July 22, 2009

High school students learn about broadcast news

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Michael Roberts, a junior at Murphysboro High School, has dreams of one day becoming a fixture on ESPN’s SportsCenter, much like Steve Levy or the many other broadcast journalists who regularly come into our homes.

Roberts and four other high school students are getting an early start in their broadcast careers this week at a news camp at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The weeklong camp offers aspiring broadcast journalists a basic look into television and broadcast news operations, including reporting, news writing, shooting, and editing video. The students present their stories during live-to-tape broadcasts at the end of the week.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover aspiring broadcast journalists later this week. An optimum time for interviews with students about their camp experience is from 9 to 11:30 a.m., Friday, July 24, when students air their stories and participate in news broadcasts. The broadcasts will be in Studio B, room 1063 in the Communications Building. For more information, contact Jim Gee, news director for WSIU-TV’s River Region Evening Edition, at 217/369-8755.

“I really want to pursue a career in the media, be it play-by-play or journalism,” said Roberts, who enjoys interviewing people and will take an English-heavy class load.

“I realize this is what I’m destined for,” said Roberts, the son of Beth Ann Roberts of Murphysboro and Billy Pickering of Pinckneyville.

On Tuesday, Roberts and Banidelo Elegbede, a senior at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, were busy researching their upcoming assignment -- a story on the Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation facility in Carterville. Roberts, who completed an internship at a local radio station during the basketball season this past winter, plans to do the interviews while Elegbede plans to shoot video. The students already had 10 to 12 questions ready for the upcoming interview.

“I’ve always liked working with cameras and electronics,” said Elegbede, who came with his family from Nigeria six years ago. “I love using cameras and computers.”

Elegbede is one of three high school students from Thornton Fractional North attending this week’s camp. He is involved with Meteor Productions -- the school’s multi-media group that videotapes and edits special events, including pep rallies, guest speakers, plays, and other major events, including prom. This past spring, Elegbede and another camp attendee, DéVante Marshall, were among students who pieced together a video yearbook at the school.

“This camp will show me an insight of what television and radio production is about,” said Elegbede, the son of Oluwole and Olujumoky Elegbede. “It’s going to show me a lot of what I’m going to be doing if I take this course, give me insight, and make me sure of my decision.”

Eileen C. Waldron, an instructor in the Department of Radio-Television, likes the camaraderie the five students quickly developed, noting their sense of humor and eagerness to learn.

“They are very talented,” she said. “It’s kind of a self-selecting process because the kids who come to our camps are those who are very interested in this field. They have probably done some shooting and editing in high school and they want to come and get up to the next level. They are very motivated, have terrific questions, and really get it.”

Marshall, a senior, returned for a second year. Last year his story dealt with aviation. This year, his story is on Camp Little Giant, a residential summer camping program for youngsters and adults with disabilities at SIUC’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

“This year, I feel I’m on it,” he said. “I haven’t gotten it started yet but I think it should be easier.”

Marshall wants to pursue an aviation career. But he can see himself in broadcast journalism. What he’s learned in the camp is applicable outside of broadcasting, he said.

“I can definitely see me doing this at some point in my life,” he said. “Especially with the economy the way it is I know I’m probably not going to be able to stick to one job.”

Instructors make initial interview requests prior to the camp. Waldron credits those people for their willingness to work with the students. The other story set up this week deals with summer safety from a health perspective.

Waldron said students learn the disciplined process broadcast journalists use when piecing stories together, including going through an interview and choosing three or four sound bites for their story before beginning to write.

“They come back so enthusiastic,” Waldron said. “When they come back from shooting their stories they are really up. They have been out in the field, they’ve talked to these people, they have their footage, and they are very, very excited. The hardest thing for them is to go through the process of having to write the stories.”

Although the lesson plan is concentrated into one week, giving students the basics in news gathering, shooting video, and then cobbling stories together to air is important, Waldron said. Some students come from good programs in their high school and already know the basics of shooting and editing, she said.

“The difference is we are exposing them to do these stories in a real newsroom,” Waldron said. “When they come back from the field they have got to do things in a certain way like they do in a real TV newsroom.”

Fourteen high school students from Percy L. Julian High School in Chicago attended a similar camp last month. This is the third year for the camps.

The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, Department of Radio-Television, WSIU, and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, sponsor the camps.