NEW LONDON - New London residents have had an extra source for local news for the last six years, thanks to New London High School students.
Students produce a weekly 10-minute episode featuring local and school announcements as well as at least three features the students film themselves. The yearlong class is offered to students in ninth- through 12th-grades and meets every day.
Students filmed stories the first few years on small hand-held cameras that wore out after three years. The school then bought high-grade filming equipment for them. The new technology makes students feel more professional and puts a greater responsibility on them to create a product worth the audience time, said course instructor Jennifer Campbell.
“In the last six years I’ve heard of a lot of community and alumni support. This is something that people look forward to and look forward to watching,” said Campbell.
Campbell has taught the class, known as applied English, since its beginning. The class counts for an English credit in the students’ record.
Students spend Monday through Wednesday planning their weeks and discussing what events they can cover, both in the community and within the school.
They have covered stories ranging from a human interest piece on a fellow student collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House to a grade school field trip. On Thursdays, the students record one 10-minute episode during class time.
Episodes are aired every Friday on school TVs and the school’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
Dylan Smith, a senior, is a student co-director of KTTV. For a while, nerves kept him out of the class.
But Campbell convinced him to try it during his junior year, telling him it would be a good opportunity to try something new.
“When I first started I was really scared to do anything like go into classrooms for filming,” he said. “(But) as I started doing more and more, I started getting to the point where I wasn’t scared anymore and came out of my shell.”
He and co-director Jenna Hummell now help facilitate the class of 11 students.
Campbell says that in addition to encouraging students to step out of their comfort zones to talk to strangers and get footage of events, the class also offers students a chance to work on their communication skills.
Students who want to be in the class must fill out an application with two references and a parent survey that must be submitted by a certain deadline.
They then come in for an interview. They are required to dress up and asked on-the-spot questions. They also go through a 90-second reading on the teleprompter. Campbell said as long as they can complete these tasks they are welcomed into the class because the goal is to reach as many students as possible.
The class also encourages students to collaborate, she said, which is especially helpful when choosing content because the different perspectives allow for different material for the show.
“It’s a collaborative effort where it’s not just your assignment at stake,” she said. “We are putting a product out to the community so we have to make sure we are considering all of our audience.”
During the first year of the class, students were given specific roles in either technology or on camera, but Campbell said directors are now the only ones with specific roles.
By allowing all students an opportunity to try every role in the studio, they are getting a more rounded experience than just knowing how to work audio, prompter or camera operator, said Campbell.
“We found that when everybody does everything, it takes a lot of the tension down,” she said.
Junior Kara Krieger is taking the class for the second year after taking a brief hiatus due to lack of room in her schedule her sophomore year. She said her sister took the class and encouraged her to audition her freshman year. Krieger said she now feels more confident during interviews and when she is on air because she has learned new skills and set goals to improve herself for the future.