After a long hiatus, TV morning announcements are back

Lights, camera, action, go. After an almost three-year hiatus, WJ’s TV morning announcements are back. The daily morning news segment is returning to Promethean boards and box lights around the school. Now being streamed on YouTube, WJ will have to adjust again, away from the morning intercoms.

The people who are in charge of, and take part in the morning announcements strive to present a fun and professional news segment that provides students, staff and administration with daily news and happenings of WJ. However, the intent to provide the show every morning has been running into some technical difficulties.

In order to broadcast the signal across the school, the announcements use an OSB system. To stream the announcements, there needs to be at least one-gigabyte switch. Across the school, there are 13 server closets, which are each equipped with a one-gigabyte switch. Previously, the 13 server closets hosted megabyte switches, and it was updated to gigabytes in 2019. But, the progress halted once the Covid pandemic came into full swing.

“We had to tear apart the T.V. Studio because it was one of the few spaces that met the county requirements for being a Covid response room. So then it became a Covid response room, and we finally got clearance to take down the room, and we set up the room to do testing for APs and that type of stuff,” Media Services Technician James Mulhern said.

Now that the T.V. Studio room is back and is being used for the morning announcements, the next challenge is time. The morning announcements are live-streamed at the beginning of the second period. The staff that runs the announcements leave their first-period classes approximately 10 minutes early.

Within this 10-minute window, the students and Mulhern have to set up the TV studio. This entails finalizing the script for the teleprompter, setting up the teleprompter, making sure the blue screen is correct, checking that the sound quality is at the correct level and that the broadcast is actually being streamed throughout the school and eventually onto the Youtube channel.

The wave of different responsibilities within the timeframe given has been a challenge for the staff.

“For me, the hardest part is that you are not just reading, writing off the script, you are looking into the camera, making eye contact, it’s no longer a script it’s a teleprompter. So the whole vibe now is different,” senior officer Kiki Gazit said.

Because the morning announcements are a club, the amount of time staff is able to access the equipment each day is limited. A possible solution to the problem would be creating an actual TV studio class. This has led to some discussion among the morning announcements crew about whether or not their work should be taught in a class environment.

“For it to be an actual class, and it is an actual class at some other high schools, it would need a teacher of record. Somebody who will help teach the class and someone who is a certified teacher. I am capable of teaching the technology part, but I am not a certified teacher. I do think it is a class that could benefit the students, but we have a very robust academic program here at Walter Johnson, so it’s more of a matter of bringing that along to meet the needs without taking away from another program that is successful,” Mulhern said.

Even with all of the technological difficulties, a limited amount of time and many different responsibilities to help produce the show, the reward for successfully completing a live morning news show is bigger than the sacrifice.

“Even now we are still running into technical difficulties, but we are putting on a more interesting show and the trade-off is all the preparation… I feel like morning announcements, since it happens every day and everyone in the school sees it, contributes a lot to school culture,” senior officer Lammai Nguyen said.

Now that the morning announcements are back to being televised, it is an adjustment for staff and students to remember to watch the morning announcements at the beginning of second period. 

Previously, students, staff and administration would go about their day and the morning announcements would come on over the intercom. Now that it is in a different format, it has caused a little confusion.

“I’ve had a ton of teachers come up to me and say where are the announcements because they can’t find the links from the emails. It will take a little while [for every classroom to stream the announcements], but hopefully, it catches on,” senior officer Ella Murray said.

The return of the announcements to television has made some of the staff contemplate the future of the program. There are other schools in the county that have established T.V. Studio classes or they have more established morning announcements. Now the staff is asking what they can do to help better the future of WJ’s morning announcements.

“I think it’s important to give students the complete opportunity to learn this stuff. Streaming and video, as we saw in Covid, have changed and revolutionized our society. So this thought process and this type of technology that the students are using is going to be continued. It creates pathways for students to look at careers and other avenues to use video streaming technology,” Mulhern said.