Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Live from Northwood, it’s WNHS

High school’s students get experience in radio and television with equipment that rivals that of the pros

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Northwood High School radio personalities Molly ‘‘Clorrocks” Horrocks (left) and Lacey ‘‘DJ Demo” Wilson share a laugh live on their WNHS morning show Monday at the Silver Spring school.
Every morning, juniors Molly Horrocks and Lacey Wilson get to school just as the sun begins to rise to help the rest of the students and teachers at Northwood High School wake up.

Some days, it means the disc jockeys talk about weird and local news on the school’s radio station, WNHS, while the school’s television crew prepares for the day’s morning broadcast. Most days it means playing the latest music. One day — OK, three days — it meant talking about how pop singer Britney Spears shaved her head.

‘‘It’s a lot of fun,” said Horrocks, a 16-year-old junior from Wheaton. ‘‘You have to get up really early, but it’s worth it. We have the opportunity to talk about everything.”

When the station went live a few years ago, it was ‘‘awkward,” Horrocks said. But, Wilson added, ‘‘We just kept talking.”

About 20 students make sure everything runs smoothly with the radio station and work on graphics and news segments for the school’s television show.

During lunchtime, while two DJs are on the air, the rest of the staff lounges around the studio, making use of the couch used during the live morning television newscast that features the school’s announcements.

The students’ radio and TV studio has some of the best equipment in the county, said Aaron LaMere, media specialist and general manager of Northwood High School Radio and TV. LaMere said students have computers that run the same software used by ClearChannel, a media corporation that owns radio and television stations. Those computers are able to create graphics that appear behind the station’s weatherman.

While Northwood won’t have radio production classes until next year, the radio and television production club has been active since the school opened three years ago. In order to participate, students submit a resume and demo tape, and are interviewed by a panel that includes LaMere and students in the club.

Students use format clocks — schedules that show when to play songs, commercials and read public service announcements — just as professional stations do. In April, the radio station will broadcast on the Internet.

The experience prepares students for jobs and internships. ‘‘They can walk out of here and get an entry-level position at a radio station or at a TV station,” LaMere said. ‘‘They can walk into a station knowing how basic stuff works. ... It’s getting them actual real-world experience.”

Like television and news reporters, students get their news from sources and in this case, their teachers and fellow students, said scriptwriter Yannick Tessema, 16, a junior from Wheaton. Tessema gets e-mails from teachers and students in clubs requesting announcements.

Tessema had production experience at Parkland Middle School and is excited to further his skills at Northwood.

‘‘I like really learning about something I have a passion for, which is radio,” he said.

Tessema’s scripts are presented by Galen Mancino, 16, the television show’s anchor. Mancino reads the scripts from a prompter and takes a look before the show to check spelling and ensure that sentences are grammatically correct.

Often, he said, students he doesn’t know come up to him in the hall and say ‘‘You’re on the television.” The Silver Spring junior has anchored the show since he was a freshman.

‘‘It’s pretty fun,” he said. ‘‘Sometimes we get to do crazy things.”

In the case of Bari Turpie, 17, of Silver Spring, that means filming humorous public service announcements — referred to as ‘‘Don’t Pull a Bari.” Those spots have addressed issues like tardiness, in which a police car with flashing lights chases Turpie down the street, and proper use of vending machines, in which Turpie stuffs a girl into a machine.

Turpie has had several roles at the station in three years, including the weatherman. He likes when people come up to him in the hallway and ask him what the weather’s like, and loves being involved with the club.

‘‘We have this equipment that no other school in the entire county has,” he said.

Maria Ralph, 15, a Silver Spring sophomore, uses some of that equipment to create graphics like a map to accompany the weatherman. It’s the people she works with who keep her coming back every day, Ralph said. The station’s crew has become like a family.

‘‘It’s really cool to be in here,” she said. ‘‘This is like the ‘cool room.’ I trust the people here. I can tell them anything.”

Cameraman Jesse Allen, 16, a Takoma Park junior, said he usually gets to school at about 6:40 a.m. to prepare for the morning’s television show. The work is not hard, he said.

‘‘I’ve gotten in sync with the other cameramen,” he said. ‘‘A lot of it’s sort of routine for everyone now.”

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