Bomber News Network turns TV cameras on Mountain Home students
Don’t touch that dial, the Bomber News Network is on the air.
This year the Mountain Home High School EAST program took over the idea of a high school news broadcast, reshaping it into a weekly 10-15 minute show that airs on Friday mornings at the school and online through both Facebook and YouTube.
Friday’s broadcast, which was filmed on Tuesday and edited throughout the week, contains segments on the school’s newspaper going digital, the significance of the blue jackets worn by the Future Farmers of America, and a recap of several holiday-related events around town, among others.
Appearing on-air are juniors Zachary Spaulding and Sophie Quick as news anchors; junior Lauren Dewey as the show’s sports reporter; and senior Nate Duval as the host of “What’s the Move?” a roving, man-on-the-street segment with a comedic bent.
Senior Courtney Barron serves as the show’s videographer and director, and juniors Isaac Helms and Josh Dodson assist with lighting and video equipment. Dewey also serves as the show’s dialogue czar, sitting just off-camera with a copy of that episode’s script ensuring the talent reads every line as written.
Friday’s episode is the third one the students filmed. They said they planned to shoot a fourth episode next week before taking some time off for the Christmas break. The broadcast will resume in January once school resumes, they said.
“When you show it on Fridays, the kids want to be in it,” Spaulding said. “They see that experience when it comes to (college) signings or see other kids during the Madrigal (Feaste). They want to be involved. They strive higher because they see themselves on film, and the whole school sees them on film, too.”
A computer room in the high school library doubles as the BNN studio. Tuesday’s shooting schedule called for the students to begin filming at 9:30 a.m. and hopefully get the first page of dialogue recorded before the bell rang at 9:58 a.m.
“That’s the only downside to filming on campus,” EAST adviser Dani Pugsley said. “You have to work around bell schedules and people coming in and out.”
Tuesday’s schedule got off to a slow start, with both wardrobe and lighting problems holding things up. Spaulding needed a hand tying a respectable knot in the gold-colored tie he planned to wear on the air, and no sooner had that hiccup been addressed than one of the set’s accent lights began to malfunction.
Once filming started, the anchors faced a new challenge: Reading their lines off a teleprompter without flubbing any of words’ pronunciations. Baxter Regional Medical Center is the show’s sponsor, but under the studio lights the anchors kept saying “regical” instead of “regional.” “Madrigal” — as in the Madrigal Feaste, one of the events to be featured on Friday’s episode — came out as “mydriggle,” drawing giggles, groans and exasperation from the crew.
“Hey, Ron Burgundy, it’s going to be OK,” MHHS Principal Brent Bogy told Spaulding at one point, referencing Will Ferrell’s character from the “Anchorman” movies. “You’ve got this.”
The crew fussed with Quick’s long hair in between one segment, forcing the students to reshoot an earlier scene to keep her appearance continuous from one shot to the next. Following that reshoot, Quick tried to move as little as possible.
“I’m not moving! I have not moved!” she declared in between takes.
For Friday’s episode, the students were using a microphone mounted above their heads, much like a boom mic. That was a change from the first episode, where the mic was affixed to the camera, and the second broadcast, where the microphone rested on the news desk.
Several segments had to be filmed multiple times because the anchors were not projecting their voices for the mic.
“You have to talk differently than you normally would just having a conversation,” Barron said of using the studio microphones.
At one point, Bogy and Pugsley stepped out of the computer lab to talk. Sometimes having faculty in the studio during recordings can rattle the cast, the students said.
“She’s gone now,” Barron said, referring to the EAST adviser. “I want everyone to take a deep breath. We will get this.”
Perched atop a director’s chair behind the camera, Barron held up her left hand to communicate wordlessly with the anchors during filming. Extending her hand flat, palm-down meant that a break in filming was approaching, with a slashing gesture indicating that filming had stopped. She clinched her fist or shot a thumb’s up when the cast nailed a segment.
“I like seeing the final product,” Barron said. “We go from being in the film room and watching ourselves mess up again and again to the final product, and it’s like, ‘Wow! We actually did very good.’ That’s a good feeling.”
Head down focusing on the script in front of her, Dewey didn’t see her fellow students mess up Tuesday as much as she heard them. She would cut them off mid-sentence, pointing out a missing word, tangled phrase or awkward pause and asked them to start over on a segment.
“I’m sitting here making sure they go word-for-word from the script,” Dewey said. “That’s to make it easier when its edited. They might say something that sounds correct in the moment, but if they don’t follow the script it could be grammatically wrong or different.”
Thirty minutes and perhaps 60 takes later, the first half of the group’s third episode is in the can and ready to be edited. Dewey is preparing to record the sports segment, and Pugsley suggests the crew record the segment over at The Hangar, as opposed to the black background the students had used the previously two episodes.
Adjusting things week to week and learning on the fly is part of the show’s process, Pugsley said.
“We really thought going into this it would be as simple as getting a camera, a light, a script and just going,” she said. “What we’ve realized is that just from week to week you will see the difference in the lighting and audio quality. It seems to get better, every week.”
This year the students have focused on the broadcasting basics, Dewey said.
“It’s really been about writing a script, filming it and getting it to broadcast,” she said. “There’s lots of been a lot of growth, and I still see potential for growth to continue.”
The cast receives a lot of feedback on the shows from the community, Spaulding said.
“I went to go film the Madrigal (Feaste) the other night to collect B-roll for stuff you will see in the final product, and I had at least four women come up to me and ‘You’re the anchor guy.’ They gave me some feedback and we’ve already addressed a lot of it,” he said. “It’s everyone coming together to make it just a little better every time. That’s the best part, seeing that improvement throughout the show.”
In addition to being screened in the high school on Friday mornings, Bomber News Network episodes can also be streamed online. Viewers may visit at the Mountain Home High School EAST program’s Facebook page or visit the program’s YouTube page to see the current and past episodes.
EAST stands for “Education Accelerated by Service and Technology,” and is a program where students use state-of-the-art computer hardware and software tools while engaging in a project-based approach in problem solving to help their communities.
“If any kids are interested in broadcasting, come talk to us and join EAST,” Pugsley said. “If you’re not in EAST and this is something that has intrigued you or inspired you and you want to learn more, our door is open. They are more than welcome to come talk to us. We would love to have them.”
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