By Rodney Hays
Every day a team of journalists and broadcasting technicians beam the news into the classrooms at Prosper High School. No, this team doesn’t have any big names like Scott Pelley and Diane Sawyer, but one day these kids may bear the names everyone knows.
Beginning this year, the Eagle Production Group’s classes broadcast a live 10-minute newscast to the students and staff at PHS. Last year the group did one taped broadcast per week, but this is the first year for a daily, live broadcast.
The 20 or so students in the upper level classes do it all from collecting, writing and delivering the news, to working behind the scenes operating cameras and calling the show from the technician booth. These students are learning valuable journalism skills.
Prosper High School teacher Brian Kennedy is in his first year working with the students. He handles the news broadcast while department head Robyn Gramly works with the students on the film side of the production classes.
Kennedy says his students are constantly at work on the broadcast, working on packages, setting up interviews and other behind-the-scenes work.
On Fridays, the students get together and make pitches for the news shows two weeks out, Kennedy says. During the actual broadcasts, students deliver announcements, keep up with the athletic teams and do live interviews, which this year so far has included football players a town council member.
Kennedy said they are trying to get everyone involved in the news of the school and not just the students in the broadcasting department. They are trying to be more interactive with other students in the school through Twitter and other social media outlets, Kennedy said.
"We are trying to build community and change the culture of what happens here," he said.
An archive of the news shows are available on the Eagle Production Group’s Youtube page (www.youtube.com/user/EagleProductionGroup).
In just a few years, the production group has grown from a handful of students to more than 120 taking the first-year principal courses this year. While working on story-telling, gathering and reporting the news, students are getting real-life experience in the classroom.
"It’s been a lot fun," Kennedy says. "It’s a little stressful sometimes times trying to do it every day. It’s really difficult because it’s a dual purpose. We have to teach them journalism but we also have to serve the interest of our school, which is different from any other program at the school."
The things the kids are learning at PHS are beyond what many college curriculums offer.
"We are kind of outpacing some of the college programs around. Which is good for our kids with some of the talents and ambitions they have," Kennedy said.
Elise Parker is one of those talented, ambitious students. Parker is in her third year with the program and wants to be the next Erin Andrews, a host on Fox Sports 1 and a former sideline reporter at ESPN.
Parker said ESPN was always on the television in her house and Erin Andrews was always part of the action. "I figured I could really do that," Parker said. She says the work comes easy because she enjoys being the center of attention.
Parker takes turns serving as the lead anchor for the EPG broadcasts.
Through the course, Parker said she has learned a lot about being a professional journalist and what it takes to put a newscast together.
"It’s not all about you. It takes a team effort," Parker said. "It takes a lot from the team to make this show run."
The PHS program has to be one of the best in the state, putting together top-notch, professional equipment and talented kids leading the way. With all the interest in the program, Kennedy says the department may have to hold auditions next year.
"What we are doing here is the top level," Kennedy says.
The teachers also hope to offer classes with specialization next year, including classes on sports reporting.
The goal of the classes is to prepare PHS students for careers in journalism. Unfortunately what that may look like in coming years is a mystery.
"We say it all the time: we are training for jobs that we don’t even know what they will look like in five years," Kennedy says.
Whatever the future holds, Parker said she believes that her future in journalism could lead to a change in the world.
"We can be the change we want to see," Parker said. "If we want to change the culture, that’s where news come in."