Boffo broadcasters: Northampton High’s TV show The Transcript covers cutting-edge news

  • Elena Frogameni, senior news producer for next year’s The Transcript, leads a slide presentation for next year’s crew during a meeting held in the communications and media production studio at Northampton High School on June 12. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Elena Frogameni, right, interviews Jill Stein, who at the time was the Green Party’s candidate for president.  Submitted photo

  • Elena Frogameni, center, interviews people at a Donald Trump campaign rally in New Hampshire in October as Joe Marks, far left, films. Submitted photo

  • 2017 Northampton High School graduate Joe Marks talks about his past year at The Transcript during an interview in the Communications and Media Production studio on Monday, June 12, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Elena Frogameni talks about her past year as a student leader of The Transcript at Northampton High School during an interview in the Communications and Media Production studio on Monday, June 12, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Elena Frogameni, senior news producer for the next year's Transcript, scrolls through a slide presentation for the new crew during a meeting held in the Communications and Media Production studio at Northampton High School on Monday, June 12, 2017. At left is senior news editor Levi Civjan. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joe Marks and Elena Frogameni talk about the past year as student leaders of The Transcript at Northampton High School during an interview in the Communications and Media Production studio on Monday, June 12, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joe Marks and Elena Frogameni talk about their past year as student leaders of The Transcript at Northampton High School during an interview in the Communications and Media Production studio on Monday, June 12, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The communications and media production studio. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton sophomore Levi Civjan, left, senior news editor for the upcoming (2017-2018) year of The Transcript, takes portraits of students enrolled in the upcoming Communications and Media Production course after the new crew's first meeting on Monday, June 12, 2017. From left, starting in background are Julian McMahon, Tashi Salsedo, Christian Hodgson, Ryan Helliwell and Eli Christopher. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joe Marks and Elena Frogameni talk about their past year as student leaders of The Transcript at Northampton High School during an interview in the Communications and Media Production studio on Monday, June 12, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

@amandadrane
Published: 6/21/2017 12:47:10 AM

NORTHAMPTON — It was late October 2016, and then FBI Director James Comey had just reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In a press box at a Donald Trump campaign rally in New Hampshire sat reporters from the New York Times, ABC News and — right beside them — The Transcript, a new student TV news broadcast at Northampton High School. At one point during the “eye-opening” event Trump knocked the media, and students saw a crowd of angry faces turn and offer them crude gestures.

Handling interactions like that one stands among many new skills students picked up in the first year of the new broadcast endeaver.

Outgoing senior and video whiz Joe Marks started production of The Transcript with “PR development geek” Elena Frogameni, 17, who next year will lead the team as senior producer. In September they kicked off weekly segments through the high school’s technology department, airing them on the department’s website and on Northampton Community Television.

Students came out swinging. They covered school sports, community news and landed an exclusive interview with then-Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

“We really need to hit the ground running,” Frogameni says anew, punching out each consonant for a group of about 20 wide-eyed newcomers — NHS juniors and seniors selected for the course — at an orientation meeting earlier this month.

They sit in a dimly lit basement room of the school, where students brainstorm story ideas and realize them.

“We run a tight ship, and this ship is really all geared by all of you,” says Jeromie Whalen, the faculty member in charge of the course. “I am the advisor of this class — I am not the teacher of this class.”

Whalen, Frogameni and other seniors in the class are lighting a fire under the new batch of students because they have a tough act to follow.

The Transcript’s first year won them a C-Span Student Cam Award, a New England Scholastic Gold Key and nominations for three regional student production awards. The C-Span award, for a documentary about sanctuary cities and immigration reform Frogameni worked on with classmate Phoebe Jessup, earned them certificates of recognition from Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“We’re a presence in the community. We’re a presence at these events,” Frogameni tells them, referencing The Transcript’s unprecedented campaign coverage last fall. “You’ll come out of this with a ton of work to put in your portfolio. Use it as an opportunity to do your best work.”

The beginning

The idea for The Transcript was born in spring 2015, when Marks looked up at the underused televisions in the school and thought: “wouldn’t it be great if we put something on those TVs?”

Frogameni and Marks, who this fall will study communications at the University of Texas, say they felt inspired to draw their peers into what was happening in the country, especially since fewer teachers were braving current events in the classroom and newspapers were failing to attract young readers.

“So many kids don’t get access to news or aren’t interested,” Frogameni says.

Marks nods. “That’s really why we did it — to keep people informed.”

Whether it’s learning how to communicate via the communication platform Slack, or familiarizing themselves with the art of high-stakes collaboration and local stardom, the students say it was a year of nonstop learning.

They didn’t always agree on the path forward, but “we’re good at arguing until we reach a reasonable conclusion,” Marks says.

“We had to learn how to be in high school with these people,” Marks says of the struggle to supervise friends and classmates. “It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.”

Frogameni says when things didn’t land quite right, Whalen was fond of saying: “this is a learning experience.” Sometimes, she says, “that’s the hardest thing to hear.”

But she says in the end he was right, that they all learned how to work through a crisis with their sanity intact.

“It’s such a pioneering way to run a high school course,” Frogameni says. 

Whalen suggests students take journalism with Anne Marie Osheyack before applying to The Transcript, as well as the photography and videography classes he teaches. Marks had come out of Whalen’s classes with skills they wanted to put to use.

“To channel that into something that benefited the community in a real way — that was really important,” Marks says.

Whalen says he had been thinking about a pared back version of what Marks and Frogameni spearheaded for some time when they came along with the right amount of fire to make it happen.

“What I’m really proud of is the legitimate and professional way they do everything,” says Whalen. “It was a learning experience for me, too.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.


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