YouTube: More Than Just Entertainment

Each week his subscribers waited for a new upload for his channel. Jason Telfer, 40, fiddled with his webcam until a red dot flickered on screen. He recorded his videos in a small, makeshift office in the backroom of his house. His ring light stood in front of him, which illuminated the room and the American flag strung behind him.

Telfer, a full-time student and part-time Target employee, actively argued politics online. Months prior to starting his channel, he was in a Twitter debate with Keala Carr, a YouTube commentator known as Rez Please. She featured Telfer on her channel after developing an online friendship.

On Aug. 17, Telfer began streaming his opinions on the state of the nation, politics and policies, and bizarre news on his channel, AircraftSparky.

“A lot of my sources are from people on Twitter and people on YouTube because I don’t watch TV or news radio,” said Keiran Halcyon, vocal subscriber of Telfer. “I listen to people’s podcasts like Sparky’s or a couple others.  I even started putting news stories on my phone because of it.”

Initial Fear of Backlash

In the 32 videos uploaded to his channel, Telfer had covered multiple, controversial news topics, such as: institutionalized racism, transgender people in the military and immigration policies. He said he feared backlash from users that disagreed with his stances.

“Doing political commentary can be a little stressful because if you put your face out there, then it’s out there,” said Telfer. “There’s vulnerability attached to showing my face on camera, and if I say something unpopular, there could be physical backlash, considering today’s political climate.”

Through an intense editing process that he was unfamiliar with, Telfer cautiously censored his commentary to prevent malicious comments and/or potential threats from viewers with opposing viewpoints. Although he had a small fan base of 82 subscribers, he still diluted his on-camera opinions to avoid “inciting a reaction [he] doesn’t want to be a part of.”

The Process of Creating Content

Telfer prepared for each show through researching discussion points based on what happened in the news or whom he featured that night. In the hours leading up to his show, he checked the audio levels, the camera angling and the lighting.

“It’s a matter of constantly figuring out the learning curve of these programs on-the-fly every week,” said Telfer. “I spend a lot of my time on forums asking questions or playing with it until I figure it out myself.”

Telfer said he utilized Twitter and Discord, an online voice and text chat service, to interact with his audience and network within his fan base to attract more subscribers. On average, he spends a few hours after each video talking with his fans on his Discord server about what content he should cover next or their opinions on his videos.

“I think it’s better as a content creator to interact with the audience, so they can get involved in the channel,” said Telfer. “I think it helps the audience get more into my frame of mind, especially when you’re espousing your opinion online.”

Other YouTube political commentators, such as Carr who has a little over 1,500 subscribers, focused on viewership as a means of starting a dialogue over issues pertaining to the polarized politics of the nation.

“My political channel is simply to get the conversation going, and I have to reach a certain amount of [followers] to do that,” said Carr. “I don’t care if I ever make a dime from it, but I would say I need at least 10,000 [followers] to be able to reach people.”

Carr said generating revenue as a small community was difficult due to lack of followers and viewership in YouTube’s monetizing algorithms; however, earlier this year, YouTube underwent an algorithm change, which popular YouTubers coined as the “adpocalypse.” According to The Verge news, the “adpocalypse,” demonetized videos due to multiple, major advertising brands pulling their advertisements from YouTube. The new algorithm limited certain “sensitive” content, such as political discourse, and since the update, YouTube officials have worked toward a more consistent algorithm for monetizing videos.

“I’m a small channel, so it’s not like I could really make money off of it anyway, but it affects my favorite YouTubers and the amount of content they put out each day,” said Carr.

YouTube and Money

Originally Telfer aspired to make a living from his YouTube channel via advertisements, however, “it’s damn hard,” he said. His channel lacks the necessary subscribers and views to gain revenue from his videos, but he has yet to establish a timeframe for his channel growth.

