Kaitlyn Mulcahy describes her younger self as that kid who “was always the one that wanted to get in front of the camera.”
During family vacations or in dramatic retellings of stories about their dog, the New Canaan High School junior recalled, she’d hop in front of her parents’ handheld camcorder.
So as a freshman at NCHS, when Mulcahy saw that “Introduction to TV Broadcasting” was offered as a single-semester elective, she signed up.
“I knew that after the ‘TV 1’ class, that I would want to continue throughout my four years,” Mulcahy said on a recent afternoon from outside the broadcasting studio for NCTV 78, where she helps deliver weather reports (see the 8:30 mark here) for a highly touted weekly news program.
“I was inspired by some of the anchors who were on at that time, and I really felt a connection between them and the leadership opportunities that they had, and I just knew it was something I wanted to continue with.”
A collaborative effort from students in grades 10, 11 and 12 in various levels of Advanced TV Broadcasting, the live NCHS news program—known as “The Morning Announcements” and broadcast each Friday (watch the most recent installment above)—sees those in the class produce original programming, from scratch, for the town’s educational cable channel.
Using state-of-the-art equipment and working as a team, students like Mulcahy who start on the TV Broadcasting track as freshmen and stay with it all four years say the experience offers unique skill-building, real-world experience, camaraderie and some hard-earned recognition among classmates.
NCHS Career & Technical Education teacher Roman Cebulski, who teaches the TV Broadcasting classes as well as others in Journalism and Graphic Design & Multimedia, said students coming into the introductory course “start with the basics.”
“I added a whole unit on using your iPhone to shoot video properly because so many kids are just using that and they don’t really know what they’re doing,” he told NewCanaanite.com.
“Simple as keeping it horizontal, locking the aperture. So it’s really very equipment-heavy. First they learn on the iPhone, then they learn the larger cameras, regular handhelds and then tripods and then they learn how to go out and shoot with those things. So while they’re doing it, they will learn about proper ways to shoot. We watch television, we analyze shots. They go out and they have to do a creative project that incorporate shots, writing their own scripts, storyboard. They go out into the field, they shoot and then they come back here and learn to edit. They do a whole unit on just editing, as well. And that is just field production and afterwards, later in the semester, they go into the studio and learn how to use all the equipment there. Some of them are in front of the camera, some of them are behind the camera. They write a script together as a group, a large group. They come up with a show and then their final exam is they have to do that live show in front of an audience.”
Seniors Sean Manzella, Luca Triant and Christian Parrott have been working together in TV Broadcasting for all four years at NCHS.
For Manzella, the classes represent “one of the most advanced programs that New Canaan can offer.”
“And compared to what other high schools are doing, we are light years ahead of them,” Manzella said. “So if you really want the most professional program at the high school, this is definitely it.”
An aspiring news show producer, Manzella is headed to Syracuse University next year to study broadcast journalism in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, one of the nation’s preeminent programs.
Parrott, who will study sports broadcasting at Texas Christian University, said the groundwork laid at NCHS has “opened a lot of doors” and prepared him well for the next phase.
“The equipment that we have, the experience that we get is on a college level, even a professional level,” Parrott said. “So by us having those resources available to us, it’s allowed me to think, ‘OK I can go into college, I’m confident going into college with this and coming out of college I’m going to have so much more experience than the person next to me, that it’s going to help me gain that job that I want.’ ”
Ultimately, Parrott said he would like to produce a major sports event.
“The pinnacle would be the Super Bowl,” he said.
Triant, known in NCHS hallways as a weatherman on The Morning Announcements, said the class delivers “a unique experience.”
“They call it an ‘elective’ but it’s such a different work environment than you would find in any other class or elective,” he said. “Whatever you do in this class—because there are so many options, whether you want to be in the news, the creative-entertainment aspect or sports aspect—it doesn’t matter what you do. You learn so many different skills.”
Being on-camera, Triant said he also feels that recognition among fellow NCHS students is also rewarding.
“it’s a lot of hard work, we put a lot of extra time into it,” Triant said. “It may be similar to an extracurricular, but it’s something that you put a lot of time into. And it’s really nice to get that positive feedback.”
Manzella, a news anchor, said he’s recognized even outside of the school building itself.
“I have been stopped renting skis,” he said.
Manzella’s sister had taken journalism all four years at NCHS, including in Cebulski’s classes “and she loved it,” he said.
“So she recommended that I take TV because I’ve always been a lot more visual,” he recalled. “And the real determining factor was I got to do TV for homework. I got to watch TV and that was my homework for class, so I loved it. Sophomore year I ended up taking it again and that’s when I really started to like it with the advanced class in ‘TV 2.’ Where I worked on more and more advanced class. And then once I got the opportunity to be station manager and lead the class, I just loved it. I was really in charge of a lot more and doing projects.”
It’s something that Mulcahy said she’s looking forward to, starting in the spring, since junior begin stepping into anchor roles when the Senior Internship Program gets underway mid-May.
Mulcahy said she’s seen her older friends who came through the TV Broadcasting program go on to Syracuse or the University of Missouri, home to one of the nation’s best-established journalism schools.
“What we do in the TV class provides you with real-world experience because we use the same software as a lot of the professional companies work and that they use,” she said. “We also go down and take trips to the city as well and sometimes go to the studios and kind of get a feel for how it is in the real world and I think that is something I’m interested in doing.”
For Mulcahy, one of the most memorable experiences in three year of TB Broadcasting was a short “stand-up” news segment she did as a sophomore, interviewing the head of the head of the Women in the Workforce Wednesday Club.
“I was able to connect with her and really understand what her club was trying to do for women and girls in the high school,” Mulcahy said.
Asked whether she knew about that club prior to the segment, Mulcahy said she’d heard of it as a freshman “but I really didn’t know anything about it in-depth, and I think that through TV I was able to show that to the rest of the school.”