Saugerties students produce morning news program, thanks to help from Jimmy Fallon

After a few years of trying to put the pieces together, the SHS-TV’s morning announcements are now a part of the daily routine. Short professional-level reports on campus news is being broadcast directly into the classrooms. By next month, the Saugerties district’s four elementary schools will get their own school-specific daily news reports. 

“It’s pretty cool,” said Jackie Hayes, teacher of the first-period broadcast journalism class. Her class produces the news reports on camera and behind the scenes. Broadcast journalism is taught as the third year in the computer video production (CPV) course. Both in popularity and technological sophistication, the program has continued to evolve, much assisted by a 2017 donation of $100,000 by Tonight Show host and SHS Class of 1992 alum Jimmy Fallon.

“Jimmy Fallon came in and kind of saved the day for us,” said SHS business and CPV teacher Scott Wickham. “He got us the TVs for the individual [class]rooms. We were able to order 4K cameras for the classroom, which work perfectly with our TriCaster [a product that streamlines video production and streaming], which we got through another grant. It’s better now than it ever has been.”

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There are over 100 students in the CVP program. Fewer than 20 of them are in the broadcast journalism class that produces the morning news reports, two or three minutes of morning announcements that are taped early in the period, broadcast into first-period classrooms, and posted to the Saugerties High page of the district’s website. 

Like most of the kids in first-period broadcast journalism class, junior Matt Morgan starts his school day a bit earlier. “I get there kind of early every morning,” said Morgan. “I’ve always said, ‘Hey, can you show me how to do this? I want to do it so you guys don’t have to worry about it any more.’ As that went on I started getting more interested in how everything works behind the scenes. And then I’m asking how to do other parts, and anyone else that knows how to do something will teach other people how to do that.”

Putting together each day’s broadcast is a streamlined process. “Teachers submit their morning announcements,” said Scott Wickham. “We have students compiling them every morning when they get into school. They’re put up on the teleprompter, and we’re rocking and rolling. We’ve trained the kids to close-caption them so they’re compliant with federal regulations. It really is a process.” 

Images from various SHS-TV News broadcasts.

With the school year just two months old, the students in broadcast journalism are still trying everything out, moving from the control room to cameras, lights to teleprompter, and ultimately behind the newscasting desk. Two students fill that role each morning in a broadcast which opens with the SHS News graphic.

On November 5 Erin Blank and Madison Cunzio sat behind the desk delivering school information with the poise of professional newscasters. 

Hayes said it was important that each student in the broadcast journalism class get an opportunity to try all the roles involved in putting the news broadcasts together. Later in the school year, students may have opportunities to focus more often on specific areas. 

“They may not even know what they’re interested in until they try it,” Hayes explained. “It’s just as important to find out what you don’t want to do as it is to find out what you do want to do.” 

The plan is to expand the morning announcements and create daily school-specific episodes for each of the elementary schools by December 3. Hayes said it should be fairly easy to move from the high-school announcements to those for the elementary schools. 

“The morning announcements at the high school are done before 8 a.m.,” she said. “The kids are in by 7:40, and by 8 they’re done recording and they’re up on the website. The announcements for the elementary schools will come in in the same way to SHS-TV. That’s just a matter of sitting behind the desk and saying, ‘In Grant D. Morse…’, ‘In Riccardi…’”

It would be a bit more work, Morgan said, and perhaps a bit more stress as well. “With all of the elementary schools it might be a little nerve-wracking to broadcast to them, to people I’ve never met before,” he said. “But maybe some of those kids will see it and say, ‘Wow, I want to do that,’ and go through the same thought process that I’m going through currently.”

Morgan thinks that he’d like to study filmmaking and broadcast journalism in college. 

“I never would have thought about it before I joined the [CVP] program,” said Morgan. “Now that I’m in broadcast journalism I’m thinking I’d love to do this every single day of my life. It would make it so much easier to go to work. I keep looking at colleges and wondering if they have a film major, and if they don’t I’m not sure they’re the right school for me.” 

Also in the works for December is a monthly newsmagazine.

“The announcements are kind of like the network news: ‘Who, what, when and where,’ said Hayes. “And then in their news magazine pieces they can get more into the how and why, and you can delve into things deeper.” 

An audition process will determine which students gets to produce newsmagazine stories. Morgan said he hopes he’ll make the cut. 

“There’s a story I’ve had in mind for a couple of months now,” the junior said. “There are so many different memorials around our school, and a lot of kids don’t necessarily know what they are. There’s just so much news and information about our school that people should know about.”

There are 2 comments

  1. Joe Defino

    This is awesome! The teachers and administrators have done a tremendous job giving these students the opportunity for authentic news gathering and reporting. Thanks to all who make this possible.

  2. Helen Francello

    Jackie Hayes and Scott Wickham have done a magnificent job creating the most sophisticated program! And the students have done an outstanding job! From Mr. Joe Defino’s program at Morse, to this program at the high school- KUDOS to all!!

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