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Showcasing Dan Bell and "PRIDE-TV"

In Columbia, Tennessee, the latest hit in reality television is the saga of a young man's valiant search for the perfect prom date. The show isn't the product of a major network, though; Prom Quest, a short segment in a thirty-minute news and feature program called PRIDE-TV, is produced by students at Columbia Central High School.

Created by Dan Bell's advanced mass communications class, PRIDE-TV airs on two local cable companies and includes four segments: local news, community news, local sports, and humor, and entertainment. The show targets teens, but strives for professionalism.

"The first two episodes of Prom Quest, in which viewers track the success of real-life high school student Doug as he tries to orchestrate a memorable prom night, were standard interviews, intended to introduce Doug to the school and television audience," explained Bell, CHS's mass communications teacher. "The next show followed Doug during homecoming spirit week -- he was a powder puff cheerleader! The next featured Doug at the mall with friends, and out to eat. Students take turns filming the episodes; collecting hours of raw tape, which they edit and narrate."

The PRIDE-TV staff is selected by Bell from members of his introductory classes. Although the semester-long class is classified as an elective and not as a vocational class, students are graded for completing production lab hours. Five teams of students rotate through various production departments for each program, which are broadcast about every three weeks. PRIDE-TV is not funded by state or local school systems, and most of its equipment is not sophisticated and can't work in "real time." Therefore, assembly of the shows is a timely process.

"The most surprising aspect of working in television is how easy students outside the class think it is to do a story on TV," said senior Julissa Castillo, who's producing PRIDE-TV's Prom Quest segment. "They don't know that you have write, shoot, edit, and report. It takes a long time to put our packages together." PRIDE-TV is more than a sideline for this sharp high school student -- she hopes to study journalism at Yale.

"Typically, our humor department does parodies or satires on teen movies or television shows," reported Bell. "Last year, we thought we'd do a blind date show, but it got lost in the shuffle. Because 75 percent of our show is legitimate, we thought it would be best to do a reality segment our students could trust and relate to. Prom Quest covers several areas; it exposes the class to producing reality based television programs, while promoting the prom for the entire school and school year."

Choosing the focus of the Prom Quest series was a challenge. Bell's students nominated three young men, and Bell interviewed all three. Bell calls Doug -- a "confident underdog" -- a rare breed. Both Doug and his parents gave permission for the show to share his search on the airwaves.

"I enjoy the attention," Doug explained. "My friends are behind me all the way. Some of them have been on TV with me."

"The program is going fairly well," said Bell. "Doug is just now starting to look around. We're going to do a student-wide presidential survey, and one of the additional questions will be, 'Do you think Doug will get a date for the prom?' Students will be encouraged to go to our Web site for the results, which will be announced on a future PRIDE-TV broadcast."

Through their experience with Prom Quest, Bell hopes his students will understand the preparation and shooting t it takes to generate a real, entertaining, G-rated storyline. He added, "We have Doug going up and meeting girls, but I don't want it to be staged, so we have some work ahead."

Doug, however, isn't overly concerned about his prom prospects. "I think I will get a date," he surmised; "there has to be someone out there looking for a prom date like me."

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Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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