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By Terry Dean
The Newscene set John Condne first walked onto 11 years ago was nothing like it is now.
"It looked like a bomb went off," recalled Condne, the TV and broadcast instructor at Oak Park and River Forest High School. "There were three cameras; I'm not sure if all of them worked. There was equipment all over the floor. I said, 'I can't keep it like this. I've got to change how this is.'"
A television and film producer, Condne got to work cleaning things up by implementing his "system" for the OPRF course that produces Newscene, which features news and information about the high school.
Today, the Newscene set is as professional as any broadcast station, said Condne, who also teaches Intro to Broadcasting and TV Production at OPRF. Newscene, which began in 1980 to highlight the school's annual Homecoming, is produced entirely by students. It includes a 10-minute, news-style magazine show hosted by students, which airs on OPRF's campus TV, as well as Comcast's Channel 6 (VOPTV) and Channel 99 on AT&T cable.
The news/feature magazine show highlights activities mainly on campus but also includes segments on things happening around Oak Park.
"We want it to be a source the students can turn to," Condne said.
The student producers pick their own stories to do. They also get ideas from the school's student activities director, Cindy Milojevic, and Karin Sullivan, OPRF's director of communications. Only recently have students started brainstorming directly with administrators.
Sullivan, who was hired at OPRF in the summer of 2012, said Newscene has been extremely helpful in her role.
"We have so much going on here that it's hard to keep track of everything," she said. "Our meetings help me stay on top of upcoming activities and events to promote to parents and the community at large. John was one of the first people to welcome me to the building, and we just decided it would be a good idea to get together."
Newscene is shown at 6 and 11 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Oak Park.
Twenty students are enrolled in the class, who are divided into two teams that produce, host and work behind the scenes on the show — each team producing a show that airs every other week.
Newscene also includes shows hosted by individual students — this year it's students Bri Williams (Let's Bri Real) and Brando Crawford (Staying Classy with Brando Crawford). Former student Tyler Milsap hosted the popular Tyler Milsap Show for two years before graduating last June. Williams' show follows Milsap's format, tackling topical issues. A recent show focused on religion and included guests of different faiths.
"I want my show to be informational without a bunch of facts being thrown into your face," said Williams. "I want the learning, the lesson, or idea to creep up on you so you walk away knowing something you had not known before. My main goal with my show is to talk about things other people may not expect on a high school talk show."
In all, the Newscene time slot fills about a half-hour.
The class took on another project this year: producing the school's Friday morning announcements. Though the segment runs only a few minutes every other week, Condne said much time has been spent producing them, only because this is a new gig the students are learning.
Over the years, the class has produced reporters and producers who have gone on to work in the news media. In the future, Condne wants the class to continue to improve and get new stories.
"I want this to be as close to professional as possible, to have the feel of a real news station," he said.
Bright lights for Bri
Oak Park and River Forest High School junior Bri Williams is the host of a new show on the school's Newscene broadcast. Williams' Let's Bri Real follows former student Tyler Milsap and his Tyler Milsap Show. Like Milsap, who graduated in June, Williams plans to tackle issues facing high school students. But Williams also looks to put her spin on the familiar format. Williams — whose name is Briana but prefers to be called Bri — was chosen as Tyler's replacement. She has big plans for her show, which she talked about with Wednesday Journal.
Are you an Oak Park native?
I'm 16 years old. I grew up in the city and moved to Oak Park in seventh grade and attended Brooks [Middle school].
Why did you audition to replace Tyler?
Talking to people is something I love to do, and the idea of having a show where many people can come together and connect was very appealing. I have always loved watching talk shows, especially the news. I always watch Good Morning America and Windy City Live. So when I found out they were going to have a replacement for Tyler, I was very excited about it.
What is your show about?
It isn't about one specific topic. It's a show that will venture into many areas. I want to open people's eyes to other things and more insight.
Any favorite talk show hosts, broadcasters or entertainers in general?
I love Windy City Lives' Val Warner because she is so effortlessly classy and holds herself very well on camera. She knows when to be funny and when to be serious. I love Kelly (Ripa) and Michael (Strahan) — I think they are hilarious and just perfect.
Is hosting a TV show or some kind of broadcast work in your future?
My career path is in journalism/broadcast.
What extracurricular activities are you involved in at OPRF?
I am actually involved in a lot; I have a very busy schedule. I'm in multiple clubs, including Tau Gamma, Model U.N., Speech Team, ACTSO, and I am interested in trying out for lacrosse this season. I also rap, which is something many people don't know.
Does entertainment/broadcast run in your family?
Entertainment in music is something that runs in my family. My family is opinionated and they have a really good niche for getting their point across and talking. My whole life I have been surrounded by people who want you to do well and who will talk to me. I've always been talkative because my family listens to me. If my family was not supportive during these 16 years of talkative madness I would not have gotten this far so far.
How many siblings, if any?
I have two siblings. I have a 2-year-old baby brother, RJ, and a 4-month old baby sister, Kendall.
Did you come up with the concept for your first show? (Bri's first show was more of an introduction of her, including a comedy skit of Bri running around the campus and interacting with classmates). Is acting/comedy an interest or future career path?
The concept of the first show was a collaborative idea between my co-producers and me. I've always been told I was funny so I guess comedy is in my future but not a whole career field to in itself.
Who came up with the name of your show?
The show name actually was on of my producers' idea, Ana. She brought the idea to me and I instantly loved it. Ana, Sophie (the other co-producer), and I went out on Lake streetand talked to random people, asking what name they liked best. It was between Me You and Bri, which I wasn't a fan of. But obviously Lets Bri Real won over.