25 YEARS ON-AIR
Our Emmy-Award winning “WVU News” starts now…
By Erica Lindsay
Our Emmy-Award winning “WVU News” starts now…
By Erica Lindsay
By mid-semester of its 25th year, “WVU News” is a well-oiled machine. It’s April 18, 2018, and the crew is taping a special edition 30-minute show.“The March for Our Lives is happening in cities all over the nation. I’m Noelle Forde and I’ll give you an inside look at this gun control movement. Our Emmy-Award winning ‘WVU News’ starts now.”
“Take open!” Director Lindsey Tingler shouts from the production room. “Camera two-shot!”
The studio and control room are two different worlds.
You can hear a pin drop in the studio, where two news anchors and a news reporter sit behind a high-rise desk with stage lights illuminating them. They are perfection – perfect demeanor, perfect expressions, perfectly professional. They wear tiny earpieces and tiny lapel microphones that you can only see if you know to look for them. Off stage, in the dark, three camera operators with headsets focus on the anchors from behind large Panasonic high-definition studio cameras, waiting for their cues.
Across the hall in the control room, it’s a different story.
The student technical crew readies the show for its first run-through, shuffling scripts, checking audio levels and directing the camera operators as they line up their shots. The booming voice of their instructor cuts through the chaos.
“Noelle, move to your right! Move your entire chair right!” Gina Martino Dahlia, journalism program chair and “WVU News” executive producer, shouts to the anchor through her studio headset, while watching her on the control room TV monitor. “And somebody help her fix her necklace!”
My time with “WVU News,” and the Journalism school in general, surrounded me with strong and successful women. These women not only project intelligence and confidence, but they show that careers in broadcast journalism can vary. Their confidence paired with their belief in each of their students was contagious, and I am proud to stand on their shoulders as I grow in my career.
MEGAN BAKER KOLODZIEJ ’08 Attorney, Conflicts Counsel, Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington DC
The day starts at 8 a.m. for the anchors, who made some last-minute hair and makeup adjustments in the dressing room. Everyone else arrives by 8:30, and taping starts at 9:00. Once the cameras start rolling, the crew runs through the entire show without stopping. To closely mimic a live show there won’t be any post-production editing. The students will do as many run-throughs as it takes to get it as close to perfect as possible.
Executive Producer and senior journalism student Macy Senge holds a 34-page script that she’s been writing and editing all week. The “WVU News’ taping is the culmination of late nights working through content with Dahlia. And, they’ll start the process all over again next week.
This past year was Dahlia’s 14th year teaching Journalism 487, Advanced Television Reporting and Producing. The course syllabus details everything from the week by week schedule to the required use of social media, including 15 tips on “How to ‘Tweet’ Professional Content and Not Get Fired from Your First Job.”
“This course is a lot of work for the students, and for me. You have to be really organized,” Dahlia said. “But it pays off – our students get jobs before they even graduate.”
I was hired immediately after I graduated because I already had the skills necessary to step into a newsroom and start contributing. Now, 13 years later, I’m an Emmy and Golden Quill award winner working in one of the top newsrooms in the country and I have “WVU News” and Professor Dahlia to thank for it.
SARAH KAPIS ’05 Senior TV News Producer, KDKA-TV, Pittsburgh, PA
At the beginning of each semester, students in the WVU News class are in full preparation mode. They spend the first week of class getting to know one another and the video equipment they’ll use as TV reporters assigned to cover specific “beats.” Throughout the semester, students will report on both campus and community topics, such as education, crime and courts, local government, health and medicine, and sports.
By week two, the students will have petitioned for their preferred beats and, if interested, readied themselves for anchor and sports auditions. On the evening of auditions, the feeling in the air is tense as each of them prepares to read a script on camera.
“We record each audition and alumni who are working in the field help me decide who is right for each position,” Dahlia said. “It’s important to have this outside perspective from professionals who are living television news every day and know what the industry is demanding.”
In week three, students gather at the “WVU News” studio for the big announcement. As the popular news and sports anchor positions are named, there are smiles and sighs of relief. But there are also some tears.
“This is a big moment. ‘WVU News’ is a very well regarded program and regional and national newscast producers actively recruit from here. Making anchor pretty much guarantees you a job after graduation,” said Dahlia.
While anchors are the most coveted role, each student will experience what it’s like to be both in front of and behind the camera.
After two weeks of training and workshops to ensure everyone knows how to operate cameras and other studio equipment, the bi-weekly news routine begins.
MONDAY A news meeting is held during the scheduled class time where students pitch three beat reporting ideas and decide which stories to pursue.
TUESDAY – WEDNESDAY Students schedule interviews and go on-location to shoot video “standups” to put together packages that include sound bites and teasers
“WVU News” was like working for a TV station, and Professor Dahlia was the news director. How you told that story was not going to be shown to the class; no, this was shown STATEWIDE! A big deal!
