Wilde Lake starts day with its own TV news

May 23, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Fourteen-year-old Eddie Cabic's voice is smooth.

"Live from the Wilde Lake Communication Center, this is 'Eye Opener,' " he says into a microphone, with the ease and professionalism of one experienced in broadcast voice-overs.

Lights come on, cameras roll, and all eyes are on Emily Barth and Sarvin Ghavam, the two 14-year-old anchors who do the daily morning newscast over the "Fish Channel" at Columbia's Wilde Lake Middle School.

The channel is named for a goldfish that is Wilde Lake's mascot.

At Wilde Lake, the student broadcast substitutes for the daily announcements that many other schools still read over the public address system.

"The kids are used to a video medium," says Terry Sullivan, a teacher in the school's gifted and talented program who oversees the broadcast operation. "They grew up with that."

The students open their closed-circuit television segment by asking everyone to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, while a video image of the Stars and Stripes against blue skies is shown on the screen.

On one recent morning, the segment was followed by the lunch menu, a weather forecast and an apology from the band teacher for letting students out late for their classes.

All goes smoothly -- until it's time for sports.

There is a glitch with one of the lights. Eighth-grader Nate Risch is confused about where to point the camera, which swings back and forth until it settles on sportscaster Jeff Bloom, also an eighth-grader. He announces the Orioles' loss to the Boston Red Sox, along with other baseball and basketball scores.

It's a typical day at Wilde Lake's communications center.

Three years ago, a student survey found that only 17 percent of students listened to the announcements that at that time were read over the public address system.

Since the school changed to video announcements in December, however, a majority of the students seem to pay attention to them, says Mr. Sullivan.

L Other schools also are taking advantage of the video medium.

At Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City, for example, students do a live 10-minute newscast that includes the weather, public announcements and current events.

"I think it's wonderful, because the students act very professionally and they take their jobs very seriously," says Dunloggin's gifted and talented teacher, Penny Zimring. "I can see them someday having a career in the technology arts field."

Other middle schools have less extensive broadcasting programs.

Students at Burleigh Manor, also in Ellicott City, do a weekly program, and students at Oakland Mills do a half-hour news show called "What's Up" once every grading period.

At Harper's Choice Middle School, students do a 10-minute, twice-a-week broadcast, and students at Owen Brown Middle School just completed their first news program, called "On the Move."

At Wilde Lake, the communications center, above the school's media center, once was a small, cluttered storage area.

Over the past three years, it has been transformed into a two-room studio. The rooms are separated by a window made of thin glass.

The equipment, much of it donated, includes three video cameras, a video editing mixer, a stereo mixing console and two monitors that let students edit videos.

Wilde Lake's "Fish Channel" broadcasts are piped into nearly all classrooms.

There really is a fish -- a medium-sized goldfish that swims back and forth in a 10-gallon tank. When students finish their segment, they turn a video camera on the tank. The peaceful scene is accompanied by soft New Age, country and other instrumental music.

"The kids like it because they can relate to it. They see movement," says teacher Patricia Dodson, adding the music also calms them down.

In addition to the daily newscast, Wilde Lake students produce a weekly news and variety magazine called "Spotlight" and two student radio shows.

Students say they value the chance to learn how to operate the cameras, the VCRs and other equipment.

But the activity can be stressful, says eighth-grader Emily Barth, one of the two anchors.

"When you turn the camera on, you know the whole school is watching you," she says. "It's nerve-racking. If you don't think about it, it's fun."

Sarvin Ghavam, the other anchor, has learned to stay alert, especially when there's a technical problem. "You have to be able to think really quick and smile," she says.

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