Broadcast and digital journalism students go “live” for a grade

by Mia Rossi

October 30, 2017

“Mornings On The Hill” provides students with real-world newsroom experience

It’s 9:30 a.m. and broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) graduate student Brooke Meenachan is running a pre-production morning meeting. Today, she is the executive producer for “Mornings on the Hill,” (MOTH) which is produced every week by students in BDJ 560: Television News Magazine Production.

MOTH is an NCC News show that airs live every Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the Orange Television Network, Syracuse University’s student-run TV station. While it is technically considered a class, MOTH is not run like your typical classroom.

“‘Mornings On The Hill’ is a fast-paced newsroom setting,” says graduate student Jonathan Singh. “The show is live so we only have one time to get it right, accurate and precise.”

Mornings on the Hill

MOTH students arrive at the Diane and Bob Miron Digital Newsroom, located in the Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center, at 7 a.m. every Wednesday to prepare for the show’s live start. However, their preparation begins long before that. “We gather information every day through the week and we all post to a blog and feed off each other’s ideas,” says Singh.

Preparation on show day is mostly adding finishing touches to the show. “We either do last-minute editing or put scripts in ENPS [Electronic News Production System, the Associated Press’s system for timing news broadcasts], and producers start creating the rundown and making sure everything is ready,” says senior Colleen Callander. MOTH students rotate through various newsroom roles including reporter, anchor, associate producer and social media manager, producer, executive producer and sports reporter. “It’s hands-on and you can experience every role in the newsroom,” Meenachan says.

As the executive producer, Meenachan is in charge of getting the day’s rundown together, seeing what the anchors and reporters are working on, inputting video and graphics and making sure that everyone is on schedule. While Meenachan says she prefers being on-air talent to being a producer, she appreciates that MOTH provides her with the opportunity to experience both. “You need to learn every position so you know how each one works, so if something happens, you know why,” she says.

MOTH began in spring 2016 and is run by professor Suzanne Lysak, who has professional experience as a television news producer, reporter and executive producer. Adjunct instructor Randy Wenner, who has worked as a news producer, reporter and anchor, also provides assistance to the class.

The show covers mainly local and campus news. The Oct. 11 show included reports about the Spanish Action League’s drive for Hurricane Maria victims (on which Callander reported), an in-studio sports report (delivered by Singh) and an interview with newspaper and online journalism professor Cheryl Reed, who recently published a book.

Max Cohan, who was serving as in-studio reporter, was in charge of reporting “Weekends On The Hill”, a segment that discusses upcoming events for the weekend on campus,  and interviewing Reed. However, his plan for the show didn’t come together until shortly before air-time, mirroring what often happens in a real newsroom. “Originally, I was going to try to do a story about mumps, but I spent a lot of time trying to set that up and it wasn’t working out,” he says. “I had to talk to a lot of people about potential backup stories, but then Professor Lysak told me she had an interview lined up, and that changed everything.”

Students enjoy that MOTH is a unique outlet for them to hone their reporting and producing skills. “It’s a more fun way to do what I love and it gives me an opportunity to cover both on-campus and off-campus stories,” says Callander. Another graduate student, Frank DeLuca, says that despite a busy schedule, he always looks forward to working on MOTH. “It’s hard for me because Tuesday is my package production day, so it’s usually a late night into an early morning, but it’s worth it,” says DeLuca. “Something about this class keeps my spirits high."

Mia Rossi is a senior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.