TRAVERSE CITY — Jody Mackey and her Traverse City East Middle School students almost missed a chance to accept their top prize at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association award ceremony.
Mackey, a broadcast journalism, yearbook, history and language arts teacher at East, considered leaving the Lansing event with her broadcast journalism students last month before the winners of MIPA’s coveted Spartan Award were announced.
“We almost blew it,” Mackey said.
The Spartan Award is MIPA’s highest honor for student media outlets. Only high school programs had captured the top-prize for broadcast journalism until this year.
Mackey barely noticed the words Trojan TV flash across the award ceremony screen in gigantic letters as she contemplated the early exit, but then she realized her middle schoolers had won.
Twenty groups from around Michigan submitted broadcast journalism entries to MIPA. Out-of-state judges evaluate and critique the submitted video portfolios based on factors like reporting quality, camera work, graphic design and overall broadcast style.
Only four broadcast journalism programs received the top-honor this year.
”We are looking for quality, professional journalism,” MIPA Executive Director Jeremy Steele said. “These aren’t just videos kids are throwing up on YouTube for fun.”
East Middle School’s Trojan TV has come a long way since it started as an on-again, off-again club about eight years ago.
”We would set up in the corner of the room and tape,” Mackey said.
Now Trojan TV, funded in large part through grants and donations, is equipped with quality video cameras, computers, editing software, and audio equipment.
Mackey and 30 students air a newscast once or twice a week that details school news and announcements. They also produce feature and human interest stories.
Students learn about time management, multitasking, communication skills and storytelling while working on such projects.
”In any journalism-based program the kids are getting real-world experience,” Mackey said. “This is not a traditional classroom.”
Eighth grader Grace Hohman said the class helped her become more comfortable approaching and talking to people.
”It was hard for me at the beginning,” said Hohman, who plans to continue her broadcast journalism career in high school.
Some students like eighth graders Tyler Moreno and Eric Ochoa have been in Mackey’s class for two years.
”It was terrible back then,” Ochoa said of the antiquated software and equipment Trojan TV previously relied on then.
Moreno, Ochoa and other students expressed genuine enthusiasm as they talked about how far Trojan TV has come and how much they’ve learned in the class.
Mackey clearly shares her students excitement; she even opens her classroom during her lunch period to give students “another place to hang.”
Kaytlyn Honoré, a seventh grader, summed up why her peers and their teacher share those thoughts.
”I really like this class,” Honoré said. “When you work together to make a story, you make new friendships and new relationships.”