South Tahoe High students get taste of broadcasting at ACC celebrity golf tournament
Not many teenagers can say they’ve helped produce television interviews with big names in sports like Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller, but that’s the case for South Tahoe High television production students Aaron Johnson and Cameron Johnson.
The soon-to-be seniors, along with STHS television production teacher Tony Sunzeri, spent some time at the NBC Sports-produced American Century Championship (ACC) celebrity golf tournament last week, with the students doing everything from on-camera interviews with celebrities to learning the ins and outs of producing a national sporting event. Sunzeri is a STHS alumnus, and before returning to teach, he had spent several years working in broadcast media. He had roles as an anchor as well as in production.
Sunzeri said at first he had contacted Phil Weidinger, who handles public relations for ACC through Weidinger Public Relations, just to observe the tournament, but later pitched an idea that would get the students more involved. “I wanted [the students] to get a feel for what it was like to be part of the working media at an event, and a major event at that,” said Sunzeri. “[Phil] said he thought it was a fantastic idea.” Television production is one of several classes STHS students can take as part of the school’s visual and performing arts (VAPA) curriculum.
At the tournament, the two students were divided into two roles, with Aaron as the on-camera talent and Cameron handling the technical work behind the camera. Sunzeri praised the students for their ability to adjust to the fast-paced environment and pull off some pretty good interviews. “This was an opportunity for [Aaron] to hone in on his interview skills and Cameron is a great person behind the camera,” said Sunzeri. “In essence, what happened was that Aaron was put in some difficult situations — he was a little anxious and nervous at times. He interviewed Aaron Rodgers and did a fantastic job. I was amazed at how great a job this 16-year-old kid did at interviewing one of the greatest athletes right now in the NFL.” Sunzeri said the NBC broadcasters were impressed, too, since, according them, Rodgers can be hard to wrangle in for an interview. “Obviously, intrepid reporters delving into the story as they secured interviews with Jimmy Roberts of NBC Sports and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers,” said Weidinger. “Bright futures ahead.”
According to Sunzeri, some of the interviews with the golfers were when they were on the move, but both the boys adapted and handled it like pros. Sunzeri said that since Aaron is on the school’s ski team, he really looks up to Bode Miller and pulled off the interview with grace. “For him to go up to [Miller] with a microphone and ask the questions while [Miller] is between the first and second holes walking — he had just shanked one of his putts so he was kind of upset — and to nail it the way he did was really impressive. Cameron did a great job on the camera, following and having everything framed up nicely. He made sure that he got the shot. He got lots of b-roll and did his job very well as camera man.”
After the guys had toured the production trucks, another chance meeting got them into the broadcast booth where anchors report from during the tournament. According to Sunzeri, NBC’s lead sports broadcaster at the tournament, Jimmy Roberts, noticed the young men and got their backstory, so he invited them up to observe a portion of the live broadcast. “These boys were immersed in the experience wholeheartedly and that’s what I love to see,” said Sunzeri. “When we went into the studio, both their eyes got big, they got really quiet, they’re smiling. They had the time of their lives and I did as well.”
Sunzeri said that although fellow STHS VAPA teacher Travis Steil was unable to attend, he owes him a lot for helping Aaron, Cameron and all other TV production students get to the level they are at. “I couldn’t teach the class without him,” said Sunzeri.
Sunzeri explained that Cameron and Aaron haven’t quite settled on a college major for when they graduate next year, but the experience in the professional atmosphere might have been influential. “They’re both extremely good kids and varsity athletes,” said Sunzeri. “They were exposed to the media in a way most 16 year olds aren’t. Both of them, afterward, told me they’re excited about the opportunity to come back again next year and maybe even furthering that after they graduate with a broadcast degree possibly or maybe working for NBC Sports in the summer. This could give them the chance to network within the industry…”