YouTube has certain algorithms in place that determine the advertising revenue that a content creator will receive based on certain factors in their channels. These factors include the quality of the video, the engagement of the audience and the price paid for the advertisement. A creator needs at least 10,000 public channel views before YouTube allows them to monetize their videos.

YouTube’s video monetization features cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM, for advertisers and revenue-per-thousand, or RPM, for creators. CPM refers to the amount an advertiser pays for an advertisement to play on a certain video 1,000 times, while the RPM refers to the average amount earned through monetized views—an impression/monetized view equates to a viewer watching or clicking on an advertisement—which is awarded to the creator.

“There’s no way [to make a living] unless I had a million or more subscribers. I couldn’t do it,” said Telfer. “Being a content creator and running a channel by myself can be overwhelming, but if your drive is to make money off of YouTube, you’ll drive yourself insane.”

Although Telfer does not meet YouTube’s set guidelines for monetizing videos, he used programs like Streamlabs and Patreon, which are services where supporters can donate money to content creators. Since beginning his channel, he had only received 10 dollars in total, but he said these services were another avenue for making money through his videos.

Telfer will continue building a following for his new channel, and although he is not actively trying to make a living from his channel, he is working toward creating a reputation as a new political commentator on YouTube.

Human Interest: Kelly Edwards: The Person behind the Camera

She was exhausted with eyelids tinted a dark purple. She carried lines across her face like experience from years of emotion—laughter, anger, remorse and forgiveness. Her children were seated adjacent to her as she slightly scolded them for misbehaving, but never a moment’s passing without love.

Kelly Dawn Edwards, 49, was an aspiring photographer that tirelessly tried to capture the essence of human emotion. She had raised 10 children—both biological and foster—and faced the horrors of an abusive marriage, while balancing coursework with her career.

Each morning when dawn approached, Edwards would awake the same as the day before: at 5 a.m. ready for the day ahead. She would wake up her children for daycare, so that she could drive an hour out for classes. And finally, she would spend the afternoon in classes and the evening at work.

“Sometimes, I’m just tired. I’m thankful they go to bed at 8 o’clock, so I can do some of my homework, but it’s difficult at times,” said Edwards, Visual Communications student photographer and single mother. “I am so horribly busy right now that I’ll edit for school and then stop. I’ve owed people pictures for months or years, because I only have time to edit for one assignment and then I have move on to my next one, if I want to finish my coursework.”

Midwife and Medicine

Originally a midwife, Edwards specialized in homebirths before she moved toward portraitures and other photography. Her passion stemmed from the moment her neighbor’s water broke, which sparked her career into delivering children.

“When you attend a birth, they may forget whether their mom was there or their mother-in-law; they may forget certain aspects in their delivery, but they don’t forget who helped them the most,” said Edwards. “It was a huge honor. They were absolutely humbling experiences because people never forget you.”

Through the years of delivering children, she said she loved the professional labor support she gave women to smooth the labor process of homebirths. It was not until 25-years later that she divorced her husband and decided medicine was her calling.

She declared pre-med as her major before she was confronted by her father. Her father, at the time sick with Alzheimer’s disease, asked her whether she was happy in medicine.

“At first I shrugged it off, but he stopped me again and asked me if I were truly happy. I had to re-evaluate everything,” said Edwards. “I didn’t want to be called at 3 a.m. to deliver someone’s baby. I’ve done that for too long.”

From the First Shot

She began her studies at Tulsa Community College and discovered her passion for photography on a trip to Ireland for an English course. Her photography started as a means of documenting her trip, but after showing her colleagues the photos she shot, they said she should consider taking up photography as a career.

“When we had that trip back in 2013, we had a discussion because she was on the fence of whether she should go to school for medicine or photography,” said Sloan Davis, an assistant professor in English at Tulsa Community College and now friend of Edwards. “She kept showing me these photos that she took and I thought ‘man, you’re really talented,’ you need to follow your heart—that was the advice I gave her.”

