And that's the way it is
The television host arrives at MVTV's Oak Bluffs studio on the run, flushed, clutching his blue jacket and the papers that contain the questions for today's guest.
"Ah, the press!" he exclaims in passing to the reporter and photographer who have been awaiting his arrival. They will have to wait a bit longer because he has to prepare for the second of his two-part interview with John Custer, dean of students at the Tisbury school.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
Life is hectic for Alex Trotter, Martha's Vineyard's 12-year-old TV personality. Liz Trotter, who always accompanies her son in accordance with the Vineyard's community access network regulations, remains out of the way as her son moves through the control room. He is a four-foot tornado, typing, flipping switches, checking cameras, and conferring breathlessly with MVTV's Training and Operations Manager Carl Holt.
"He's pretty fired up," the genial Ms. Trotter acknowledges. "He's really excited about what he's doing."
The rather remarkable sixth-grader hosts, writes, edits, and produces a half-hour program, entitled "The A-Trot Report" which airs regularly on MVTV. Dressed in a button-down shirt, tie, and jacket, he sits at a table on the small set, holding his notes as he faces the teachers, artists, politicians, and other adults he interviews. His questions are often challenging, about their work and their perspectives on past and current events.
"My main goal," says Alex, "is just to tell people about news and jobs. Like what people do. Usually the first thing I ask people is, 'What do you do for your job?'"
However insightful his interrogations, it is hard to imagine his viewers' attention focused on anyone but Alex himself. He is an electric amalgamation of age-defying and age-defining attributes. Confidence and maturity are part of his television persona - a striking impression in the slight, fair-haired sixth-grader. His determination seems fueled by a self-imposed drive that is unusual in someone not yet in his teens.
"I've been saving up for retirement," Alex says, sounding earnest. "I follow politics. I've been on the adult themes for most of my life."
But like the kid he is, Alex is full of energy, talking and gesturing so fast, it's tempting to remind him to pause for breath. Always considerate, he follows a relatively benign statement to his guest with: "I'm just posting my personal opinion. If you don't believe that, that's fine."
At 10 years old, Alex began making short videos at the West Chop Club, interviewing family friends and recording tennis matches. He edited them on his home computer using Windows Movie Maker, a program he taught himself to use, and sold them at the club's art show.
"Everyone wanted to buy a copy," recalls Mr. Holt. "I think that's kind of what lit his fire."
Ruth Campbell, Tisbury school's art teacher, and Laurie Halt, who works in the superintendent's office across the street from the school, both recognized his talent and suggested MVTV.
"He just kind of walked in the door," remembers Mr. Holt, who has been training Alex on the studio's equipment since June. "He started slowly and now he's just exploding. He's at the point where he wants to take out our trailer and do a live three-camera shoot somewhere off the facility."
"I've loaded myself with projects," announces Alex. "I've had a total of, lets see" - he tilts his head, a typical gesture, and counts on his fingers. "I estimate 13 to 15 guests in all - wait, maybe more like 20 guests."
Some of them include his father, engineer Tom Trotter, Island Affordable Housing Development Director Guinevere Cramer, filmmaker and actress Tori Campbell, State Representative Tim Madden, and State Senator Rob O'Leary.
Alex's main influences are "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show," and he has them down cold, drawing from both to perfect his style and delivery. "I like Colbert because on his show he uses so much creativity, and you'll see on my show I kind of use creativity."
He explains: "I was pretending to read a newspaper and I pretended not to notice that the camera was on, but really I did, because I would have had to. And then I did the same for the closing. That was funny."
Alex's curiosity about jobs was sparked when he started researching colleges online. "When I heard about Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, I wondered how I could get into them. That's when I started to know what degrees qualified for jobs and that's how I got into jobs."
Ever mindful of what his future might hold, Alex, a wide smile on his face, claims TV is just for fun. When he grows up he'd like to be a politician.
"Truthfully, I wanted to spend 10 years as a baseball player, 10 years as a football player, and then do the rest as a politician. Or just do 50 years in the Senate."
Alex's interest in politics was evident in his interview with Senator O'Leary and Representative Madden, which premiered last week. He covered a number of issues, ranging from a recent ocean management act to the presidential inauguration.
"He wants to do Deval Patrick next," says his mother, less-than-half-joking.
For Alex, "The A-Trot Report" is only the beginning. For next year, Alex is thinking about attending Falmouth Academy, where he foresees his television work flourishing. "I wouldn't necessarily do the same show. I may do "Good Morning, Falmouth," or "Good Day, Falmouth," or a cooking show, I don't know. I'm interested in everything, basically."
The young television host is his own toughest critic. Alex didn't think he was at his best on the show featuring Senator O'Leary and State Representative Madden. "I wouldn't consider that I was myself that interview," he reflects. "It was because the hotness. This room was boiling that day, so it threw me off. No offence to MVTV. It was partly because I was wearing a tie."
"The A-Trot Report," Thurs., Feb. 19, 6:30 pm. MVTV channel 13. Visit mvtv.org for other show times.