Nets draw news stars from youth channel

This article was corrected on Mar. 25, 2002.

As news nets continue to chase younger auds, they’re increasingly turning to faces already familiar to that key demo. And for news directors on the hunt for fresh talent, the high school educational feed Channel One has established itself as a premier launchpad for up-and-coming anchors and reporters.

It also provided valuable in-the-trenches experience for reporters thrown into the post-9/11 global milieu.

Indeed, reporters at Channel One, which launched in 1990 and is beamed to more than 12,000 junior and senior high schools nationwide, have traveled to Rwanda, Haiti and Tibet to cover conflicts.

“They aren’t covering parades or fashion shows,” says Morgan Wandell, Channel One’s exec VP of programming, “They’re going to places in the world where the news is happening.”

Nationally, CBS’s Tracy Smith, MSNBC’s Monica Novotny and CNN’s Kris Osborn, Serena Altschul and Anderson Cooper all list Channel One on their resumes.

“Having had war-zone experience, and knowing not to panic in the middle of tragedy, greatly helped when we were covering this in our own backyard,” says “Early Show” contributor Smith, who joined CBS almost a year before Sept. 11 and was reporting on the scene before the World Trade Center towers collapsed. “I don’t know that I would have gotten that at a local station.”

Not all of Channel One’s reporters majored in journalism, but for Wandell, that isn’t mandatory. “They’re all smart and curious about the way the world works. What they need to know and learn, we have a chance to teach them.”

The channel’s current cast of reporters is a diverse and telegenic group of twentysomethings that includes Janet Choi, an alum of the “Real World” Seattle cast, and Gotham Chopra, son of self-help guru Deepak Chopra. Krystal Greene and Errol Barnett joined the staff right out of high school on the strength of their student tapes.

Channel One continues to branch out by producing and providing content for other nets: CNN broadcast Channel One’s segment on an Afghan food drop; the 9/11 special “The Day It All Changed” ran on the WB Sept. 30; and the docu series “Breaking It Down,” hosted by Altschul, airs on MTV.

Channel One’s exec VP of programming is Morgan Wandell. Information was incorrect in the March 18-24 issue.

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