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Feb. 8, 2005

Blair's BNC organization teaches students about professionalism

by Grace Harter, Page Editor
Two professionally equipped studios. A row of editing stations outfitted with top of the line programs and a full staff of producers, executives, DJ and assistants. While this may seem like a description of a professional company, this is, in fact, the make-up of Blair Network Communications (BNC), Blair's very own production organization located within the building. BNC is a student-maintained production program that allows teenagers to write and produce their own shows while working in a professional environment.

G4 computers and a tape deck in BNC.
<i>Photo courtesy of BNC</i><br><br>
G4 computers and a tape deck in BNC.

Photo courtesy of BNC

BNC consists of five divisions: television, radio, public relations, internet and production. In television, students produce 29-minute shows like Double Overtime (a sports show), Face the Music (a show about music) or Rapid Fire (a game show). One show, Game Time Montgomery, is shot and then edited in post-production at the end of a sports season. The radio division has two shows, Blazer Buzz (an informative show) and Bogus Blazer (a dramedy). Meanwhile, the internet division focuses on posting video clips of shows online and getting information about BNC up on the website, and public relations spreads word about BNC shows through posters and often greets guests before shows. The production team helps design sets and trains the crew for each television show.

A stepping stone

Junior Katrina Jabonete joined BNC as an Associate Producer because she wants to go into film after graduating from college. She says that BNC helped her decide more about her future career. "I always thought I wanted to be a scriptwriter, but after actually scriptwriting, I realized I'm not very good at it," she says, laughing. "I might want to consider some other job."

Senior Chris Nguyen-Gia, Television Executive Director, agrees that BNC is helpful for those leaning toward television or radio for their career. His stint last year as a videographer helped him realize his potential in television production. "I'm absolutely positive this is what I want to spend my life doing," he says. He is applying to film schools for college.

BNC advisor and television teacher Shay Taylor doesn't believe that BNC necessarily leads to a career in film or television. She was in BNC herself when she attended Blair, and though she thought she would produce television for children, she has since taught at Eastern Middle School before moving to Blair after the departure of BNC's former advisor, Christopher Lloyd. Taylor moved to Blair because she believed working with high schoolers would be more challenging and rewarding than working with younger children. Taylor originally planned to be a producer for children's television shows, but "now, I'm working with children that produce television, which is the opposite of what I expected."

Senior Daniel Ottalini agrees with Taylor. Though he is a Production Manager, he doesn't plan to go into television; he actually hopes to be an elementary school teacher. As part of Ottalini's job, he has to instruct ninth graders on how to use the production equipment, and he hopes to use his teaching techniques later in the classroom.
An editing suite.
<i>Photo courtesy of BNC</i><br><br>
An editing suite.

Photo courtesy of BNC

Learning professionalism

Every month, Jabonete switches to another show to assist the main producer in any tasks they may need completed. Most of her duties have included booking guests and writing scripts, but finding guests is one of the hardest parts of her job, Jabonete maintains, because it involves speaking to professionals and relying on them to arrive on the show date at the designated time. There is always the worry that a guest will cancel last minute and leave producers stranded, similar to what happened during her Double Overtime show in December. The guest called only three hours before the actual show to cancel. Luckily, Jabonete had a number of backup guests to fill in.

The daily ordeals at BNC are all part of a learning process created to strengthen the skills of staff members. "BNC offers opportunity to experience a level of work you can't find anywhere else," says Nguyen-Gia. The organization is "very student-run" so that teenagers in the program will have a taste of a professional working environment.

Jabonete feels that working in BNC has helped strengthen her personal skills and become more professional. "I can approach a lot more people," she says of working in the outside community. She believes BNC has also taught her time management.

The daily grind

There is a specific process that each television show must go through before it airs on Montgomery County public access. After all the television shows are taped live with a crew of Blair students, Nguyen-Gia mails the tapes to Central Office, which controls the programs that are shown to the public. Included with copies of the shows is paperwork such as a copy of the script, the rundown (a detailed list of shouts and times in the show), signed consent and release forms and the signature of Principal Gainous, noting his approval of the programs.
Production during a show at BNC.
<i>Photo courtesy of BNC</i><br><br>
Production during a show at BNC.

Photo courtesy of BNC

Central Office then selects which programs it actually wants to air and when. Right now, re-runs of old BNC shows can be seen on the station (usually channel 31 or 32), but they aren't scheduled. Taylor wants to change this and get a regular program schedule for Blair shows so that students will know when to watch.

