Park School podcast helps spread the news

10-student team produces show each Wednesday

April 20, 2006|By MARY SCOTT | MARY SCOTT,SUN REPORTER

Technicians adjusted microphones and tweaked controls on the soundboard. On-air hosts reviewed their scripts. Guests waited to be interviewed.

In the closet-sized production room, a sense of urgency prevailed: The broadcast had to be wrapped up before lunch period ended in 45 minutes.

On Wednesdays at the Park School in Brooklandville, a group of students is exploring a new frontier in its effort to provide school news. This year, the students began producing Week in Review, a podcast that can be played on a personal computer or a portable digital media player such as an iPod.

"In a school of about 900, with gossip and conversation, news can get dated pretty quickly," said Ben Hyman, 17, a senior who created the podcast. Hyman said the idea came to him while working on the school's monthly student newspaper, for which he is a features editor.

"I had heard about podcast technology, and I thought it would be nice to have a more aggressive medium to get the news out," said Hyman, the managing editor of the podcast.

The podcast, which is produced and put on the Internet each Wednesday, is available free on podcast.net and on Apple's iTunes music and audio download service.

The show is produced almost entirely by a 10-student team, with some guidance from a faculty adviser. The shows are about 12 minutes long and feature school news, an interview segment and a sports report.

The interview segments cover topics such as students' perspectives on the value of the annual Senior Skip Day -- when many seniors skip school -- and opinions on whether the boys lacrosse team can repeat as conference champions.

Kirk Wulf, a teacher who co-hosts the show with junior Jonny Weiss, is the faculty adviser. Wulf said his role is mostly hands-off.

"I do very little. Occasionally I veto something, but they pretty much just wheel me in here and hand me a script," said Wulf. "I'm really just a sounding board."

The team meets early in the week to plan the show and then records it during lunch period on Wednesday. After school, producer Ben Goldstein, a junior, edits the show and another junior, Steven Madow, the Internet coordinator, sends the finished product to iTunes. Within hours, the show is ready to be downloaded.

Production is done on digital equipment in the school's recording studio.

There are about 200 downloads of the show each week. The audience includes current and former Park students who want to stay current on school news.

"Alumni are actually listening to it and keeping up with the school," said Hillary Jacobs, the school's communications director. "We've gotten several e-mails from them in response to it."

When the podcast made its debut in January, there was some tension with the school newspaper, The Postscript, because several staff members also work on the podcast.

"One interesting thing was the fear that the podcast was contributing to the killing of the written word, contributing to the sense that you don't need to read the school paper," Wulf said.

Hyman acknowledges that the two media are competitive, but he believes there is room for both.

"We have done similar segments, but there is only so much news," he said. "I think we bring different things to both outlets."

The crew is preparing younger staff members to take over when the seniors are gone. Hyman said he is confident that next year's leaders will be successful, and make improvements.

Anders Hulleberg, a junior who will be the managing editor next year, concurs.

"There is a lot we think we can do with this show," said Hulleberg, who is a reporter this year. "The sky is the limit."

mary.scott@baltsun.com

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