Students at Oyster Bay High School are learning about broadcasting, taking classes in field reporting, operating television cameras, filming events, editing and anchoring newscasts. And this is all without the benefit of an actual television studio.
Each morning, their fellow students, teachers and administrators benefit from the broadcasters’ efforts. Instead of listening to traditional announcements on the P.A. system, they watch BayNews Now, on which images of teenagers who are learning to be TV anchors are projected onto a Smartboard, delivering the news of the day.
The 10 students who are taking the classes, which were first offered in September, are previewing a program that will be in full swing next September, with the completion of a new broadcasting studio at the high school.
Erica Giglio Pac, who was hired in September as the district’s supervisor of fine and performing arts and used to work at the Long Island High School for the Arts, created the program. Alexander Dollin, a former News12 producer, is teaching the classes and running the broadcasting studio.
During Dollin’s 14 years at the station, he was also a freelance weekend reporter, production assistant and writer. Working the overnight shift, he produced News12’s first morning show.
When Oyster Bay-East Norwich Superintendent Francesco Ianni said he wanted to build a TV studio for students, Pac suggested that he hire Dollin.
Dollin said that teaching television production is tricky without a studio. He uses PowerPoint as an instructional tool, and Adobe Creative Suite in the computer lab to pull the news shows together. And he’s created an animated background displaying school scenes behind the anchors that change during the newscasts.
The computer lab will be transformed by next September into a TV studio, which will include a control room. The $30 million 21st Century capital bond, approved by the community in 2021, is funding the project.
For now, the two-minute morning news is filmed after school the day before it airs, in Room 103. Once the studio is completed, however, Dollin said, the taping will be done during class, so everyone will have a role in the production.
“I want the students shooting it, editing it, doing everything,” he said. “For now, I’m building the graphics and editing. But the students do the writing and the interviewing.”
They film school sports events and interview the players. They write stories about the upcoming school play, and what’s going on in the school clubs. And they film the district Board of Education meetings. The news is never boring, Dollin said, and it sometimes includes happenings in the community, outside the school.
“I love doing this,” he said. “It’s super fulfilling. I love seeing their faces when they watch it. I’m hoping they can use this experience when they apply for college.”
Students who complete the program will receive a special certificate when they graduate.
Ianni said he didn’t want to wait until the studio was built to move forward with the program.
“The minute the studio is ready, there will be a natural transition,” he said. “It was a dream of mine when I first got here to have the studio.”
Seventh-grader Madeline Mathews is already in love with broadcasting. She is one of the anchors, and she’s a natural, according to Dollin. She also helps by manning the teleprompter.
“I’ve always found this to be so cool — how you do the graphics, the camera movements and the prompter,” she said. “I want to be a psychologist someday, but I’m enjoying doing this. I like being behind the scenes. And when I’m anchoring, I never feel nervous, because I don’t feel any pressure to get it in one take.”
When the Herald observed a taping, Mathews was in charge of the teleprompter, and senior Jaiya Chetram was the anchor. An accomplished actor who has appeared on “Madame Secretary” and in theatrical productions, Chetram said he feels comfortable anchoring, although it’s not the same as acting.
“You get to do as many takes as you need doing this, which is different than theater,” he said. “You portray different emotions in theater acting, but on the news you have to be either happy or neutral. The challenge for me is you have to keep smiling no matter what.”
But Chetram says he still feels like he’s playing a character, and performing. The experience, he said, will help him as he moves forward with his career. “Doing this so many times a week,” he said, “gives me more opportunities to perform and practice my craft.”