George Bachman knows how to prepare for an interview.
The County Council member from Linthicum had maps and charts and photos and anything else that might be related to light rail. He even said he could arrange a tour for the TV news reporters, complete with a practice ride on a rail car.
But the three sixth-graders from Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School said they would have to check with their teacher first. "That sounds like fun," said 12-year-old Erika Swenson. "We have no field trips."
Erika and two 12-year-old classmates, April Jones and NicoleDiMarino, are part of the Kid Witness News team, a project that getssixth-graders involved in producing a 30-minute newscast.
Panasonic Co. donated the equipment, setting up a studio in Arthur Slade andin nearly 200 other schools throughout the country. There will be a contest later this year, and the school with the best newscast gets to keep the studio and all the equipment.
"In my 10 years of in education, this has got to be one of the most exciting things I've been involved in," said Tammy Blades, a social studies teacher and programmoderator at the Glen Burnie school. "It makes the students think. It improves their confidence. On camera or off camera, it really has brought teamwork."
The work is divided among 25 students, with someworking as anchors or reporters and others operating cameras, handling production chores, writing questions and scripts and choosing whatgets on the air and what doesn't.
Other stories being worked on include a segment on the DARE anti-drug program and a feature about the people building the Baltimore Orioles new baseball stadium at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
The three students were on location Saturdayafternoon, interviewing Bachman in his home about the light rail system, which will include a station in Glen Burnie near the Arthur Slade school.
Erika's parents both work, so she stays in an after-school program before going home. Light rail, she said, would allow her to take the train to her house. And besides, her father is an avid baseball fan. "He would like to ride to the first game (at Oriole Park at Camden Yards)," she said.
Erika, sporting her Kid Witness News T-shirt tucked into her plaid uniform skirt, asked Bachman about everything from the environmental benefits of light rail to why construction is a year behind schedule.
Bachman responded that the county had a tough time negotiating a price for the last piece of property, but said the system should be completed in 1993.
The interview lasted about 15 minutes, but -- as the students are quickly learning -- will have to be pared down significantly during the editing process. The girls are learning there just isn't much time to tell a story in a television newscast.
A report about an actor who visited the school portraying Picasso, for instance, didn't make the final cut, in part because of other more pressing stories and in part because the microphone didn't work.
But that didn't dampen their enthusiasm. Erika, who wants to be a television journalist, said she loves the project.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "You get to meet who you never inthe world thought you would talk to. I like to talk."