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TV production class earns award hat trick

Students were full of laughter and tears at their last show of the school year. Many seniors are going on to college careers in broadcast journalism. Photos by Megan Collier (click for larger version)

June 09, 2010 - Winning awards in high school journalism isn't what Television Production Workshop (TPW) students set out to do, says instructor Roger Smith.

But it certainly doesn't hurt.

This year, the class and its Dragon broadcasting program earned a Spartan hat trick, with their third award in three years. Spartan awards are given out by the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA) for being among the best programs in the state.

The few moments before their last broadcast were bittersweet for seniors Devon Fasbinder, Laura Hessen and Renee Westcott. (click for larger version)
"We do have a tradition of winning awards, but we don't sit and say, 'oh, we're just going to win,' said outgoing senior Devon Fasbinder. Fasbinder took home a first place award for best anchor.

"We compete with our previous years. We try to make it better every year and be more of a legacy," she said. "Smith's big thing is just getting better. Even if you do something and you're happy with it, there's always a way you can get better at it. He treats it all as a learning process."

According to senior Diane McNulty, preparing projects for MIPA can take from a few minutes to a few months. Feature stories, which are worth more points in the competition, can take three to five months, she said, and reports take about a week.

The editorial she and Alex McClung wrote and filmed earned them a first place award. It was focused on the state's recent ban on smoking.

McNulty said the hardest about TPW is also the coolest part: "It's an independent-study class with a team. You decide what you do and how you're going to do it. You could be in front of the camera all the time or making graphics for the show. Or you could be focusing on making reports or getting interviews. It's a lot of work – it's what you put into it."

McNulty will attend Columbia College in Chicago this fall to study acting.

This year's awards include: MIPA Individual Awards ·Devon Fasbinder, anchor, first place ·Jonathan D'Ambrosio, short film (fiction), first place ·Alex McClung and Diane McNulty, editorial, first place ·Matthew Blackmer, studio talent, first place ·Plus 25 second and third place awards and honorable mentions for individual awards. MIPA Spartan Competition ·Spartan award ·LO-AM, MIPA best newscast, second and third place ·Matt Blackmer, MIPA student journalist ·Kaitlyn Bartreau and Devon Meadows, MIPA on-site video creation, second place ·Brendon Clarkston and Tim Walton, MIPA carry-in feature, third place ·Jonathan D'Ambrosio, two-week film challenge, second place ·Plus three honorable mentions  Courageous Persuaders Public Service Announcement National Contest ·Jonathan D'Ambrosio, Adcraft Club award, $2000 prize ·Ross Stolzenburg, Sean McIntyre and Corey Gipperich, second place, $1000 prize DAFT 42nd Annual Michigan Student Video & Film Festival ·Ross Stolzenburg, Corey Gipperich and Sean McIntyre, Best in Show ·Jonathan D'Ambrosio, Best in Show  2nd Annual Orchard Lake Film Festival ·Jonathan D'Ambrosio, first place
"(TPW) kind of goes with it, but (TPW) is more behind the scenes stuff. But it's really nice to have that groundwork so I'm not totally lost," she said.

Fasbinder is heading to the University of Missouri, Columbia in the fall to study broadcasting.

On winning her award she said, "It's really cool because it's what I want to do. Obviously I'm doing something right." She added, "I've always been really into writing and performing. I've been a dancer since I was little and have always been into journalism, so it's the best way to put them together."

Smith says he lets each new class decide if they want to aim for winning another Spartan.

"I do worry that we get too used to winning and people get overconfident. But students set the goal to have the best newscast every day – something we want to have anyway, whether or not we were competing. We don't create things just for competition, in most cases. We're already producing what we think is good work. Students submit it and if they get recognition, that's all the better," he said.

Smith also noted he tries to add new components to the class each year, to keep challenging students and make the broadcast more complex and interesting.

"Our daily live broadcast has expanded and gotten better from when I was a student on the air on that show. Next year will be our 20th year. I try to keep raising the bar, and if they're recognized, that's great, but my goal is to just keep expanding what we do," he said.

One of the ways they're expanding is in cyberspace. As of last fall, TPW's newscasts were streaming online. Next year they'll be on the education channel – cable Channel 22 – through Orion Neighborhood Television (ONTV).

This year, Smith and his wife had their first child and he says, from a personal standpoint, that's partly how he'll remember this class. While Smith was out on paternity leave, former Review staff writer Cathy Kimmel, who's now an LOHS teacher, filled in.

"Students endured going through two different teachers. They were worried about, 'What's going to happen when you're gone?' But it worked out great," said Smith. "They still won these awards and got accolades, partly proving it didn't really matter who was at the helm. More so, I got them started and they knew what they wanted to go for, and made it happen."

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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