provide the best available resource for news, information and entertainment in American Sign Language. We do this by producing original programming in ASL and organizing available ASL content from the web."

Lastly, I got the opportunity to interview with the founder of See below for the script. 


1) Is Deaf owned?
     Yes. My name is Mary Luczki, I'm deaf, and run the company with two hearing partners, Carrie Lezotte, and Diane Cheklich.  Carrie and Diane have business and production experience (they own oneofusfilms), and used their money to get us going.  I manage all the content, what stories are important to the Deaf, what videos are good enough ASL for the site, and I make sure we are Deaf and ASL in our overall viewpoint, focus and vision.  I also want to make sure there is a variety of ASL signing styles for everyone.  Even though it is my partners who have provided the money for this, they have made it clear that this is for the Deaf, it's our community, and they never even think about telling me what to say or do on the site. 

2) Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came up with this idea?

     I have an interesting story for that. Everyone in my family is Deaf and I was born hard of hearing. My family always asks me questions; "What's going on? What are they saying? What are they doing?" and so forth. I was almost like an interpreter or perhaps a reporter, always explaining everything to them. Eventually, I became fully Deaf when I was around 13 years old. If you don't mind me saying, that's when I became "normal" with the rest of my family.  Yet I still enjoyed gathering news and explaining it to my family and friends. That led me to the idea of signing out the news.  Another hearing friend came up with the idea of putting it on VHS tapes, and distributing it via a subscription system. We tried it out, but it was difficult to do that because we didn't have enough technology back at that time time around the 1990s. Fortunately, technology is now easy for all of us. We also have the Internet. Anyone all over the world can access it. So I decided to give it another try! My friend, Fawn Alleyne, who happened to work for, contacted me and suggested setting it up for the internet. She was kind enough to set up a meeting with Carrie and Diane where I could pitch my idea to them. They loved it and here we are as a result.

3) How long have been up and running?
     Just a bit more than a year now.  I met Carrie and Diane about two years ago through Fawn, and we met and worked on the site, shooting videos and talking about it, for about a year before we launched, in April of 2009. 

4) May I ask, in what ways are the sponsors helping you?

     They gave me all the equipment needed to do this. They literally are paying for everything including the website.  We actually are earning nothing from this. This is all volunteer-based.  They have even provided a mini-studio in my home to make it easier for me to generate the news videos at home, then upload to be edited and put on the site.

5) That is very generous of them! Do you have any plans to bring in any revenues to help reduce the financial burden from your sponsors?
     Oh yes. We truly appreciate everything they have done for us. In fact, we are thinking of ways to pay them back as our token of appreciation. We have some ads on our website, but that doesn't pay much yet because we haven't reached the #s of members needed to make a significant difference. As we continue to build our membership by providing the best ASL resource on the web, our ad sales will help generate the money we need.  We've been steadily growing for a year, and we've found out about half our audience are people learning ASL, so we're going to offer a reasonably priced captioning option that those learning ASL can pay for monthly. OICmovies has just been spending money to get to where we are, and so this service will turn us into a real business that can create jobs for more people. We really want to publish new stories every day and have a variety of reporters, but it will take a bit of regular money to do that. Additionally, we just released our first dvd, "Best of OIC Movies 2009: ASL only edition" for $19.95. Also, people can support us by purchasing shirts, hats & caps, bags, cups, buttons, magnets, and mouse pads on  we plan to have a Best of Cassie DVD available soon as well.  Cassie is our star Deaf comedian. 

6) I noticed you did say you need #s of members needed to make a significant difference, what kind of #s are you talking about? 
     Well, we now have about over 10,000 members and and that was one of the milestones we needed to hit, then revenues generated from the ads will increase. So the # of hits which means the # of people that visit can be used to attract sponsors and advertisers. Think what it would be if we could have 100,000 members!

As you may or not know, there are other websites such as DeafNewspaper., iDeafnews and etc, how are you different?

     I prefer to focus on the news happening around us. Often enough, Deaf people would watch the news, but they don't understand it quite well. Sometimes the Closed Captioning (CC) are out of sync, far behind, or doesn't even appear or is just plain inaccurate. That really hurt the Deaf population. Also, in Deaf culture, we do not only want to know the story, but we want to know why and how. For example, the earthquake in Haiti; the news about people getting hurt and millions of dollars in damage is not enough for Deaf people. Deaf people want to know how did it happen? What caused it?  Also, sometimes Deaf people are not familiar with their terminology such as Richter magnitude scale, aftershock, and etc. In my videos, I make sure to explain the terminology, "why" and "how".  I think Deaf people really benefit from it.
     Also I would like to add one more thing. iDeafNews seems to focus on the Deaf-related events. DeafNewspaper like to talk about Deaf personal stories. Finally, OIC Movies are about the daily news that you see on television. So I think with three of us, we complete the world of news. That's a good thing in my opinion. 

What's the biggest opportunity you predict for your business?
     Well, the beauty of news is that we'll never run out of news. There'll always be something going on in USA and in the world. As I said before, if we can figure out how to generate revenues, I think we can finally start paying people for reports than asking them to volunteer. That'll help us to increase the amount of news and even broadcast it 24/7. 

What's the biggest challenge OIC Moviesis currently facing? 
     Probably generating revenue so we can accomplish more. We've been able to get a lot accomplished without a lot of resources, so, like any new small business, managing our growth is a challenge. There's so much we want to do, so many stories to tell, and probably the hardest thing is to stay focused on one thing, delivering the news once a week, when there are so many things that need to get done. We want to be neutral and unbiased and factual. We just want to deliver the news and let the Deaf think for themselves. We have a small staff, the three of us and a few other volunteers, so we can't make big things happen quickly, but we are thinking big!
     In addition, we are working on being family friendly, so that any one of any age can watch us.  I have had schools who contacted me and told me how much they enjoyed showing OIC Movies to their children. The children really benefit from it. However, I did have one school who contacted  me and told me they couldn?t show my website because unknown to me, one of the google ads was showing a dating website and it was not allowed in their school. I had to contact the website host and ask them to block those kind of ads. Go figure. Those kind of things are sometimes unexpected obstacles that we face, but that?s part of business. We can't always react as fast as we want to, but we were able to make the chance.

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