Edward said she promised her friends and colleagues that she would take a photography course. After receiving more affirmation from her colleagues in the course, she said once she won a scholarship for one of the images she featured, she thought she should “just go for it.” She then applied to the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) for a degree in Visual Communications with an emphasis on photography.

“She not only understands how the camera works, but she has an eye for it, and I don’t know if you can teach that. She sees a lot of things that most people don’t see, and then she captures it,” said Davis. “It’s like telling a story in her photos. She’s always catching some kind of narrative that most people might not see, depending on the angle and depending on the post-production of the photo.”

Her Closure via Photography

Edwards spent years meddling in different styles of photography for various organizations, and found that she loved portraiture. She said she loves to capture human emotion in her photography and spent many hours perfecting her techniques on capturing all ranges of emotion.

“I like to take a photo of somebody and make it into something that tells their story—telling someone’s story in a way that is not necessarily wedding photography,” said Edwards. “That’s what I want to do. That’s how I express myself.”

She defined her work on her ability to capture the intimacy of emotion, especially her emotions in a series of photos about her divorce with her abusive husband. Through her tears, she said the series was a pivotal moment in finding closure in ending the 25-year-long marriage.

“It [the series] was very hard to do, just having to relive those emotions. I learned that I haven’t forgiven him yet, when verbally I said that I forgave him,” said Edwards. “Going through all those emotions, and realizing that I hadn’t was eye-opening for me and painful for me. It was like, ‘F**k, I’m not over this yet. It was self-revealing, if anything.”

After she finished the project, she said she had released the weight she had carried from the darkest moments of her life. She said it felt freeing and her personal journey was the most intimate project she had ever traversed.

“I think all of our experiences, whether good or bad, make us who we are. I do the best that I can every day,” said Edwards. “Had I not been able to forgive, I don’t know who I would be.”

Moving Forward as a Single Mother

Edwards continued to balance her career, her social life, her family and her coursework through her daily obstacles as a single mother. She said she had difficulty building new relationships with those around her and sometimes with parenting her children.

“It’s a little difficult at times and sometimes I get a little serious for too long. As a single mom, all of those expectations that your family has for you and everyone else has for you, makes it difficult to ask for help,” said Edwards.

Edwards said her goal was helping others and to live her life through love. She said she believes that if she did not help others, she could not survive. She wanted to forgive others for their mistakes and find inspiration in herself, through her work, and through her family.

“When I die, the thing that I want people to say about me is that I was the most-loving person, that I was always there for people—to be kind and loving and always walking love,” said Edwards. “I strive to walk the line of love, despite being angry or tired sometimes.”

Edwards is continuing her studies and in the process of officially adopting her grandsons. She is working toward piecing together her portfolio as well as working toward featuring more of her photography in art shows and galleries.

“She is one of the most astounding people I have ever worked with. She is like my second mother,” said Mia Riddle, student filmmaker and photographer. “We work together. She helps push me into film and photography. I always think: if she can handle everything life has thrown at her, so can I.”

Story Behind the Story: “Wildflowers of Stars – Mystery in Yosemite’s Night Sky” by Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes spent 12 years as an award-winning writer and editor based in the Oklahoma City area until she branched out and found her calling in freelancing travel reporting.

Originally, she studied professional writing at the University of Central Oklahoma. She moved toward journalistic writing, which landed her a job as a county and education editor for The Duncan Banner.

“I learned more on the job than I ever did in college, which happens in any career field, I imagine,” said Brandes. “But my editor threw a chair at me, so I realized that this was no longer a place for me.”

She continued her career with multiple media outlets based around Oklahoma until she started her own freelance business in 2012. She persevered through unemployment issues and managed to gather clientele to report on for a source of income.

“When I left my last job at the Midwest City Sun, I was about 8 months unemployed until I began working with different news outlets instead of for them,” said Brandes. “It is an interesting lifestyle because it is so highly unstable. If I lose one client that means deep financial crisis, and I have to hustle and find another way of income.”

