MAB’s East Kentwood High School Radio Project Highlighted by WXMI-TV
January 26, 2024
This past Wednesday (1/24), East Kentwood High School's new student radio station was spotlighted by WXMI-TV (Grand Rapids). East Kentwood is one of two schools in the state participating in a project from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. The High School Radio Project introduces careers in radio and audio to high school students through real-world application via online streaming radio stations. The MAB has provided both schools with an audio console and microphones, audio editing software, music scheduling software, professional-level radio station automation and streaming to give them the tools to develop a online radio station they can make their own.
The new station is being used in part to expand East Kentwood's Falcon News Network to radio. As part of the network, students are not only learning news literacy, but also, incorporating it into their passion projects.
“We have students that have stories to share, and we want to make sure we give them a platform,” East Kentwood High School Video Production teacher Preston Donakowski said. Senior Nick Longstreet is experiencing his first time ever doing radio. He says, after just a few weeks, he’s already getting the hang of it.
“It’s digestible for people, but then you can still kind of do a deep dive on topics, and you can have your favorite songs playing, so that’s cool too,” Longstreet said. “The more that we are able to use it and utilize it, I think that people are going to find that they have new interests. But then also, like, this is going to be a new medium of getting their art out.”
Students also have the opportunity to create podcasts, which is exactly what junior Jasmin Smithers has been working on.
“Podcasting has been really fun. Everybody can honestly get into their own ideas, their own little, whatever they want to do. I think it’s really cool how we can just take something and make it such a beautiful thing,” Smithers said.
Although radio is a different platform than television, the goals remain the same – maintaining credible, fact-based journalism and strengthening trust.
“Just, kind of, getting them outside of their comfort zone and realizing, like, you know, your role as a reporter. You do sometimes have to ask, like, some tougher questions. And, for high schoolers, you know, that can be difficult,” Donakowski explained.
Donakowski teaches Media Literacy 101 each semester, showing students the importance of asking those tough questions. Most recently, they focused on snow days.
“What’s a snow day? What’s not a snow day? We just had a reporter sit down with our superintendent and kind of say, ‘hey, on this day, everybody thought we should have a snow day. How do you respond to that sort of controversy?’ And to see them kind of digging their heels in a little bit is really cool to see,” he added.
Students are also learning how to fact-check and remain unbiased.
“It’s still about, okay, you know, double checking the simple things, like, ‘okay, is that how you spell their name? Is that how you pronounce their name?’ to double checking the bigger things, like, ‘okay is that amount of money right for how much they’re spending?’ Or ‘is that name right for the controversy or the crime that’s committed?’” Donakowski explained.
So now, these students can use what they’re learning and apply it to their passion projects.
“So, we fact check a lot. We, for one, check with Mr. D. just to make sure the story is okay. We check with, if we’re talking about a certain person, we check with them, get their true facts. We do a lot of research online. We talked to our principal. We talked to a lot of administrators,” Smithers said.
The MAB is also working with Lee M. Thurston High School in Redford and has provided the same tools for their students to develop an on-line radio station. The High School Radio Project was originally a joint effort of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association, who wanted to bring real-world radio skills to high school media students. The High School Radio Project allows students to curate and schedule music, record radio breaks, produce news and sports stories, interviews, and PSAs, all aired on a streaming radio station heard all over the country. The MAB joined the effort in 2023 and the Louisiana Broadcasters Association soon followed.