NORTH CANTON: In a white-collar, button-up shirt tucked into pressed khakis, senior Brandon Johnson anxiously clicks his pen.
His headset tilts as he turns away from a wall of monitors toward a group of Hoover High School students behind him plugging away at computers that feed lines to the anchors via teleprompters.
From the back of the video control room, Tom Wilson gives the cue: “All right. Start from the top, Brandon.”
“Quiet on set,” Johnson says into his headset. “And 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …”
“Hi, I’m Brittany Rimmel,” one anchor says. “And I’m Abby Grisez,” the other finishes the line from the teleprompter.
Rimmel and Grisez are sitting at the familiar set that was broadcast for a decade into thousands of homes tuned into WEWS (Channel 5) in Cleveland.
The girls describe the experience of using the set as “amazing.”
“Hopefully, one day we can be one of them,” she says.
Donated by the station last year, the set is the latest addition to Hoover’s 13-year-old Video Production Program, led by teacher Wilson and staffed by 85 students.
Some of the seniors, like Johnson and cameraman Drew Griffing, peer through monitors and high-definition cameras with a bittersweet look at the professional-grade set.
“I’m happy that we get to use it,” says Griffing, in his third and final year behind the camera at Hoover. “But I’m also happy for the program.”
The new set includes an interview couch, a four-person anchor desk, a color-changing backdrop and iconic overhead lights that graced News- Channel5 for years. The only items not provided by the news station are television monitors donated by Best Buy.
The set adds an element of real-life professionalism that gives Hoover’s graduates an advantage in a competitive industry. Along with the daily broadcast Tuesday through Friday, the spacious layout allows for long-term projects and possibly documentary-style pieces.
Principal Tony Pallija Jr. appreciates the donations as much as the voter approval of recent school levies that have allowed the district to continue such programs.
“It’s tough to hang on to stuff” in this fiscal climate, Pallija said.
The Video Production Program has flourished in attendance and scope since its birth some 13 years ago in the corner of a classroom. About a decade ago, the program incorporated an English teacher with a focus on journalism. Today, Jennifer Manion holds that position, helping the students craft the stories and the words that flow through the prompters.
Seated on the interview couch, a student anchor preps the set’s first guest, a former Hoover graduate who was integral in securing the donation.
Bill Gould, 22, graduated from Hoover in 2009. He attends Kent State’s broadcast program. In 2011, he interned at Channel 5 under the guidance of 33-year multimedia journalist Rich Geyser.
Idea is born
After the internship, Geyser and Gould held a conference last year with Hoover students at the high school. That’s when the idea to donate Channel 5’s set originated.
Awaiting his on-camera interview, Gould thinks back to the old set.
“I’m jealous of this,” he says.
While Gould and the reporters prepare on the set, Johnson works behind the scenes.
The senior barks out orders through his headset and works out audio and video mishaps between camera operators, anchors and reporters. But no matter how many rundowns it takes, Johnson knows that this will be the first of the last of his broadcasts on Hoover’s new set.
“I wish I could stay so much,” says Johnson, who plans to enroll in film school in the fall.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.