STEVE BUTERA ’08 Anchor/Reporter, WLEX-TV, Lexington, KY
THURSDAY Students have individual writing and video conferences at the Media Innovation Center with Dahlia, and Senge observes, honing her producing skills. Package scripts and videos are critiqued and edited. Dahlia and Senge spend a good part of that night watching all the final packages and selecting the best to air in the newscast.
FRIDAY – SUNDAY Senge writes the show script.
MONDAY Reporters who made show come to the television edit lab to make corrections to their packages. Senge and Dahlia review and edit the show script, which is done by 2 p.m. and ready for the cast to pick-up.
TUESDAY Anchors rehearse the script at the Media Innovation Center
“For the second newscast, Professor Dahlia and I were up until 5 a.m. critiquing and editing scripts,” Senge recalls. “By the end, writing the script came easier and I got it done much faster than previous ones. Rehearsals didn’t take as long. Anchors made fewer mistakes. The control room made their jobs look easy. We finally got it down.”
Before Dahlia was teaching and producing “WVU News,” she was a student in the same course, then taught by Maryanne Reed. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Reed is now dean of the College of Media. But, Reed was also the brainchild behind WVU News, starting the newscast in 1993 when she joined the College as an assistant professor.
“It was professional from the very beginning,” Reed said. “From the get-go, we focused on covering the most important news impacting our community. And we never missed a deadline.”
Making deadline can be tricky when you’re using VHS cameras and old editing equipment. But Reed had spent the previous six years reporting, anchoring and producing news for network affiliates, so her expectations were high.
Learning to interact with people from all walks of life has proven to be so valuable in my professional life. Being encouraged to go out and tell stories in and around the state (and beyond!) really forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me the importance of getting to know people before you can accurately tell their story in a news piece.
ANDREW SCRITCHFIELD ’98 Staff Photographer, NBC News, Washington, D.C.
“She had this energy and excitement for the news business that was contagious,” said Christa Currey, one of Reed’s first “WVU News” students and current Director of Marketing and Communications for the WVU School of Pharmacy. “There weren’t many hands-on opportunities in the classroom for television journalism students at the time. You had to get an internship at WBOY or WDTV in Clarksburg if you wanted to learn about working in television. I feel like that changed in the fall of ’93.”
In 1993, the “WVU News” studio was located on the second floor of Martin Hall, the oldest building on WVU’s campus. The studio equipment was archaic and always breaking down.
“I think our class was special and we did a lot with a little. The old set in Martin Hall may have been old and antiquated, but the experience was still special and felt ‘big’ in our world,” said Jason Neal (BSJ, 1999), now technical operations manager at NBC Universal. “It’s been wonderful to see the cutting edge leaps the College has made over the last 10 years. The new graduates are so equipped for the ever-changing media landscape and they owe it to the previous classes and leadership that helped light the spark.”
“Dahlia puts everything she has into keeping ‘WVU News’ among the top college newscasts in the country and it shows.” Brett Anderson ’17
Every single person in our class worked so hard to get our show on the air. If your story didn’t make show, you still had an important role to play. The people who work behind the scenes are so essential to the show’s success.
JACKIE CAIN ’06 Anchor/Producer, WTAE-TV, Pittsburgh, PA
In 2002, Reed negotiated with University Relations to move “WVU News” into its modern studio space at One Waterfront Place in Morgantown. Not only was the equipment cutting-edge, but the WVU video production team was on-hand to support any technical difficulties.
“The difference between our old and new space was night and day,” said Reed. “The quality of the students’ reporting was always high, but the professional studio gave it a more polished look.”
The most important thing “WVU News” taught me is to be true to my voice and my ethics. It takes a lot of integrity to be a journalist, and “WVU News” gave me a chance to understand what that means not only in the industry, but to myself as well.
MEGAN SAPORITO ’16 News Producer, WJAC-TV, Johnstown, PA
When Reed was named Dean of the College of Media in 2004, she taught and produced her final episode of “WVU News” and turned the reins over to Dahlia, who had been a journalism faculty member in the College since 2001. Dahlia had a lot to offer, including her professional experience as a local TV anchor and reporter. But more importantly, she demonstrated the grit and gusto it would take to continue to run and grow the impactful student-run newscast,
“Dahlia puts everything she has into keeping ‘WVU News’ among the top college newscasts in the country and it shows,” said Brett Anderson (BSJ, 2017), newscast director at CBS affiliate KRCG-TV in Jefferson City, Missouri. “She knows when she has talent and she expects everyone to be on their A-game. And if someone isn’t, she’ll say something. That’s just part of the industry.”
The College Television Awards is a nationwide competition recognizing excellence in student work.
▶ 2017 National Emmy Finalist for Best College Newscast “WVU News - Heroin and Opioids: When Addiction Hits Home,” Producer Megan Saporito.
WVU News was also a National Emmy Finalist in 2015 and won first place for Best College Newscast in America.
