With spotlights pointed, coffee cups nearby and Zoom tabs open and ready to stream, Pack Chat hosts prepare for the weekly meeting where they discuss trending stories and popular, sometimes controversial, topics happening in the world today.
The Pack Chat is a place for students to hear their opinions expressed and validated as well as hear other points of view, according to senior Pack Chat host Victor Martinez.
“My favorite part about the Pack Chat is just the fact that we get to sit down with people who might have a different perspective than we do and have a space to process your opinions,” Martinez said. “It forces you to do research and be informed about what’s going on, mainly because you don’t want to look stupid on the Pack Chat. It [also] gives you an opportunity to look at what’s going on in the world, whether it be political or anything, and [then] putting out your opinion about it.”
With the unusual start to school, The Wolfcast took time to get their weekly broadcasts going, but has since produced six shows and three Pack Chats, covering topics ranging from politics to protesting, as well as any viral topic involving celebrities, TV shows or social media. In addition to Martinez, seniors Ella Neel and Sam Mack also host the segment. Mack is the newest host, who just joined the segment this year.
“I love the Pack Chat,” Mack said. “It is very fun [and] you can just throw out your opinion and not really get judged by anyone, which makes you feel [like you’re in] a safe environment. It does however get kind of nerve racking whenever you have a super hot topic that could upset some people.”
The idea of the Pack Chat started in January 2020 when the Wolfcast staff decided to revamp the show and include new segments. The staff’s influence was The View, a talk show on ABC that is in its 24th season and discusses trending topics. Despite not returning to in-person classes last spring, The Wolfcast continued their weekly broadcast via Zoom, and were able to maintain the Pack Chat segment through April and May.
“We were toying around with the idea of the Pack Chat, and our main thinking was we wanted it to be the voice of the student body,” senior executive producer Claire Mallet said. “[We wanted it to be] a place where we could talk about subjects and things that people care about [from] a high schooler’s point of view. Certain viewers could relate to a certain member of the Pack Chat or agree or disagree with what we’re saying.”
Each segment usually covers three topics that the Wolfcast staff comes up with through researching top stories on Twitter as well as what the community is posting about on social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. During election season, broadcast teacher Anthony Garcia said that the first two topics usually concern politics, but that they try to include a third, more lighthearted or fun topic to conclude the session.
“We look at different categories from politics to entertainment to even sports,” Garcia said. “The best part about this year is that we’ve got a pretty solid conservative voice with Sam Mack and our other two hosts [who] are a little more liberal. It kind of adds a little bit more of a discussion and debate as opposed to just everyone agreeing. We know that the students of Cedar Park have all kinds of opinions and we want the Pack Chat to represent that and not just be one-sided.”
Mallet said that she thinks discussing current events and ideas allows for a person to really understand how other people think.
“One thing that I think we really want to be sure of is presenting all sides of the story,” Mallet said. “We want to be able to provide a voice for every student here, [which means] a lot of different opinions. We really try to be sure to play devil’s advocate and present sides that maybe most people won’t agree with, but just acknowledge that there are other people who are saying these other things and talking about it.”
This is especially necessary when commenting on controversial topics, such as the Sept. 30 Pack Chat reviewing the presidential debate that happened on Sept. 29 between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The show was slightly different from usual Pack Chat’s, as the team focused on this one topic versus three topics.
“I felt like the debate Pack Chat went [well] because we were just generally discussing the debate and talked mainly about what people were talking about,” Neel said. “I think it’s important to talk about both sides especially [considering] the debate because there were definitely interesting [aspects] from both sides.”
Martinez said he agrees that it is necessary to represent every student’s views, especially if the panel leans to one side of the political spectrum.
“We want to represent what the students think,” Martinez said. “We want to represent what they believe in and we want them to be able to see at least some part of their views represented.”
In fact, the staff has received disapproval for supposedly not representing both sides of a topic or having a different opinion than the majority of students, according to Martinez. In order to combat these issues, the staff has discussed the possibility of opening a slot on the Pack Chat for students to sign up for and participate in an episode.
“As a whole I know we’ve gotten a lot of criticism regarding certain debates or certain views presented on the Pack Chat being one-sided,” Martinez said. “I personally think [that having a student speak on the Pack Chat] would be really strong to implement in the future because I think it’s important for each member of the student body to have an opportunity to discuss their opinions. We have tried to work towards that and we have sought out members of our staff who might have more conservative views who would be interested in talking about them, just so we have an opposing viewpoint [and] just so we have both sides of the debate represented.”
Students interested in being a guest host on the Pack Chat can click here to fill out a form asking what topics they feel they know a lot about and are comfortable discussing. The Pack Chat airs Wednesdays on the Wolfcast and can be found on the program’s YouTube channel.