Sam Woolf's 'American Idol' run opens doors for classmates

Special to the HeraldApril 21, 2014 

The eyes of young student journalists, administrators and a proud adviser all focus in on a single telephone as the background music that had been playing just moments before went silent and a voice began to speak.

"Please state which media group you are with."

"Braden River High School's Spyglass newspaper" junior and Entertainment Editor Brandon Huynh said.

At 1 p.m. every Friday, Huynh and the Spyglass team have an enviable professional opportunity: a recurring invitation to sit in on an "American Idol" teleconference.

It began with an email to the "Idol" public relations staff regarding a possible interview with fellow classmate and current contestant, Sam Woolf.

Huynh was surprised and elated when he was offered the chance to partake in an interview with each week's eliminated contestant from the show.

M.K. Nobilette, the first contestant sent home of the final 10 who made it to the live "American Idol" summer tour, was also the first person interviewed.

The following week, Life & Features Editor Katie Cafiero interviewed Majesty Rose, the next contestant sent home.

The third interview was with Malaya Watson following her elimination from the show.

"It is insane knowing that we are only a high school student-run publication and we are basically in the same game as major journalists that work for professional media outlets," Huynh said. "It blows my mind. I feel like my team and I are the only high school journalists who receive major opportunities like this."

Each week staff members arrive in the front office conference room to set up everything needed for the interview. As Huynh dials into the teleconference, the other journalists are ready to jot down notes or take camera shots of every moment.

Multiple media sources are on the phone along with the Spyglass to get the latest scoop.

Each caller is only allowed one question and one follow-up. If time permits, the call mediator repeats the order of journalists and they can ask another question.

Principal Jennifer Gilray, Assistant Principal Don French, and Spyglass Adviser Jillian Bieber attend each week. Occasionally the Bradenton Herald and Observer also join in.

"It is wonderful to see our students have these unique and special opportunities," French said. "When (their) eyes are open to new things, we have done our job. When (they) succeed we succeed."

The Spyglass is the only high school newspaper in the nation involved in this process, giving staff a platform for future opportunities and unique resumes as they move forward in the field of journalism.

"Sam Woolf has opened up so many doors and experiences for our school. We are very proud of him and his accomplishments on the show," Bieber said.

Participation in the teleconferences will continue until the end of the airing of the show this season. To stay updated with each interview and the Spyglass, go to

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