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Rutgers revives television studio course 6 years later

Joanna Gagis, Natalie Feldman and Maria Soccor were among a few of the people who guest starred in the 30-minute production lead by Rutgers students. Instructors said it was a success, students made minimal errors throughout the show. – Photo by Jill Buhain

For the first time in six years, a broadcast television program, Specialty Camera Studio, was offered during the academic year. The course allowed students to experience various roles of the news room, culminating in a student-produced 30-minute production.

Prior to this year, the University was the only school within the Big Ten Academic Alliance that did not offer a television studio course, said Peter Troost, assistant director of operations and production for Rutgers iTV. The program last surfaced between 2010 and 2011, but after a professor at the time retired, the television studio was no longer used.

Since then, the School of Information and Communication has offered Broadcast Television as a summer session course. iTV has pushed for the program’s return, an effort that came to fruition this year when the half-semester course was piloted to students, Troost said.

“All over the Big Ten and all over N.J., the major institutions and Universities have programs like this and let the students use studios to learn and to produce and to do the type of thing that we did tonight,” he said. 

Thursday night, students in the course used their newly-attained skills in directing, writing and working with audio-visual equipment to produce their own 30-minute show. The demonstration featured guest appearances from individuals well established in journalism and the media industry.

“The students should be here the entire semester, and you should also start earlier,” Troost said. “Because I think if you started your freshman or sophomore year, by your senior year, I mean this wasn’t a bad production, but imagine if you had two to three years of this. Imagine the kind of productions and journalistic content you could produce your fourth year in.”

The initiative to reinstate the broadcast program was spearheaded by Troost, Juan Gonzalez, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Neal Bennett, a teaching instructor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, and more. 

Bennett taught the course this semester and oversaw Thursday’s show, he said. 

"It was great, it went smooth. I didn’t see anything go wrong," he said.

The hands-on experience students take away from working in a television studio builds tactile knowledge that helps their journalistic abilities, Bennett said. After hearing that the University had a television studio not utilized by students, he decided to play with the idea of introducing students to a new kind of learning.

“I can show you the pictures. I can show you the switchers and all that, but until you put your hands on it, until we’re doing the count down, you don’t feel that stress,” he said. 

Initially, he spoke with Troost and others involved with iTV about the possibility of revisiting the program. The iTV studio is not a part of the journalism and media studies major, but the two collaborated to bring forth the course. 

Bennett, along with others involved, ran their own pilot test in the studio, held a few meetings with the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and the School of Communication and Information, then took the Specialty Camera Workshop into the iTV studio on Livingston campus. The course this semester was comprised of seven classes, where the final day was the student-run 30-minute show. 

Bennett said that numbers have grown beyond his initial response and an increased visibility in the program has potential to work in new developments, like daily shows, over a period of time.

“As someone just coming in from working in this business for over 20 plus years to get into education and kind of take a different path, I think it's really rewarding for me to see you guys really enjoy this, and probably look at it not just as a class but as like real life experience beyond the class,” he said.

Monica Chavez, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and student enrolled in the course, said she enjoyed it but would have liked to have had more time to learn all of the different positions offered. 

“And that’s the cool thing about this class also, you can really explore all the areas and really find out ... it really helps you to figure out your strengths. So yeah, before this class I didn’t know graphics (and) movie is something I really like, so I discovered it in this class,” Chavez said. 


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