From humble beginnings, Riverview’s RTV hailing 25th year

RTV, the daily, student-produced television news show at Riverview Middle School, in Huntington, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this school year. The show was started by David Dean Sr. (seated right), a former English teacher at the school. With Dean in the RTV studio are (seated left) the very first RTV anchor, Rochelle Kiefer Kennedy, who is now a Riverview teacher, and (standing from left) Chris Husband and Steve Park, teachers who succeeded Dean in leading RTV.
RTV, the daily, student-produced television news show at Riverview Middle School, in Huntington, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this school year. The show was started by David Dean Sr. (seated right), a former English teacher at the school. With Dean in the RTV studio are (seated left) the very first RTV anchor, Rochelle Kiefer Kennedy, who is now a Riverview teacher, and (standing from left) Chris Husband and Steve Park, teachers who succeeded Dean in leading RTV. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published March 22, 2018.

Years ago, when Riverview Middle School’s daily, student-produced news show first began airing, it was based in a supply closet.

Today, the show, which is known as RTV, has expanded from those cramped quarters into a proper, two-room studio. The first room contains several computers used to produce the show, while the other houses the program’s blue and yellow set, instantly familiar to anyone who watches the show.

The difference in production environments speaks to how much the show has changed over the course of its run. This school year has been a momentous one for the show, as it marks the 25th anniversary of its founding during the 1992-93 school year.

David Dean Sr. started the show. An English teacher at the school, Dean was enlisted by the school’s principal, Marvin Tudor, to develop a morning announcements program that would utilize closed-circuit TVs that had recently been installed throughout the school. To that end, Dean assembled a team of students and selected the aforementioned supply closet as the show’s studio, as it was close to the library, which had the capability of broadcasting the show to the school.

When he wasn’t teaching, Dean acted, appearing in commercials. He believes this experience made him the right person to lead RTV.

“I had the experience of working with a camera, in front of a camera, you know, that kind of stuff,” he observes. “What to look for. What not to do. So, I could do that. I could teach that.”

Each day after school, Dean and his students worked on the show, which broadcast live the following morning. Announcing the day’s date, noting what the cafeteria was serving for lunch and recapping how the school’s sports teams performed the evening prior were news items that Dean wanted included in every broadcast. Despite having go-to news items like that, Dean says filling an entire broadcast could be challenging at times.

“It was like a five-minute showing and that five minutes seemed like it went forever, because we had to fill that time frame,” he states.

RTV may have been finding its footing, but it was also blazing a trail in northeast Indiana. Riverview had the distinction of being the first middle school in this part of the state to have launched a daily news show. It even beat some high schools to the punch – including Huntington North High School. When Huntington North decided to start up a news program, three years after Riverview, it led to a humorous situation where Dean’s students got to teach the high-schoolers, rather than the other way around.

“They sent them out here for a week and they followed and shadowed my eighth-grade kids for a week,” says Dean of the Huntington North students. “And the eighth-grade kids dearly loved it, because they got to tell the high school kids what to do.”

During Dean’s time in charge of RTV, the show moved from the supply closet, to Dean’s classroom, to a storage room by the auxiliary gym. Just as the spaces that housed the show grew, so, too, did student interest in joining RTV.

“I’d have, like, 75, 80 kids out there in the hallway waiting to audition,” says Dean.

For 10 years, Dean led RTV. When he finally stepped away from the program, he did so because broadcasting technology had advanced beyond his expertise. He handed the RTV reins to a younger teacher with a better grasp on modern broadcasting, Steve Park. By that time, RTV was a full-fledged class at the school, as compared to an after-school activity, and Park and Michelle Santa teamed up teaching the seventh and eighth-graders who were accepted into the class. In time, Santa departed and Park took over the entire RTV operation.

After, to Park’s recollection, eight or nine years, he passed RTV duties to Tyler Oatess, who taught both sections of the program before bringing in Chris Husband to handle the seventh-grade classes. This school year, Husband took over the program in its entirety.

In the years since Dean’s departure, RTV has gone from a live show to a recorded one, with new episodes shot the day before they air. Eighth-graders produce the show during the first and fourth quarters of the school year while seventh-graders bear that responsibility in the second and third quarters.

Students keep busy, though, even when it’s not their grade’s quarter to produce RTV.

“The eighth-graders, in between, we do a lot of looking at the actual producing of a movie,” says Husband.

The eighth-grade students then take that knowledge and produce a short film by the end of the school year, he notes.

As for the seventh-graders, Husband says his assignments from them during their quarters outside the RTV studio have ranged from making a music video to an instructional film about Riverview, which is screened for fifth-graders before they start attending the school.

While RTV has traditionally been open to just seventh and eighth-graders, Husband says he’s considering offering an introductory class for sixth-graders starting next school year.

“They would just start to get feet wet as far as operating the camera,” he says.

At present, sixth-graders’ involvement with RTV comes when they audition for the opportunity to join the program as seventh-graders. They will either do a mock newscast, says Husband, or a commercial.

As for the benefits of participating in RTV, Husband, Park and Dean state that it boosts students’ confidence. Park adds that students also come to realize there are more jobs in broadcasting than simply anchoring.

“Kids don’t even know how to edit, but then they sit down there and they realize they could spend hours there, just looking at a computer screen, picking out the good and the bad,” he says.

One student to come away particularly affected by the RTV experience was Dean’s very first anchor, Rochelle Kiefer. After a seventh-grade year in which she felt like an outsider, due to many of her elementary school classmates going to Crestview Middle School, Kiefer, now Rochelle Kennedy, says getting picked by Dean to lead RTV made a huge impact on her.

“I really think he saw something in me that, at the time, I didn’t see in myself,” she muses. “It was really life-changing for me. I started to see myself in a different way. I’d see myself on the TV and think, ‘OK, I don’t sound so stupid.’

“And then people started to recognize me in the hallways. That helped to establish more of a friend group. It was a really awesome opportunity for me.”

The experience, says Kennedy, convinced her to become a middle-school teacher, like Dean. And fittingly, when Dean retired, his successor turned out to be Kennedy. She’s taught at Riverview now for 16 years.

This year, Kennedy’s son, Porter, is a seventh-grader at the school. And, like his mother was, is in RTV.

“It’s come second generation now,” says Kennedy of the program.

As for Dean, he’s proud to see RTV reach its 25th anniversary and thanks his successors for being great stewards of it.

“We started with nothing,” he said, “and we kept building, building, building to what it is today.”