The West

Seven of the best
ECU students with Cassie Silver (third from right), Blake Johnson and Andrea Burns. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

A talented pool of ECU broadcasting students will star alongside Seven Perth reporters Cassie Silver (Today Tonight) and Blake Johnson (Seven News) on Sunday in their own program, Made in WA.

Under the guidance of their teachers and other industry professionals, the students had to develop a unique story idea and interview, film and edit material for their own packages as part of a final-year assignment.

Lecturer and former Seven Perth journalist Andrea Burns found the chance to have their final product featured on commercial television was a huge incentive for the students to work hard.

"This was a university assignment that I as the teacher didn't have to push," Burns said. "It was very competitive, it was very high standard and they were told from the start if it wasn't great it wasn't going to make the cut."

Made in WA is a 30-minute program hosted by Silver and Johnson, both former ECU broadcasting students, and will feature seven of the best student-produced stories with a focus on local points of interest.

These stories include a scoop on the WA Ballet, an insight into Perth's firefighting school and a look at what is the great Perth north verses south debate.

"Seven gave us a brief that they wanted a magazine- style program to run on the WA Day long weekend. Our main brief was that the stories had to celebrate WA," Burns explained.

"The one thing I said to them was 'Don't give me stories that have been on telly a hundred times over. I don't want to watch something that's already been on. It's got to be new and fresh'."

The up-and-coming reporters had the opportunity to pitch their story ideas to senior executives at the station. In the end only seven stories could make it to air out of the classroom of students, which gave Burns, also the show's producer, the tough job of choosing the best.

"I could have done 10 programs with the number of fantastic stories that they came up with but what we've got is a really nice mix of stuff that we think is interesting to everybody and that celebrates WA," Burns said.

"I'm incredibly proud of the product they've come out with . . . this is as good as anything you would see on TV. To think that students who haven't even finished university have produced it is really quite phenomenal."

The process has gone full circle for Johnson, who back in 2005 had his own project selected for a similar program and never would have guessed he'd find himself back at ECU as a role model for this next generation of journalists.

"To be asked back to be involved with these guys is a bit of an honour because when you're that age you sort of dream of doing what we're doing and now we're doing it it's nice to sort of give back," he said.

And its experiences like these that have Silver singing the course's praise.

"It's preparing you to be job-ready and I think that stuff like this is pushing you directly in the right direction," she said.

"I think the stories that they've picked are really quirky and interesting; instead of a standard current affairs story they've gone a bit out of the box."

Sunday will be a proud moment for the students, who will get to enjoy the reward of weeks of hard work.

"We're planning to get together. The whole class will be watching it at one of the local bowling clubs. They're very excited and proud of themselves and they should be because it is really good," Burns said.

The West Australian

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