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Worthington Cable 3 stays focused

Students in the Worthington High School Trojan News class pose with instructor Kris Besel (front left) last week. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Since the early 1980s, televisions may have morphed from 16-inch-deep consoles to plasma, flat screens or even home theater-sized models, but in Nobles County, one thing people view on those ever-changing TVs has stayed the same — Worthington Cable 3.

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“Worthington Cable 3 got started when the community negotiated a franchise agreement for the first cable TV here,” shared Kelly Reeves, general manager of Worthington Cable 3 since August 1994.

“It was during the early 1980s, and a group of Worthington people led by Fredi Lowry was making the push for cable,” she added. “They ended up going with Zylstra Communications of Yankton, S.D., mainly because Zylstra would provide them with a channel.

“Fredi had the foresight to see how the community could use such a channel to share information, and that it would be a great thing.”

A cable commission was formed for governing purposes — original member Arnold Sexe remains a part of the cable channel’s oversight board to this day — and it was agreed that a studio would be created within Worthington High School (WHS) for educational purposes.

“The Cable 3 studios have always been housed at WHS because, even though they could have located elsewhere, they wanted to use the cable channel as an educational tool,” explained Reeves.

Worthington Cable 3 is funded through subscriber and franchise fees, and the channel cannot charge for advertising or community announcements — though sponsorships can be accepted, Reeves said.

Around the time Reeves came on staff, the position was split so that a staff member would run the cable channel while a WHS classroom teacher would instruct the Trojan News class.

“Kris Besel, who is now the chair of the WHS Communication Arts department, has been that person since 1997, so we’ve worked together a long time now,” said Reeves.

A redesign of the TV studio area occurred in 2000, and Worthington Cable 3 has been based in the south-facing, newer section of WHS since then.

“Our current mission is to be a tool for the community to share information about school, city and some community college activities,” noted Reeves. “And Cable 3 continues to be used to educate high school students.”

Some of the most-viewed programs on Cable 3 are local government meetings (including those of the Worthington City Council, District 518 Board of Education and Nobles County commissioners), as well as live broadcasts of athletic events and church services.

“One of our biggest things is church services, and that may be unique to Worthington,” Reeves suggested. “We run seven services each Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. — it’s a full day — and one more on Monday afternoon.”

Randy Davis assists Reeves in her Cable 3 duties, filling the position of sports producer/program director.

“He wears a lot of hats — we both do — and Randy has been with me for a long time,” attested Reeves. “He’s been a great asset and is really easy to work with. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

Besel said roughly 50 students take the Trojan News class (thus interacting with Cable 3) on an annual basis, the goal of which is gathering information and video footage, editing it, creating news stories and broadcasting them in a half-hour show on a weekly basis to the WHS student body.

“It’s meant to work like a TV broadcasting station rather than an English class,” clarified Besel. “It’s an elective credit, and the news they gather is mostly about WHS people and activities, but sometimes there is coverage of other schools or things in the district.

“Right now, for instance, there are two boys doing a story about the Ukraine situation,” she said. “Pulling information from all kinds of sources is something we weren’t able to do years ago, but now they can get information and put the pieces together any way they want.”

Besel requires that two students work on each news story, and she mixes up who works with whom as the weeks proceed.

“That creates a sense of community for the class,” she said. “Each student learns how to do a story and run the computer and camera, what footage to shoot and how to put it all together, so they get a little practice at each of the jobs and can discover what it is they’re good at.

“It’s not competitive, but it’s more about having the ability to try things out.”

A handful of Besel’s former students — most notably Liz Collin, who is now an anchor for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis — have pursued careers in broadcast-related fields.

“Some students work part-time for Cable 3 in the summers filming community events and activities, and they can gain enough experience and technical background to have a head start when they get to college or technical school,” said Besel.

“More schools have studios like ours now, but back in 1997, few other schools did. Liz told us that when she went off to college, she was way ahead of other students because of her experience with Cable 3.”

While technology has changed in mind-boggling fashion since Reeves first came on board in 1994, certain aspects of managing a local cable channel have stayed the same.

“I’ve been pulled along with the technology changes and learned a lot,” confirmed Reeves. “Twenty years might as well be a million years in terms of technology, and we are doing things now I never could have imagined.

“For instance, we stream Cable 3 live on the Internet via our website — I certainly never expected to see that — and people can view our archive files and programs over the computer,” Reeves said.

“All our scheduling is now done electronically and automatically, and we used to have huge racks of equipment for editing, which is now all done digitally,” she continued. “Equipment is a lot lighter and smaller, and the ¾-inch tapes we used to have are now like dinosaurs.”

Besel echoed Reeves’ observations.

“We use Mac computers because they’re so easy to edit on, and every two to three years there are changes and upgrades,” Besel said. “The old cameras don’t work on the new computers, and the new computers don’t work with the old cameras, so that always makes things a little challenging, but even though there’s a learning curve, we get it figured out.

“Kelly and I have worked together for so many years now that if I can’t see the answer, Kelly can, or vice versa,” she added. “We have good hand-in-hand cooperation, so we get it all worked out pretty well.

“And even though the kids now are very capable with computers and programs, we still have some things to teach them.”