Cedarville’s new newsroom offers professional opportunities to students, helps market university
by Rebekah Erway
Multiple departments of Cedarville University have partnered to build an on-campus newsroom which offers students, and the university as a whole, new opportunities.
Located in Library 022, the newsroom has a green screen, two studio cameras, a 14-channel recording mixer, studio lighting and more. The new room offers the ability to do live reports on news programs at local TV stations with interviews with faculty experts.
Previously, interviews set up by the marketing and public relations departments with local news companies were pre-recorded elsewhere on campus or live at the TV stations. Now, all parts of the video production process can take place on-campus and live when needed.
“For a school our size, I don’t know of another school that has a newsroom, especially one that’s going to be as high end as ours,” said Mark Weinstein, executive director of public relations and overseer of the newsroom.
Doing live and recorded interviews enable Cedarville to gain more visibility, Weinstein said.
The first use of the newsroom happened on Sept. 12 when Dr. Mark Caleb Smith, chair of the Department of History and Government and director of the Center for Political Studies, was interviewed remotely by WHIO-TV in Dayton for a story about the Dayton mayoral race.
News outlets regularly ask Weinsten for experts to comment on issues such as North Korea, the police shooting in Dayton, and DACA.
On an issue such as the police shooting, Weinstein could place Dr. Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program and former police chief, in the newsroom, and connect him with TV outlets from around the world who could then ask him questions directly. Weinstein’s team would record the interview, edit it, and email it to the media. This technique enables Cedarville to deal with and distribute to multiple news stations at a time.
“I’m looking forward to the day when I put any faculty member who can comment on a story in the newsroom and they’re talking with CNN in the morning and FOX news in the afternoon and ABC News at night,” Weinstein said. “I think it’s going to happen, and I look forward to that day.”
Weinstein also said that the room is an obvious next step to where the university’s PR has been advancing. Over the past few years, Cedarville faculty have often shared their expertise with the media.
“We have put our footprint in current events with media in Ohio and throughout the United States,” Weinstein said. “And as a result of that, I think a lot of people have come together with the idea that this was a good idea.”
Numerous sources mentioned that the interdepartmental collaborative aspects of the newsroom are some of the most exciting.
“It’s not just a public relations initiative, it’s a campus-wide initiative that’s been bought in by a lot of people,” Weinstein said.
The marketing and PR department’s major partner on the newsroom project was the Department of Communication. The newsroom will be both a PR production room and a learning lab for students.
Derrick Green, chair of the Department of Communication, partnered with Dr. Janice Supplee, vice president for Marketing and Communications, on blending the marketing and academic aspects of the newsroom. Most of the videos produced will be used for the university’s PR, but studentworkers will be doing the actual producing.
“They are the production managers, they are the ones running the studio,” Supplee said. “If we go in there, there’s going to be a student there.”
Green described how the room seemed like a “very natural partnership” between the two departments.
“Our public relations courses will get an up-close and personal look at what it’s like to do PR from the University’s perspective,” Green said.
The newsroom offers key additions to a broadcasting and digital media or journalism major’s resumé. Green explained how the new room will provide opportunities for job experience, practicums, and possible internships. Comm students will also have the ability to gain hands-on experience earlier in their program. These opportunities are more than just classroom projects, Green explained.
“These are actual newsroom situations that are going to reflect Cedarville University to an external audience,” he said.
Green said his and the Comm. faculty’s main roles with the newsroom will be to help create practicum, internship and other opportunities that can offer academic credit for students and to identify students with the capability to be hired for various positions in the newsroom. Shawn Rifner, technical supervisor, manages the student workers.
While the creation of the newsroom was a joint effort, with starting concepts coming from a variety of departments, Rifner and Mark Tucker, campus videographer, recognized the need for a video studio on campus for the communication, marketing and PR departments to share. Before, communication had a room where students could view already produced content but not a space where they could shoot videos.
“We had a need for the videographer of the comm department to have a space, a dedicated space,” Rifner said.
Tucker took the idea to the marketing and PR departments, who agreed to partner with the comm department. Other departments on campus, including the Center for Political Studies and School of Business, participated financially. Supplee acted as facilitator for the project. Supplee wrote a proposal for the newsroom and took the plan to the university’s cabinet, which includes President Dr. Thomas White.
“[White] was totally on board from the beginning and has seen the value,” Supplee said. “Once he had the proposal, he actually said ‘I think we need to put some more resources toward it’ and we said, ‘thank you.’”
Supplee was also involved in finding a space for the room. The Centennial Library was “wholeheartedly supportive,” Supplee said, offering the use of lower-level office space near the curriculum materials center.
After the project was approved in May, construction began in August and the room opened August 29.
When the studio begins regularly producing content, Rifner said the team hopes to produce daily content, including 30-60 second news commentaries by professors on recent events to send to local news stations.
Other content produced by the room could range from discussions with the Bereans at the Gate, live interviews of professors by CNN or local media, an intro to Dr. White’s sermon series, or perhaps a president’s podcast. Cedars, the school newspaper, will also have the opportunity to use the room for video or audio podcastsfor its website ReadCedars.com. Overall, the media produced by the room will have a content focus.
“It’s not like the university video where we’re going to be out on campus and people are talking and we’re trying to get them in their scene. This is more of people sitting on a stool sitting at a desk, sharing information,” Supplee said. “This is going to be very information-focused, news-focused.”
Supplee mentioned that students and faculty can offer content-based video suggestions to the marketing and PR department. The idea would then move up through the department and an approval process headed up by Weinstein, who will be in charge of the newsroom overall.
While the general student body will have limited to no access to the newsroom, the room demonstrates the academic quality which is part of the school’s overall reputation, which benefits the student body as a whole.
“If I’m a senior at Cedarville University, I want to be sure that my degree is worth something, and a big piece of that is academic quality and the ability to get a job,” Supplee said. “This is going to be a big deal for the Department of Communication students.”
Supplee also commented that the PR materials created in the room will get the word out about Cedarville and perhaps recruit more students, which helps the university stay healthy. The materials produced from the room will also have a Gospel impact, as each faculty member interviewed will ground their expertise in a biblical worldview. Overall, the newsroom opens a variety of new avenues to promote Cedarville and promote Christ.
“I’m excited about the impact for our students, excited about the impact for our university,” Green said. “I’m very anxious to get down there and get this off the ground.”
Rebekah Erway is a senior Christian education major and Campus News editor for Cedars. She enjoys odd numbers, Oxford commas, and speaking in a British accent.