On Air!: Iroquois students broadcast the school news

A look inside the WIRO production room. Photo: Kate BunsterA look inside the WIRO production room. Photo: Kate Bunster

BY KATE BUNSTER
Gazette Reporter

“Evan are we ready?,” shouted Frank Adamo.

Evan Belkin stood in the production room in front of a green screen, ready to deliver the daily forecast. It seemed as if he had been doing this his whole life. He was relaxed as everyone stared at him through the glass like he was in a fishbowl. The camera started to roll.

“Good morning!” Belkin shouted. His energy is remarkable for the time. The rest of the staff members were working behind the scenes editing, running the script and dropping in graphics.

This sounds like a typical morning broadcast at a major new channel, but don’t be fooled- this is Iroquois Middle Schools WIRO news program. And all the reporters and producers are students.

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Jackie Lasek and Daniel Klepeis practice their lines before production begins. Photo: Kate Bunster

The program features the school’s morning announcements and current events, “mixed with middle school humor.” The ‘studio’ is located in the media room of Iroquois. It features two professional video cameras, a computer station and soundboard.

“This is where your warm front is,” said Belkin, accidently pointing to the wrong location on the map. Everyone laughed, including him, but it was all in good fun. Only a few weeks into their ‘season,’ they are still working things out. They will be running the show completely in a couple of months, according to Adamo. He stared over and nailed it. He even plugged his twitter handle at the end, like a true 21st century reporter.

“You have to admire him working on his brand at 14!” says Laurie Farina, co-advisor.

Next up was Yomna Omar with a news feature. She had some bad news to deliver: there has been an outbreak of salmonella at several Chipotle chains throughout Washington. Zoey Ferrara is on graphics and cues the burrito slide, while production mastermind, Peter McManus, is controlling the editing software.

Fiorela Matija using WIRO's soundboard during production.  Photo: Kate Bunster

Fiorela Matija using WIRO’s soundboard during production. Photo: Kate Bunster

“[McManus] comes down here during lunch. He’s always learning new stuff that the software does,” said Adamo.

Fiorela Matija, on the soundboard, fades in Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ to transition to the next segment- the school announcements- given by Daniel Klepeis and Jackie Lasek.

WIRO is advised by Iroquois Middle School English teachers Frank Adamo and Laurie Farina, along with Steve Wolfort, who work with the students Tuesday through Friday. The club is consisted of eighth graders.

“The idea is to have them watch it throughout their first years,” said Adamo.

WIRO was started in 1998 by Patrick McGrath and Steve Hanchar. Today, it features morning announcements and current events, “mixed with middle school humor.” Their goal is to provide students with a “real-world job setting.” The ‘studio’ is located in the media room, on the school’s second floor. It features two professional video cameras, a computer station and soundboard.

Students are broken up based on their interests. They can choose between tech and voice talent, but are encouraged to try out every position throughout the year.

They edit a loop together that runs daily throughout the week on the four flatscreens around the school, donated by the PTO.

Past WIRO members have gone onto perform in school productions and have become writers for the high school paper, The Warrior. There have also been about fifteen student who participated in the program who have went on to pursue a broadcasting career.

“With the kids it lands with, it lands with,” who said he enjoys seeing that WIRO inspired their future passions.

Whether they go on to pursue careers in news or broadcasting or not, it’s doubtful they will forget the morning they spent trying to figure it all out.