Once Brandes began freelancing, she never looked back. She pushed stories out on a 24/7 news cycle, but said she loved what she does because she had a choice in what she wrote about.

“I don’t know if I could go back to traditional employment because I am so used to the freedom that I have now,” said Brandes. “Of course I don’t get sick days, or vacation days, but with freelance writing: you’re always on vacation and you’re never on vacation.”

In her personal life, away from the freelance reporting, Brandes is a professional belly dancer on the weekends. From her father’s advice of finding alternative sources of income, she danced in bars for extra money to help cover her travel expenses for her freelance job.

“Sometimes people tell me that I can’t be a professional journalist because I’m a belly dancer, but why can’t I be both,” said Brandes. “I don’t let it become an issue. I’m very proud of it. I work very hard at it.”

In one of her stories, “Wildflowers of Stars – Mystery in Yosemite’s Night Sky,” Brandes wrote on the legends she heard from the tour guide in the state park. Through sheer accidence, she stumbled upon the story and recorded the tales on her smartphone. She later pieced the narrative together and wrote a feature story on the legend of the stars.

“That whole time, I was reporting on it I was drunk on wine, but I could record it because IPhones are the Holy Grail of journalism,” said Brandes. “And from the recording, the story came together so perfectly.”

After finishing her on-scene reporting at Yosemite State Park, she sat down to finish researching via Google and other online sources. She spent the next couple of days writing and editing, which she said takes a while because she is her own editor.

“You cannot edit your own work, so a lot of times when I’m writing breaking news, I don’t have time to edit it,” said Brandes. “I usually sit down and write the whole damn thing. I put it away until I look it again the next day, so I can edit it with fresh eyes.”

Brandes planned on traveling in the upcoming future, but does not have a set date or place in mind. She said she was excited about the next steps in her life and will continue to live by her motto for reporting.

“My rule of thumb for the whole process of reporting is: write drunk; edit sober,” said Brandes.

Profile: Life in drag


The blinding stage lights shine on the boy in a dress twirling to music blaring behind him. Silhouettes of the audience screaming love at the queen and holding dollar bills out. He snatches up the attention. His lips follow the lyrics effortlessly as his body flops to the floor. Roaring applause, and the lights dim. His number is finished, and he returns to the dressing room, counting his dwindling tips.

Jonathan Cleveland-Hindman, a 25-year-old queen known as Jexa Ren’ae Van de Kamp, took the stage once again after The Wreckroom drag club reopened its doors to the public in July. The Wreckroom was Oklahoma City’s premiere drag club for LGBT youth, and was previously closed for financial reasons.

“Drag is all about expressing myself,” said Cleveland-Hindman, host and performer at The Wreckroom. “It was a way of escaping reality, and just stepping into a different life for a second.”

At 14 years old, Cleveland-Hindman began his drag career after stepping into the spotlight one amateur night. That one performance turned into 11 years on stage and counting. Under the wig, he was able to control the frustrations from his life. His frustrations stemmed from his adolescence, where he was evicted from multiple houses and was in relationships he said were toxic.

He used to work the days away trying to afford a decent living. He paid for his share of electric, water and rent through his previous boyfriend. He and his previous boyfriend were eventually evicted from overdue rent and unpaid bills, forcing them to live with relatives.

“I didn’t have the greatest life growing up, like my ‘boy life’ wasn’t that great,” said Cleveland-Hindman. “Drag was the only thing I could control. I threw my emotions at everyone on stage—somewhere I could control.”

He blossomed into his drag personality throughout the years performing at The Wreckroom. He built lifelong friendships, built a foundation with his father and built connections with those around him that pushed him into his drag career.

“We are all connected by The Wreckroom. It gave us experience. It gave me experience,” said Hunter Foster, creative media production senior and drag performer. “We are all family because when you are in a changing room, and you see a man in pantyhose, you automatically have a deep connection with them.”

