At 8:15 a.m. on Fridays, classrooms at Old St. Mary’s School, 1474 S. Michigan Ave., tune into the morning news. Not the “Today Show” or “Good Morning America,” or even a program airing on a local Chicago station. Their news comes from a lot closer than that: a third-floor former breakout room that has been outfitted as TV studio, complete with green screens, teleprompters and two cameras. The school gets OSM News, with news stories written and presented by the fifth- through eighth-graders who participate in the extracurricular program. Technology teacher Michael Martin has run the group for about three years, taking over from the parent volunteer who started it. Between 35 and 40 students take part, rotating through the two anchor seats, doing the weather in Spanish and taping “roving reporter” bits and public service announcements on topics such as bullying and recycling. “As much as possible, I like to hand them something and say, ‘Do whatever you can,’” Martin said. Martin said the club offers several benefits to the students, both academic and social. Students learn the technical skills needed to run the video and sound systems, become better writers and researchers and gain confidence about speaking in public. Earlier this year, one of the students asked Martin how many students there are at Old St. Mary’s. When he told her, she said, “You mean 497 people are going to watch me?” He didn’t point out that that didn’t include teachers or parents who watch it online. They also learn to collaborate with one another and work across grade levels. “There’s been some talk about making this a class, but I wouldn’t want to do that,” Martin said. “One of the great things about working with these kids is that they all want to be here.” They want to be there so much that everyone scheduled for the Jan. 25 broadcast had arrived and was in place well before 8 a.m., on what was one of the coldest days of the year. They had plenty of time to run through the broadcast, checking to make sure that they were positioned properly to display the graphics that would be added to the green screen. On Jan. 25, seventh-grader Sophia Siok and eighth-grader Gabe Del Valle took their seats behind the anchor desk. Under the direction of sixth-grader Joey Galullo. They led the school in a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, and offered birthday greetings to students and staff members who were celebrating that day or over the weekend. “We do that because this takes the place of the morning announcements on Fridays,” he said, noting that anchors remain seated for the prayer and pledge because it takes too long to adjust the camera to a different height. Sophia read the story she wrote about the then-ongoing government shutdown, and Gabriel read the story he wrote about Niagara Falls freezing over. When Sophia questioned Gabe’s choice of topic, he defended it, saying, “In all fairness, the news covers the government shutdown. No one else is covering Niagara Falls.” Both got to take a breath when program cut to the pre-recorded clip of roving reporter Caitlin Johnson finding out about upcoming Catholic Schools week activities. Once the weather was done, they closed out the broadcast, did a short debriefing and headed to class. Martin stayed to upload the video to a website where it would be available to parents and to teachers who chose to show it later.