Traditions, gods and utter silliness

For luck before every show, Nguyen-Gia likes to pass around an orange traffic cone that belonged to last year's television head, Mallory Macdonald. He also has the director of each show award a plastic fork or spoon to the "most valuable player" of the evening. The utensil displays the show title, show date and an inscription that reads "MVP."

Nguyen-Gia also likes to remind his division of the three "gods" of BNC: Mallory Macdonald, Ivy Flores, the former Info Flow head and Thomas de Simon, a former videographer.

Upgrades in BNC

Taylor plans on staying at BNC and continuing to revamp its image and equipment. She hopes to obtain Avid, the industry-standard editing program, in the near future so that students will learn on a program that most editors use for feature films. She also wants to feature live webcasts of BNC shows on the site, which she hopes will attract more viewers.

Very few schools can compete with what BNC offers, Taylor says. While BNC is not the only high school organization with these capabilities, she calls it the only "fully-functioning" program like it in the area. She's proud of the program and the work her students have done. "I plan to be here as long as possible," she says.

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  • bnc rocks on February 8, 2005 at 5:28 PM
    yea, you know you can't beat BNC. And we do have webcast capability. Just tune in Wensdays at 7:00 on to check out that weeks show!
  • who on February 8, 2005 at 8:06 PM
    thanks dan green
  • bnc'er on February 8, 2005 at 9:15 PM
    It's not as great as it sounds.
  • critique on February 8, 2005 at 10:33 PM
    "detailed list of shouts "

    besides the misspellings, this is a durn boring article. From the pre-J1 'tricky' lead to the lack of transitions. Which is uncool because not enough people know the real story about BNC. I feel like Ms. Harter would've done a better job at giving an inside look at this great organization if she had maybe stuck around for a full show filming, maybe tailed Chris for a day, who knows. Better luck next time, and props to BNC
  • bnc'er on February 8, 2005 at 10:35 PM
    bnc is actually really stupid, useless, and annoying. no purpose at all.
  • Ivy lover on February 8, 2005 at 10:49 PM
    So much for the gods of television. You didn't even spell Ivy's name correctly. In her own words: "jerks".
  • BNC on February 9, 2005 at 12:02 PM
    I am cool.
  • guess who I am... on February 9, 2005 at 7:21 PM
    I love how you don't mention Info Flow at all. That would have been great in the "daily grind" sub-head of your article because, well, Info Flow is "daily" after all. It is a show, and it deserves large recognition.

    by the way, getting thru a BNC year w/out killing anyone is no easy feat.
  • Chris Mulligan (View Email) on February 9, 2005 at 7:22 PM
    Credit where credit is due, those photos were taken by me.
  • Jay Asbell on February 9, 2005 at 10:03 PM
    yeah great plug for BNC you got here, but its interesting to mention how out of date their equipment is or the lack of professionalism displayed by teachers who could bearly work Final Cut Pro. This article was shameless, and nowhere near objective or newsworthy.
  • to jay on February 10, 2005 at 10:38 AM
    ok Jay, you are not even on BNC so what are you talking about? BNC is an extremely professional organization, and the students take it so seriously.

    Before you criticize the organization, why dont you apply for BNC- submit a cover letter, a resume, a resume tape, and a completed application, and actually work on it for a year. You have no right to criticize an organization that you have no idea about.
  • Anonymous on February 10, 2005 at 2:38 PM
  • Jay Asbell on February 10, 2005 at 2:57 PM
    When i took TV 1 and TV 2 i was required to stay after and work on one of the shows with BNC. I know exactly what goes on, and I admit it is taken very, very seriously by many of the students, actually to an annoying and unpleasent degree. I would work for BNC, and was asked too, but I have a job that pays me for my editing and produces work that people actually see and i can be proud i contibuted too, unlike some of the shows BNC does that can actually be painful to watch.
  • reader on February 10, 2005 at 4:29 PM
    to "to jay"

