Graduate students turn to broadcast journalism

February 8 – SUPERIOR – A sign on the study hall window warns: Registration in progress, please pass quietly.

Behind glass on the second floor of Upper High School, Xalia Raabel manages the camera, the computer used for a teleprompter, and spots anchor Jack Curtis, while Dale Summerfield Jr. sits in the corner and manages graphics on a screen behind Curtis’ left shoulder. .

Raabel points and Curtis begins talking about the week’s news at senior high school – weather, sports, and the latest offerings in the school cafeteria as well as events in the greater community.

After several takes, Curtis rushes out the door on Thursday, February 3, saying they’ll use cue cards next time.

It’s all part of the learning process as the students who produce the student newspaper, the Spartan Spin, now share the news through a weekly webcast. The first webcast aired on January 28 on Spin’s website,

spartanspin.com

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“I want to introduce them to as many elements of journalism as I can introduce them to,” said Andy Wolfe, the senior high school teacher who teaches journalism. “I thought we had to do video and thought what better than to have weekly deadlines where they’re forced to do that.”

Wolfe said when the website launched three or four years ago, he knew he had to offer more than just text and graphics, components of the print newspaper. He said the electronic format should offer a variety of media, including video, audio or podcasts.

“We tried a few podcasts when we launched the website to try to get our feet wet,” Wolfe said. “We tried several times to have an embedded video with stories.”

However, he said success was limited as there was no deadline to meet and stories could be published with or without a video attached.

“We can’t post webcasts without video,” Wolfe said.

Curtis was part of the inspiration for the webcast, Wolfe said.

An aspiring sportscaster, Curtis said Wolfe found him and convinced him to take the course.

“I said sign up for the course and I will,” Curtis said. “I’m glad I did. It’s super fun.”

Curtis said that although the show is tough, one of the things that has helped him in his role as a presenter is his involvement in forensics.

“Forensics helps a lot, so I’m saying if anyone’s ever wanted to get into broadcasting like this, like we’re doing right now, take forensics,” Curtis said. “It helps to talk, to advertise, to make sure people understand you. It just helps 20 times better.”

Summerfield, the editor of Spartan Spin, agreed that forensics helps.

“I think that’s what helps Jack,” Summerfield said. “Just with those few forensic practices, he became a better broadcaster in just two episodes we did.”

However, Summerfield acknowledges that scriptwriting — one of his favorite activities — for the show is different, “almost a different language,” he said.

“Webcasts are much more difficult than writing a story,” Summerfield said, but can reach a wider audience than the newspaper alone.

“Few students really enjoy reading,” Summerfield said. “Having a webcast that might actually pique their interest more and see our website and want to read our stories. Presenting it in a verbal way would help show them that news isn’t just about print.”

Curtis said he spoke to students who started reading the stories on the Spartan Spin website because of webcasting.

“I said ‘Great, read more,'” Curtis said. “We always have great stories here.”

Wolfe said his goal is to see how webcasting evolves as students learn new skills each week. This week, students will do their first live interview with a candidate running for city council; followed by another candidate next week, he said.

“I want this to prepare kids for 21st century journalism,” Wolfe said.

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