Students produce WB public affairs TV program

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The Sunday morning political talk show has been a tradition for network television since the technology first made its appearance in American living rooms. Yet one such show broadcasting out of Washington is adding a new spin to an old staple.

The weekly public affairs show “WB Now,” aired on the Washington WB affiliate WBDC-TV, is not only geared towards a younger audience, but is almost entirely produced by local college students getting a head start in the world of broadcast journalism.

The journalism departments at George Washington University in the District of Columbia and Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., recently teamed up with the local station to give their students the a taste for what the professional world of broadcast reporting is really like.

Faculty at each college chose a handful of their top students to help produce two episodes of the program focused specifically on issues concerning young professionals, which were filmed at the schools’ own studios. Students assisted in a wide variety of capacities, from reporting and filming to operating the teleprompter.

“I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for students,” said Roxanne Russell, a professor of broadcast journalism at George Washington University who served as a faculty advisor for the project. “They get real world experience, they get to be broadcast in the area, and what could be better than that?”

The two episodes, which originally aired in March, centered on the burden of paying off student loans after college and the high cost of housing in the DC-metropolitan area. Students wrote and filmed three-minute taped packages for the program, developed a guest list and joined the show’s host in the studio for a brief on-air interview about their pieces.

In addition to giving students professional experience, the collaboration also helped the show’s creators fill a niche within the political talk show circuit by focusing on young professionals. Gloria Jones, spokeswoman for WBDC-TV, said having students work on the show helped produce a program geared towards the station’s target audience.

“A lot of what our demographic is are young college kids … so we wanted to make sure the show was speaking to that audience,” said Jones. “We thought there would be no better way to do that then having students work with us and tell us what issues are affecting them, both locally and nationally.”

For the students, reporting for the show was a tough but rewarding experience. Danielle Santoro, a senior at GWU who directed the piece on high-priced housing, said that while she had done broadcast projects for class, producing a show for a professional audience was a whole new challenge.

“For the stuff we do [in class] there’s usually not much research,” said Santoro. “You go to an event, talk to people at the event, and go back an edit it. This was a lot more time that went into it. You really had to talk to a lot of people.”

Station officials said they were satisfied with the collaboration and hope to do more such projects in the future. Though no plans are in place, the WB affiliate is looking to partner with other DC-area universities such as Howard University, American University and the University of Maryland.

Regardless of the show’s future, all those involved agreed the partnership was a prime opportunity for students to get a foot in the door and learn what a career in broadcast journalism is actually like.

“There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom with a pen and paper,” said Santoro. “I think it’s imperative that students are exposed to the real world and allowed to so what its like, not only to see if it’s what they want to do but so they’re prepared when they show up for the first day at work.”

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