New THS class teaches communication, collaboration

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A new class at Tupelo High School serves multiple purposes. Not only does the broadcast journalism course teach students communication and collaboration skills, it also helps the school manage one of its difficult tasks.
“In a school this size, communication can be a challenge,” said THS Assistant Principal Niki Peel, who wrote the successful grant request that funded equipment for the class. “This gives us a broadcast journalism curriculum that teaches students journalism skills, collaboration skills and 21st-century skills. It also helps us communicate with stakeholders: the community, alumni, students and faculty and keep them informed about THS.”
Students in the class produce one or two news broadcasts each week. They’ve also made live broadcasts of football and volleyball games and of last week’s Teachers of Distinction ceremony. They plan to continue to provide live feeds of sporting and extracurricular contests, as well as big events that take place at other schools in the district.
“We want to represent the entire district,” said Jason Varnon, who teaches the course.
The news broadcasts are currently available on a website that teachers and students can access, but the plan is to find a way to disseminate them more broadly. The game broadcasts are available at www.misshsaa.tv/tupelo.
“That was one of our main goals, to open up communication through student-driven means,” Peel said.
Students learn interviewing techniques, questioning methods, camera angles and lighting, among other things. They also have the experience of working together on a large-scale project. Throughout the semester, they will rotate through different roles: anchor, reporter, videographer, editor, producer, etc. The projects are led by the students, Varnon and Peel said.
“It is just a great experience, being able to do this in high school, being able to take part in such a big thing in high school,” said THS senior Abby Hunt, 17.
Fellow senior Ashton Huey, 17, enjoys the opportunity to be creative.
“I hope we can help get the program on its feet so it becomes a regular program to keep people informed,” he said.
A grant from the Association for Excellence in Education funded a studio with various video, sound, lighting and editing equipment. The studio is also available for other students and teachers on campus to use for classes or projects.
In its first semester, the class currently has one section of 14 students, but the plan is to expand it soon. Dubbed WTHS, the course builds on a broadcast journalism class the school offered several years ago.
“The students benefit from collaboration with other students,” Varnon said. “They benefit from exchanging ideas and seeing how our world changes at a daily or an hourly pace.
“They also get to see every aspect of the student body and the community, and without this program, they wouldnt be able to do that.”
Juniors Hayden Buckley, 16, and Carter Clayton, 16, teamed up on the first football game broadcast.
“It is live, so you are nervous that if you screw up, everyone hears it,” Carter said.
Senior Parks Graham, 18, was interested in the class because he wants to become a sportscaster. He said he has learned about the importance of word economy.
“You want to get out what you’re saying in as few words as possible and still be concise and informal,” he said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com

Want to Watch
TO WATCH PAST PRODUCTIONS of Tupelo High School’s broadcast journalism class, go to www.misshsaa.tv/tupelo. The class’s broadcasts from at least three of this season’s football games are currently on that website, as well as several unrelated videos produced by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.