Teen Day team members, instructors, friends and family enjoy a game of bowling. From left to right: state Rep. Andy Jorgensen and daughter Camryn, Rock River Lanes owner Rick Rector, Amanda Gilbert, WSUW(FM) Station Manager Kyle Johns, instructor Dan Pettegrew, Orion Schuyler, Nate Gilbert and state Rep. Steve Nass. A college radio station, small-town newspaper and big-city broadcast professional have teamed up to create a unique program that transports Wisconsin high school students into the wide world of radio.
The first Teen Day Broadcasting Program was presented Sept. 5 through Dec. 19, 2012, by 91.7 “The Edge,” WSUW(FM), on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus, and by the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, of which I am managing editor.
“We selected area teens, 14 and up, as broadcast team members,” said organizer Dan Pettegrew. “Using local music, education and sports activities as homework assignments, Teen Day introduced them to the radio station environment firsthand.”
A Fort Atkinson High School graduate, Pettegrew has been employed in the broadcast industry since 1987, mainly in Los Angeles. His résumé includes commercial scheduling for the Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network at Clear Channel Communications and a stint as broadcast traffic director for Pacific Public Radio and U.S. International Media.
I joined WSUW Station Manager Kyle Johns and Pettegrew teaching the mechanics of producing radio broadcasts through interviewing, programming, promotion, production, traffic, sales and billing instruction.
For two hours each week, the public library’s community room was transformed into a radio studio where the six students wrote interview questions, recorded radio announcements and prepared for their broadcasts.
Sessions included recording promotions for business sponsors; a fieldtrip to WSUW; a Saturday at Busy Barns Adventure Farm, where the teens interviewed state legislative candidates; and recording interviews with, and songs by, members of local band Searching for Seas.
Orion Schuyler shares his headphones with a young visitor during the Busy Barns Adventure Farm interviews. The teens also hosted a Veterans Day Tribute at the American Legion that featured patriotic music and interviews with UW-Whitewater Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets and veterans who served in World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars; and they did a play-by-play broadcast of a high school boys’ basketball game, complete with pre- and post-game coach interviews and a halftime conversation with the Daily Union’s sportswriter.
A closing reception included the presentation of certificates, refreshments and a friendly game of bowling with state Reps. Andy Jorgensen and Steve Nass, both of whom participated in broadcasts earlier in the fall.
“Students should take advantage of hands-on learning opportunities now that will give them an advantage later, when they’re looking for a job,” said Jorgensen, a former radio personality himself. “I’m pleased to join Teen Day to help educate our young people and prepare them for the future.”
While the program is designed to provide career guidance, it also helps the teens hone important life and character skills: teamwork, decision-making, public speaking, interviewing, budgeting, self-confidence, respect, dependability, professionalism and responsibility.
Nathan Gilbert of Fort Atkinson is interested in sports broadcasting and hopes to work someday for ESPN.
“I am excited about having an opportunity not too many others have had,” Gilbert said. “I want to learn what it takes to be successful in the broadcasting field.”
Amanda Gilbert of Jefferson also is eyeing a broadcasting career. She and two fellow participants were interviewed about Teen Day on the www.blogtalkradio.com segment, “At Eye Level.”
“I loved it! It was really cool and … gave me a look into my future,” she said, calling Teen Day “amazing.”
“I’d like to just take in as much as they can teach me,” she added.
Alex Scullin of Fort Atkinson said she joined Teen Day “to try this broadcasting experience to see if it's right for me.”
And her goal? “To have my own little podcast radio show.”
Nate Gilbert of Fort Atkinson, Wis., holds the microphone as ROTC cadets introduce themselves at the Teen Day Veterans Tribute. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is excited about Teen Day, too.
“Teen Day is a terrific initiative,” said WBA President Michelle Vetterkind. “We fully support the program. It is a great concept and wonderful opportunity for our teens to get involved with the broadcast industry.”
Participation is free for teens, while tax-deductible sponsorships cover the $8,400 budget. However, attracting sponsors has been a big challenge.
Those that signed on at $700 each ― Rock River Lanes, 2 Rivers Bicycle and Outdoor and Diversified Personnel Services/Opportunities Inc. ― received a lot of print, website, radio and event exposure.
On WSUW, each sponsor got 14 weekly promos (two 15-second spots per day), 30-second underwriting insertion in all broadcast assignments and acknowledgements at the opening and closing ceremonies. That totaled 228 promos per sponsor, not to mention outside media coverage.
In addition to fine-tuning the curriculum and signing up next fall’s participants, the main task right now is raising funds and finding sponsors.
“Teen Day is a great opportunity, not only for teens, but for WSUW, the Daily Union, local businesses and the area at large,” Pettegrew said. “We are promoting community journalism.”
For more information on Teen Day, call (920) 397-9178 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Links to all broadcasts and photos are available on Teen Day’s Facebook page.
Christine Spangler is managing editor for The Daily Jefferson County Union.