Morinville Community High School teacher Greg Boutestein sits at the MCTV News desk between two of the studio’s cameras.
– Stephen Dafoe Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
Last week Morinville Community High School teacher Greg Boutestein marked 20 years teaching at the school. This week he, students and alumni will celebrate two decades of MCTV News. The in-house newscast began a few weeks after Boutestein began teaching at the then new high school in 1995. Two decades later and the program has seen many crews produce many episodes of original content.
“There were several kids that worked in the studio, and they kind of had an idea to do a show,” Boutestein recalled, adding Mark Woollven, Allen Gould, Marc Gagnon and Mike LaRocque were the program’s original crew. “They were the genesis of the show.”
Originally called MCHS TV, the show was shortened to MCTV, morphed to MCTV Live, and continues today as MCTV News.
Studio cameras, lights and a set donated a few years back by Global give high school students a start in broadcast journalism and related career options while earning credit.
Though a credit course today, the program began purely out of student interest. “We did 10 episodes that first year,” Boutestein said. “After that it just kind of kept going from there. Originally there was no course. It was just volunteers. They came in at lunch and after school. There was no credit for it.”
Boutestein said the show remained an extracurricular activity through its first two seasons, but became a credit course in season three.
But just as the show has evolved from an after-school pastime to a credit course, so too has the show evolved over the past 20 years in terms of technology and content.
“Back then we thought we were the cat’s brass. To produce a TV show in a high school at that point  was very much an odd occurrence,” Boutestein said, adding only a couple schools were doing anything like it. “For us to get there — that was a big deal.”
What was unique for Morinville was the school broadcasted its show live to the community through a transmitter the school had. Eventually, the school stopped the community broadcast because of being unable to meet CRTC compliance.
In its original iteration, the show was as much student variety show as it was newscast. Today the show is far more planned, scripted and polished.
“Back then it was a lot of killing air time. Kids would be on for two minutes juggling balls or whatever,” Boutestein said. “Recorded segments weren’t as big a part of the show. Now it’s more structured, and that’s been the focus.”
As the 20th anniversary has approached, students have been reviewing the MCTV archives, seeing segments produced before they were born and learning the history of the program and the students who made it happen.
Some of that content will find its way into a special MCTV News broadcast Mar. 12, two days after the program’s 20th anniversary.
Boutestein said he had intended only to mention the anniversary in passing, but student Rose VanBrabent suggested doing an anniversary retrospective show. “It’s kind of beginning to evolve into a highlight show,” Boutestein said. “Were going to show some highlights of the past 20 years, and it looks like we’re going to have some former crew members and hosts coming out.”
Alumni will participate in two ways. Some are producing segments in their current locations in the province and as far away as England. Others are making the trip back to the high school to do some work on air.
“It’s kind of nice to see the response from the alumni,” Boutestein said. “The response has been fairly overwhelming. It’s cool that these people that did the show 20 years ago — they still have a place in their heart for it. They’re all professionals living their lives, and they’re taking a day off work to come back to their old high school. I think it speaks to the fun they had doing it.”
Twenty years later, Boutestein is still having fun teaching new crews the business.
“It’s still a blast,” he said. “I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m here. Hopefully at that time when I leave the building it’ll continue on. We’re Morinville’s first and only TV station.”
Over the past weekend MCTV News crew members came out to Morinville’s Francophone Heritage Day event at the cultural centre and to the arena on Sunday for the Morinville for Hockeyville skate.
MCTV News segments can be watched on Youtube.
An MCTV crew member interviews Wayne Gatza at a Morinville for Hockeyville event Sunday afternoon.
– Stephen Dafoe Photo