The 2018 BEA Festival of Media Arts is an international refereed exhibition of faculty creative activities and a national showcase for student work. This year, BEA received a record 1,541 submissions to the competition.
▶ National Finalist for BEA Best College Newscast “WVU News - 100 Days in Trump Country,” Producer Ashley Rodgers
▶ National Finalist for BEA Best College News Anchor CJ Harvey, Main News Anchor for “WVU News”
▶ National Finalist for BEA Best College Sports Anchor Hannah Goetz, Main Sports Anchor for “WVU News”
The Society of Professional Journalists recognizes the best collegiate journalism in Region 4 with 2017 Mark of Excellence Awards winners.
SPJ’s Region 4 Mark of Excellence Awards comprises Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. MOE Awards entries are judged by professionals with at least three years of journalism experience. Judges were directed to choose entries they felt were among the best in student journalism.
▶ TV Newscast “WVU News - 100 Days in Trump Country,” Producer Ashley Rodgers
▶ TV In-Depth Reporting “Know your Rights” by Leanne Shinkle
▶ TV Feature Reporting “Water Walk” by Courtney Kramer
▶ TV Feature Reporting “Black lung in the Mountain State” by CJ Harvey
▶ TV General News Reporting “Texting and Driving Laws” by Leanne Shinkle
▶ TV Sports Reporting “Country Roads” by Elizabeth Haines
Two “WVU News” reporters competed in the National SPJ Competition in May. First-place winners will compete at the national level among other regional MOE winners from the 12 SPJ regions. National winners are recognized at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore.
▶ TV Feature Reporting “Water Walk” by Courtney Kramer
▶ TV Sports Reporting “Country Roads” by Elizabeth Haines
Within hours of the Wednesday taping of “WVU News,” the show is uploaded to WVU’s iTunesU and YouTube channels. The show also airs statewide on West Virginia Public Television, on Time Warner Cable in North Central West Virginia and on Network West Virginia via Suddenlink Cable.
There are also several other outlets that pick up students stories and share them with local, statewide and national audiences. These include ESPNU, a division of ESPN; the web-based news outlet “We Heart West Virginia;” the City of Morgantown and Nexstar Media Group in West Virginia.
In its 25-year history, “WVU News” has received recognition on a regional, national and international level. In the past five years alone, the program has won more than 75 awards including a national Emmy Award for Best College Newscast in the Country and first place for Best Television Newscast at the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts. And, according to Dahlia, there’s no sign of slowing down.
“My glass isn't just half full, it's refillable. I'm just getting started,” Dahlia said. “And as I always tell my students, ‘Believe it, achieve it. Also, always wear comfortable shoes as a reporter. You'll thank me later.’"
I was in the very first broadcast class taught in fall 1993 by Maryanne Reed. She was fresh from a television station in Rochester, New York, and she had this energy and excitement for the news business that was contagious. There weren’t many hands-on opportunities in the classroom for television journalism students. The campus radio station U-92 was an excellent training ground for aspiring radio broadcasters, but you had to get an internship at WBOY or WDTV in Clarksburg if you wanted to learn about working in TV. I feel like that changed in the fall of ’93. “WVU News” as we know it today had yet to be established. We had no set, VHS cameras and old editing equipment. But Maryanne expected professional, quality stories from us. My favorite memory is of an investigative story that I did about the lack of accessibility downtown for students with disabilities. I teamed up with classmate Scott Briscoe to shoot the story. We invited a student who was wheelchair bound to come along and demonstrate how difficult it was at the time for people with physical disabilities to get around in downtown Morgantown. It was that story that forced me to break out of my shell and ask the important questions—no matter how difficult. I loved doing that story because I felt like we were making a difference.
One of my favorite “WVU News” memories was covering Bridge Day at the New River Gorge. Andrew Scritchfield, fellow “WVU News” alum, and I traveled to Fayetteville and had an incredible time covering the event. This was a different type of piece for me. It was not on a set, or the steps of a courthouse, or a pressroom. We were run and gun, and creating content in the field. We climbed up and down hills, ran through mud, slipped on rocks (okay, maybe just me) and did our best to create a visually compelling, yet interesting story. Though I had serious blisters for days, I had caught the bug and fell in love with adventure storytelling.
My favorite memory is covering Bridge Day with classmate Gretchen Palek. We put together a feature for the newscast and, more importantly, experienced what life was like as news reporters. That solidified for me what I already knew: that I needed to be out in the field telling stories from where they happen.
Dahlia always, always told us that she would never tell us to do something she wouldn’t do. I ended up working on a healthcare story with her. Rightfully so, she always wanted different angles for different shots to vary it up a bit. I’m standing behind my camera recording a sound bite during a speech, and I feel a tap on my left shoulder. I turn around, and I just hear Dahlia say, “follow me.” Next thing I know, we are crawling across the floor in front of the stage to get a different angle for our next soundbite. Keep in mind that this room is filled with hundreds of people. So, when she says she would never make you do anything she wouldn’t do, she’s not kidding.