Communications students learn the ‘inner workings of network news’ during New York trip
Associate Professor Rich Landesberg and nine School of Communications students traveled this week to New York City, touring the facilities of several major network news organizations and meeting with high-level broadcast news professionals, including Brian Williams and Michael Radutzky, members of Elon’s Communications Advisory Board.
A few weeks before she becomes the newest multimedia journalist at KLBK-TV in Lubbock, Texas, Paige Pauroso ’17 – and her eight classmates in Elon’s “‘60 Minutes’ Master Class” – spent three days this week in New York City, touring what the journalism major called the “best news networks in the world.”
Given the group’s itinerary, it’s hard to argue with Pauroso’s assessment.
This year’s Northeast trip, an annual pilgrimage led each spring by Associate Professor Rich Landesberg, included a jam-packed schedule highlighted by a stop on set at ABC’s “Good Morning America,” attending an editorial meeting with Brian Williams at MSNBC, and a 90-minute project critique with “60 Minutes” Executive Producer Jeff Fager and Senior Producer Michael Radutzky.
The last stop yielded unparalleled access to the “60 Minutes” executive staff members, with Fager and Radutzky reviewing the students’ ongoing news pieces produced as part of their coursework.
Other trip high points included meeting a “20/20” senior producer at ABC News headquarters, an informal question-and-answer session with producers and executive producers of “The 11 Hour with Brian Williams,” and a full tour of NBC Studios, including the famed Studio 8H, home to “Saturday Night Live.”
“The trip definitely exceeded my expectations,” Pauroso said. “I still can’t believe how much we did and the amount of access we had to the best news networks in the world. I mean, we seriously saw and did everything. I knew we would be doing tours, but we did much more than that. The class was able to see the inner workings of network news. We spoke with editors, promotion directors, executive producers and so many more people who all work together to make a newscast.”
While the behind-the-scenes experiences may be the headline, the real story, according to Landesberg, was that the trip’s schedule was largely coordinated by Elon alumni, plus Williams and Radutzky, both members of Elon’s Communications Advisory Board.
Elon graduates Ryan Greene ’15 and Brian Mezerski ’15 (“20/20”) and Sara Russell ’16 (“Good Morning America”) all work for ABC and met with the students at their various stops. Likewise, Julie Morse ’13, producer of breaking news at MSNBC and “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams,” facilitated the NBC/MSNBC visit. (Elon recently recognized Morse with a Top 10 Under 10 Award.)
Coincidentally, Greene served as the executive producer on Elon’s “30 Minutes” show that won a College Television Awards Emmy in May 2016. The student news program was produced as part of the “‘60 Minutes’ Master Class” in spring 2015.
“Our alumni helped us with all of these stops,” Landesberg said. “It was so nice to see so many familiar faces. And I know our current students enjoyed seeing former classmates – just a little bit older than them – working on these incredible news teams.”
For Pauroso, her most memorable moment was sitting in the “60 Minutes” screening room with Fager and Radutzky, listening to them critique the students’ pieces, due at the end of the semester. The duo offered advice on writing style, story structure and how to improve the pieces' overall flow.
“It really felt as if we were working on a team together, which was such a privilege,” Pauroso said. “I am serious when I say I am speechless that the executive producer of one of my favorite shows on TV took the time to review my group’s story.”
Landesberg said the real benefit of the New York trip was the constructive criticism Fager and Radutzky shared with the students.
“Jeff sat there and ripped their pieces apart like our students were Morley Safer or Scott Pelley – which was an honor,” the professor said. “It’s pretty heady business to sit with the executive producer and senior producer of “60 Minutes,” but I’m glad to say they liked what they saw. They had some nice things to say but, most importantly, they told us how to make our pieces better. And we now have four weeks to meet that challenge.”
This spring’s “30 Minutes” episode features three stories about powerful women, told by female correspondents in the class. The show will be made available online at the end of the semester.
Students who traveled to New York City included Ashley Bohle ’17, Zach Bocian ’17, Lauren Duncan ’18, Andrew Feather ’17, Sam Hird ’17, Jacob LaPlante ’17, Pauroso, Kailey Tracy ’17 and Oly Zayac ’17.