JCETV: Origin and present day status of Jersey City’s Educational and Municipal Channels.

by Tom Horan, Jersey City Schools

My video production experience began in the mid 1980’s when cable television came to Jersey City.  At Seton Hall University in the early 1970’s I was taught filmmaking and television production on the then “portable” 1 inch machines. I also learned a lot about broadcasting and hosting a radio show for three years on the pre-Heavy Metal WSOU.  But the 1980’s arrival of Suburban Cable to the second largest city in New Jersey looked to me like uncharted territory for producing local commercials.

I opened Half Moon Video Productions and produced about 1000 30 second spots and industrial videos for customers ranging from restaurants to politicians. I also began to video a lot of dance productions for my wife, Diane Dragone, host of DANCE VISTA and Artistic Director of the Kennedy Dancers Inc.

In 1996, I was offered a Video Production teaching job at Snyder High School.  My arrival as a new teacher coincided with a football field tragedy when our 5’4” captain, Tahid Ramsey, sustained an injury that took his life after five days in the hospital.

As a storyteller I witnessed a mother rise up in front of all with a calm dignity as her son began to fail.  After his passing I, as a brand new TV teacher, waited two months and then guided my first class to produce a documentary telling the story of  where good kids come from…”Tahid Ramsey, the Warrior’s Gone Home” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtBUIkOEIgY

Behind the Scenes in Studio

This video won a state-wide award and triggered a front page newspaper story in the Jersey Journal catching the eye of the Superintendent,  He realized that the students were producing on ancient equipment, and decided to invest $5 million in Abbott Funds to build a multi-media facility above the auditorium of Snyder High School. This enabled the school to offer a brand new Media curriculum.  This 12,000 sq. ft space included classrooms, two television studios and a full blown audio production studio.  Our ongoing message to incoming students is that their opportunity exists because of the opportunity that was deprived young Tahid.

Students using control room

In January 2001 I was the videographer for the City of Jersey City as well as Head of the Public School’s Media Program.  When Comcast arrived to hook up our PEG Channels, up I oversaw the building of a studio built in City Hall as well as on our facility floor at school. JC1TV was created with the Governmental channel sharing time on the air each week with the Educational channel. Students from my program were hired to help run the municipal station at City Hall after they completed their senior year at the Educational station – getting paid to produce for the school system.

Student using the Audio Board

Finally, in 2008, both stations were able to stop sharing the “one day on one day off” routine and JCETV (Jersey City Public Schools Educational Channel) as well as JCTV (Jersey City’s Governmental Channel) both had their own channels.  Until 2008 our High School media program was strictly for Snyder students, and from 1998 to 2008 students produced more than 800 daily morning newscasts to the building.  In 2008 we became a district program switching to District Newscasts winning a 2014 JAM/JAG Award.

Jersey City Station ID

The motto for JCETV is “Education for Life-Long Learners”. Over the years we’ve produced Master Classes, Concerts, Teacher of the Year spectaculars as well as a foray into Sports productions.  Here is a short example of our breadth of programming over the years.  https://youtu.be/V9eDslQVJUY

Guests we’ve featured in our television productions over the years have included two Attorney Generals, three New Jersey Secretaries of State, Major League, Super Bowl and Olympic Champions and college athletes from a number of sports.  We’ve also interviewed Cecily Tyson, RZA from WuTang Clan, Derek Luke (a Jersey City high school graduate) and a number of motivational role models such as the three doctors in our shows “Beyond Ten Square Blocks” and “Career Profiles”.

JCETV recently experienced a long awaited update upgrading our studio cameras to 4K and installing LED lighting. (First replacement of studio cameras since 2000 when we moved into the facility).  We have a New-Tek Tricaster at the core of our live production stream and our students learn production ranging from live studio productions to ENG & EFP.

Picture of the Staff

My staff consists of all professionals.  Mike Rauseo, my chief engineer, is a professional drummer as well as a seasoned recording engineer.  Patric Fharah , out television instructor,  has a deep background in television and radio production as well as knowledge of many current sports — high school, collegiate, and professional.  Lou Inzeo is a professional musician who has extensive experience in audio production as well as technical issues of the broadcasting medium.

Most importantly are the students who have come through the program, which is now called…The B.E.S.T. Program (Broadcasting & Electronic Story-Telling).

Bulletin Board Post for TV Producers

Although we don’t expect all students to stay with television production, we do expect them to be able to story-tell with a much better sense of laying out stories with the proper use of equipment and software.  One of our students has already retired from a career at NFL Films and has married CBS Sports Analyst James Brown’s daughter.  Another is heading up a video agency for professional videos requested by Casting Agents on both coasts.  Another heads up Video production at Grey Advertising and another is breaking through in acting on Television. All in all, Jersey City Educational Television (JCETV) and the B.E.S.T. Program has provided a platform for students to shine lights on good things going on in our school system, and to map out a successful future in any medium they choose.