In Middlesex County, N.J., the people in the town of South Plainfield are using a new medium to communicate with their community during the new coronavirus outbreak.
“Tiger TV” is a livestream program that is produced by the broadcasting class at South Plainfield High School (SPHS). The show airs every weekday morning and provides the students with daily reminders about everything they need to know for the day including upcoming sports and club events, school announcements, national news and fundraisers.
But these beloved segments were in danger of being cut short, due to the closing of schools and other institutions at the hand of the ever-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Cassio began teaching the class in the 2017-2018 school year. He started with two broadcasting classes and, as interest grew, is currently up to four. The program is now in its third year and will last through this pandemic. He said he knew the quarantine would change things and felt sad when he thought he would have to end the sessions because of the quarantine. “I asked my students if they wanted to continue broadcasting the program,” said Cassio, “and they overwhelmingly said ‘yes’.”
“Mr. Cassio asked me if I thought we could do “Tiger TV” from home and instantly I replied ‘yes,’ ” stated SPHS senior and program anchor Ashley Wyber, 17. “Making videos for “Tiger TV” has always been something I genuinely enjoyed and looked forward to doing so I was not gonna let a virus stop us!”
Dr. Noreen Lishak, the superintendent of schools in South Plainfield said, “This was a complete switch and we tried to keep it as close to school (schedules) as possible by still having clubs meet and coaches meet with their players.”
“Tiger TV” broadcast is accessed through a livestream page and is currently used for community messages and other activities to inspire productivity while adhering to social distancing rules during the quarantine. Recently, a town-wide “United We Roar” event was introduced by Lishak on the livestream page. The event encouraged students and members of the South Plainfield community to go outside at 8:15 p.m on Friday, March 27, to join forces in the fight against COVID-19. Residents stood outside their homes and roared to show their strength as South Plainfield Tigers.
With the State of New Jersey Department of Health reporting 116,264 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 6,770 deaths as of April 29, the state has called on citizens to stay home and protect their families. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency as cases first began to rise. About a week after that announcement, Murphy ordered the closing of all New Jersey schools and higher institutions to prevent the spread of the virus.
The class produces content for its broadcast specials every morning in the homes of the anchors and other participants in the segments. Along with local news and school announcements, the station encourages its audience to participate by filming and submitting TikToks in a segment they call TikTok Tuesday. This sense of normalcy and connection has given the town something to hang onto during these hard times.
“I really like doing Music Monday segments every week because music means a lot to me and I’m excited I get to continue it,” said senior and anchor Zoe Lambert. “If I didn’t have this then I would be going crazy in quarantine.”
“I definitely do enjoy making content over my break especially now that there are limited things to do. It gives me a reason to be active,” responded junior and broadcast class member Lauryn McMillan. She thinks that everyone has tried their best to make everything seem as normal and stress-free as possible.
The livestream page also provides residents with everything they need to stay updated, at home, and calm during this quarantine. Programs include mindfulness lessons, community symphonies, virtual art shows, and coronavirus updates. Residents are hoping that this can serve as an example for other towns to follow.
” ‘Tiger TV’ has been beneficial to both the school and to the community since it is a media outlet they did not have access to previously,” explained Cassio. “We are a local news show if you think about it. We cover South Plainfield and that’s kind of cool to have your own niche in the vast world of media.”
“They must understand that our nature (as a society) is now social,” commented Lishak when asked to provide advice for neighboring towns. “It is a matter of going beyond just instruction and providing support in order to reach not only the student but the whole child.”
Cassio explained that producing the program is a lot of extra work but no matter how many or how few people watch it, he does it for his crew of students. “I will always go above and beyond for them. My crew is my family and my seniors were especially upset.” He wanted to do whatever he could to bring some normalcy and nothing felt more normal than getting the show back up in the morning.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Bernice Ndegwa is an iGeneration Youth reporter living in South Plainfield, N.J. Read more stories at igenerationyouth.com.