Lisle, Illinois ~ Students in Benedictine University’s TV News and Production class had some news of their own to report this fall after benefiting from a gift to the University’s news studio, care of NBC 5 News Chicago.
During a taping of the University’s “Eye of the Eagle” student news program, Communication Arts majors took turns reading from the same NBC 5 news desk once anchored by Chicago journalists Allison Rosati and Rob Stafford.
“For some of us Communication Arts majors who aspire to be news professionals – to be those people sitting behind the desk – this is a big deal,” said Therese Porod, a Communication Arts major at Benedictine. “It adds a certain sense of professionalism and pride to the program.”
Earlier this year, NBC decided to close its street-side studio along North Michigan Avenue in favor of consolidating its newer high-tech studios inside NBC Tower. After hearing this news, Chris Comes, a 1994 Benedictine graduate and public relations professional, asked the media company if it would consider donating the desk from the shuttered studio to his alma mater.
“My first thought was of the potential benefit to Benedictine University and its students,” said Comes, who has worked alongside the news station’s lead tech reporters and whose wife, Lisa, was an award-winning producer.
The news desk, which features an integrated lighting system, replaces a white four-foot-wide plywood table that Comes remembers using as a Benedictine student 20 years ago.
“I remember that table, and I am so proud that this real world NBC 5 Chicago news desk will be a part of the studio at Benedictine,” he said. “My hope is that students and faculty will be able to continue to provide quality programming that is attractive to viewers with this new addition.”
Students in the Communication Arts program at Benedictine learn how to report news from the field, write scripts, edit video segments, and operate camera, audio and lighting equipment. They are also encouraged to apply for internships and volunteer outside of class as anchors for Benedictine’s “Eye of the Eagle” news program.
The donation from NBC is an example of the program’s reputation for quality journalism and involvement with professional news organizations in the third-largest media market in the country, according to Peter Seely, professor and chair of the Department of Communications Arts at Benedictine.
“The news desk invokes a certain amount of prestige,” Seely said. “It says a lot about the relationship that we have had over the years with NBC, and it enhances the student experience by more closely simulating the professional environment students will find themselves in after they graduate.”
Real world newsroom experience is exactly what Porod was seeking when she chose to attend Benedictine. During the past summer, she landed an internship at Fox News Chicago where she shadowed professional reporters and producers on assignment and shot and covered her own stories, including a protest of the Keystone Oil Pipeline and the anniversary of the Eastland Disaster.
She said the experience intensified her aspirations of becoming a TV news reporter.
“My internship lit a fire under me,” Porod said. “It’s my passion. Journalism is a way I can make a difference. When something serious happens, it’s through TV and journalism that people learn about an issue and can find out more about how it affects them. In some instances, it has the capacity to change lives.”
When she returned to Benedictine in the fall, Porod and her Communication Arts peers could hardly wait to deliver the news from a real news desk.
“Being behind the desk is like ‘Wow,’” said Amanda Jarzynski, who is majoring in Communication Arts and Writing and Publishing. “This really feels official ... like I’m a big-shot reporter.”
In addition to the news desk, Benedictine transitioned from digital to high-definition recording, improving the overall quality and look of the finished video product, Seely said.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country’s fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.