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By Terry Dean
A TV show produced locally by high school students and shown on a Chicago community access station has found a new home on the Village of Oak Park's public broadcasting channel, VOP-TV.
Newscene, a magazine-style program produced by Oak Park and River Forest High School students, has been broadcast on Chicago Access Network Television (CAN-TV) for more than a decade. It's also shown on campus on TVs and monitors throughout the building. But neither the show nor any other program from the high school has ever been shown on the village's station before.
A couple of Newscene shows have so far aired on Comcast Channel 6 as well as Channel 99 on AT&T's U-Verse. The show, which has existed since 1980, airs twice on those stations at 6 and 11 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is also shown regularly on Thursdays at 4 p.m. on CAN-TV's Channel 19.
Earlier this year, the village reached out to the school for programming, and also to District 97, Oak Park's elementary school system. Newscene was the first program offered. John Condne, who teaches the class, thought it made sense for the show to air on VOP-TV. Newscene reports on activities at the high school and in the area, such as new restaurant openings.
"We want to be a resource, not just for the kids but for parents and the community, and let people know what's going on from the teens' perspective," Condne said.
Newscene will be the primary show on VOP-TV, but Condne says other programming, such as music videos made by students, will also be shown on occasion. Viewers, though, shouldn't expect to see wall-to-wall OPRF shows on the village's stations, Condne noted — Newscene, for instance, airs 25 times throughout the year and broadcasts every other week.
"We don't want to cover every event in the school because there's so many, and we don't have the manpower for it," he said.
The village's other station, Channel 16, was originally designated for educational shows years ago but only Triton College has provided a steady stream of programming there.
David Powers, head of communications for the Village of Oak Park, says he's made requests over the years for programming from both Oak Park school districts but didn't get much feedback. He surmises that it was difficult to provide student-produced programs with kids involved in class and other activities. This time around, Condne and the high school jumped at the chance. OPRF and Dist. 97 were both in mind when Channel 16 was created, Powers recalled.
"We've been trying to get the students involved for years," he said.
Zoe Bergstrom, 15, and Sophia Barnes, 16, Newscene's producers, assign and edit stories by student reporters. Both said they're open to story ideas from residents as well as students.
"Anything that affects the community can end up on the show," said Barnes, a junior.
Bergstrom, a sophomore and the youngest in the class, has also done some on-air reporting and has seen the show's popularity grow among students. The producers and their teacher are hopeful that popularity will grow with a larger audience in Oak Park, River Forest and surrounding communities.
"People sometimes stop me and say, 'Hey I saw you on the show,' Bergstrom said. "It's a lot more successful now."