Through drag, Cleveland-Hindman was empowered to push through his personal obstacles. He wants to keep The Wreckroom open for a long time so other people can make lifelong memories like he has.

“The Wreckroom was my life and it made me into the person I am today,” said Cleveland-Hindman. “This is a place that needs to stick around for the LGBT youth so they can feel accepted and be true to who they are without fear or fear of rejection.”

He noted that, at a young age, he was reserved in sharing his sexuality or passion for drag because of the social implications of growing up in a small town in Oklahoma.

“It can be difficult for kids who are part of the LGBT community to feel accepted,” said Dusty Hawkins, visual communications junior and social activist. “It’s getting better, but we still have a long way to go.”

The locked doors of The Wreckroom during its closure was heartbreaking to Cleveland-Hindman and many other performers that started their careers there. He said that the acceptance and tolerance around the country was causing issues with funding places like The Wreckroom. He believed that the increased tolerance toward LGBT youth today was negatively affecting The Wreckroom because the LGBT youth could be more public about their sexualities.

“Whenever it closed, a piece of me had died,” said Cleveland-Hindman. “I had so many memories there. I was crowned there. My mother came there, and my dad came to support me and that changed my entire life.”

Cleveland-Hindman grew up in an actively religious family and struggled with his father about sexuality and gender identity. In 2015, his parents came to support him in one of his performances.

“I felt like everything I was fighting for in my entire life was to get his approval. It validated me in a sense,” said Cleveland-Hindman. “That’s what I want. I want the environment there to be as accepting as that—a place where you can come however you are, and however you want to be.”

Throughout the two-year hiatus, Cleveland-Hindman had difficulty separating the line between his reality and his fantasy. Every dollar he made was spent on drag, including makeup, outfits, accessories and wigs. He revolved his entire life around his drag personality, and believed that he was losing himself in the midst of his art.

“It’s easy to forget who you are. I am Jonathan 95 percent of the time and Jexa 5 percent of the time,” said Cleveland-Hindman. “The face you wear everyday should be the one you love versus the one that you create for yourself.”

Originally drag was a solace, and the club was a place for safety from the social implications of his sexuality and his extensive collection of makeup brushes, but as he grew, he developed a knack for empowering other queens through his style and actions.

“I admire them [the queens] because not only are they out, but they’re proud of who they are. I wanted that,” said Cleveland-Hindman. “Once I started ripping apart the layers of who they were as people, I realized they were severely flawed, and that didn’t fit me. So, I try to be a role-model for other queens.”

Cleveland-Hindman continues to host and perform at The Wreckroom, and is working on his side project Haus Down Productions. He dedicated his project to sharing the drag world with people around Norman, and to perform for charitable causes. He has raised funds for organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, and his group has performed in the Norman Art Walks and other art-related businesses.

“Norman doesn’t really have a place for the LGBT community outside of campus, so things like The Wreckroom and Haus Down Productions are experiences LGBT youth can have without having to be 21,” said Foster.

Q&A: How Sin City transformed into sociology by Blake Bush

               From fourth grade, Samantha Wallace glamorized the lights and flash of Sin City. She grew into networking her way up into a career of promotional advertisement. Her skills and interests in arts, and her serendipity pushed her toward the local punk/heavy metal scene.

            She was exposed to the music scene since in high school, when she was passed fliers from people on the early-morning bus. Once she was able to drive and find a job, she began to promote local artists, starting with her friend’s bands. She eventually went to a meeting to work for Smash magazine, but instead met her promo agent. From then, she worked merchandise booths, handing out fliers and photography at shows. She retired her career after high school to move onto her newfound love for sociology.

            Wallace is a sociology graduate working toward a Ph.D. in her field. She began college at 17 as a pre-med student, but soon switched after her introductory course in sociology. Since her music promo career, she has overlapped her interests to what she had observed growing up. Her research interests include: sexuality, gender/family, and deviance.

