RaiderTV is Cleveland Middle School’s daily news show that features campus updates, weather, sports, and student features.
It is part of an overall curriculum in communications provided by Cleveland Middle School and is the capstone course offered to eighth grade students. In addition to the daily news show, RaiderTV students provide services to the entire school to stream and record events such as ceremonies, select athletic events, and the spring musical.
Cleveland Middle School has received many awards and commendations including being selected by its streaming platform, ESE Networks, from a national pool of schools to win gold in 2015 for overall program excellence. In addition to broadcasting live to over 1,200 students and faculty, the show is available on-demand for families at cmsraidertv.com. This year, RaiderTV began broadcasting to the community at-large three times a day on our local network channel WTNB to a viewing audience of over 450,000 people.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
My undergraduate studies were in business administration and accounting. I love logistics, and at the time I wanted to be chief operations officer for a company. However, in my senior year of college, one of my professors asked my class to think about the kind of company we wanted to work for. It was a simple question for me—I wanted to work for a company that made a difference in people’s lives. I recognize that many types of businesses could fit this criteria. However, I think that education is a primary change agent in a young man or woman’s life, and I wanted to be a part of that process. So, I switched my heading and decided to pursue a career in education.
I obtained my master’s degree in secondary education, and I was hired at Cleveland Middle School to teach a communications class that was focused on business skills such as presentations and print graphics. Though I have little formal classroom training in broadcast media, my best friends are all production people, and I’ve spent the better part of my adult life involved with live productions. Therefore, I was well-positioned to add a video aspect to the class. Cleveland Middle School already had a successful morning news show entitled WCMS, and I began to offer consulting advice for the show when I started working at the school. Eventually, my class began providing live, daily announcements and news for Cleveland Middle School while WCMS focused on pre-recorded content focused on student features. Eventually, the two shows merged under the RaiderTV name.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
RaiderTV exists under the umbrella of Career and Technical Education (CTE) at Cleveland City Schools. I am fortunate to have a director of CTE that was (and is) supportive of the vision I have for the class. RaiderTV began as a small production offering daily live announcements. At the time, I secured funding through the school system for a two-camera operation with a switcher and streaming device. This initial investment served as a proof of concept that live, daily streaming would work for Cleveland Middle School. Over the course of the next year, I developed a plan for a full-scale overhaul of the studio space. With mock-ups of the new set designs and an infrastructure plan, Cleveland Middle School was approved to go forward with the purchase. Money was allotted though the CTE department for this endeavor.
Did you have equipment available?
I teach in a Mac lab, so students do have access to iMacs with the Adobe Creative Suite on them. Other than that, RaiderTV was rebuilt from the ground up in 2013. The old equipment was SD, and I think the only thing that was reused in the control room or sound stages were power strips. Everything else was gutted, new sets were constructed, the complex cabling was installed, and then the equipment was placed onto brand new desks in the control room.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
RaiderTV is the capstone of the communications curriculum at Cleveland Middle School. Students could theoretically take classes in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade through the communications department. However, there is no specific course prerequisite for RaiderTV. Therefore, many students enter RaiderTV having never had a single communications course. For this reason, the “RaiderTV Comprehensive Training Program” was developed to ensure continuity of quality in the show, reduce training time with a new staff before broadcasts can begin, and allow students to learn from their peers. After selections for next year’s staff are finalized (around February), a weekly rotation is established by the next year’s producer. Students will come one to two mornings a week to train from current staff members to prepare for their roles on staff.
There are 40 seats open this year for students in RaiderTV (20 per semester). Each semester has a different cast, however, there are some crossover students between the semesters. Each semester has a separate student producer team of two students, and producers are automatically placed into both fall and spring sections. Producers will be regular cast members and be eligible to go on-air during the semester alternate the producer experience.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
RaiderTV airs at 7:55am each morning, and the tardy bell rings at 7:50am. Therefore, there are no run-throughs of the show prior to live performance. However, cast members are required to be in studio by 7:45am—though many arrive as early as 7:20am to make last minute preparations. The actual class is only forty minutes long, and this can make prepping for the next day a challenge. RaiderTV is the student’s first period class, so final preparations for the next day begin as soon as we go off-air for the current day. During the class, the student producer team directs the staff on the tasks of the day—this could mean filming for an upcoming special feature, cross training jobs to learn new positions, or finalizing a package in Premiere Pro.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
There are 13 staff positions that are required to produce RaiderTV each morning: producer, director, technical director, graphics playback, keyed graphics, teleprompting, audio, 2 floor directors/camera persons, 2 anchors, a weather reporter, and a sports reporter. The other 7 students not assigned to the actual live production for the week form a special features team. This team is tasked with producing the packages that will air during the show.
