Sweet Home high school newscast aims to keep students informed

By Jennifer Moody
For The New Era/Lebanon Local

As a freshman last year, Ethan Malabago remembers hearing the intercom come on for morning announcements at Sweet Home High School.

Out came phones. Down went heads.

“People wouldn’t really listen to it,” Malabago said. “And then they would have no idea what was happening, because they weren’t really listening.”

These days, however, Malabago and classmate Peyton Markell make sure they listen – because they get right in people’s faces to deliver those announcements.

High school newscasters Ethan Malabago and Peyton Markell deliver the announcements from a teleprompter.

The two are this year’s anchors for a video show known as the Sweet Home High School Newscast. Each week, the newscast runs through highlights such as the Athletes of the Week, Student Spotlights and the schedule for upcoming activities. Teachers can choose to show it in class and anyone can view it on YouTube (at #SHHS-Huskies!).

“I think that they like it,” Malabago said of his classmates watching the show. “They think it’s pretty funny. It’s a little bit cringey, to be honest, but that’s what makes it funny.”

Malabago gives the credit for the newscast to Tomas Rosa, an English teacher who also advises the Leadership class, which puts on activities at the high school.

Rosa, a 2004 Sweet Home graduate, remembered seeing a student-centered video program called Channel One News when he was in school and thought it might be something the Leadership group could improve on.

“We needed a way to communicate big ideas to kids,” Rosa said. “The old paper flyers on walls don’t get seen, but not everyone’s on social media.”

Rosa gives the credit right back to Malabago, however, and his father, Ramil, the audio-visual specialist for the high school.

“Ethan’s dad is the AV guy, and he (Ethan) has been getting trained on how to video edit,” Rosa said. “He’s got the inside source. He’s been awesome. Natural news anchor. It kinda comes alive when he’s on.”

The newscast made its debut during the last school year with Malabago running the camera and Brooke Burke and Izzy Sayer as anchors. This year, Malabago decided to see what being on the other side was like.

The students adjust their microphones as Ramil Malabago, the school district’s audio visual specialist, sets up equipment in the background.

“Talking in front of a camera is tough. It’s way tougher than it seems,” he said, adding that you read a script but sometimes you have to improvise. “It doesn’t seem tough, but it is. Now I know what real TV newscasters go through, because their scripts are probably harder than ours.”

Co-anchor Markell said she volunteered to join the anchor team first because nobody else did, but second because it looked like an interesting job. And it proved to be one, she said.

“You walk around, you ask people about the sports schedules and the athletes of the week, and you talk into a camera. It’s pretty fun,” she said. “The first time it was a little rough. Now, people are saying it’s cool. We’re trying to incorporate more people to be on it, and so far, more people have wanted to be, so it works.”

Neither Markell nor Malabago plan to pursue news reporting or broadcasting as a career at this point, but both agreed they’ve practiced some important job skills, such as problem solving and communication.

Right now, Leadership runs the newscast among its other projects, but Rosa said he’d like to see it expand next year to become a class in itself with its own production crew and scriptwriters.

The show has come as far as it has because the school district invested in communication equipment, particularly during the height of the pandemic, and because of Ramil Malabago’s professional video experience, Rosa said. “We have high-level equipment and people who know how to run it.”

Markell said she thinks the video announcements are effective for people who might not know about school activities otherwise. She knows because she used to be one of them. An older sister would fill her in on what was going on, but otherwise, she said, she didn’t know.

“I think it’s important because I am not that observant,” Markell said. “But now that I’m doing this, I know when the games are from all the different sports, I know the athletes of the week – I’m much more connected.”

That was the whole idea, Rosa said. Research indicates students who feel like they belong at a school tend to miss fewer classes, get better grades and stay through graduation, but finding ways to keep them engaged is part of the challenge. The newscast, he said, helps them learn about those opportunities.

“There’s a lot of stuff that happens at a high school that happens outside the classroom. Sports are the most visible, but tons of activities go on: clubs, plays, lunch meetings,” Rosa said.

“In order for kids to get those messages, get involved in those out-of-class activities, it’s super important to get those kids plugged in.

“There’s more things going on than just that grammar quiz in Mr. Rosa’s class,” he added. “The more we can get it out there, the more that can be involved.”