            What was it like growing up?

           You grew up in this environment where, from at a very young age, you are exposed to these things that you thought you’d never see or things that are in the movies. That kind of stuff. You live in Sin city—you know it—everyone says it. You grew up believing that you live in this bad-ass city, these x’s to mark off and the ability and network of people. So, I got involved in the music stuff because everything was so cool. I wanted to be cool. I was one of those weird kids in middle school that bounced back and forth between identities. Here, you’re always involved in the community—you have this access to the music and community, and you get sucked in really easily.

What do you mean sucked in?

       So, I got my first car in high school, I lived right down the street from the venue, meeting all these people. So, that’s how I got sucked into that—really young, like going to shows in eighth grade. It was just so immersive it was impossible to not be a part of it. So, everyone you know is a little weirdo that goes to the same art high school, and you all have similar music tastes. There was always a thing to do. There was always people around you. That’s where they worked, that’s where people made their livelihoods, that’s where the entertainment was. We live in the entertainment world, so it’s natural that our hobbies gravitate toward each other’s.

How did you start your career?

      This place I used to go to shows all the time called Balcony Lights, and this magazine that they were starting. They were looking for people to write for the magazine. It was called Smash Magazine; it was the one that came out of Vegas, and the one early on that was dedicated to music. My music was kind of alternative for at least the teen bands and stuff, so I wanted to work for that. And from there, I got my street-promotion job, and that’s when all the music promo stuff started.

What did you do at your job?

       Some of the time, I’m working for a band and they drop off fliers, so we have teams of people to dispatch and hang out there and network for these bands. But we’d get signed up for tickets to go to those shows and pass out fliers. It was like the currency of the day because usually you get a discount with the flier—around 5 dollars per flier. We covered new metal, local punk, speed metal [shows], all that. Another thing we do in between concerts, like days that didn’t have a show, is go cover boxing matches. So the music promo did other things concurrently. It was all about getting the word out about these events.

How did this all come to be?

       I put myself into situations. Serendipity did the rest. I grew around a town of flash, cash, and all those things. I wanted to be a part of that to be cool. I never considered myself one of the elites. I had to work hard to live in that scene. It was all hard work and being in the right spot. The music promo stuff and my teenage years defined who I am today. I’d be one hundred percent a different person if I didn’t have these experiences.

          How did you get to where you are now?

          I started college when I was 17—did terrible. At the same time, I had taken my first sociology course. Everything made sense to me; everything that I have ever thought of makes sense. I’ve always wanted to understand people. They’re so immeasurable.  Just to know that everyone has this bag of whatever we’re dealing with, and we have to keep that inside, it makes you just think that everyone has such a unique story. But I’m one of those super obsessed weirdos that I’m getting my Ph.D..

If you could, would you ever go back to that career?

      I wouldn’t go back to that life. I convinced myself when I was younger that music-promo was what I wanted to do with my life. But in reality, you’re really a side note, and I always wanted to do my own thing. I just never figured out what it was. It’s just not for me anymore. It’s a younger person’s game. I still do side gigs with them, but it’s not my main bread-and-butter like it was in high school.

   How did your career affect who you are today?

   There is so much that town does to you and changes you as a person. The worst part of living that, is that it comes to shape your idea of “normal.” My whole life I wanted to be straight-laced and normal. I thought all of the things that life told me to do were fact, but now I have justification in my career that lets me explore these things. Just someone that has interests that may not be mainstream or typical.

Do these serendipitous moments happen often?

      All the time. It’s so random too. When I was little, I always believe now that if I put my wishes into the world, then it would happen. So when I was little, I would have never thought that I would be hanging out with bands or fighters, or having these moments that make life so interesting.

     Wallace continues working toward her career and the research that follows. She continues to live through her serendipity, and through that, she perseveres through the obstacles of her career and her life.