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Ram of the Week: Ricky Sayer

Daseul Kim, Spotlight Editor

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You’ve followed his news channel since Welsh Valley Middle School, heard his iconic sign-off, “I am… Ricky Reports” too many times, and spotted him at almost every Harriton event with a video recorder in hand. Recently recognized by the Philadelphia Inquirer as the “Walter Cronkite” of this generation, Richard Sayer has accomplished an impressive career in journalism at just eighteen years old, which he does not intend to end anytime soon. We were able to sit down with Sayer for an exclusive interview, and bring him into the spotlight, momentarily away from his natural habitat behind the camera.

Harriton Banner: Why are you so dedicated to Harriton’s community?
RS: That’s a great question. I think I am so dedicated because I truly love this place. I’ve embraced this school and this school has embraced me. When my older sister, Ali Sayer, graduated from Harriton ten years ago, there is one distinct thing that I remember from the ceremony: the valedictorian at the time gave a speech that included the phrase “At Lower Merion, they’re cool, but here at Harriton, we’re nice.” That has really stuck with me. I think I have found a way to give back to the community by doing something that I love.

Harriton Banner: How did you first become involved with your school community through your very own news channel, Ricky Reports?
RS: I first became involved in broadcast journalism at Welsh Valley with the morning announcements. In middle school, the morning announcements are put together by the Tech Ed teachers, who also are the stage crew advisors. Now, I knew I wanted to join stage crew in sixth grade but was too nervous to go up and ask Mr. Weaver if I could join stage crew. That changed in seventh grade when I actually had Mr. Weaver as a teacher. One day, when I was meeting with Mr. Weaver about stage crew, I was told that the morning announcement crew was short staffed, and so I volunteered and thus my broadcasting career began. I think I was far from the first to admit that the announcements were boring and that they were sparsely paid attention to. During my time at the announcements, I tried to shake things up through things like new camera angles, logos, intros, special shows, and of course “Ricky Reports.” I actually only produced six “Ricky Reports” videos while at Welsh Valley, but the impact was far greater than I could have imagined. I distinctly remember leaving the Welsh Valley studio after airing my first video “Ricky Reports on Fun Friday,” (which as a side note, was filmed on an iPod touch using a fake microphone and a script written on the back of a pizza box), and getting recognized for it. More importantly, it made people happy. Long story short, I didn’t really know what I was doing for a year or so. In the summer before my freshman year, my father, who made me to play football for a year in seventh grade, told me that Harriton’s football team was looking for a team videographer to take video on the end zone skycam. After a while, I got bored of that because I wanted to make highlight videos of the games. Those highlight videos during my freshman year are how many Harriton students were introduced to me.

Harriton Banner: Many of us have been following your newscast career since middle school. How did you become so interested in it?
RS: I think I always had a little bit of the “news bug” in me. I didn’t just wake up one day and say that I wanted to become a journalist, rather as I spent more and more time at the middle school announcements and I kind of grew attached, really attached. When our advisor told us that we were going to be working with on and off weeks, I was absolutely crushed. I’ll be honest, I have become obsessed with the news. While many are out hanging with friends at night, I am editing a video. Whenever there is any type of special report on TV, I can’t help myself but watch.

Harriton Banner: How is Ricky Reports doing as of now?
RS: It’s doing good. My YouTube channel has over 140 subscribers. I am posting in-depth articles to RickyReports.TV (someone in Japan has rickyreports.com). I just finished an interview with the superintendent as part of a multi part video series I am doing on enrollment growth in LM, which comes three years after my original “Ricky Reports On Enrollment Growth.”

Harriton Banner: When you graduate, what legacy do you and Ricky Reports hope to leave at Harriton?
RS: The question I get all the time, from everyone at Harriton, is what will happen to the Ricky Reports after I leave Harriton. I respond first, by saying that the show is called the “RAM Report” not, the “Ricky Report.” Once I get that out of the way, I tell them that once I leave Harriton, other people will step up, most notably Ben Feldman, Nick Merriam, Daseul Kim, and a team of freshman who have joined the Harriton TV club. What I have done alone for most of my time at Harriton will be spread amongst a team of dedicated people. Doug Young, director of communications for Lower Merion School District told me two years ago, that every couple of years, someone like me comes around and really gets the video production/news programs going at one of the high schools. I am hoping that once I leave, I will have done enough to lay a foundation for those who come after me to, at the very least, keep the RAM Report going. I see the RAM Report as my kind of imprint I can leave at Harriton. I first pitched the show to Dr. Eveslage a year and a half ago as a full fledged news show put together entirely by students. I think I knew from the very beginning that I wanted it to be called the “RAM Report” as a subtle play on the alliteration in “Ricky Reports.” I even came up with a news jingle and song for the show (if you have a musical ability and want to take make this theme a reality, please contact me). As a side note, the only type of music I take an interest in is news music. My favorite theme is the theme we use on the RAM Report: KUSA theme.

Harriton Banner: With every Ricky Reports or newscast you do for Harriton, what do you hope for your peers to take away?
RS: As a high school journalist, and producer of my school’s weekly newscast, my job is to both inform and celebrate the newsworthy stories and events in my school and community. It is the same purpose I had when I made the first “Ricky Reports on Fun Friday” in seventh grade. What reporting on these events does is bring people together. As producer of a show that the entire school is supposed to watch, I am in the unique position to drive a conversation. Whether it be reporting a sports team’s win, an upcoming concert, or even a change in school district policy, the news generates connections between community members. How does it do this? Well, a sports win generates a sense of pride for one’s community, a concert gets people to physically come together, and the reporting of a change in district policy allows students to decide if they agree with the change or not. If they don’t agree, they can go to a school board meeting, speak up, and bring change. Someone mentioned to me the other day that they don’t need to go to school board meetings because they hear the important things that happened at those meetings from me. Essentially, I can summarize a three hour meeting into two and a half minutes for them. Ultimately, I want people to take away something that can help them in their lives or the lives of those around them.

Harriton Banner: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
RS: 10 years from now? Well, realistically, I will be in mid-size TV market like Pittsburgh or West Palm Beach. I will be an investigative reporter in a Top 10 market or a network TV news producer. Don’t expect me though to become an anchor, I am just not cut out for that.

Harriton Banner: Who do you look up to?
RS: This is a hard one, especially because I taught myself so much about journalism. I was actually asked this at my college interview and I honestly couldn’t come up with anything so I just said Lester Holt becuase I watch The NBC Nightly News religiously every single night. So, I’m going to go on an unusual route, and say one of the things that really got me excited about broadcast journalism was the HBO program, “The Newsroom.” A character on that program that I really admired was MacKenzie McHale, the executive producer on the show within the show.

Harriton Banner: We understand that you have been admitted to Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications! What are you looking forward to the most in this next chapter of your life?
RS: I’m looking forward to being challenged, because to be honest, I have had a sort of monopoly on school news here at Harriton. I’ve never had to compete against someone for a story, or to have the best story. At newhouse I know that I will be challenged.

Harriton Banner: What advice do you have for younger Harriton students regarding getting involved in the school community?
RS: Find something you like to do and stick with it. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

Harriton Banner: Any last words you’d like to say to Harriton?
RS: Stay informed, have a great rest of your day today, and an even better day tomorrow!

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Ram of the Week: Ricky Sayer