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Journal Inquirer November 23, 2001


Journal Inquirer PhotoBy: Matt Buckler

When Robyn Surdel looked to the Information Super Highway for advice on parenting after giving birth to her first child, she found nothing but potholes.

"I had trouble finding any good information on the Web," Surdel said. "It was disappointing."

So Surdel decided to fill in those potholes by herself.

She started her own Web site, "It grew by leaps and bounds, " Surdel said.

But there was still a few bumps in that information highway when Surdel turned her attention to television.

"There was nothing on television for parents," Surdel said. "No solid information."

Once again, Surdel decided to take care of the deficiency herself.

In April, she started a television show, "Robyn's Nest," which is seen around the state via public access cable television. She not only is the creator of the program, but also the host, the director and producer.

The show is available in more than 250,000 homes across the state, including the Cox Communication franchises in Enfield and Manchester and the AT&T Broadband franchise in Vernon.

The philosophy of the television show is very similar to the Web site - to provide information that parents, and grandparents raising children, may not be able to find anywhere else.

"Parents today don't have much time to do a lot of research," Surdel said. "Especially in families where both parents are working. So we try to provide as much information as possible in 30 minutes. We also have fun with it."

Information, however, is the show's primary mission.

"There are so many local programs available that nobody knows about," Surdel said. "So we promote those programs."

Surdel has help dispensing that information. She usually has experts with her to answer questions.

"If a pediatrician is on the show, the topics are endless," Surdel said.

Her most recent show dealt with the subject of children's toy safety with information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"On the show, I come across like I don't know anything, because I'm asking all the questions," Surdel said. "But I research each subject thoroughly. And it also translates into some good articles for the Web site."

Surdel's show is produced at Cox's public access studio on Parker Street in Manchester.

"We do two new shows a month," Surdel said. "And the response has been tremendous. Since the show has been on the air, hits on the Web site have increased by about fourfold, to 200,000 a month.

"And when we have a guest on the show, we always have a phone number where viewers can get information, and those guests always get calls. That's how I can tell we have a pretty good audience."

Before becoming involved with television and the Internet, Surdel spent 20 years as a human resources manager in hospitals when she lived in Florida.

She moved back to Connecticut two years ago and lives in Tolland with her husband and two children, ages 8 and 4, who do no doubt provide topic ideas for upcoming television shows.

In Andover, Bolton, Ellington, Hebron, Tolland and Vernon, the show is seen Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. on AT&T Broadband's Channel 5.

In Manchester and South Windsor, "Robyn's Nest" can be seen Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 15.

In East Windsor, Enfield, Somers, Stafford, Suffield and Windsor Locks, the show can be checked out Thursdays at 2:30 and 8:30 p.m.

In Coventry, the show is on Charter Cable's Channel 14 at 4 p.m.

Her show's sponsors are Boston Joe's Appliance Repair in Manchester, the business which she and her husband own. and Eastern Connecticut Health Network's family development center in Manchester.

Her crew consists of Rockville High student Lee Colt; her husband Joe Surdel, Ben Greene and Peggy Sofianos.

"They're all volunteers, and they give up their time to work on the show," Surdel said. "And Greg Threscher of Cox has been very helpful and supportive. Everyone at Cox has been great."

After all, thanks to Surdel, the information highway is a few miles longer than it used to be.



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