Behind The Scenes Of Hoover High's Student-Run TV News Show
Sitting in a black satin-lapel blazer, Hoover High School student Drew Dang coolly awaited the arrival of his principal. Dang had invited him to his class for a special occasion. New school policies on tardiness and electronic devices had recently been announced, and Dang planned to ask the school's top administrator about the changes.
The questions were part of an interview for Hoover’s weekly student-run news show, the NEST, which stands for News Entertainment Student Television. (The title is a nod to the school's mascot, a cardinal.)
Hoover is one of a handful of schools in the district to have a program that simulates a professional TV news experience. Over the last two years, different cohorts have consistently produced the weekly Hoover-centric news show that at times also touches on citywide issues. The 50th episode airs this week.
This semester, a class of 19 students took the helm of the roughly 12-minute show. Dang, a senior, served as the host but said he took on many other roles as well.
“I am the anchor. I write the scripts for the anchor, and I’m also the producer," the 17-year-old said. "I make sure everybody gets their packages done. I also look at our clips, make sure they’re all fine.”
Plus, he interviewed guests for the show's discussion segment, Red Couch Conversations. The sofa, dubbed the “hot seat” by Dang, typically plays host to Hoover personnel, such as athletes, coaches and faculty, but representatives from outside organizations have stopped by, including from a local refugee resettlement agency and the county district attorney’s office.
In addition to the interview segment, a typical episode can include an update on the school’s athletic teams, coverage of campus and local news events, a restaurant review and a few interludes, such as a school event promotion.
The broadcast journalism program launched at Hoover about two years ago after voter-approved bonds helped fund a $2.1 million facility. Instructor John Michener said the news show is a point of pride for a low-performing school that hasn’t always had the best reputation. In its first year, the NEST took home a top county award.
“The goal is for Hoover students to produce something, accomplish something that is worthwhile, makes them feel good at the end of the day, something that they can be proud of,” Michener said. "Something that people from the outside look at and say ‘Wow, this school is doing some amazing work. I just knew them as a bad school,' or something like that."
Each semester, the program offers a new group of students training in media and journalism that few high schoolers get the chance to experience. In December, a NEST reporter interviewed San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. This month, a commercial produced by the students for San Diego Restaurant Week aired on local channels.
“That’s a real-world project, and I don’t know if we would have gotten those opportunities in the past if it wasn’t for the NEST,” Michener said.
For the students’ work, organizers presented Michener with a check for $1,500, which he plans to spend on a drone to use for reporting.
The skills learned in the deadline-driven atmosphere benefit students seeking a career in any field, Michener said. For some, it helps them find new interests, like for volleyball player-turned-NEST sports reporter Kadijat Pouh.
“It’s just something I’ve never done before and watching the news sometimes it’s just like, ‘Wow, how does it get put together?” said Pouh, who now plans to study journalism in college.
The news show typically focuses on positive stories, but isn’t afraid to tackle tough topics. Last January, San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan sat for an interview about human trafficking.
“Who can become a victim?” asked the student host at that time.
“Really anybody, and San Diego is on the top 13 cities for child prostitution," Stephan said, and praised the students for bringing the topic to their peers’ attention.
Michener said the interview generated an impact.
“It sparked a lot of conversation in classrooms, like that’s really around us, you know, students asking their teachers about it and it was kind of good awareness to what students are dealing with in this community," he said.
This semester, Dang said his crew also tackled a heavy subject.
"Recently I’ve given out packages on about child abuse, a really sensitive topic that needs to be talked about," he said.
Students who suffer abuse in their home discussed it for the show. When the piece airs, their faces and voices will be distorted for the TV audience, but they trusted the NEST reporters with their true identities.
Dang said students and teachers at Hoover have occasionally recognized him from the show. One pupil even asked him for his autograph. But he said even students outside Hoover find the program appealing.
“My friends from other schools think it’s cool that we have a news show, and they tell me how they want one at their school too," he said. "And it’s nice knowing that people are actually envious of Hoover for once.”