    actually, i think jay has every right to criticize bnc. as a media organization, bnc is totally subject to the opinions of its viewers...what you are suggesting is like saying that you can't criticize cnn or fox news or the washington post without having worked at any of those places.
  • Joe Maritn (View Email) on February 11, 2005 at 12:59 AM
    Sorry if Iím a little long winded, but the below is the truth: Hi-- Well ill be darned if this is not the biggest half truth Iíve ever read. Let me introduce my self by saying that I recently resigned form BNC primarily for its lack of professionalism. Judging by my experience, BNC's definition of professionalism is taking advantage of your dedicated staff and working them 3 hours a day after school (not counting field work) for three weeks, grading students on using equipment that is not working, having an elitist attitude, and returning calls and e-mails only after much in person badgering. BNC taught me one thing about TV Production: Working in any organizational environment is stressful and bad for one's health. As the Co-Producer of the Blair Sports Network with John Wilmott, I loved nothing more than filming football games and making highlights for info flow. I worked closely with BNC's old production Staff, headed by Chris Mulligan, and was very impressed with the level of expertise I saw. When I joined BNC However, I was presented with a staff that had unrealistic and unfeasible ideas, or liked to pretend they knew what they were doing (note, I wont name names, but there were two people on the production staff who were very competent and helpful, to them, I apologize). As for the Television Executive director, this article hardly tells the truth. He was known to send shows off to MCPS central office up to two months after they were completed. He had no idea what his staff were doing or weather they were on schedule, and actually pulled crew from understaffed shows to help out shows that didnít need any help at all. I have no complaint with Internet division because they all seemed very able and productive, nor with Radio simply because I didnít work with them very much. As for PR, I will not go into their daily activities, except to say I saw lots of inappropriate chit-chat and little actual work being done ("sorry, I've got to go pretend I'm doing work", a member of BNC's PR division). And now ill debunk some of the things that are wrong with this article: --"Two professionally equipped studios." Last I checked, BNC had one professionally equipped studio and one with two or three consumer grade Sony HandyCams that were stolen halfway through the semester and an old Panasonic MX-50, something a TV news van from a local independent station might have used 10 years ago. --"A row of editing stations outfitted with top of the line programs." Final Cut Pro is industry standard, I will agree. However, the systems that run it are underpowered and work only about 75% of the time. --"One show, Game Time Montgomery, is shot and then edited in post-production at the end of a sports season." GameTime Montgomery (proper spelling) was originally supposed to be produced about every five weeks for a total of eight shows. Then, when we were told that our staff was getting cut we were told to use volunteers after school to get the show done. Now, we have one show completed and another still in progress (As head editor, I must admit that the show was due before winter break). Post-production is such a grueling task, undertaking it alone is the kind of thing only a professional working 40 hours a week should try. --"BNC advisor and television teacher Shay Taylor" A word on Ms. Taylor. As a person I enjoyed the company of Ms. Taylor. She taught two classes: the BNC work period and Electronic News Gathering, a class required of all BNC associate producers, producers, and engineers. ENG was the biggest waste of time and should be removed from Blair's curriculum. We were assigned video projects but given no instruction in video techniques. About 2/3 of the class knew what they were doing, but that 2/3 had to spend time teaching their classmates how to film and edit while doing their own projects. Whatís more, we were given almost no class time (one or two classes a month) to work on these projects. They were completely outside of class. Both of these facts are nothing, however, compared to the fact that our last project for first semester was to design the projects for second semester. --"Every month, Jabonete switches to another show to assist the main producer in any tasks they may need completed." One of the reasons that I feel the Blair Sports Network was so successful was that John Wilmott and I worked together on it for four years. BNC originally had a similar system, but changed halfway throughout the semester to this system to the objections to many of the staff affected. Having to work with a new person every month means having to learn a person's strengths and weaknesses all over every show. This system is very unproductive and inconvenient. --Let me give you an idea of "The daily ordeals at BNC". First is the all staff meeting. This takes about 20 minutes and usually has only one or two announcements. Then is the staff meeting. This can take any where form 10 to 40 minutes depending on the agenda(which has included every thing from dropping show production to make commercials for BNC to a quiz on the BNC gods and "who is the hottest member of BNC") Then we race off to the edit suites to try and get on a working one before there all taken. More than once, I've been left unable to do work because there were only three editing stations and at least six or seven people trying to use them. At some point I may ask the Television executive "did you read the script for the next show? Is everything ok?" to which he responds "yeah, itís great". The problem? I hadnít turned the script in yet. --"[Ms. Taylor] hopes to obtain Avid" actually, we were told we had it and it would be installed and setup by last fall, then by Christmas, then by the second semester. Now we "hope to obtain" it? --"the industry-standard editing program" I will not deny that Avid makes the industry standard in video editing (Avid's News Cutter is the best software available). However, Ms. Taylorís plans were to get Avid Xpress DV, which is similar to most consumer grade software I could buy at BestBuy. In Closing: To Jay and anyone else who is reading this: Do Not Join BNC. BNC was in a "Golden Age" (to quote the Television executive) last year, but we have quickly fallen from grace. To get an A in BNC, you have to be willing to dedicate all your spare time and energy to it. You cannot have a personal life and be in BNC I discovered. To "to jay": BNC is noting more than a group of incompetent and/or egotistical teenagers and adults (with a few exceptions, to them I apologize again) with expensive toys they literally lost the instructions to. As for the cover letter and all, I believe those are only required for a job as an executive, and judging by next years picks, the standards donít seem that high. To "critique": Your right, having the reporter stay till the end of a show and follow the television executive for a day would have given her a much better idea of what goes on in BNC (at least, id like to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she thought she was telling the truth) If you want to e-mail me feel free: PS: you can find copies of the letters sent I sent to Ms. Taylor and the Television Executive at and
  • bnc engineers on February 11, 2005 at 10:40 AM
    joe, you may be biased, but only half the things YOU said were true. bnc may not be the best that it can be, but that doesn't mean that you have to publicly tear it apart over issues that you have no solution to.
  • BNC staffer '05 (View Email) on February 11, 2005 at 11:35 AM
    Well Joe, if you feel the need to complain about the "lack of professionalism" and bad work habits of some of the BNC staffers, go right ahead. However, You fail to offer any solutions to any of the problems you have described. Ok, sure, BNC has only 1 studio equiped with modern equipment. Our fault? NO. Why don't you spend that 500,000 dollars you have laying around to get us "industry standard equipment" If this is anybody's problem, it is MOCO's and the State's problem for not giving us funding after the initial start-up. 2nd, when you were invited to join BNC, you knew it was going to be a large commitment of time out of school. Afterall, football games don't happen during school hours, and neither do most of the other sports activities you would have videotaped had you been a man and stayed on BNC for the school year. We have as much of a personal life as those people on SCO or SC or yearbook, you just personally didn't have one, Joe. Any person's work is what they make it. I, personally, love to work at BNC. The long days can be bad, yes, but nobody is or would work 3 hours straight, even you. And many other people worked longer than you did every week, and complained less about their work than you did whenever you had to go out on location or edit for long periods of time like the other videographers. You failed to even try to work with those around you, and alientated everybody else in your division. Refrain from complaining when you offer nothing to stop the complaints or fix those many problems you mentioned.
  • Daniel Green (View Email) on February 11, 2005 at 12:16 PM
    Thank you for expressing your concerns. I wish you would have expressed these in person before resigning. I would have done my best to address them. However, your petty attacks on the article's accuracy only adds to the belief that BNC staff--past and present--all lack professionalism.

