The broadcast journalism program at Olentangy Orange High School will produce its annual live telethon this Saturday. The six-hour broadcast will feature a variety of interviews with leaders in the school district, such as Superintendent Mark Raiff, Principal Trond Smith, and Athletic Director Buck Weaver, as well as other news presentations and activities designed to be both informative and entertaining.
Last year marked the first production of the telethon, which ran four hours and was viewed by nearly 3,800 people. With the extended runtime, increased content, and experience to draw from, expectations within the program are to far exceed that previous viewer mark.
The telethon will be led by the student broadcast news production team, which creates a daily live news presentation each day for students. In addition to live news, “The Juice” also presents podcasts and a live stream of sporting events. Throughout the 2018-19 school year, “The Juice” produced 125 live morning newscasts, as well as 15 live sporting events.
Producing live news is new to the students this year. Previously, the production team would record its broadcasts the day prior. Executive Producer Jacob Fulton, a senior at OOHS, said the team experimented with a few live broadcasts ahead of last year’s telethon to gain an idea of what to expect, but he added they also didn’t have the technology that is available to them this year.
“Last year, we weren’t completely prepared, because we didn’t know what it would look like,” Fulton said of the inaugural telethon. “We were really happy with the show we put out, especially for it being our first time. But I think this year it’s going to be astronomically better than what we had before because we have so much more technology, we have experienced people who were there last year and know what it’s going to look like.”
Fulton went on to say the sheer number of students involved in the production will also go a long way in making for a better product. The class size has nearly doubled from last year, growing from 16 students to 34 this year.
Ashley Feucht, a sophomore at OOHS and one of two assistant executive producers for “The Juice,” said the transition to live feeds has put a heavy emphasis on adaptation.
“We’ve all had to adapt, because this isn’t something we’re used to,” Feucht said. “We’ve all had to learn how to use the technology we are utilizing to go live. But I think that is really setting us ahead as high schoolers. Doing live news, we’re learning how to use all these things they use in the field because a lot of us are interested in doing this in our future.”
She added, “Going live and having all these resources at our fingertips has been amazing, because we’ve been able to develop and establish experience.”
Brian Nicola, a teacher at OOHS who has headed the broadcast journalism program since its inception at the opening of OOHS in 2008, said the target audience isn’t necessarily students, although he expects some students to tune in. The goal, Nicola said, is to reach the community and allow them to see what the program is doing.
Nicola said the reality of what his students are accomplishing through the program — especially the telethon — can’t be understated. His students reciprocate the kind words, raving about their leader’s ability to be there as a support system while also allowing the creative minds of the students to truly lead the way.
“He doesn’t seem like a teacher,” said Brooke Little, a senior assistant executive producer, of Nicola’s approach. “He seems more like a co-worker. He’s always so supportive of us, he’s there to bounce ideas off of, and he’s always ready to put out fires. But at the same time, he’s also willing to give us control and let us shape the program the way we want to. I think that’s been something that has really helped us to grow as leaders.”
Feucht added, “I’ve never met someone so passionate about something.”
All proceeds from the telethon, which are primarily from the commercial spots sold by all students in the class, go directly back into the program’s operating budget, which is used for upgrades and live sports coverage. Students sold more than 50 commercial spots ahead of this year’s telethon.
Nicola said he estimates as much as $11,000 will come into the program as a result of the telethon.
Last year, proceeds resulted in an additional camera, as well as upgrades to the set lighting. This year’s proceeds have funded the creation of a new studio for the program, which will include a new set and considerably more operating space for students. The studio is expected to be ready for production next month.
Fulton said the new studio is a testament to the program’s work beyond just the walls of OOHS, garnering appreciation from the community and district through money being invested back into the program.
Asked what the telethon means to the broadcast journalism program beyond funding, Fulton said the exposure is critical.
“It puts ourselves out there,” Fulton said. “Through this (telethon) we are engaging with the community so much. We get to work with local businesses and create commercials for them, which also gives our students real-world business experience. But then, we’re also covering events in the community.”
He added the content covered is relevant not only to students at OOHS, but surrounding communities as well.
The broadcast will begin at noon on Saturday, March 9, and can be viewed online on four different platforms: OLSD’s Facebook page via Facebook Live, the OOHS Juice Student News Youtube page, @oohsjuice on Periscope, and on Boxcast Live.
Anyone wishing to donate to the program can do so by the PowerSchool Parent Portal for current OLSD families, or by accessing www.studentquickpay.com/olsd. Login for the site is “firstname.lastname@example.org” and the password is “donations.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.