By Elizabeth Perry
For the past several months, Sto-Rox seventh graders got a chance to learn about news production firsthand from experts in the field.
Martha Rial, photojournalist and McKeesport Community Newsroom Project Manager, led the series of classes at Sto-Rox Junior/Senior High School introducing students to digital story composition.
Artist and videographer Curtis Reaves and television producer for WPXI Georgiann Roman also shared their expertise with students during the video project unveiling Jan. 12.
“It gives them a chance to think differently,” Reaves said.
The students worked with three interview subjects; Teacher Ken Lex, Assistant Football Coach Brendan Blair and Sto-Rox School Director Adrienne Roberts.
While not all of the students interviewed subjects or operated a camera, every student participated in the editing process. They selected which interview subject they wanted to feature and spliced together short videos, each choosing to highlight different subjects. Some chose to intercut between different interviews and others chose one person talking about a single subject.
“They were allowed to choose what they wanted to say,” Rial said.
Rial said giving students power over their own narratives and instilling a sense of responsibility about that power was an important part of the class. Student Dakhizah Buckman shot footage of Roberts’ interview but the short she created featured an interview with Lex. The bright background and upbeat music Buckman chose kept in tune with the funny anecdote shared by Lex. Through the project, Buckman learned about using a green screen and how to operate a digital video camera.
“I understand Mr. Lex better and learned about the school board,” Buckman said.
Student Gianna Jennings said she used the editing skills she learned in class for projects she did at home, like putting audio with family pictures and creating digital gifts for her family. She and a friend even made a short film for fun.
“This class gets you out of your comfort zone,” Jennings said.
Reaves, who has created outdoor art pieces found around Pittsburgh and creates photo collages, was struck by the similarities in the backgrounds of the interview subjects.
“I thought the parallels were interesting,” Reaves said.
Teacher Lex, Coach Blair and Director Adrienne Roberts all talked about how their paths were influenced by family members who were also involved in teaching or coaching. Both Lex and Blair are Sto-Rox alumni. Roberts’ two children also graduated from Sto-Rox.
“You really felt a sense of community,” Reaves said.
Roman has participated in seven classes and said she’s looking forward to participating in future classes at Sto-Rox.
“I think it’s necessary to reach out to kids that don’t get a lot of attention,” Roman said.
Roman said she was considering a field trip for students at WPXI to let them see a news program being made in real-time. Roman wasn’t the only area journalist who visited the class over the past few months. Local news anchor for WTAE Andrew Stockey and former KDKA-TV Reporter Harold Hayes have joined the class, too.
“I think we got off to a great start and I think we’ll continue building a relationship,” Rial said. “I will certainly miss these kids.”
Editor’s note: This educational opportunity is part of a partnership between the Sto-Rox School District, Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation and Gazette 2.0 designed to get students excited about journalism.