  • blah (View Email) on February 11, 2005 at 12:25 PM
    Joe is stupid
    some of the things he said are very true but he undermines himself by inserting his own whiney complaints.
    the execs for next year will do great this article was not very true to what bnc is.
  • unimpressed. on February 11, 2005 at 12:33 PM
    In response to the good Mr. Martin.

    As a member of BNC this production year, I am thoroughly disgusted that you have decided to air your grievances with us in such an inappropriate forum where anyone can see it - and in such an immature manner.

    You are more than entitled to your opinions, of course, but dealing with your grievances in such a petty manner and public place does not do your opinion any credit.
  • John Willmott (View Email) on February 11, 2005 at 12:48 PM
    Mr. Martin's comments below are not representative of the views or beliefs of myself or any other current member of the Blair Sports Network. As BNC's Sports Coordinating Producer, I am embarassed that the Blair community had to read Mr. Martin's unabashed attack on a member of Blair's media community. We are very sorry for any grief caused by his remarks.
  • Jay Asbell on February 11, 2005 at 3:24 PM
    Well, Inappropriate or not his critizisms of the article were valid; this was not an objective news story, but a cheap plug for BNC.
  • random blazer on February 11, 2005 at 10:33 PM
    So when SCO gives themselves a plug for doing such a great job, it is perfectly fine, and when another school organization gets written about from an inside viewpoint, its obviously "cheap" and "biased"??? This story happens to be under the features section, not the news category.
  • Jay Asbell on February 12, 2005 at 2:32 PM
    When SCO gives themselves a plug, its not perfectly fine. And just because its a feature doesnt mean it has to be a blatent advertisement.
  • Daniel Scheer on February 16, 2005 at 9:35 AM
    Joe Martin and Jay Asbell, I think you guys have some really good issues that are really, actually significant to Blair. Please, write up a letter to the editor and make this issue, which you guys are clearly really involved in.

    Writing a letter to the editor is the best way to actually get yourself heard and to address your issues the best, instead of having your complaints and problems dying in a forum.
  • jay get over it on February 18, 2005 at 9:28 PM
    jay, i don't understand your problem with this article. it was not an advertisement for BNC because it came out AFTER BNC APPLICATIONS. it was simply telling students about a program at blair. its the same as SCO writing about Fine Arts at Blair or the diva dancers. so you need to get over this bnc thing. you have already been immature about it, and you are dragging out a dying argument.
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