Students from the School of Communications and Information's Non-Scripted Television class traveled to New York City on Monday to visit ABC Studio for a behind-the-scenes peek into one of the most prolific news stations in the country.
Neal Bennett, the professor of the class and coordinator of the trip, said the idea materialized after a conversation with his good friend, Rob Bonardi, a long time employee at Eyewitness News Channel 7.
“We’re always talking about the industry, new tech and education. Last year, Rob visited my Digital Media Production class to talk about his job and the network news industry in general. After that initial visit, we would often talk about the need to get students up to New York and in the studio. I thought it was a great idea, so we set a date,” he said.
From the Live with Kelly and Ryan set to the Eyewitness News Studio, students received a VIP tour of ABC from Bonardi that included access to reporters, writers, producers and even the well known and famed anchors of New York, Liz Cho and Bill Ritter.
As the time neared 7 p.m., students gathered directly behind the camera that was aimed at Cho and Ritter and watched in silence as ABC’s Eyewitness News was broadcasted live.
At the assignment news desk, students learned how reporters gather tips for stories they break and how most of their work is not writing the stories, but fact-checking them. This is because the majority of calls they get from citizens are usually inaccurate and sometimes completely made up, said the assignment desk news editor.
In addition to accuracy, editors and producers at ABC talked about the importance of timeliness.
Video editors in the control room asked Rutgers students how long they typically have to complete a one to two minute project for Bennett’s class. After most students responded that they had around a week or two, Bonardi shared that for a typical one and a half minute segment, the crew gets around 45 minutes to gather the footage, write, edit, add graphics and produce a segment that then gets aired live for the entire nation.
There obviously cannot be a black screen on the channel, Bonardi said, so there is no room for a slip up. At the end of the day, something has to go on the screen, he said.
Other classes in the School of Communication and Information has taken students to "The Dr. Oz Show" and NBC in New York. Bennett said that these kinds of trips give students a look into exactly what is going on right now in the media industry.
“Eyewitness News 7 is one of the top rated news shows in the country. This wasn’t a trip for students to see a news station through a glass window or sit in a studio audience. This particular trip was special because our host was willing to go above and beyond to discuss the workflow from assignment desk to the live show. This was an opportunity for students to connect directly to industry professionals working in the number one market in the country," he said.
Joy Taylor, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the trip was an eye-opening experience because she learned how employees at ABC wear many hats and perform a wide range of tasks.
“I learned that you have to really learn how to do everything, to be well versed in your craft, to know how to do all parts of the job for every job,” she said.
Jabria Baylor, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, agreed and said she learned that with new technology, everyone is replaceable.
“You see how many people are losing their jobs to machines and robots. There’s not a lot of space for actual humans, so you really have to be the best of the best,” she said.
As for future trips like this that place students in a professional media production environment, Bennett said he looks forward to it.
“I’m up for it. It’s a lot of coordination and some paperwork, but definitely worth the effort,” he said.