For most students, the morning announcements mean an extra five minutes for dozing or a frantic race to finish homework before class.
But it’s serious business for Egg Harbor Township High School’s Eagle News crew, who produce five shows a week — two of them live — in a recently renovated television studio with high-definition cameras.
“I try to be as entertaining as possible,” says 16-year-old Sierra Fox between script read-throughs. “I think of the viewer, how boring it could be, and try to avoid that.”
Co-host Katherine Villega, 17, agrees. Levity, she says, is a good thing.
“You try to have fun with it, make it sound not all scripted,” she says.
But while the peppy co-hosts make it all sound good, other students are behind the scenes making the rest of the show look good. Their productions, after all, also air on Comcast’s channel 2.
Camera operator David Paduani, 16, pulls focus on Fox as the crew prepares for one of its two weekly live broadcasts.
“I just like watching live news shows,” he says. “How cool is it to run one?”
Meanwhile, the shot from Paduani’s camera is being fed into a nearby control booth, where 17-year-old Paul Caplan — a last-minute substitute in the director’s chair — switches shots, following the banter between Fox and Villega.
“I’m here to make sure the show goes smoothly,” he says, before sitting down in front of the monitors.
The school recently upgraded the studio’s equipment to an all-digital operation with funds raised by the Community Partnership for Egg Harbor Township Schools.
Media teacher Michael Coyne said the previous equipment was state of the art — about 10 years ago — but was in need of updating in order to give students an idea of what to expect out in the field.
“They’ll take this experience with them to college,” he said. “If they choose to, they can leave this place and do some pretty amazing things.”
Kristen Dirato, who was an associate producer for Sesame Street before becoming the high school’s TV station manager, said the program helps students develop a variety of skills, from writing to public speaking.
“It gives them a great creative outlet,” she said. “And it’s good to know for a side job, even if they don’t pursue it as a career.”
Eventually, Coyne said the goal is for the rest of the school to go digital. The show doesn’t show up in HD in most classrooms, he said. Indeed, home viewers likely get a full high-definition experience.
“The majority of the building still uses analog,” he said. “Because of the Channel 2 broadcast that’s set up, we wanted the highest quality we get.”
And it isn’t all about the morning announcements.
The high school’s media students also get to produce a variety of other content, including commercials, event videos and narrative films. Last week, the Media Club held its fourth annual schoolwide film festival, in which students could submit short films in a variety of categories.
Caplan, who plans to pursue a career in media after high school, said working with video is a lot of fun. He recently shot an advertisement for Drivers’ Ed Night in his Honda Odyssey minivan. The 45-second commercial was a hit.
“The whole idea is one of the students tries to break in, but when he gets behind the driver’s seat, he realizes he doesn’t know how to drive,” he explains. “Then someone pops up behind you and says, ‘You should come to Drivers’ Ed Night’.”
Contact Wallace McKelvey:
Follow Wallace McKelvey on Twitter @wjmckelvey