By T. Scott Boatright
Once a high school baseball and basketball coach, Nick Brown long ago traded his whistle for a microphone as a radio sports show host and talent for KNBB-FM 97.7.
But fortunately for Ruston High School students, Brown has taken those talents into the classroom, giving his pupils the opportunity to follow in his footsteps into the airwaves … and beyond,
Brown, who has also taught physical as well as environmental science, teaches multiple Radio I and Radio II Classes at RHS, and added a Media 1 class involving work with the L.J. “Hoss” Garrett” jumbotron video scoreboard.
The Radio I class begins with the skill any radio talent needs — public speaking.
“We work a lot on their speaking — we want them to enunciate well and to pronounce things correctly,” Brown said. “But the students also learn about radio and the FCC and legal IDs. We go live with about nine students each hour — each class, which is a lot but we have a lot of students. It’s one of the more popular electives. We do news, weather sports, today in history and today in the 80s.
“Our (music) format is an 80’s format. The first air date was Oct. 22, 2014. We chose the 80s format because that was not competing with any other station in town. Gary McKinney, who was then the general manager at Red Peach Radio, was very helpful in getting all of this started. The kids learned about Adobe Audition and how to edit audio and get good sound levels.”
Every hour of class RHS students broadcast news, sports and the today in history and today in the 80s segments.
“We kind of go cross-cultural so that this class can work with other classes, especially with ‘today in history’ and ‘today in the 80s,’ We also do a quote of the day, some kind of random fact about what national day it is.”
One student runs the operating board during a show broadcast while another is behind that student learning the process.
“We have 20-23 kids per class, so we want to keep everyone involved,” Brown said.
Students in the class also listen to the shows to both learn and help critique.
“Constructive criticism is important in these classes,” Brown said. “The kids have thick skin. The’ll tell each other if they mumble or incorrectly pronounce something. It’s really good teamwork — and it is a team.”
The students will also research each song being played during a broadcast hour, giving listeners information and facts about the song like who wrote it, where and when it placed in the charts and other random facts.”
“The song ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns and Roses — I didn’t know it was meant as a warning for runaways. These kids do a lot of research and teach me things.”
Brown said there have been times he’s worried about his personal critiques of students and especially their on-air speaking, but that one incident still stands out and makes him realize the impact the class is making.
“I had a kid that I had been kind of hard on because of his speaking come by my class one day when I was alone and asked if he could talk with me for a minute,” Brown said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought this student was going to tell me that he didn’t enjoy my class or that he thought I was mean to him, And this kid says, ‘I want to thank you because what you taught me in radio helped me become the person running the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A because they said I speak so clear, and I didn’t do that before taking your radio class.’ It just floored me because sometimes you wonder if you’re making a difference.
“What I tell the students is that they don’t have to speak to their peers the way they do on the radio, but they have to be heard. They have to speak correctly and we work a lot on that. Kids today mumble so much because they’re into technology that has their face in a screen. We do our research on the screen, but we do our talking on the air and we have to speak clearly.”
The Radio II class has a fantasy football-like draft where students choose a team with the teams rotating and taking turns controlling that hours worth of radio programming.
“A team of three is responsible for all of that information as Radio I, but it’s a smaller group and they go a little further in depth with the software. They write a public service announcement, which we’re required to air. That’s kind of included in Radio I as well, but the Radio II class edits it, mixes it down, adds sound effects and all of that.”
Brown said the RHS station — KBNF-LP 101.3 FM, is a low-power station with about an eight-mile broadcast radius,
“We have everything a commercial radio station has, we’re just low power,” Brown said. “We’re streamed on the Lincoln Parish School Board website. We’re streamed on the Ruston High School web page, so you can listen to us anywhere in the world, but we’re low power on the FB broadcast. And accidents happen. Sometimes we have dead air. It’s all part of the learning experience.”
The Media class largely surrounds work with the football video scoreboard.
“(RHS athletics director and football coach) Jerrod Baugh asked if they could get a scoreboard, could we get kids to run it?,” Brown said. “I was supposed to be trained for a week but because of miscommunication I trained for about 28 minutes. It’s been a learning experience for all, but the bottom line is that the kids run that.”
The work includes videoing game action for live broadcasting on the big screen as well as showing a video replay following each play.
“Some sporting events have teams of 15 people brought in to do that kind of thing. We have a class of seven kids running a video board on a Friday night and they do it as good as anybody. It’s all done on a precise time schedule. It’s timed down. It doesn’t just happen, it’s scripted down to the commercials. Sometimes the kids like to act like they’re not going to be there to make me nervous, but they come through and do a great job.”
Brown said the Media I class also involves learning about the advanced Premiere Pro video editing program as well as utilizing social media platforms.
“We appreciate community feedback and the fact that the community has become part of all of this,” Brown said. “Our goal is for them to enjoy the product while our students get a great learning experience.”
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