In addition to a daily news show, RaiderTV produces a weekly video highlighting all of the events happening around campus. This video is distributed via the school’s digital signage and social media presence. This broadcast helps keep students, parents, teachers, and the community at large up to date with what’s happening on campus. The goal is to encourage engagement and support by the school’s students, families, and community.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
RaiderTV primarily focuses on its daily news show. However, it is equipped to do field recording and streaming, and we provide these services on request. From time to time, we’ll record or stream athletic events, awards ceremonies, band and choir performances, and the spring musical.
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?
Other than the show’s producers, students are selected for a general cast and are not hired for a specific position. The show rotates staff positions each week, and each member of the staff is required to do at least a week’s rotation through each position. This ensures that the students get a diverse experience, but they are able to return to positions they most enjoy for refinement.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
The selection process for RaiderTV begins with an application. The application collects both quantitative (e.g., classes, grades, number of behavioral infractions, etc.) and qualitative data (e.g., free response essay questions). From the applications, students are selected for a live audition. Those auditioning are given a time to come to the studio, and all students read a selected portion of an old script displayed on the teleprompter to a panel of judges. The judges are primarily made up of industry professionals. Based on the judges scores and recommendations, final selections of the staff are made.
Do they write the content?
Students produce 100% of special features from beginning to end including scripting, filming, and editing. Announcements submitted by teachers provide the bulk of content for the first segment of the show, though students do edit these to ensure that the content is easily read aloud and effectively communicates the intended message to their audience. The weather segment and upcoming sporting events segment are prepared by the students.
How long does the show run?
The runtime varies every day. A short show that is just announcements, weather, and sports will last about 4 to 5 minutes. A typical show is about 7 minutes.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
RaiderTV focuses on creating a quality morning show product and has not yet ventured into other aspects of media creation such as creating content for external contests.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
RaiderTV is broadcast live on cmsraidertv.com at 7:55am to the entire school. On-demand videos are available for students and parents to watch at home—and our metrics show that many take advantage of this. Additionally, RaiderTV is broadcast on the network WTNB at 2pm, 5pm, and 11pm to a viewing audience of over 450,000 people.
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
RaiderTV utilizes the best platform for delivering live and on-demand video in the industry—ESE Networks. The platform provides solid, reliable, and great looking video at a very affordable rate. All of our content is centralized here whether it is archival shows or live events.
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Switcher: ATEM 1M/E Production Studio 4K with 1M/E Broadcast Panel
Graphics: iMac with ProPresenter 6
Keyed Graphics: iMac with ProPresenter 6 with Alpha Module
Alpha Output: UltraStudio 4K
Capture: HyperDeck Studio
Stream: iMac with Wirecast 6 Pro and UltraStudio 4K
Soundboard: Behrinnger X32 Producer
Teleprompting: FlipQ for Mac with MacMini
Studio Cameras (x4): Canon XF-105
Field Camera: Sony HXR-NX100
Wireless Camera System: Radian Pro System
Mics (x6): Shure SM93
Wireless Mic: Shure BLX24 System
Intercom: Telex MS-4002 Base Station with BP-1002 Belt packs (x 5)
Mobile Prompter: EasyCue Mobile Teleprompter and iPad
Network Attached Storage: QNAP
Have any quick start tips!
Jumping into broadcasting doesn’t have to be an insurmountable endeavor. The best programs start small and build from there. A simple two camera setup with some type of graphics input can be a great launching ground to expand upon in the future.
“One-box” solutions such as the Tricaster products can provide a quick startup for those wanting to get their feet wet. However, if you have the time and money, multi-component systems provide a better experience for the students and usually enhance the final production value. So, don’t be afraid to get a basic system with a few key components that you can build upon and expand at a later time. I’m a fan of Blackmagic Design’s products because they provide industry standard equipment at a cost that many schools can afford.
Finally, don’t let your expectations for what your students can do be what is holding them back. Provide a solid base of information and training, then step back and let them create, explore, and yes—make mistakes. You’ll be amazed at the product that middle schoolers and high schoolers can produce when they are wholly invested in its success.