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Fri, Oct 24, 2014

HUNTER: Next media star could be just around the corner

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For a long time, Middle Tennessee State University has been known for having one of the best electronic mass communication programs in the nation.

The program has always prided itself on being on the cutting edge in preparing students for this field. University officals are hoping to continue this tradition with a new media hub, the Center for Innovation in Media. The center opened in April 2012, bringing together all of the different campus media outlets into one.

In 2001, I decided stay home for college because of this tremendous program. During the next five years, I had the chance to learn a great deal about the business of print and broadcast media by helping out at Sidelines, the editorially independent student-run newspaper, and MTTV.

Since graduating in 2006, the media world has changed a great deal.

Today, in order to get a journalism job, you have to be well rounded in print, online formats and video.

“By the time they get their degree, they will not be one-trick ponies, instead they will be carpenters with a lot of tools,”said Stephan Foust, director of the Center for Innovation in Media.

Since it opened, hundreds of electronic media and journalism students have spent time inside the center working on stories for all of the MTSU media outlets.

The difference between now and then is each of the outlets – Sidelines, WMTS, MT10, etc. – are working as one group in the same building.

In previous years, all of the different outlets were separated throughout campus and worked a part from each other.

For sophomore broadcast journalism major Justin Beasley, he said it has been a big help to have everything together under one roof.

“The center is everything an aspiring journalist could ask for,” Beasley said. “Working with three organizations, I have learned how the same story is told in different ways throughout different platforms. At the end of the day, I’ve grown to be a better journalist through hands-on experience, more so than I ever will in the classroom.

“The classroom meets the same time every week. Out in the real world, it’s the articles I’ve stayed up till midnight to finish, the news scripts I’ve read hundreds of times, and the connections I’ve made on press row that will benefit me when applying for a job.”

Senior Michael Jenkins said he believes the working relationship between all of the outlets has improved since the center opened.

“The communication has been the big part,” said Jenkins, who is the programming manager for MT10. “We have a friendly environment, instead of being isolated like in the past.”

The center has a couple of television studios, two radio stations, a newsroom and houses the school’s record company, Match Records.

However, most of the action takes place in an enclosed area nicknamed, “The Egg,” because of its oval shape.

The Egg is where all of the production takes place for the various media outlets. All 24 I-Macs inside the area have the entire latest program, which are used for production purposes.

A shining example of everyone working together came during this past November for the presidential election.

It was the biggest undertaking electronic media students have taken to cover an event of this prestige.

The planning started a few months beforehand, but a day before the event, the unthinkable happened. A rodent got into an electric grid and knocked the power out across campus. So, the entire media staff had to go to Plan B because they still had a job to do the following day.

“You’ve got expectations to meet, and you’ve still got to produce the journalism,” Foust said.

Those plans included a viewing party inside the new Student Union Building, complete with a television set, a three-hour radio show, and working on a 24-page Sidelines issue, which came out the next day.

Luckily, the power was fixed, and the center did not have to use Plan B after all.

Officials said they believed the situation brought the students closer together and greatly improved the working environment.

“It was inspiring to see students take the ball and run with it in an adverse situation,” said Ben Scheffler, an executive aide in the Center for Innovation in Media.

As a proud alumnus, it is wonderful to see how far the program has grown. We might just see the next media star right here in town.
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Center for Innovation for Media, Education, MTSU, School of Journalism, Voices
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