Going behind the scenes at Hunter News Now

“Quiet in the studio. Quiet in the control room.”

As soon as these words are said, the atmosphere in the TV studio on the fourth floor of Hunter North changes from a hectic din of overlapping conversations to the silence of intense concentration. This is the weekly process for students in MEDPL388, a class that produces a college news program called Hunter News Now.

As the Hunter News Now anchors effortlessly read their reporter track, the producers and the tech team are in the control room directing the camera actions, timing the anchors, and making sure everything goes according to plan. It seems that one hundred different things are happening at the same time and everything must coincide perfectly to create a seamless show.

Producers and anchors have a quick briefing before filming.

“It’s not a traditional classroom. It’s a newsroom,” said Prof. McCarthy, an established CNN news anchor and journalism professor of 15 years. She created this course so students can get a taste of what it is like to work for a real TV program. Before the semester is out, students will have produced five shows.

“I really get the experience of what it is like to be on a real news team,” said Annie Murphy, a senior. “It’s a lot of hard work but the most valuable thing I’ve gotten from this class is the editing of our own work for the show. I know I can take those skills into the real world and I actually really like doing it.”

The 10 students who are in the class film a show every other week with McCarthy acting as their news editor and advising the students throughout the whole creative and production process.

“Every week there are two producers, two anchors and then the rest are reporters and videographers,” said McCarthy. For every show they are four reporters — two focus on hard news, one on arts, and one on sports — while the anchors do a couple of shorter stories called VO SOTs, or Voice Over Sound on Track.

The anchors going over their reporter tracks.

“I love this class. It’s extremely hands-on and allows you the chance to take on each role in television. It’s very rare you’ll find a class that teaches you how to maximize the skills for more than one role,” said Cailtin Munson, the co-producer of HNN who is taking this class for a second time. “I’m most excited about seeing my progress and comparing my accomplishments from this year to last year.”

During their off-weeks, McCarthy invites guest experts who will critique the show and offer some insight of how to improve the quality. Fox 5 News anchors Ivette Davila-Richards, CNN talent coach Lenny Bourin, and CNN photojournalist Jonathan O’Beirne, are just some of the guests who have guided the class to a more professional and cohesive production.

In addition to broadcast journalists speaking in their classes, a CoverGirl makeup artist came to the class and taught the students how to apply high-definition makeup so that they look camera-ready; the students also went home with a gift bag full of makeup donated by CoverGirl. Each little bit is making the production go more smoothly.

MEDPL 388 students in the control room.

“This is the third season and it gets better and better,” McCarthy said. “Every semester it’s been looking and looking more professional.”

Along with McCarthy’s students, Peter Jackson’s technical interns help in the control room and work side-by-side to produce this “hyper local newscast,” as McCarthy calls it.

Prof. McCarthy, the producers and Peter Jackson’s team of interns in the control room.

“TV is the greatest team sport ever,” McCarthy said. “Everyone has to do their part or the show is not going to look good or be good.”

When McCarthy first started at Hunter she realized that a course like this was missing from the curriculum. “We had this amazing studio that wasn’t being used at all and it had just been redone like two years before I got to Hunter,” McCarthy said. The school built a set, and the class did the rest. “The backdrop, the logo. Everything was created from scratch for the show.”

Hunter News Now is posted on the Hunter College Journalism YouTube channel along with a segment called Hunter Students Speaks, which has a YouTube page of its own.

For students, this kind of direct experience has helped them focus on a career path.

“This class changed my life,” said Caitlin Munson. “Before I took it, I had no sense of direction of where I wanted to go after graduation. It’s funny because I always use to tell people that I didn’t want to work in news. Now, any opportunity I get to work in front or behind a camera, I’m ready to go.”

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