Newark City Schools first ventured into Broadcasting on March 18th 1963 with UHF station WGSF Channel 28.
In 1970, the station moved from Channel 28 to Channel 31 where it continued to operate until June 30th 1976 when it moved to the newly installed Time-Warner cable TV system. The station’s former remote truck and several pieces of equipment are now on display in the Early Television Museum in Hilliard Ohio (http://www.earlytelevision.org/). Over the years, the program has been hosted by Newark High School and the local technical school C-TEC. Today, it operates out of Newark High School under the name “Wildcat News Net” on Time-Warner Digital 19.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
My career started with a high school TV production class. This is where I discovered the world of TV production and fell in love with it. I went on to get my Bachelors degree in Broadcasting and worked in TV and radio doing production and engineering for many years. I also went on to get a Masters in Information Systems Management (in most stations the engineers also take care of the computers). I was working at another school district as a system administrator where I was using my broadcast engineering background to rebuild the sound system in their auditorium. Afterwards, I was helping the teacher get a media class started using the newly rebuilt facility and found I was enjoying working with the students. I started looking into what it would take to get a license to teach when this position with Newark City Schools opened up.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
I was fortunate, with this program’s rich history, we had an existing trust created by a local family which provides a yearly source of revenue that we are able to use for equipment for the program.
Did you have equipment available?
As the local cable educational access, we have a two camera studio in the high school. It is currently standard definition, but I’m in the process of converting it piece by piece to HD. Last year, I replaced the aging video switcher and VTRs with a New-Tek TriCaster-40. The thing I liked about that unit was the compatibility with our existing standard definition equipment and the ability to migrate to HD as we swapped out the gear.
We also have 8 Panasonic AG-AC90 Digital Camcorders and a 24 workstation computer lab with Mac computers running Final Cut Pro X.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
Last year, we had around 50 students each semester spread over 3 classes. I often joke that this program has been the school’s best kept secret and I’m working to grow the numbers and spread the word about this program. It is currently a 3 year program, starting with a 1 semester intro class, then a 1 year studio class, and finally a 1 year special projects class.
The intro class focusses on single camera ENG/EFP production and editing. They shoot PSAs, News Stories, Interviews, and Documentaries.
The studio class focuses on newscasts. They perform newscasts live-to-tape to learn how a live newscast works. They rotate through crew positions working a different one each day.
The special projects class combines ENG/EFP and Studio work to create programs for the district. They do board meetings, sports events, and a monthly news magazine that covers all of the schools in the district called “Newark Schools NOW!”. They also work on short film projects of their own design to enter into competitions.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
Our classes are 45 minutes in length, which is a real challenge. Many of the students work outside of the normal class schedule, coming in during study hall and lunch to edit. Students can sign out cameras overnight or over the weekend (Students and their Parents have to sign a form taking responsibility for the equipment and repairs should the students damage the equipment intentionally)
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
We do a 2-anchor newscast with a crew of 4 to 6 students, while remaining students work in the computer lab to prepare the script for the next day. The director is the primary writer the day before, so they direct their own script and are responsible for any problems with it.
We also do a program called “Between the Periods” which runs during the 5 minute period change on monitors located in the school hallways. This program has a brief headline news format combined with an on-screen countdown to the tardy bell.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
The projects class produces the monthly board meetings, the Citizen of the Month Luncheon, and “Newark Schools NOW!”. This year we are introducing a monthly sports magazine show that we will use a lot of GoPro footage with and interviews with players and coaches. We are limited in Assemblies and Musical Performances because of copyright issues, but we will do stories on the events and use clips of the events.
What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
The students rotate through all of the crew positions to allow them to try each job. It allows them to better understand the problems each crew person has to deal with so when things don’t go right it’s harder for them to get mad at any one person. It also helps make them able to fill in if someone is absent. This is the way my college classes worked.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
Do they write the content?
Yes. I try to give students as much control over the programs as I can.
How long does the show run?
Our school newscasts average 5 to 10 minutes. Our advanced projects class videos are more in the 20 to 30 minute range. The intro class assignments range from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
This year, we submitted our first entries to the Ohio Valley chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. We won the Student Production Award for Public Service Announcements and got honorable mention in 3 other categories.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
The high school has an internal channel on the closed circuit TV system. We also have channel 19 on the city’s cable TV system, We have a website on US Education TV, and finally, we have a channel on YouTube which serves as an archive of all of our content.
The students in the Advanced class manage the US Education site, this allows them to learn to use website management tools like they would if the published digital media for a company somewhere.
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
We created an Archive on YouTube last fall by going through all of our computers and backups looking for past content that we could post. Our YouTube now goes back over 10 years, allowing alumni to revisit their favorites.
We also have a page on Facebook where we have historical pictures from WGSF along with our current work. My goal was to make this a community for our programs alumni, parents, and current students to gather and share ideas.
To better reach our current students both inside and outside of the program, we have Twitter and Instagram pages. We post updates on Twitter when a new video is published and behind the scenes photos of students working on their projects on Instagram.
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Our studio has 2 Sony EFP style cameras configured as studio cameras with prompters. We have a New-Tek Tricaster-40 with a 3rd part Tally Light interface. The Tricaster is nice in that it provides a switcher, playback, and recording system all in one box. If you use a green-screen, you can use different computer generated virtual sets with each of your shows. We also have a 2 channel studio intercom system with headsets for camera operators on one channel and ear pieces for the on-set talent. This allows us to turn off the talent’s earpieces so that they aren’t distracted by directors calling camera shots while trying to read.
For mobile production, we have 8 Panasonic professional camcorders, a New-Tek TriCaster Mini, and Mac computers with Final Cut Pro X.
Have any quick start tips!
As you buy equipment, look for things that will grow with you over time. For example, make sure your Camcorders have XLR audio inputs and HDMI video outputs. This way you can add professional microphones later, and use them with something like a TriCaster for live production later. Always think what is the next thing I’d like to have and will this work with that when the time comes.