Training new generations of broadcasters while ensuring the local municipality receives adequate coverage are the focus of an education and government channel in Germantown, Tenn.
Among the most extensive coverage produced by Germantown Community Television is election night. The more than three-hour live show features student reporters covering local, state and national races. Pictured from left are student broadcasters Paul Hoover, Marinela Zubovic, Wade Bonds and Andrew Baldock. Photos courtesy of Germantown Community Television
Germantown Community Television (GCT) has the task of teaching high school students the craft of broadcasting, and it achieves that goal by not only operating out of Germantown High School, but by being embedded into the school’s curriculum, according to GCT officials.
GCT started out solely as an educational channel, and the station’s mission is still one that emphasizes education and the arts for the entire community, Frank Bluestein, a high school teacher who oversaw the creation of GCT and who still directs the channel, told Government Video. Bluestein became involved with the channel over 30 years ago when Germantown decided to offered cable system franchises, he said. Several of the franchise applicants wanted to create a local access studio and the organization that made the winning bid proposed creating their local access studio in the high school, according to the teacher.
Each class has about 70 students who are “very involved” with program production “because it’s part of the curriculum,” Bluestein said. The curriculum requires that students who want to work in the studio take two years of introductory classes and during their third, or junior, year they start working in the actual studio where they are mentored at a position—such as camera operation or editing or promotion or lighting or directing—by a senior student, he said. By having the seniors act as mentors, the juniors “learn the craft, and then in their senior year, they take over those positions and are actually part of the management team that runs the studio,” he said.
Germantown Community Television student reporter Avery Franklin conducts an interview at a community event while videographer Collin Hutsell records the interview.
Most of the students who are serious about a career in broadcasting will enroll in college and study broadcasting, and even get jobs at a studio while they are still in school, Bluestein said. Those students get involved with an on-campus station, but they also tend to be more advanced than the other freshmen in their classes, making it difficult to find colleges that let them study at an advanced level, he said.
One such former student of Germantown High School’s GCT program is Bobby Ramsey, the channel’s studio supervisor, who is a 2004 graduate of the school and who returned to the program in 2008 after earning a bachelor’s degree in electronic media production from Middle Tennessee State University. Because “I’ve been through this program, I know exactly what to expect, and what they are going through,” he said.
“The students do everything, they run the cameras, they direct, they switch, they run the tapes, they do graphics; we just sit in the back and make sure everything works,” Ramsey said.
Dallen Detamore operates one of nine cameras during Germantown Community Television’s annual auction fundraiser.
Operating on an annual budget of $425,000, GCT broadcasts 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and the channel transmits a wide variety of programs, Bluestein said. “We produce a lot of shows ourselves, what I would call ‘school’ shows including a morning news show, which features our school news, but which also has community news,” he said. “We do a cable quiz show that’s student produced and run, and a weekly allstudent community affairs show in which we interview different people on different topics. And then we do a lot of programming for the city of Germantown to fulfill our community obligation,” he added.
But probably the most important thing GCT does is broadcast City Hall meetings, including the Board of Aldermen meetings; the Planning Commission meetings; and the Design Review meetings. “We televise all those live, and the students do that.”
The shows produced are of a “professional level,” Ramsey said. “We enter a lot of our shows to the Hometown Video Awards (sponsored by the Alliance for Community Media), and a lot of our work will go up against professionals, and we’ve won multiple times,” he said.