Seconds away from making T.V. magic, the cameraman shouts, “Lights, camera, action!”
That’s a typical day for the people who run CNN. No, not the Cable News Network—the Cabaniss News Network is a news program that is broadcasted every morning through screens in the hallways and classrooms of Cabaniss Middle School. The morning bell rings at 8 a.m., and the newscast starts promptly at 8:03 a.m. to allow time for students to settle down and teachers to tune into the network via their classroom smart board.
Everything from the on-air talent to the information gathering and camera work is done solely by a select group of fourth graders. The students audition as third graders the prior year, so that they are all set for the first day of school. Occasionally, other students get featured on the news program as special guests to read news stories that they contributed.
For Tina Tran, positioned as the T.V. anchorwoman for the day, the choice to audition to be a part of CNN was easy. “I like being in the spotlight. I always pretended to be a newsperson at home, so I decided to do it here, too,” said Tran.
Adam Reynolds, the day’s weatherman, also enjoys the limelight; but to him, it’s also a way to give back to the school. “We’re giving information that the students and teachers need, so I like being able to help,” said Reynolds.
Counselor David Dye oversees CNN. He started the network four years ago. He said he was thinking of producing a student-run news show when Principal Kisha McDonald came up to him wanting to start one also. Dye wrote a grant for the program to buy all the necessary equipment, and the rest is history.
Dye is very hands-on for the first two weeks of production, but he said after that, he starts handing over the reins to the students.
“It teaches the students to be self-sufficient,” Dye said. “It makes them have pride in their school and learn life skills. My favorite part is having the kids being able to independently produce quality work.”
And that quality work is surely being noticed. Some of the people on the on-air news team said they get treated like little local celebrities.
“A first grader came up to me and said that she wanted to be like me when she grows up,” said Allie Jarrett, the other anchorwoman on set. Don’t think the fame is getting to their heads, though. Counselor Dye said he picks students that are very humble and know how to handle the attention.