All the news that’s fit to say

By on September 11, 2009

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Michelle Cunningham, a 13-year-old resident of rural Elburn, took advantage of an opportunity to practice being a television anchor this summer.

A participant in the Waubonsee Community College TV News Camp for Kids, Cunningham learned how to interview subjects, write and tell a story, work with state-of-the-art digital television production equipment, and use a computer to perform linear editing.

The seventh-grader said she took the class because she wanted to learn what is was like to be behind the scenes of a news show. She and others in her class found their own stories, conducted the research, took the camera around campus to interview people at Waubonsee, and volunteered for the role they each wanted to play in the news production. The show aired on Fox Valley TV Channel 17 soon after the class.

In addition to her anchor role, Cunningham researched and reported on two stories, one about a local candidate from Aurora who announced his candidacy for President Obama’s former Senate seat, currently held by Roland Burris, and a lighter piece on an American Idol contestant.

“It was cool that we could talk about real stories that were happening,” she said.

Teacher Mike Rennels, Manager of Public Access Programming for Waubsonsee, said he chose a newscast for the class because it has all the elements of TV production. The students, ranging from 11 to 14 years old, learned how to take a story and get to the point of the what, who, when and where, making it shorter for television.

“They impressed me with their knowledge,” Rennels said.

Because the first-time summer class had only six students, Cunningham said she received a lot of attention.

“He (Rennels) explained everything really well,” she said. “He taught us step by step.”

Cunningham said her family and friends watched her on TV when the show aired.

“They really liked it,” she said. “It was really fun to see how it all came together. It was cool to see the kids doing all the different parts.”

Rennels conducts a similar course for adults during the regular school schedule. Upon completion of the class, titled Public Access Television Production Training, students are certified to create public access television programs that will air on Fox Valley TV or serve as crew members for other productions using FVTV equipment and facilities.

For more information about the adult class, visit and click on Community Education Classes. The TV News Camp for Kids will be available again next summer.