Marblehead Youth News

Massachusetts / Dec. 17, 2012 / by The Team

Kids in Marblehead, Massachusetts are taking TV to the next level. Instead of just watching it like other kids, they produce their own show. 

Darcy Mayers, founder and Executive Director of the program explains that, “Marblehead Youth News is a news show run by kids for kids and everybody else in our little community ... The kids do everything from pitching the stories, to shooting the stories, to running the cameras.” 

Mayers started the MYN as way to give her children an out-of-school activity that was different to the many sports they already played. 

She says that her three kids are “very competitive athletes with really demanding crazy schedules and I was looking for something that they could do that was creative and with their brains that would fit in with their nutty schedule and mine because I didn't want to really add another huge thing like a play or a musical or something like that.” 

Despite having no background in television production, Mayers came up with the idea of letting children produce their own tv show. She spoke to the staff at the local tv station, MHTV, who gave her “A lot of good advice about all the different things that we would need to think about, many of them that I had not known.”

Determined to go ahead with the idea, she started to contact friends and neighbors with children to gauge their interest. Mayers was quite shocked initially to find many people she spoke with interested in helping out. 

“I ended up meeting all kids of new people and my kids met all kinds of new people and we went from there but we had to learn everything from how to work a camera, our own cameras, how to edit film, digital film on our computers. We all have these tools in our houses and very few of us actually know how to use them.”

After all the initial preparation, the first show was scheduled and since starting a year and a half ago, MYN has produced 8 shows that have aired on MHTV. 

Children’s participation in MYN is kept very flexible. With a total crew of between forty and fifty kids who range between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, each child is free to be part of as many or as few episodes as they wish. They are truly able to “step in and step out depending on what other things are going on in their lives.”

It was important to keep is as flexible as possible to ensure that no child was left out from participation, even if they only help out for one taping. “It's not something you sign up for and do all year long. You can do it as it fits your schedule or your family's schedule. I mean, that was really important to me too.”

While all the children are not present for the taping of the show, the production goes far beyond the recording of the anchors in the studio. 

Mayers explains that, “They need to research their story, they need to set up interviews if they're doing interviews, they need to write their scripts, and then they need to get out there and film and then they need to edit it. They're responsible for each and every part of that on their own. And they somehow get it done every month.”

MYN offers participants the chance to try each and every part of the production of the show, which means they can gain experience in more than one element of the production and learn exactly what they enjoy doing most. 

“Some kids never want to be in front of the camera, they only want to be behind the camera, they want to be working the teleprompter or the big television cameras, and it's been fun and interesting to see how they've encouraged each other to take on different roles.”

The show brings together children with many different hobbies and interests, most of whom have never met before being involved in MYN. “There's athletes, there's actors, there's musicians, there's typical kids, there's kids with special, there's little kids, there's older kids,” explains Mayers.

“They could be strangers even that day and they end up as a team,” she says. “They're so incredibly supportive of one another and of one another's ideas, and the different challenges that some kids face.”  

Beyond widening their social circles and giving them a unique chance to learn about the workings of a tv studio, MYN increases their sense of self-confidence and challenges them to try something new. 

“When a kid has to go into a town or to a local business and ask that grown-up if they could do an interview with them or explain why they're there ... they have to look at a grown-up in the eye and they have to sell themselves and their story,” says Mayers. 

“There's no way a kid can walk out of that experience without feeling better about themselves and it's just awesome,” she continues. “It's more than buying an ice cream at the counter, it's interacting with grown-ups and explaining who you are and having faith that your idea is a good one.”

Samuel, who presents one of the MYN shows, explains that working on it from beginning to end is really exciting. “Once you finish it, it’s just like one three-minute script and then it turns into this tv show, maybe a thousand people are watching from Marblehead. It really gives you the confidence to do it more and more and more so more people get connected to you.”

Sue Baylow, a parent, says that, “Being involved with MYN for both kids has really been a big confidence booster. It’s exposed them to sort of a world outside their usual school and sports. And I think it gives them a taste of what the future could be or what they might want to be involved in.”

While most children would not consider a career in television and would certainly not know first hand the details of how a studio works, the MYN participants are gaining great insight into what could lead to careers they had never ever considered. 

“Well, when I first came, I though it was going to be a desk and a bunch of cameras and like papers and stuff,” says Cameron, the floor director. “But then we got here and there were computers and telepromters and stuff ... It taught me that the anchors don’t have their scripts memorized and that there are lots of mistakes that happen and it takes a while to do.”

The children also gain a different perspective on the media that they see each and every day. “For instance, my 8-year-old son is a really judge now of political ads,” says Mayers. “We've all been hammered with political ads. He would watch them and have a completely different perspective than he had a year ago or that another 8-year-old might have. He looks at them through a critical lens and I think he learned how to do that by creating his own stories.”

Some might hesitate at the idea of letting children loose in a tv studio and giving them the reigns to control the whole production but doing just encourages their full participation “because they're in control of it. They get to decide what stories they're going to tell.”

Mayers does admit, “It's not perfect … sometimes there's thumbs in the corner of the camera and sometimes kids trip over their words or call the person they're interviewing by the wrong name but it doesn't matter. It's unique, it's authentic and I love that people are responding to it.”

There is never any shortage of ideas for each show, with the children coming up with grander and grander concepts of what they want to do. “They're very creative, they want to do it all, sometimes they lose a little bit of focus mid-way through but it ends up working out in the end.” 

This pure excitement and imagination means that there is no lack of variety in the show MYN produces. “Every show has been totally different from the next and that's part of the reason why we keep going. It's constantly interesting and I never know what stories we're going to do, I never know what the kids are going to want to talk about.” 

Despite the challenges of everyone learning the skills and techniques of television production, interviewing, and editing from scratch, Mayers enjoys every minute of it. 

“It has been a total joy. And a lot of headaches along the way, a lot of learning, we've all learned a lot. Some things have worked out great and other times we've been like, 'well, we're going to have to try that again.' But it's really been, it's been a true pleasure, it's been so great to see how so many people in our community have come together to make this television show happen and how many people in the community have responded so well to what these kids are doing.”

Of course, the most important part of it is giving the young news teams the experience of their lives. 

“I want kids to walk out of every taping or every story that they've filmed on location or edited being so incredibly proud of themselves that they made that happen, that they took an idea from just a little spark of an idea all the way to completion,” says Mayers.

“I want them to feel like they did that, that they owned it, that it's theirs and no one can change that. And no matter what they do with the rest of their lives, I want them always to remember that because no matter what you do for the rest of your life, being proud of your work and taking something from A to Z is the key and that's all I want for them.”  

To learn more about Marblehead Youth News, please visit their website and Facebook page