Chapters a Link to Cable’s Fraternal Past This week, I got an email from one of my favorite PR people, Leigh Arwood. Leigh, who normally pitches stories for Turner Network Sales, was wearing a different hat. She was hoping I’d write about Alex Dombronovich, president of the Atlanta WICT chapter, and her chapter’s annual Red Letter Awards ceremony, scheduled for Oct 3. Now, normally I would dismiss such a request, preferring to focus on cable people whose footprint is a tad more global. But then I thought, why not? After all, at a time when you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a dozen or so people who regularly complain about cable’s lost sense of fraternity, here was a chance to celebrate our last true link to those bygone days when industry peers regularly got together over lunch or dinner to compare notes, strategies, tools, equipment and, more often than not, family pictures. Why not write about local chapters? Consolidation has taken cable farther away from its roots as a loosely basted network of small, entrepreneurial companies owned, operated and staffed by people who were, often quite literally, making it up as they went along. The local chapters of CTAM, WICT, SCTE and NAMIC are cable’s last link to its fraternal past. As national trade shows have dwindled to a handful and as the PC revolution has helped minimize the occasions for us to actually see one another, local chapters remain one of cable’s few remaining vehicles for quality face time. And as this industry has become more national and less local, more buttoned down and less familial, and as it has begun to demand more and more of its middle managers, local chapters have emerged as perhaps cable’s last and best example of work/life balance. And let’s stand up and finally admit the emperor has no clothes, shall we? Though none of them will say it publicly, MSO bean counters find few words more cringe-inducing than "networking." In fact, cable’s major trade associations have all but dropped the word from their vocabulary. Networking to the MSO powers-that-be means parties, boondoggles and dueling expense accounts. And while many of those same people expect and even demand to be doted upon by affiliate reps, they wince at the thought of their staffs actually mixing work and play. The irony is, of course, that networking has long been secondary, even tertiary, in the minds of chapter leaders. For well over a decade the focus of the industry’s association chapters has been to advance the mission of the mothership, while providing members tangible benefits which will, ultimately, make them better, more skilled and more productive employees. I won’t belabor this, but you get my point. Sure, cable has more organizations than most industries. And that is only exacerbated by the fact that four of them also have a network of chapters. But chapters matter. They matter as much as diversity matters; as much as equal opportunity matters; as much as equal pay for equal work matters; and, perhaps just as important, as much as employee morale, work/life balance, and yes, networking matter. WICT chapter president Dombronovich puts it this way: "As both a woman and a woman of color, I will tell you that I am looking to be a member of an organization that, at its core, is grounded in my perspective. And I think this industry will ultimately be stronger if we are all in tune with a broader range of perspectives." She then added, "These organizations (and chapters) didn’t form because people needed an excuse to get together. They formed because there was a need and a passion for the ideas they represent."