ON THE AIR: Youthful broadcasters learning ropes of TV news

Published 10:15 am Thursday, May 20, 2010

BURLINGTON — There will be only two more broadcasts for Burlington Elementary fifth grader Jake Helton.

Then his part-time “career” as a behind-the-scenes television broadcast crew member will go on hiatus as Jake goes on to the middle school.

But he was still giving his all Wednesday morning as he cued the anchors of WPUP, the Burlington school’s television station where he has spent most mornings before school for the past three years.

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Joining him were Jamishua Anderson and Seth Finnegan.

“It is just fun to get to be with my friends and it builds memories,” Jake said following the broadcast.

Jake credits his working knowledge to social studies teacher Matt Watts, who was a co-producer of the show for several seasons.

It was 10 years ago that Harriette Ramsey, Burlington Elementary librarian, started the schoolwide broadcast that has given hundreds of children the chance to learn how an actual news show gets on the air.

“I had a dream,” Ramsey said. “I wanted our kids to feel special and it was something no one else did. We started just with (cue) cards I would write, then big boards.”

Now WPUP, which broadcasts Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through the school year, boasts a professional teleprompter in its new studio inside the library of Burlington Elementary that opened this past fall.

It was 8:30 a.m. Wednesday when Mallory Wells, Lyndsey Bradburn and McKenzie Evans, that day’s anchors, did a quick run through their copy before going live on the air and the Web at 8:50 a.m.

The most challenging part of the job for Mallory has been mastering reading from a moving teleprompter while Lyndsey has appreciated learning how a television newscast works.

Nearby were Ramsey and volunteers John Hite and Gary Berry, whose day jobs are as school tech adviser and bus driver, respectively.

“Everybody’s got your mic on?,” asked Berry, who for the past year has come in for each morning’s broadcast to help the crew make sure voice levels are right and cameras are on the right anchor at the right time.

After the three anchors took turns reading the day’s news, cameras switched over to John Smith who went through the day’s weather forecast.

John started out as an anchor but recently switched to weather, an assignment he prefers.

“I think it’s great fun with all the tech stuff,” he said. “I try to do my best.”

And learning to succeed in unfamiliar territory is a major mission of Ramsey’s program, one she has watched reap results.

“It’s self-esteem. They learn how to work together and that each individual is important,” Ramsey said. “I’ve watched children who were really (shy) come out of their shells like butterflies. My whole motto is building new memories. I want them to remember what they are doing here because they are building new memories.”