Students get pro TV experience at SKHS

By Mike De Felice — Kitsap Daily News

PORT ORCHARD – The TV news anchors adjust their microphones. Camera operators line up their opening shots. In the control room, the director calls out, “Three, two, one,” and the live newscast begins.

That may sound like a behind-the-scenes description of the start of a newscast at KING, KOMO or KIRO in Seattle, but it’s actually how the daily news show begins at South Kitsap High School, hosted, written and produced by students.

All classes pause mid-morning every day so the high school’s 2,200 students can watch the professionally done eight-minute newscast. The show is viewed on televisions in classrooms.

“We pretty much have the attention of the whole school,” said SKHS video production teacher Greg Pickard, who oversees the 30 students who work the show.

The morning news program is called “WTV,” which stands for Wolf Television, named after the school’s mascot. During the show, a plush stuffed wolf toy sits on the news desk between the anchors. The show covers a range of school news, from administration announcements and club news to sports coverage.

“It is tailored to the student population. It really highlights anything that is going on in the halls of South Kitsap,” Pickard said.

A recent installment of WTV included: an announcement that SK football jerseys are on sale, track and field registration is happening, tickets for the winter musical “Mamma Mia!” are on sale, and the maker of class rings and letterman jackets is coming to the school to take orders.

In the middle of the newscast was a public service announcement, asking kids to keep school grounds clean by not littering. The program continued with segments about the junior class “Talent Show,” a video game design club starting, and news on how seniors can now get help filling out college financial aid forms by Zoom.

Student enjoyment

Students embrace the challenge of producing the newscast. Many have chosen to remain in the program for years.

“You never get bored in this class,” said senior Wyatt Pudlo, in his third year. “There is always something to do whether you get hit in the face with a deadline or there is breaking news.” After graduation, Pudlo plans to enter film school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Sophomore Alejandro Mier has a passion for post-production work. “I really like practicing different editing techniques and playing around with effects and camera angles. I do have interest in filmmaking and editing, maybe for big movies someday,” said Mier, who started last year.

Nathan Chien is a senior who has been in the video class since freshman year. He enjoys doing stories on club activities that normally do not get much attention. “I like going out and seeing what is happening in the school,” he said.

“I recently started directing the show, which I like because I like playing around with the switchboard (which changes the camera angle viewers see.) He derives a sense of accomplishment by helping create a show seen by the entire student body. “I feel it’s really important that the program exists. We help spread information,” Chien said.

Breaking news

Crew members enjoy putting out a daily newscast but not every WTV show goes as planned.

“Obviously, being a live show, some changes will happen between the initial script and final production, say with breaking news. For example, we tend to always get sports announcements from competitions that happened overnight,” Pickard said.

A recent example was when the crew learned shortly before airtime that graduation had been moved up. Since the change affected students and family, the crew scrambled to write a story and find a slot to fit it in.

The biggest breaking story the students had to contend with came near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when they learned just minutes before showtime that Gov. Jay Inslee and the school district announced that the high school was shutting down the following week and going to remote learning.

“That day kind of lives in infamy,” Pickard remembered. “We were in the studio almost ready to go live when (the news) came across our desk that the following week school was going to be canceled. We had to quickly write up that all of the events happening the following week were all of sudden canceled. That was probably the biggest shake-up in our history.”

Professional studio

SKHS provides students with a full production studio similar to ones at commercial TV stations, Pickard said.

“We have what the pros are using – professional-grade equipment that you would find at local stations. Our program is designed to get students ready for the professional world,” he said.

The studio, on the school’s third floor, is equipped with an anchor desk and a green screen that allows a variety of backgrounds to be superimposed behind the on-air talent. There are two studio cameras. Overhead is a full grid that can create several types of lighting. There is also a control room where the director and audio and graphics personnel sit.

For remote taping, field reporters can use a fleet of portable cameras and a high-tech drone to capture aerial shots.

‘Wolf Tracks,’ live events

The daily TWV newscast is not the only programming students put together.

Another production is “Wolf Tracks,” a 30-minute program similar to KING’s “Evening.” The magazine show showcases news and features. Past segments have highlighted sports teams, local bands, COVID-related topics and profiles on people in the community.

The video production program has streamed over 100 hours of live programming this school year, Pickard said. Broadcasts of football games have included announcers, four cameras covering the action, graphics and even replays.

Wrestling and volleyball matches and other sporting events are aired as they happen. Student concerts, award presentations and graduation ceremonies have also been streamed live.

Cable TV viewers in Kitsap County can watch the high school’s shows on community access channel 205 on Astound Broadband (formerly Wave). The channel runs live and taped SKHS programs 24 hours a day.

Worldwide audience

Viewers around the world are able to watch programs.

The programs are posted on YouTube on the school’s own channel. Find the shows by typing “SKHS Video Productions” in the search bar. Being on YouTube allows anyone with internet access to stream the high school’s programs on their computer and other devices.

“YouTube lets us hit a worldwide audience,” Pickard said. “We’ll get (viewers) from South Korea and Germany. We have gotten some from as far away as Afghanistan watching a live stream. It’s cool that we can allow families, no matter where they are located, to see their kids and relatives play sports and do concerts or theater.”