HSJ Headline News
High school broadcasters report success
December 6, 2006
"3,2,1. . . Welcome to RCHS News, I am Stephanie Sine...."
... "and I am Beth Pratt. . ." The Rappahannock High School Broadcast Journalism Class is in session as Teacher Natalie Hill began coaching two of her news anchors. "You have to sit up straight and open your throat," Hill advises, "Work on your tone and feel the news."
The fledgling reporters begin again, as a group of knowledgeable students crowd around a small digital camcorder making last minute adjustments. The newly formed lighting crew maneuvers the new studio lights as they struggle to eliminate the shadows from the program.
The lights are the latest addition to the broadcast program as it enters its second semester. The program was sparked by Principal Roger Mello, who said that a similar program existed at Monticello High School where he used to work in Charlottesville.
Mello pitched the idea to Natalie Hill who was eager to start. Hill, however, was more than just an eager teacher. She used to own Hill Communications, her own writing and editing company. Hill also worked in educational film production in the past.
She is now focused on additional training, as she won scholarships to attend the Scholastic International Press Association convention and a "New Teacher" film camp, sponsored by the Student Television Network.
The program started without any money. However a grant from the Headwaters Foundation enabled the school to buy a digital camcorder and wireless microphones.
The program had assistance from other departments, as, for example, the RCHS-TV news desk was built by the Business Trades class. Several other fund raisers enabled Hill and one of her students, Kristen Williams, to get the program on its feet. "Kristen is the queen of management." Hill said gratefully.
Prior to the production stage of the class projects, Hill instructed the students for six weeks in television, film and broadcast history, and how to tell a story. The class has also taken two field trips to NBC Channel 29 in Charlottesville.
There, station manager Ralph Tobias gave them a tour of the studio as students saw how the news was produced behind the scenes. The students are now using this inspiration and their own creativity to produce quality newscasts with a Rappahannock flavor.
Television Channel 21 in Culpeper has already expressed interest in RCHS-TV produced programming as the class focuses on completing a newscast. The broadcast team has already interviewed several school officials, including School Superintendent Robert Chappell, Principal Mello, and Assistant Principal Robin Puryear about issues facing the school.
Students Nathan Hartshorn and Eric Montague are in charge of editing, using Windows Movie Maker on regular school computers. Included in the work they have completed is an RCHS homecoming video which showcases the pep rally --complete with highlights from the Homecoming football game.
The class is also focusing on producing a promotional video that highlights various RCPS programs. Other groups of students are working on making independent films. "Our team is making something of a horror comedy," one girl remarked casually.
As the program participants continue the work on their projects, Hill is on the lookout for funding. Her new goal is to get the class a professional news camera and a teleprompter.
She said that the program is still young, however she is excited as it makes small steps forward. "The idea enthused me from the beginning," said Hill, "For me it's a great experience working with the new medium at the next level."
Copyright 2006, Rappahannock News. Reprinted with permission