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West Michigan's CNN - Caledonia Network News

7:59 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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  • Caledonia Elementary
    

CALEDONIA, Mich. (WZZM) - Broadcast news: it requires quality information gatherers, stressing accuracy and meeting tight deadlines.

Here at WZZM, we do it every morning, noon and night, and your target audience often determines what type of news you cover and how you choose to present it. Well, it's time to introduce you to some students from Caledonia who may be on their way to becoming the next Diane Sawyer or Brian Williams.

It happens every Monday through Friday at Caledonia Elementary School at 8:50 a.m sharp.  An elementary classroom transforms into a newsroom.

"It's amazing. They're like little adults," said Shelli Abel, who is a fifth grade teacher at Caledonia Elementary.

Because at 8:50, it's time to do the news.

"It's an authentic learning situation," said Josh Traughber, principal at Caledonia Elementary.

This is CNN.  No, really; this is CNN - Caledonia Network News.

"Who hasn't heard of CNN," added Abel, who's fifth grade class has been producing the morning newscast for the past 14 years.

Tough topics are tackled like collecting box tops, how to pack a safe lunch and the latest games to play at recess.  No "gloom & doom" news will be found here.

CNN does a 10-minute segment every day, and their target audience is not the highly coveted 25-54 women demographic.

"[CNN's target audience] is children that range from kindergarten to 4th grade, " said Abel.

And, yes, the ratings are very high.

"I explain to them it's a big responsibility," said Abel. "It's a job."

35 fifth graders applied to work at CNN this year.

"I take their applications and I make teams," said Abel.

Five teams of seven are created and a different team does the newscast each day.

"As I get to know the students, I get to know who my leaders are," Abel added.

It didn't take long for a born leader to emerge on the CNN staff.

"On Wednesdays, that's my day to direct my people," said Remi Huver, producer, director and anchor for Caledonia Network News.  Remi holds a weekly editorial meeting with her team, but it comes at a steep price.

"They give up a recess each week to meet with their team," said Abel.

As any kid, if you have to give up a recess, you'd better make it count, which is why Remi takes charge like a seasoned news director. She stresses teamwork, compromise and reliability.

"It shows your teachers and all your friends how trustworthy you can be, how responsible you can be, and it shows what you can do" said Huver, who is a self-proclaimed history geek.

Remi and the other CNN newscasters write their reports at home.

"I train them on how to write a news article," said Abel. "I also teach them how to look up kid-friendly news on the internet."

The educational benefits for these 10 and 11 year olds are endless.

"I think that whenever you're able to put some authentic learning in place with reading and writing and technology, that's going to translate well to those students later in life," said Josh Traughber, who was a principal in the New Buffalo school district before taking the same position at Caledonia Elementary in 2010.

The students are learning timeliness, gaining confidence in public speaking and are forced to problem solve.

"It's a great education," said Huver.

Traughber says the students are gaining true market place skills that you need to have to succeed in life.  One thing is for certain when you come to the school to watch Caledonia Network News do a live show, these kids don't want to fail.

"Because Tuesday is their day, or Monday is their day and they want to make that top notch," added Abel.

But for all their learning, what they enjoy most about being newscasters, the celebrity-status on the playground, of course.

"They think you're movie stars because they'll see them out for recess and they'll go, 'I saw you on the news,'" said Abel jokingly.

"It feels like I'm walking on the red carpet even though I'm on the grass," said Huver.

And just like the professionals, when the news day is done, they get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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