High schoolers also are critics of Be Heard! Aspen program
Editor’s note: This is the third article in a series that goes behind the scenes of Aspen’s teen television program, Be Heard! Aspen. The first show aired last fall on Denver public television, after tapings before high school students in Glenwood and Colorado Springs. The show, produced for and by teens, gives young adults a chance to voice opinions about such topics as teen drunk driving and the effects of Columbine. It also gives adults a chance to listen.
By Allyn Harvey Aspen Times Staff Writer
The same rule that decides the fate of the most vacant situation comedy programming on network television applies equally to the most thoughtfully produced, insightful programming on public television.
If it’s boring or confusing, nobody will watch.
That became came clear yesterday at Aspen High School during the live simulcast of Be Heard! Aspen, the locally-produced television talk show that brings high schoolers together to discuss issues they deem important.
Yesterday’s discussion was about “Fear of the Future.” The students on the studio panel were having a heated discussion about their futures and the world’s future. But for their peers watching the live broadcast from the Aspen High auditorium, the topic just didn’t resonate.
“Most of the topics are interesting – I mean they’re really deep,” said Aspen High senior Samantha Haberman. “But this topic is kind of boring.”
Asked if she had any fear of the future, Haberman said, “Naturally. But whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”
Haberman wasn’t alone in expressing her dissatisfaction with Tuesday’s program. Some students sitting in the auditorium’s red seats said they weren’t even watching the show at all – they were just hanging out where they always hang out. Others were watching intently, but couldn’t quite figure out what the panel was talking about.
“I don’t really like this topic very much,” said sophomore Lauren Gillan.
But she was watching anyway. Asked why, Gillan said, “It gets you thinking, and it’s something different from everyday school.”
She said she really enjoyed a previous show on teen drinking and driving. And, like just about every other student interviewed for this story, Gillan thinks it’s good that teenagers have a way to speak their minds on serious topics.
“I think teens are more likely to listen to their peers than to grown-ups,” she said.
Be Heard! Aspen features a panel of five students from area high schools discussing subjects like stereotypes and dress codes, teenage drinking and driving, and the effects of the shootings at Columbine High School on teens. The show, which airs live every Tuesday and is rebroadcast on the following Saturday and Sunday, is a decidedly local version of the program Be Heard! that aired statewide this fall and winter on public television.
Be Heard! was conceived and produced by Chris Tribble, a local who makes his living as an on-call producer and cameraman for several networks, and as a video producer for corporate America. Six half-hour episodes of Be Heard! were taped in two locations last spring, at an auditorium in Glenwood Springs and a mall in Colorado Springs, and broadcast Sunday mornings on Denver’s KRMA.
Tribble, who owns Versatile Productions in Carbondale, is branching out on his own as an executive producer in a big way for the first time with Be Heard! He’s confident the show fills an important niche and, given the response to the broadcasts on KRMA, can attract a national audience.
The hook for Be Heard! Aspen is that it features a live broadcast from the Grassroots studio in Aspen and a “real time” Internet connection to students at Aspen High School. Students who stop in to watch the show in the auditorium are able to ask questions of the panel via a wireless keyboard.
A few very serious questions were tapped into the keyboard yesterday – about the likely fate of the environment and the human race – as were a few that weren’t quite so serious.
“Do you think that robot slaves will be doing our chores in the future?” one student asked.
“I think the interactivity with the Internet gives kids a reason to watch,” said Seth Wilcox, the junior who sets up the computer and manages the keyboard. “It’s a lot better than the phone, because you can see what questions have already been asked.”
During the broadcast, a student from the film club walks around the seats recording the “action” in the auditorium. Clips of the audience are then edited into the version that is rebroadcast.
“Right now it’s just in one school, but because of the Internet, we could include all the schools in the valley,” Tribble said. Basalt High School is expected to broadcast the show and provide an Internet link to the Grassroots studio beginning next week.
Yesterday’s show attracted about 40 students to the auditorium, down from the 75 to 100 who watched the last two shows on drinking and driving and “The Columbine Effect.” One teacher said she thought upcoming tests might explain the waning interest.
Students interviewed yesterday were still talking about the drinking and driving show broadcast two weeks ago, however.
Senior Taylor Hackworth had the panel that talked about drinking and driving, and he said, “I think the intentions are great with this show but … people who might not be qualified to talk about something are up there talking. You know some of those kids drink and drive, even if they say they don’t.”
Hackworth and a few other students say Be Heard! Aspen has been well received overall by their peers. “You see these kids in the hallway all the time, and now they’re on TV – that’s kind of cool,” he said.
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Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2001
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