Fort Mill TV students tackle football concussion issue

Special to the Fort Mill TimesFebruary 17, 2014 

  • The production

    To watch streaming video of the PBS NewHour segment that includes a contribution from Fort Mill High School, click here.

— Television production students at Fort Mill High School used a recent project to highlight a serious problem in prep sports.

The students worked throughout the semester to create a piece detailing the causes and consequences of concussions as part of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program, the school’s television teacher, Karin McKemey, said. The piece aired on PBS NewsHour on Feb. 3 as part of a larger segment on concussions related to high school sports.

“I’m so excited to see the kids’ work get recognized,” McKemey said. “They worked incredibly hard.”

Other projects by Fort Mill High School journalists have also aired on PBS, McKemey said.

“PBS thinks really highly of them,” she said. “I love that they get to see that being a responsible journalist makes a huge difference.”

As part of the Student Reporting Labs program, PBS assigned students from across the country the task of creating a news story themed around concussions, something that has been big news lately in the NFL, said Thai Da Silva, program coordinator for Student Reporting Labs.

The program allows students to create news packages approximately two to three minutes long that air on the NewsHour website and sometimes on the TV NewsHour segment, Da Silva said.

The Fort Mill High students’ production focused on the steps Fort Mill High School has taken to ensure its athletes are properly equipped, McKemey said.

“We’re on the forefront of making sure our student athletes are safe,” she said.

The final piece that aired on NewsHour was a collaboration of work from student labs across the country, Da Silva said.

“Fort Mill has always been one of our strongest labs,” she said. “It was one of our strongest pieces we got in.”

Jesse Horseman, a senior at Fort Mill High School, helped produce the piece.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “This is what I plan on doing with my career.”

Horseman, who once experienced a concussion himself, said the project taught him how prevalent concussions are in high school sports.

“We wanted to help spread the word about how big a deal these concussions are,” he said.

In one interview, Horseman said a student athlete that experienced a serious concussion had trouble answering the questions.

“It was amazing how hard it was for him to even put thoughts together,” he said. “It hit me how serious of a problem this is.”

Horseman said he appreciated the opportunity to work on the project.

“I thank PBS for letting us do the best we can,” he said. “It’s amazing to do what I love and receive recognition for it.”

The project also a learning experience for Sawyer Bengston, a senior who helped edit and produce the piece.

“I didn’t think (concussions) were that big a deal,” he said. “It’s cool to see your work up there.”

Bengston has been accepted to the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in Chicago, where he will major in film and broadcast.

Reporting for the piece, junior Chad O’Donnell had the opportunity to speak to a neurologist and athletes, gaining an inside glimpse into the problem of concussions. O’Donnell said he learned from the neurologist he interviewed that the long-believed fact that wearing mouthpieces can help reduce the risk of concussions is not backed up by any outside study.

“It’s so widely accepted,” he said.

O’Donnell said the project also helped him improve his reporting skills.

“I never realized how much effort goes into this,” he said. Airing on PBS “is a big deal to me.”

Working on the project showed Mikki Fulmer, a senior writer on the piece, that steps need to be taken to prevent concussions, especially in high school.

“We take it more lightly than it should be taken,” she said. “Athletes should take the proper time to heal before returning to sports.”

Fulmer said it was a team effort to create the piece.

“It meant a lot to get on PBS,” she said. “It was a great accomplishment. It turned out to be a really great story.”

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