O’NEILL — In the ever-evolving world of news media, there are more options than ever for journalists to get information to the public.
And in a small, green corner of a classroom at O’Neill High School, an audio/video production class is taking student reporting to the next level with a live morning show.
Eagle Eye Broadcasting (EEB) is a video channel that live-streams sports and school events as well as the Live Daily Announcements Show.
Instructor Mike Peterson said the morning show was originally recorded and uploaded to the internet. When he made the decision to take the show live four years ago, it had a tremendous benefit to his students.
“Since we’ve been doing the live show every morning, the kids have to kind of think on their feet. They have to figure out how to fill dead air time or recover from things like if they have an issue with the teleprompter,” Peterson said.
Working at a virtual news desk in front of a green screen wall, students report on sports, weather and daily announcements and end almost every show with a special segment like Trivia Tuesday or Funny Friday.
Besides anchoring duties, the audio-visual (AV) students also man the technical side of the broadcast, running the software that produces the digital studio, controlling the cameras and lights, and adding in commercials and special effects.
With only eight students in this semester’s class, pulling off a live show each morning requires a lot of work and commitment from every member of the EEB team.
Peterson said not just anyone who wants to take the AV class gets in. The class is offered to sophomores through seniors, and consideration is often given to those who have helped to live-stream sports in the past, a job performed by junior high students.
EACH DAY at 8 a.m., the AV students come to class and prepare to go live by 8:20. Some anchors start out with typing their scripts on the teleprompter, while others might put together props for the closing segment.
Studio engineers ready the hardware and the software, digitally transforming the green classroom corner into a newsdesk and prepare for live-streaming.
Collin Lorenz, a junior, can often be found manning the control board and running the software that streams the morning show to YouTube (EEBLive.com) and Twitter (@EagleEyeBC).
A recent trip to an area broadcasting studio was an eye-opener for him, Peterson said.
“It’s good for the kids to see the technical side of broadcasting. So when we visited (the studio), Collin just about went crazy in the broadcast/control room, just to see all of the equipment they have and how it works,” Peterson said.
A $15,000 grant recently awarded by the state could be soon bringing in upgraded equipment for Collin and his classmates to use. The revision grant treats the whole of Eagle Eye Broadcasting as a business, and the AV students have begun to successfully sell advertising around O’Neill.
“Whatever money they make goes directly back into EEB, and it’s spent on equipment. ... Ads start at $25 for a single broadcast sponsor all the way up to $500 for a commercial we broadcast at every one of the EEB events and on the show,” Peterson said.
He also teaches accounting classes, so Peterson said he will have those students work on figuring out the assets and expenses of EEB and study how to increase revenue. The tie-in between the classes is actually a big part of why the revision grant was awarded, he said.
INCREASING VIEWERSHIP is always a top goal of broadcasters, and the AV students have found they get the most views on their morning show during certain special segments like Will It Wednesday in which anchors often wind up eating gross food combinations.
Normally, the Live Daily Announcements Show sees about 20-30 viewers at a time. Most of these are students who check out the show during a study hall period. On Wednesday, the viewers double, Peterson said.
Some O’Neill alumni tune into the show every day, including a professor of education at the University of Georgia. Peterson said the professor heard the anchors talking about a Raising Cane’s restaurant coming to Norfolk in the future, so she sent each AV student a Raising Cane’s gift card to use in Lincoln right before the state basketball tournament last year.
“I think it showed (the students) the reach of the show. I think that helps me cement to them the fact that people watch this show, and that it’s important,” Peterson said.
When the O’Neill football team made it to state last year, EEB was asked to broadcast the game against Boys Town.
“That was cool for us to work with the state, not just doing our normal show. We had to run the state NSAA ads, plus we had to sit outside to do it all. It was cool for (the students) to learn,” Peterson said.
His AV students said they’ve appreciated the different roles they’ve been able to take on and the opportunities afforded to them through EEB. Trevor Dempster, a senior, said he has loved broadcasting since he helped live-stream in seventh grade.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of, and it’s helped me to understand what I want to do with my future,” Trevor, who hopes to work in sports broadcasting, said.
His classmate, Hunter Smith, a junior at OHS, said he initially considered working at EEB as more of a hobby than anything.
“I was very confident I was going to be a computer programmer when I grew up, but the more and more I got invested into it, the more I realized that directing and working in the TV industry is what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up,” he said.