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MTV's 'Paper' spinoff to be set at Burleson High

BURLESON -- It took three steps, including a video audition, for Burleson High School broadcast journalists to be chosen for a new MTV docudrama that focuses on teens.

But it took two days for skeptical administrators to weigh the pros and cons of participating in an MTV show similar to The Paper, which has been airing this spring. (The finale is at 9 p.m. Monday.)

Principal Paul Cash said MTV might exploit students and portray the school negatively.

Elated students ran screaming through the halls Friday afternoon after Cash told broadcast teacher Stephanie Mills that he had approved the project, clearing the way for MTV crews to arrive next week to cast the show.

"Oh my gosh; I'm ecstatic," junior Liz Lee said. "I ran through the halls laughing and screaming and telling everyone I saw. ... It was amazing."

'Could be beneficial'

Mills and some students said they had feared that the principal would nix the offer despite their impassioned pleas during a two-hour meeting Wednesday with Cash and Superintendent Mark Jackson. The meeting included a conference call with MTV officials.

"I thought they already had their minds made up," sophomore Taylor Terry said.

It turns out that the naysayers were wrong.

Cash, who told the students that he had reservations about the show, said Friday that he was persuaded by the student presentations as well as conversations with administrators of a Florida school whose newspaper staff was featured on MTV this spring.

"MTV seems to be very student-friendly and willing to work collaboratively with local administrators," Cash said in an e-mail. "Based on the information I gathered from the meeting .ƒ|.ƒ|. I was convinced that this partnership could be beneficial to our students."

Mills and the students breathed a sigh of relief Friday after Cash announced his decision. They were worried not only that Cash wouldn't allow the taping but also that MTV might move on to another school if the decision was delayed until Tuesday.

"It was horrible every day we'd walk in and there was no decision," junior Megan Mortensen said. "I had a feeling it could go the other way. We've been on the edge of our seats."

'We're all good kids'

Students said they believe that their speeches and letters influenced Cash more than they realized.

During the meeting Wednesday, the teens told Cash and Jackson how appearing on the show could further the journalism careers they nurtured on Elk TV, the school's award-winning news show.

"MTV wants to show off Elk TV because we're real and we're the future," said junior Carly Love, the show's producer. "We want to share our experience with the world. Why not show us off?"

Other students tried to assuage Cash's concern that a negative portrayal by MTV might harm them and the district.

"I promise that we will not give the school a bad name," junior Anthony Vasquez said. "We're all good kids who are dedicated and hard-working. We're not going to do anything to jeopardize the reputation of Burleson High School."

Terry said the show could jump-start her college and journalism career.

"This would earn us national exposure and open huge doors," she said.

Mills said the MTV show is exactly what she tries to teach her students.

"I have the obligation to show my students the reality of journalism so they can go out in the real world," she said. "This will give them the opportunity to observe professionals. It will look good on their resumes. To not allow us to participate would deprive students of the opportunity of a lifetime."