Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A River, Some Upstanders, Summer Hiatus, and the Uncertain Future of Public Television in New Jersey

Learning about the Upper Saddle River on "River Day".
I recently taped my last two stories of the school year for Classroom Close-up, NJ. I have a lot of packages to edit for next season so I'll be plenty busy over the next few months, but I will miss getting to visit New Jersey's public schools until September.

The first one was my favorite type of assignment, an outdoor event with an environmental theme. We visited Cavellini Middle School in Saddle River for the story "River Day". Every sixth grader at the school spent an entire day exploring and learning about the Upper Saddle River which runs right through their campus. I love how the educators at Cavellini are using the local environment to get kids excited about science. When I was a student, both my middle school and high school were just steps from the Detroit River and I can only recall a handful of times we ever ventured outside to explore the area, and that wasn't until high school biology class.

The dynamic duo, Nello and Ed, taping
"Block the Bully" for next season.
Have a great summer guys!
The last story, "Block the Bully", was another example of how schools have changed since I was a student in the latter half of the 20th century. Once a month at Ridgewood Avenue School in Glen Ridge, the entire student body simultaneously participates in a lesson focused on preventing bullying. The lessons are developed by the school's Character Education Committee, the members of which volunteer their time to work on this important issue. I love the concept of upstander, as opposed to bystander, I think it's one of the most important lessons anyone could learn.

So now we're heading into summer.

Summer in television is a lot like summer for students. It's nice to have the break, but eventually you start to look forward to the new school year starting. Sometimes that looming event carries an air of anticipation because it's a change, and even when you embrace the change, it's still an unknown. That's kind of how this summer feels since I know things will be different on the show next season.

In case you haven't been following the local news, the State of New Jersey decided it was no longer going to fund the public television network that currently airs our show, NJN Public Television. And while NJN isn't going to disappear entirely, it is going to change. All of the full-time employees have been given layoff notices and the Star Ledger released an article on Sunday saying that the network will be taken over by WNET (channel 13) out of New York. According to the article: "The nightly newscast and its other existing shows will likely not continue."

Just to clarify, the layoffs don't affect me directly. I'm not an NJN employee, I'm a freelancer, but I do feel terrible for the NJN staff, including my colleagues on the show, who are full time employees. I'm not entirely sure what this means for Classroom Close-up, NJ since it would seem we fit into the category of "other existing shows". I'm pretty sure it means we won't be working in NJN's Trenton studio going forward, but I don't think it means we're going to stop making the show. Heck, we've already got seven or eight shows in production for next season, and as far as I know, the show's sponsors haven't pulled out. It might mean we have to find a new network or distribution outlet to air the show on. I don't know, I'm sure our executive producer will be filling us all in soon.

I think I'm just going to try to enjoy the summer.


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