High school’s morning show goes virtual to uplift viewers

Weekly episodes shine a light during dark times.

Madison Miller creates a makeshift studio in her bedroom with lights and a white sheet serving as a back drop (Madison Miller/ Special to The Sun).

A once-ambitious live morning show has gone virtual in a big way in the Seneca High School community.

Crews for Golden Eagle TV, the high school’s TV production program, began each day in the high school with the morning show, hosted by senior Madison Miller. Important announcements, community highlights and other pertinent information were broadcast throughout the school.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to go dark.

“It was kind of interesting to not have that live show, and having to move everything to social media was … different,” said Kirk Seeley, broadcast journalism teacher. “I put an email out and Maddie (Miller) was one of the first students to respond. She wanted to do the show and get the good news out with what’s going on at Seneca.”

Viewers did not see the show’s official return until April 27, when Miller anchored a segment on balancing remote learning with Student Assistance Coordinator Alexis Cuneo. It was one of many ideas Miller heard from staff and students to continue the show off site.

The process of filming the show has forced Miller to get innovative.

“I’m the only anchor, so I take a white sheet and put it up in my bedroom,” she explained. “Then I get all of the lamps in my house and have that as studio lighting. My mom helps me with the camera to make sure it’s focused.”

Technology Supervisor and Assistant Principal Sean Cassel noted that students had become more innovative as their bedrooms turned into classrooms, studios, labs and other rooms.

Content remained fresh in the morning show, with families and staff submitting photos and videos on how they occupy their time, helping others or other upcoming topics.

In early May, Gov. Phil Murphy extended the closure of schools to the end of the year. In-person graduation and activities for seniors in the Lenape Regional High School District were cancelled. But Seneca’s morning show continued to highlight graduates.

“There was one student who collected 600 pounds of pet food for a local shelter, and I like those highlights because it gives seniors a little something after they went through all four years of high school and kind of shows all of the great things they accomplished throughout their four years,” Miller shared.

Viewers on Twitter were enthralled at seeing friends who were highlighted, strengthening the show’s following. Others had expressed to Seeley and Miller how the show creates a normal atmosphere and a natural start to the day, whether it premieres on Thursday or Friday.

Seeley’s students have become comfortable with camera operations, live graphics and video editing, scrolling of the prompter and reading scripts live on air with guest talent. He encourages students to gain tactile learning  to strengthen skills for the future.

“The theory becomes practice and it becomes perfection as they learn of the problem solving,” he explained. “I would really like to think the media we produce in our school is a good reflection of our students.”

Miller has flourished by committing her time and effort to the school’s news media classes and seizing opportunities. She will attend Penn State University in the fall to major in broadcast journalism.

Students and staff may not have a chance to physically be at Seneca for the last day of classes, but Seeley disclosed that Golden Eagle TV has ideas brewing on how to close out the year. He suggested featuring retirees, awards and milestones.

“The biggest thing is we want to do everything we can for the seniors,” he reiterated. “They are the ones who don’t have the chance to come back and we want to highlight them.”

“I don’t think I’m ready for it to all be over yet,” Miller admitted. “I’m a senior and I love making the morning shows every week and making people happy. I’m excited to do everything Mr. Seeley talked about with the morning show and senior highlights. I guess I’ll have to brace myself for it.”