Posted April 6, 2017

Students produce TV newscasts in new journalism class

A new journalism class, Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, allows students to report, write, shoot and edit newscasts that air on TUTV. 

students sitting at an anchor desk and running cameras on a temporary TV set
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
The ‘Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV’ course allows students to write, produce, record and anchor newscasts that air on TUTV.

Newscast intro music played, scripts rolled on the teleprompter, and for a brief moment last week, the fifth-floor classroom at Temple University Center City transformed into a television set.

“Coming up on this edition of Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV,” Sarah Metts, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, delivered unwaveringly to the cameras her classmates set up in front of her.

“We’ll take a look at how some new laws are impacting Philadelphians,” fellow student Aish Menon, a senior journalism major, said, picking up the transition seamlessly.

The students were rehearsing for the recording of the third edition of Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, a newscast written, reported, produced and anchored by students in a new class by the same name, that airs on TUTV. Different than Temple Update, another student-produced newscast that airs on TUTV and primarily focuses on Temple, Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV covers in-depth stories in neighborhoods across the city.

students sitting at an anchor desk during a TV newscast rehearsal
Aish Menon (left) grew up in Princeton, New Jersey and plans to apply to smaller-market TV stations for jobs when she graduates in May.

“We wanted to take the [Philadelphia Neighborhoods] class and put it on TV,” said Assistant Professor of Journalism Francesca Viola, who teaches the Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV course and serves as executive producer of the show. “Not everyone in Philadelphia has access to the internet, but a lot have cable TV.”

Temple’s television station, TUTV, is on cable. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the required capstone course for all journalism majors, puts students into a real news organization, assigning them to cover underserved neighborhoods throughout the city and publishing their stories and videos online. Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, which began in fall 2016, gives students the chance to expand their broadcast skills by both producing Philadelphia Neighborhoods stories for the newscast and creating original segments and TV news packages. 

“It’s more like a workshop” than a class, Viola said of Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, which rotates students into different roles in TV production both in front of the camera and behind it. The goal, Viola said, is to familiarize students with all of the work of producing a newscast, rather than just reporting, anchoring or operating a camera.

a professor instructing students on a TV news set
Francesca Viola (right) works as floor director while the students record the newscast.

“The nice thing about having a small class is everybody gets to learn everything,” she said. “By the time they leave, they should know how to shoot, edit, report and write.”

For Sarah Metts, a sophomore journalism major who plans to pursue a career in TV news, the class is invaluable experience.

“Editing definitely is something I needed to know,” Metts, who is co-anchoring the next edition of Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, said. “They really get on my back about making sure I’m becoming a better broadcaster. It’s going to help my career immensely.”

an instructor and a student looking at a teleprompter
Emily MacMullen, a senior journalism major (center), uses an iPad to run the teleprompter during a show run-through.

Aish Menon, a senior journalism major co-anchoring the next edition of the newscast with Metts, said she hopes to land a job as a TV news reporter when she graduates in May. She was able to repackage one of the stories she did for the Philadelphia Neighborhoods course into a TV package for the newscast.

As Menon works on her “reel”—a resume tape to submit to news stations where she’s applying for jobs—both Philadelphia Neighborhoods and Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV have both been helpful in creating material she can use, she said.

“[Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV] gives me more hands-on experience with TV,” she said.

Troy Johnson, a senior media studies and production major, had very little experience with journalism before taking the course. But when he signed up for Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, he jumped into reporting, hitting the streets of Philadelphia to report a package on the city’s soda tax that will appear in the next newscast.

“I know companies want people who are well-rounded,” Johnson said.

two students running cameras while others work as news anchors
Dominic Barone (center, left) and Troy Johnson (center, right) both worked on the technical side and did TV reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV.

Viola and Neil Ortiz, an adjunct instructor who serves as director of multimedia content for Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV, run the production the same way as a real TV newscast. They have an anchor desk, a screen, lighting and cameras, and transform the classroom into a makeshift set for rehearsals and recordings of the newscasts.

Viola acts as floor director, signaling to the students behind the cameras when they should go to a two-shot, a one-shot or a wide shot. She cues in the students in front of the camera, but lets them and their classmates run the show.

“They have to do everything themselves,” Viola said. “How many college kids get to do reporting in a big city like Philadelphia?”

Watch: Philadelphia Neighborhoods on TV’s next show airs on TUTV (Comcast channel 50, Verizon channel 45) Wednesday, April 19 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., and again at 4 a.m. on Thursday, April 20.