PUBLISHED: 3:57 PM on Tuesday, September 26, 2006
JDHS students take on public broadcasting
Message to the masses

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Megan Hawkins, from left, and Kacey Albers, discuss story ideas for a broadcast journalism class with project coordinator Ryan Conarro. Students will write and edit news stories, which will be broadcast on KTOO throughout the year.
Students at Juneau Douglas High School are taking skills gained in the classroom and going into the community via mass media.

Students in Ali McKenna's print journalism class have the opportunity to take their skills and apply them to broadcasting. The program is in its second year and is coordinated by Ryan Conarro.

The program began last year when KTOO station manager Cheryl Levitt secured a grant from the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. The program is funded this year through the Skaggs Foundation. Levitt said she saw the class as an opportunity for the public radio station to reach out into the community.

"It's rare that high school students get to produce radio and to go beyond the audience of students and teachers," Levitt said.

After spending two weeks with the journalism class, students were given the chance to try broadcasting.

Five students are currently in the program with more to follow later in the year if they choose.

"They are learning the nitty gritty of it. I want to give them the opportunity to try it out," Conarro said. "We're going to get them truckin' on a regular basis and then see if more students want to give it a try."

Students are responsible for writing a basic news story, getting interviews in the field and input sound edit a news package.

"I really want them to see themselves as a news department," Conarro said.

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO news director, works with students to prepare a news package to be broadcast on the station. She said the primary purpose of the program is to teach the students rules of journalism with broadcasting being a source for that. She said students quickly learn that news is not opinion.

"They had to learn they had to do fair and balanced stories and keep their opinions out of it," Alexander said.

"I think they learned how to do more research than they had anticipated, too."

Junior Kevin Gullufsen is the only student participating in the program for a second year.

"I'm just really interested in the media," Gullufsen said.

"It's a lot of independent work and the next step above writing for a publication. It's good job experience, too."

Sophomore Megan Hawkins said she was interested in broadcasting as a way to overcome her shyness.

"I thought it's be a learning experience and a way to build up my self esteem," Hawkins said. "When it comes to microphones I'm shy, and I thought this would be a good way to get over that, and I thought it'd be fun too."

Senior Kacey Albers said she has wanted to be a DJ at a radio station since she was a child and took advantage of the broadcasting program to learn about the field.

"A lot of things in high school they treat you like a child and expect you to act like an adult. With this they really trust and respect us, and you don't usually get that in high school," Albers said. "I really appreciate KTOO for this program, including us and giving us a shot."

Levitt said she received several positive comments from the community last year when students' news packages were broadcast, and believes students will deliver professional news this year, as well.

"I feel it's a win-win for all of us. KTOO's mission is to provide educational opportunities, and we're thrilled about this project," Levitt said.

Hawkins said she enjoys having the ability to choose the stories she will report and broadcasting that news to Juneau.

"It makes you feel like you are part of something for the community," Hawkins said. "You're part of a real team."

McKenna said the class is a chance for students to feel that their voices are taken seriously.

"Their writing has real purpose. It's not for a grade, but because it's something they want to say and in a clear way," McKenna said. "It increases the awareness of local issues, and by creating their own stories, it makes the students more savvy consumers of the media."

Senior Ben Grammel said he has learned much about what is required of a person in broadcasting in the few starting weeks of the program.

"Ryan has a lot of faith in us," Grammel said. "It's like a job, and it's shown me that this is what I want to do."

McKenna said the program also enhances student technology and speaking skills, as well as giving them an opportunity to act in a professional capacity with a local organization.

"I thank KTOO for supporting this and having fait and confidence in teenagers," McKenna said. "The time, experience, financial support and air time - it is an honor to me that they take teenagers that seriously."