Day 18: How do J-schools stack up?

Do I cut the red wire, or do I cut the blue wire? There are 10 seconds left on the timer. Tick tock, tick tock. The voice over the radio screams “Come on, you’ve got to cut the wire.” You know the inevitable is looming.

If you cut the wrong wire, it’s over. Your heart is pounding. The ticking is as intense as a marching band drum line.  5…4…3… You close your eyes and snip a wire. 2…1… This same plot sequence that is often over-played in Hollywood, perfectly describes the kind of last minute decision I made in choosing a college.

I’ve never been one to make a potentially life-changing decision in an extreme hurry.

As high school graduation came and passed, I was among the few who had long-known where I would attend college. Like many of my classmates, I was gearing up to head off to LSU. Close friends, especially those in the news business had always spoke highly of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. During the four years I spent at KPLC in Lake Charles I learned the craft thoroughly my mentors Amy Giuliano, and then Shelley Brown, who succeeded Amy as morning anchor. Shelley, an LSU graduate, always spoke of her positive experiences at the school. After my own research, I was sold.

The time between graduation and moving to Baton Rouge was apparently ample opportunity time to experience an “awakening.” The more research I did on the mass comm program at LSU, the less appealing it seemed.  Students would not begin taking journalism classes until their sophomore year.

Mass Communications majors, if accepted to the school, were not allowed to audition for the Tiger TV newscast until their junior year. Almost 1,000 students in the journalism area would all be vying for a select few spots.

I was discouraged that thousands of dollars in tuition would only yield a slight chance at gaining a minimal amount of hands-on experience. I felt that I had a better chance at winning a Powerball jackpot as a minor, than getting any practical instruction.

Fortunately, an answer came knocking at my door. Northwestern State University offered me a substantially more attractive scholarship than LSU. Michael Tiffany, a childhood friend, was already planning to attend NSU. He reassured me that this was a wise decision.

“Wait, where Natch- i -what?” I knew nothing of the town, except that I had been there once in middle school for an awards ceremony. It wasn’t hard for him to sell me on the idea of heading to Natchitoches. The journalism department seemed to offer every opportunity to make yourself into a successful journalist.

To shorten the story, I wound up fitting-in perfectly at Northwestern State. My first semester I auditioned for the newscast, becoming the first freshman lead anchor. Since 2004, I’ve anchored the newscast and held nearly every other position in a newscast.

I’ve learned editing, producing, directing, graphic design, reporting, and even a little engineering. I’ve taken particular interest in developing my skills as a reporter. It has served as a vehicle to explore creativity and provide students with what I think are meaningful stories.

The professors take personal interest in the progress of students, guiding them into their future careers. The faculty and staff are extremely gifted journalists and writers, having years of experience in the field. The department has also established close relations with two nearby TV markets. Industry leaders from both cities often visit the school to serve as consultants and host lectures. One anchor/reporter from Shreveport is a member of the faculty, teaching basic TV techniques.

Northwestern State provides students with an ideal environment that nurtures ambition, something other schools lack. I’ve been developing my craft through hands on experience for the past 3 years, when some students don’t “get started” in school until their junior year. This has given students a leg-up over students from larger school who have limited resources and availability.

This summer at WFAA, there are 11 interns filling positions across the station. Some students are interning in engineering, news, producing, editing, photography, and sports. They hail from schools such as University of Texas-Austin, University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, UT-Arlington, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, Northwestern University, and Asbury College. I’ve spent time with most of the interns, who are really fun and interesting people. Many of them tell me that they simply do not have the same opportunities as NSU.

They are receiving a quality education, but with a different twist. Some schools broadcast newscasts daily, while NSU airs two each week. Some of the schools to not have a newscast altogether. Like LSU, many of the interns’ schools do not permit involvement until the sophomore or junior year, simply because of the massive number of journalism students.

Our technology is certainly among the top rung of schools, as many schools use second hand or out-dated equipment. I’ve also had numerous complements on NSU’s studio and set. That is certainly only a window dressing on the big picture, but I think it goes a long way to establishing credibility and eliminates the elementary look.

Some students complained that their curriculum is not even focused in broadcasting. Some interns told me that their classes are print-based, and that they must teach themselves to learn broadcast news styles.

Over the years, through experiences, I’ve solidified my decision that NSU was the perfect choice for me. The community and people are the perfect setting for a memorable college experience. The curriculum and facilities at NSU are second to none and this internship has given me that proof. My fellow interns driven and ambitious. They’re also an interesting collective of personalities that have been a pleasure to observe.

We learn almost as much from each other, as we do from WFAA.

On that note, I’ll leave you for today!

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the corporation and employees of WFAA-TV, Belo Corp., or Northwestern State University. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2007 Lane Luckie


4 Comments Add yours

  1. MB says:

    Thanks so much for all the kind words for NSU’s journalism program. I do feel we have a different kind of program because we offer so many hands-on opportunities to our journalism majors. And, as you said, our faculty and staff are people with years of experience in the profession, so students don’t just learn from the book at NSU.

    I look forward to your return this fall and a great senior year for you. I know you’re going to bring back lots of new knowledge from your summer at WFAA, and I’m sure we’ll implement some of your ideas in our newscasts.

    See you in the fall.
    Mary Brocato


  2. Bonnie says:

    I flipped a coin. I figured if I flipped it, and was unhappy with the outcome, that meant I really wanted to go to the other school. If I was happy with the outcome, I wanted to go to the place the coin told me to.

    I flipped it three times.


  3. Paula Furr says:

    Again you are proving your motivation and talent in combining new technologies with traditional reporting skills. We appreciate your hard work as a student and will enjoy watching your future career success.
    Dr. Furr


  4. donna wagoner says:

    lane, it is obvious that your hard work and thought process lead you to nsu, and boy, look at the result….proud of you

    aunt donna


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