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The New Blackhawk Broadcasters
The New Blackhawk Broadcasters
Posted on 03/06/2019
The news team at North Buncombe Middle is ready to chase down stories about their school and community!By: Benjamin Rickert, Communications Dept.

“Let’s take it from the top!” smiled the young director after her two news anchors burst out laughing after a particularly pun-ny joke on the set.

Two large lights illuminated the North Buncombe Middle School students in front of their green screen while a red light blinked on the camera. Through a clear glass window, students huddled around a computer wearing headphones and watched as the green background was replaced by a computer-generated news room. The next take went much smoother as the anchors fought to look serious while reading the same joke from a laptop-based teleprompter. Finally, the director yelled, “Cut!” as the team successfully concluded their recording session and school news of the week.

“I’ve always wanted to work in this area of expertise,” said student Layla Stewart. “It’s important to know what’s going on in our school, just like the local news.”

This year, North Buncombe Middle joined a number of Buncombe County Schools in offering a broadcast class. It is another place for students to explore their interests during the school's mid-day "exploratory" time, during which students spend about 30 minutes pursuing topics such as art, agriculture, nutrition, mobile app creation, interior design, band, chorus, and more. There is even a Red Cross CPR certification class for student baby-sitters.

Ms. Cloninger works with two students during a newcast recording session.Media Specialist Ms. Shelly Cloninger leads the new broadcast class, and invites students to meet daily to work on storyboarding and scripting, ultimately creating an original news program every two weeks to share with their fellow students and on YouTube. Students are assigned different roles each semester, including director, producer, anchor, editor, video mixer, and operator of camera, lights, or audio.

Students also work in pairs to create news packages -- self-contained, recorded stories similar to the stories that air on local news channels. During the program, the anchors introduce each of these segments. The idea is to help students experience different aspects of news production and learn more about themselves in the process.

“I’m not very shy,” smiled student-anchor Toby McCollum. “I like that we get to make our script and talk to a lot of people at once.”

Layla explained that she likes concentrating on one part of the production for a longer period of time before switching tasks. During the newscast, she clearly enjoyed her task of mixing the audio. Afterwards, she stressed the importance of a sound check.

“Before it’s the time to film, you need to know how loud their voices are and where your knobs need to be,” Layla said. “It will help you to be relaxed and focused.”

The new broadcasters stand together by their studio in the media center.“I want students to find their niche,” said Cloninger. “I want them to be able to say, ‘I’m good at this, this is something I want to do, and I’m going to work hard.’”

While the afternoon's session was well-organized, all of the students agreed that getting started this year was a challenge. Several of the students already had news team experience through their years at North Windy Ridge Intermediate, but North Buncombe’s equipment was new to them. By now, Ms. Cloninger’s students have settled into their roles and each time they hit record, the quality of the program improves.

“I love that they are so engaged. They can share their creativity, build a news package, make it their own, and be proud of it,” she said.

Cloninger works with the students with assistance from school counselor and audio-guru Mr. Morris Metcalfe, media assistant Ms. Karen Jones, and with ongoing assistance from BCS digital learning and media specialist, Ms. Jennifer Hand. The studio equipment was purchased thanks to a grant from the school’s PTO and Hendrick Industries’ Mr. Joe Lordi.

Dr. Jamie Johnson, the school's principal, is thrilled to see so many ways for her students to discover new interests and future career paths.

"Every kid is interested in something," Johnson said. "Our school's exploratory time connects students to those interests."

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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