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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 07 2012

Dedicated group gets Packer TV up and running

WEST FARGO – The studio is a converted darkroom. The teleprompter is perched on a pickle bucket balanced on top of a metal stool.

The camera case is a Stanley “Fat Max” tool box with a chunk of foam padding stuffed inside.

Still, students at West Fargo High School are getting a taste of how to do television journalism, thanks to a class offered for the first time this fall.

This class is small – three seniors. But with help from a half-dozen other students, they plan to create 30 weekly news broadcasts on the Web, and do play-by-play for 28 sporting events, teacher Jeremy Murphy said.

“It’s a small group. They’re pretty dedicated kids,” he said.

“It’s kind of fun to start something from scratch,” Murphy said. “We’ve already learned a lot the hard way, from a couple of late nights.”

The first week, it took five to six hours to create a seven-minute broadcast, he said.

Murphy also teaches the school newspaper and yearbook classes, and two English classes.

The broadcast class tapes its webcasts Thursdays, to be aired Friday mornings.

So far, the webcasts are heavy on announcements, but each is planned to include at least one separate news reporting piece.

Seniors Jasmin Quiroz and Mark Staples did the taping for last Friday’s broadcast.

Sitting in front of a camera was stressful at first, Staples said. But he’s getting used to the butterflies.

“I think for right now, it’s just another fun activity to be involved in while I’m in high school,” he said. “Just another experience I can get under my belt.”

Quiroz said she and her classmates had put in two hours Thursday, and expected to put in another three or four before calling it a wrap.

For her, being on camera “is more of an adrenaline rush,” she said.

“I’m very excited being one of the first people to set the path,” she said. “We may not know (fully) what we’re doing, but it’s totally worth it.”

Meanwhile, senior Abdirahman Ali quietly edited his own news segment.

“Everybody has to make their own news package. … I’ve been editing the whole week,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to do this. I’m excited,” Ali said.

The class fits with the goals of 21st-century learning: working with technology, communication, collaboration, and problem solving, Murphy said. Over time, Murphy hopes to get the class sizes up to 15 to 20 students.

With more students, they can do more with news, sports, “and even a little weather,” he says, a nod to the high winds and the snowstorm that ripped through the area last week.

Anna Soderholm is the online editor for the school’s newspaper, but she’s drawn to TV and lends a hand with the taping sessions.

“I’d love to go into broadcasting, honestly,” Soderholm said. “I did a voice-over today and I get to anchor next week.”

Sponsors, such as Western State Bank, get a plug at the end of the program, Murphy said. The Packer Backers have also given the class a boost.

The webcasts can be accessed at www.wfhspackertv.com. An app also brings the young broadcasters to a smartphone near you. Just go to the iPhone or Android app store and look for US Education TV, then choose West Fargo High School, Murphy said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583