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A Brief History of PNN...

Early Years (1994 - 2001)

In 1994, Mr. Stephen DeVillez, in conjunction with the newly renovated Merrillville High School media center, started a broadcast journalism class that would become the foundation for PNN. As the years went on, Mr. DeVillez would develop the initial PNN program, adding a monthly news magazine show that was shown throughout MHS in a closed circuit capacity. The show also aired on local public access. The "PNN Show" covered news and sports and featured various entertainment segments, produced and edited by Merrillville High School students. In addition to the PNN broadcast, students also helped produce live telecasts of sporting events, concerts and plays. Following DeVillez's departure in late 1997, radio veteran Chris Locken took over PNN, turning it from a monthly broadcast to a weekly show. After Locken's departure, Hammond cable's Tom Spitzer took the reins, working with local companies such as Royal Brush to better acclimate students to a real-life media experience. In addition, PNN began airing a "Morning Announcements" live broadcast, using real-time equipment and studio jobs to bring the daily MHS happenings to teachers and students.

Building A Brand (2001 - 2010)

In the summer of 2001, Mark Ciesielski was named the new adviser of the Pirate News Network and began making changes that would help to make PNN one of Merrillville's most popular classes. With fresh, new ideas, Ciesielski immediately began re-branding. PNN was restructured into three classes with a basic television class, an intermediate class, focused solely on producing the morning announcements and an advanced level class, to handle putting together the weekly "Friday Show." Under Ciesielski's leadership, PNN students began re-entering the IASB state contest and in a short time, racked up many awards , even earning PNN the title of "Indiana Television School of the Year" on two separate occasions. The culmination of Mr. C's tenure came in 2004 when MTV executives discovered a PNN segment about a student trying to find a date to prom and with Merrillville High School's help, launched the weekly series, "Prom Date," hosted by Vanessa Minnillo.

A New Era (2010 - Present)

In 2010, PNN opened its brand new studio, located in the newly built freshman center at MHS. Complete with a computer lab, control room, studio cameras and new professional equipment, PNN's future was secured. After nine years as the leader of PNN, Mr. Ciesielski departed for a job in Illinois, with his longtime assistant Mr. Brian Past stepping in to fill the void. The summer of 2010 also marked the hiring of PNN alumnus Mr. Josh Harvoth, returning to Merrillville to share his passion for television after nearly 7 years of working for various media outlets in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Under the leadership of Mr. Past and Mr. Harvoth, PNN students have produced over 240 hours of new "Friday Show" content and many have found their way to real world jobs in the media. In 2016, PNN classes became one of Merrillville's first elective courses that would partner with Ivy Tech to offer dual college credit for students wanting to study radio and television.

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