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INTRO: The press regularly covers staged emergencies where Police and Fire Departments keep their skills sharp and train their recruits. Now the press has its very own practice only in Malibu California. Las Vegas TV reporters and anchors have volunteered for years. This year they took an important step in language, literally. KNPR's Ky Plaskon has the story.
PLASKON: In a canyon dotted with rustic cabins nestled in dry brush under oak trees, Hal Eisner an LA TV anchor for decades sits on a wooden bench, exhausted with tears in his eyes.
EISNER: What I am trying to say is that one generation should give to the next. If we don't how do we give to the future generations what the past gave to us.
PLASKON: Once again, this storyteller has finished what he stared here 5 years ago: the annual Associated Press Television and Radio Association Academy. The AP, Pepperdine University, Eisner and dozens of broadcast journalists from California and Nevada volunteer their time and equipment to pass on the knowledge of how to tell a story. Attendance isn't restricted, no news background needed. Doctors and lawyers have completed this one of a kind camp and gone on to successful journalism careers.
PLASKON: It starts when 60 trainees from as far away as New York and Virginia introducing themselves to mentors. Las Vegas Channel 13's Ross Becker mentors every year. He says the camps purpose is to provide an alternative to traditional way to break into the TV news business.
BECKER: You get desperate, you try to get your first job, and it is unfortunate it is not necessarily bad or sinister things like forging tapes taking other peoples tapes calling them your own, lying to get into news director's offices it is a very competitive business. This camp gives you the ammunition you need to do it right.
PLASKON: The ammunition is a real resume tape they really made, starting them out on the right foot ethically. TV stations donate all the tools: live television vans, professional lighting, editing systems, cameras and photographers. Police and fire departments like the practice with the media so they volunteer and Hollywood actors and make up artists donate face time too. Together they concoct a nightmarish scenario.
PLASKON: A hostage taker ignites a pipe bomb that starts a brush fire threatening thousands. Victims with fake blood smeared on their faces run wildly. One throws himself in the dirt. A child plays dead and sirens wine. Medics pry apart the photojournalists who corner victims. Even the mentors find it hard to stand back and ignore their instincts to report while the aspiring journalists try to grasp what's happening.
SOUND: Asking questions.
PLASKON: The fire department's public information officer answers questions for the cub reporters who voraciously take notes and then pretend to go on air with guidance.
SOUND: Live Shot: Ready, we have five seconds. . . three, two, one.
PLASKON: For the first time this year the academy offered a Spanish-language camp.
PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: Este informacion no existe.
SOUND: FADE to Live truck
PLASKON: At the end of the day, Spanish and English language mentors crowd into the television vans. Dimly lit under dome lights they help the aspiring journalists tell the story late into the night.
SOUND: Spanish Story up and under
PLASKON: Mentor Andre Bonilla from Univision in Orange County is still editing at 7 AM the next day. He says it's tough for the Spanish language students.
BONILLA: I noticed when they started their writing it was for them very hard, it was like giving birth to a cow, they were just struggling eeeer, when they get here they hit a wall.
PLASKON: Part of the problem according to Mary Hausch, Assistant Professor of Journalism at UNLV, says universities cant help because they don't evaluate student performance in Spanish.
HAUSH: If students wanted to work in the Spanish language media it would be nice if they could learn their skills in Spanish language as well. So if they have problems in verbs and tenses then I have to mark them down for that and if there were a way for them to take some core classes in Spanish then they could excel.
PLASKON: Without a pool of trained journalists, station managers like Gabriel Quiroz of Univision Las Vegas resort to the traditional method of mentoring to train reporters to cover the news.
PLASKON: He's run a newscast for 7 years that way.
QUIROZ: At the beginning it is great because you can start with people with limited experience and it is nice to see that you can give them the opportunity. They grasp the opportunity; they run with it and the turn into great professionals.
PLASKON: A camp like this that mainstreams mentoring adds a level of professionalism that will help he says. So he sent his news director to mentor at the camp. This year Veronica Villafane president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists was there. The demand for qualified Spanish-language journalists will only increase she says. Television is rapidly expanding like Spanish newspapers did in the 70's from 14 dailies to now more than 40.
VILLAFANE: Obviously the landscape has changed we are not going anywhere, Spanish language media is not second class media anymore, lots of people turn to Spanish language media because they are not getting it from English.
SOUND: Anchor camp under
PLASKON: Villafane was training aspiring anchors for the expanding Spanish-language TV networks. This month Cox communication in Las Vegas rolled out a package offering the worlds largest Spanish language networks, and doubled it's Spanish language programming to nearly 70 channels. The company says they can now better serve 27 percent of the city's population - Hispanics. With this TV camp they may get a few more faces in the news to trust.
LOCK OUT: Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR
TAG: Ky Plaskon is a board member of the Associated Press Television and Radio Association.