Posted February 6, 2007

Temple Update is a training center for future broadcasters

As the tape begins to roll, the anchors hurriedly shuffle through their script, marking any last-minute adjustments. And then the floor manager starts the final countdown: lights, camera, action!

One of the students on this edition of Temple Update might just turn out to be the next Peter Jennings or Diane Sawyer — all thanks to the 30-minute news magazine show that serves as a training center for budding broadcasters.

The course, a capstone in the Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media Department’s curriculum, gives students firsthand experience in what it takes to create a weekly TV news program. Students fill roles on both sides of the lens, from anchor to floor director to producer to camera operator.

“[Temple Update] mirrors the experience of working in a television station as part of a team to produce a program the entire community will see,” said Betsy Leebron, professor in the BTMM department and instructor of the course. “This is a state-of-the-art studio with equipment that simulates what graduates will experience once they are working in the field.”

Temple Update
Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg / Temple University
Rick Beardsley (left), the supervising technical producer of Temple Update, lends a hand with the technical aspect of the program, as students prepare for a live taping of the program. Temple Update anchors must “keep their composure” throughout the taping because of the show’s commitment to creating a real-life atmosphere for future journalists.

The student-produced program airs weekly on public access station WTVE, channel 95 on Comcast, and in the School of Communications and Theater atrium daily. Temple Update is intended to give the general public a look at events of interest or importance at Temple and in the greater Delaware Valley. While much of the material is university-originated, students sometimes venture off campus to explore Philadelphia from a student’s perspective.

The stories range from the magazine-style profile of the first bomb-detecting canine to join Campus Safety Services to an informative segment with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter about the latest issues on Capitol Hill.

Although Leebron, executive producer of the program, guides the students through the reporting and producing process and Rick Beardsley, the supervising technical producer of Temple Update, lends a hand with the technical aspect of the program, students get the opportunity to do a little bit of everything over the course of a semester. Out in the field, they shoot stories. In the control room, they write and produce the show. In the studio, they direct, operate cameras and anchor the broadcast.

And in a course where everyone works together to send out the best product they can to represent the university, there is no time for slip-ups.

“In a deadline-intensive field where teamwork matters so much, it’s important to get familiar with the fact that your mistakes affect everyone in the newsroom,” Leebron said. “The feedback I hear the most from former students is that [Temple Update] provided a chance for them to experience the pressure of deadlines and what live-on-tape means; a chance to make mistakes and understand expectations they will encounter in stations after graduation.”

Many students said the best thing they learn from the course is how to deal with the pressures of producing a live program. Although the students don’t broadcast live from their studio, the show is taped live — Beardsley believes strongly that the show should not be rerecorded to erase students’ errors.

“[Temple Update] gives students the experiences that aren’t available at many other universities,” Beardsley said. “It really gives them a feel for what it’s going to be like when they get out into the field. What you do or say is put out there for the whole world to see.”

Senior broadcast journalism major Laura Hutchinson says she used the skills she learned in the Temple Update studio to impress a local news station during her summer internship.

“[Working on Temple Update] gives you something you can’t learn in a textbook,” she said. “I knew I was having a lot of fun here so I felt prepared to that I was going to work hard and do well at my internship. It gave me so much confidence.”

Temple has the benefit of being in the center of Philadelphia’s huge media market, and students’ experience covering events on an urban campus provides a real advantage when they head into the real world, Leebron said.

“Students have the opportunity to produce material for a resume tape,” Leebron added. “They will show their employers that they can cover stories of a regional, national and even international nature because they will have access to stories in the fourth major media market in the country.”