On the Air at Ditmas I.S. 62

March 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

These students have it covered.

Budding journalists at Ditmas I.S.62 are getting an early taste of the ins and outs of television production with the Ditmas News Network (D.N.N.), which is tied to the school’s media program.

All the segments are written and produced by the students with the help of teachers David Liotta, Michael Downes and Angelo Carideo, with script editing help from English teacher Dr. Rose Reissman.

Although Liotta—who joined the program in 2011 to help launch the station—is new to being a teacher, he seems to be enjoying the experience.

“It can be fun…fun and frustrating,” he adds with a laugh.

“It can be frustrating because the students have a tendency to goof off, but [when we’re done with a project] there’s the feeling of ‘Wow, we finally finished.’ It’s good experience for them to learn from, and they get to do things hand-on.”

Since the beginning of the school year last fall, D.N.N. has produced ten episodes. The station is not officially a program at the school, but the group of students involved are waiting to hear back about a grant from the city that would make it official and provide much-needed funding for new equipment.

The cameras and audio equipment they use now are from Liotta’s personal collection. The state-of-the-art cameras and microphones are scattered around the original television studio in addition to the obsolete, bulky equipment from the late 1980s and early ’90s that mainly serve as reminders of the program’s roots. Liotta says he mainly got involved because of his equipment and tech experience working as an audio engineer.

According to the D.N.N website, Ditmas teacher Roy Applewhite founded the school’s first media program in the late 1980’s. The program was successful into the ’90s until the equipment became obsolete and the school’s priorities changed.

The program did not start up again until 2003 when teachers Michael Downes and Angelo Carideo developed videos with students, entering them in— and ultimately winning—multiple Tri-State media competitions.

The episodes tackle issues relevant to the school and the neighborhood, such as a local pizza shop closing down. Eighth-grader and D.N.N. anchor Anaya Deslandes says that her favorite segment was one the students wrote about Movember, the month-long event during which the male teachers in the school grew out their moustaches to raise awareness for testicular cancer and men’s health.

“It was fun and interesting seeing how the teachers did it, and we got to ask them why they did it,” she says. “We didn’t even know that it was going on before we reported on it.”

While the station focuses on bringing local news to the community within the school, the students also report on broader public issues, like the effect of the SOPA bill. Dr. Reissman, who helps the students write the scripts for their broadcasts, is a strong believer in letting them have these experiences as early in their careers as possible.

“The regular curriculum doesn’t engage them as actively as the immediacy of the reporting,” she says. “David, Angelo and Michael do this outreach with reporters within the neighborhood, which takes them where the students wouldn’t normally go, and the students get to forge connections they wouldn’t otherwise make.”

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