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Junior journalists

A group of fifth-graders have the big story: an exclusive look at the "mystery" behind the cafeteria's new sporks. These young journalists are pretty close to the real thing. "They're under a little bit of a time crunch," said Centennial Elementa...

Alicia Shamdas

A group of fifth-graders have the big story: an exclusive look at the "mystery" behind the cafeteria's new sporks.

These young journalists are pretty close to the real thing.

"They're under a little bit of a time crunch," said Centennial Elementary fifth-grade teacher Lucas Steier as his students huddled around a computer earlier this week, editing segments of today's second-ever broadcast of CSN - Centennial School News.

At least once a week, 40 fifth-graders meet after school and transform into TV news directors, reporters, camera operators, writers, producers, editors and anchors.

Deadlines, interview rejections, working overtime - all harsh lessons of the real world for these 11- and 12-year-olds - teaching them skills not for future report cards, but résumés.

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"It's something that they can take ownership of," teacher Katie Suda said. "They've never had this opportunity to do this before."

While other area schools do similar programs, this is the first year Centennial Elementary has had a student-led broadcast news program.

The fifth-graders filled out applications, complete with references, to get the chance to be involved. They schedule their own interviews, film and edit broadcasts - and none of it is longer than 12 minutes. They even signed a three-year contract with their PTA for commercial time - in exchange for equipment.

Then, each Friday, CSN airs for the entire school to see - featuring segments such as faculty interviews and the "playground poll."

But, like the real world, these fifth-graders are learning their jobs don't come without challenges.

"They've actually been making a lot of sacrifices in order to make this work," Steier said.

Connor Lipp said he gave up four or five recesses to prepare for last week's broadcast.

"Getting it to all work out and plan it," said the fifth-grader about the challenges of his job, while wearing a tucked in, professional button-down shirt. "Everybody worked really hard on it."

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As the director of his news team, he had to call a girl he didn't know at her home to offer her a job on his team, and frantically coordinated schedules when an anchor broke the news she'll be gone for a month, Steier said.

Bloopers are common; it's common for 15 takes to complete a segment. And there was a recent incident involving an anchor accidentally pinching another anchor that resulted in tears.

But even though they don't get a grade or get paid, the project means a lot to these fifth-graders.

"You can see how motivated they are," Steier said. "When you give them something they care about, they really take off with it."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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