In April 30 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Russell County High School's multi-media newscast, WLKR News, has been going strong for more than a decade racking up numerous broadcast awards and was just named the best newscast in Class 3A for the second straight year by the Kentucky High School Journalism Association, according to Chris Godby, the high school's technology coordinator.
Godby said the class first began in 1997 under the guidance of current RCHS Principal Darren Gossage as Multi-Media News. Two years later Godby took over the class and in 2000 the name was changed to WLKR News. "Over the first two years Mr. Gossage and his staff produced a high-quality newscast and really set the bar high as far as production standards. I had big shoes to fill."
Regarding the name of the program, the "LKR" is a condensed version of Laker, the school's mascot, while the "W" is a call letter that is assigned to all stations east of the Mississippi River, according to Godby.
The station's logo also contains the number three as it airs on channel 3 within the high school's closed circuit television from a central hub.
Approximately 10 students, all seniors, take the Current Issues class that produces the newscasts each semester. The newscasts run usually between 15 and 18 minutes, up from 10 minutes only a few years ago.
Godby said he looks for talented students that will work well together, and have either an on-air or behind the camera talent for graphics, videography or photo editing.
The newscast airs about every two weeks and is filmed in one period, but the work to produce each telecast takes two weeks.
"As soon as we finish one show, we start on the next one," he said.
He said he has a short staff meeting with his students at the beginning of each day to brainstorm story ideas and check progress on the current production.
Godby said that sometimes it can be hard to come up with material for a new episode while at other times there may be too much content that has to be edited down.
"Our job is to inform the school, teachers, and parents, about events taking place at RCHS," Godby said. "We strive for good journalism."
Brooke Cooper, a senior in the class who concentrates on the graphics portion of production, said the work was sometimes demanding but in the end seeing the final production was rewarding.
"We really work well together to get it done right," Cooper said.
Senior Bryce Bailey, the newscasts' student producer this semester, said the group was close-knit and that helped with the production of the program and that problems were solved quickly.
Both of the students said they had top-notch equipment to work with and that many were already familiar with the programs used to create a telecast when they signed up for the class.
"Everybody works on their own stuff and in the end it all comes together into one big, beautiful show," Bailey said.
Cooper said she often hears teachers in the school commenting on how good this year's newscasts have been.
"There is new equipment coming in all the time and we just have to get used to using it and that's the fun part," she said.
Godby said that every student in his production class can edit photos and videos, something two years ago only a few people could do.
Online programs and Web sites, such as Youtube.com and others have caught the interest of students and led them to learn the basics of video editing, something Godby says is vital part of the process.
"Six people at one time can edit video on our computers," he said. "Many students come in already knowing simple editing techniques and are willing to learn more."
The finished product is an award-winning production that the student body and people within the community, thanks to Duo County Telecom, take pride in.
"We try to keep the show family-friendly and entertaining by adding in a little bit of comedy when the opportunity arises."
After each show is aired at 1:30 p.m. on Fridays, Godby takes a copy of the episode to Duo-County so that they can air the telecast on their community channel, Duo Channel 2, at 2 p.m. Duo County and the now-defunct Falcon Cable have aired the newscasts locally for years.
Our productions are all-digital, Godby said, and have been since around 2004.
"We've not used VHS tapes in years," he said.
The newscasts, while being a source of school news, announcements and information, have also become popular among students because of the bloopers and outtakes which often air at the end of each episode.
"That's everyone's favorite thing," Godby said.
But for all the fun that is had, the production of each episode is all business.
"I comb over every show meticulously," Godby said. "I give direction by accepting and rejecting story ideas, I try to shape their ideas using media teaching techniques."
Godby, who describes himself as a hands-on technology buff who has a passion for gadgets and computing, said that as a semester goes along he backs off more and more as his news team becomes more experienced.
"Eventually my role becomes less noticeable," he said. He still edits the final cut to his liking before it is aired school and community wide.
"We try to stay ahead of the curve by using cutting edge equipment," he said, noting that the cameras used to film the telecasts are all high-definition capable, even though they are not aired in high-def.
"The technology changes all the time and we try and keep up with it as best we can," Godby said.
The class has also recently begun using green screen technology, like what is used on weather broadcasts, and are now able to implement virtual sets on their news screen behind the on-air talent.
Besides the two KHSJA best newscast awards the past two years, WLKR has won that same award two other times as well as reeling in three best newscast awards since 2001 at the Western Kentucky University Film Festival. That award is not divided into classes and encompasses Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee high schools, making it more prestigious.
WLKR News also took two second place awards at WKU's Mark of Excellence competition for both Best Newscast and Best Broadcast earlier this spring.
"I'm proud of the way I've pushed them to achieve these goals," Godby said. There are around 15 shows aired each school year and are sold at the end of the school year in a two-disc DVD for $15. The class, in partnership with Duo County Telecom, also sell copies of the graduation ceremony on DVD each May.
This semester's WLKR staff includes Devin Burton, Kylie Haydon, Chad Parker, Chasity Gossett, Zach Smith, Brooke Cooper, Zach Grider, Bryce Bailey, Bryon Ellis, Cody Stephens and Megan Foley.
The next edition of WLKR News is scheduled to air on May 8, according to Godby.