Putting together a TV news show takes teamwork, hard work and creativity. It probably shouldn’t be surprising that a group of Scouts would be so good at it.
Scouting on Air, based in the Detroit area, features segments on service projects in the community, product reviews, cooking and interviews with Scouting’s state and national leadership. Each episode is developed by Scouts from the Michigan Crossroads Council under the guidance of media professionals.
The show can be viewed on five different public access channels in Michigan. One of those channels, Orion Neighborhood Television (ONTV), also shares the show on its YouTube channel.
Scouting on Air was developed out of conversations between ONTV and Brandon Kathman, senior district executive and operations marketing lead at the Michigan Crossroads Council. ONTV had several Scouts on as guests for other shows, and the idea to give Scouts their own show was born.
“At the beginning, I would go through the basics of how to conduct an interview, and things like that,” says Brandon Kathman, who graduated with a journalism degree from Appalachian State University. “As time has progressed, I am typically only serving when needed. I help secure guests. I do some of the video editing, but the kids are doing a good bit of everything now.”
They’re No. 1
Scouting on Air is officially Exploring Post 1, chartered by ONTV, which provides them with all the equipment they need. Kathman recruited members by reaching out to local Scoutmasters to see if they knew any youth who were interested in getting experience in television. He found the rest of the staff at courts of honor and other local events where he was impressed by a Scout who was comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
Every member of Post 1 is required to stay active in their traditional Scouting unit. The post meets twice a month. The first meeting is a pre-production meeting (often virtual); the second is a meeting at the ONTV studios to record their show.
The Scouts take on different roles, depending on what is needed at the time. Duties include hosting segments in the studio, going out and recording interviews with subjects, editing footage and directing the show itself.
Michaela Witgen, from Troop 366G out of Saginaw, Mich., joined the team after originally appearing as a guest in an earlier episode, when she was asked about her quest to earn a merit badge in all 50 states.
I instantly bonded with the other members and knew I wanted to be part of what they were doing,” Michaela says. “The coolest thing I’ve done was my segment on the aviation camporee in Oscoda, Michigan. I got to go up in a plane and film, and the footage I took at the event was used in a segment on WBKB-11.”
It’s about the people
Kathman met Teodoro Gammons at a National Youth Leadership Training session. Teodoro, from Troop 51 in Waterford, Mich., says he joined Scouting on Air to help raise the profile of Scouting in his area.
“The best part for me is the people I have met,” he says. “I enjoy meeting new people … people who are in the post, the Orion TV crew, the people we work with, and more.”
Teodoro was recently in the studio when the show interviewed a BSA member who lives in Poland who was hosting some Ukranian refugees who had been forced to flee their country. He also interviewed our very own Bryan on Scouting.
“The biggest thing I have learned is how to be myself and work with other people,” says Teodoro.
Casey Houlihan is an Eagle Scout from Troop 128 in Lake Orion, Mich. Casey, Scouting on Air’s oldest participant, is a film student. He serves as the post’s co-producer, along with Kathman.
“The coolest thing to me will always be helping the youth put on the show Scouting on Air,” says Casey. “Even though this includes hard work and effort, we get to have a blast and see amazing sights.”
Future is bright
Like any Scout unit, Exploring Post 1 will have to recruit new members as older ones leave. The group most recently lost their first member, a high school graduate who moved away to go to college.
Yes, Kathman may have to send out more recruiting emails at some point, but the work Scouting on Air has done is starting to speak for itself. ONTV says the shows have received lots of positive response, and Kathman says there’s no reason why Scouts in communities across the country couldn’t do something similar. Some of the Scouts have even branched out and produced print articles.
“Everyone has public access TV — local, amateur-produced content,” he says. “There’s nothing about the model that can’t be replicated.”