Journalism student featured in USA Today College story
Senior Katie Maraghy discussed the concept, structure and successes of "ELN Morning."
Katie Maraghy '15 and "ELN Morning" were recently featured in the Campus Beat section of USA Today College. Maraghy, a journalism major, is the creator and producer of the morning show, which launched in 2013.
Maraghy spoke to Dan Reimold, who maintains the blog College Media Matters and writes for the Campus Beat feature on the USA Today College website, when he visited campus in May to deliver the keynote address at Elon University's Student Media Communciations Board banquet.
Read the original feature that ran about Maraghy and "ELN Morning." It has also been re-run below with Reimold's permission.
On spec, Katie Maraghy is the perfect person to start a morning show from scratch.
The Elon University rising senior has a bubbly personality, broadcasting chops and a background in hard news — although the latter never quite clicked with her.
“I had done work with our local evening news show on campus,” said Maraghy, 21. “I really loved it. I loved the live atmosphere. I didn’t want to stray from it, but I’d been asked to do some really hard-hitting stories. It was flattering, but I didn’t have the stomach for it. Some people do and they burn for it and are fabulous at it. But I didn’t want to knock on the door and ask the tough questions.”
Instead, she hatched a plan to launch “ELN Morning,” a student-run, Elon-centric version of ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today.” The half-hour program broadcasts live on campus, boasting a mix of local and national news stories, weather reports, entertainment updates, cooking segments, fashion advice, music performances and, whenever possible, incredibly cute animals.
The morning show, interestingly, is still a rare animal in the college media kingdom. Debuting last year — with Maraghy as executive producer — “ELN Morning” has quickly become one of the leaders of the emerging genre. In April, the program was even an honoree at the Emmy Foundation’s esteemed College Television Awards.
As part of a wide-ranging recent interview, Maraghy offered five tips for students interested in starting a morning show on their own campus.
1. Forget the crack of dawn. Instead, fit the show into the campus schedule.
Network morning shows start airing really early. But college students sleep in or only wake up so they can stumble into their 8 a.m. class. So a college morning show must find a happy medium between super-early and student-friendly.
For “ELN Morning,” according to Maraghy, that medium involved “placing it around an event or something on campus people identified with.”
As she explained, “We air our show during [a period on campus called] College Coffee, this communal 30 minutes when no one on campus is in class and there’s free coffee and donuts. It’s every Tuesday from 9:50 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. It’s a very specific time. So that’s when we go live, when everyone’s out of class.”
She said the well-known event occasionally provides inspiration for related coverage and the lack of class conflicts can make it easier to wrangle a source to the studio. The timing also boasts one other big advantage.
“It isn’t the crack of dawn,” said Maraghy. “Because it would be tough to get students up that early. We continue to discuss that option, because if you’re going to be tried-and-true authentic the morning show people are getting up at 3 and 4 a.m. But can you ask college students to do that? And will they do that? By comparison, 9:50 a.m. made sense. People could go to a class if they need to and then come in to do the show.”
2. Report the news and always connect it to your target audience.
“We have a news reader segment, kind of what Ann Curry used to do and what Natalie Morales does now on ‘Today,’” Maraghy said. “But if we’re going to talk about Nigerian schoolgirls missing or the South Korean ferry disaster, things that students should know, we also stress why they should know about it.”
Expanding upon the missing schoolgirls story as an example, she explained, “Our go-to [method] is to relate it to something on campus in the sense that [the day of this interview] is ‘Bring Back Our Girls Day’ on campus. There’s a list online of four or five things students can do to show support and get involved. So we start with that to bridge it and make it local and then inform people what’s going on. You’d be surprised how many people know there’s something going on with the schoolgirls, but not much more than that.”
3. Trust the hosts to bring the banter.
“You should try to have the banter be lively and laughter-filled without being straight goofy,” said Maraghy. “You don’t want to lose your credibility. But it’s OK for them to open up a bit and connect with the audience. So [as a producer or director] you will write in [to the script] or get in their ear and say ‘After this package or after this story, share any similar experiences you’ve had’ or give them talking points when the puppies come in the studio. But then they very much run with it on their own. It’s better when they do, I feel like. If I try to get in it too much I mess it up. You must trust the hosts, especially when you’re live.”
4. Shoot the show live, but have a back-up plan (or two or three) in place.
Maraghy relishes the atmosphere and learning potential of a live production and highly recommends it to students seeking to break into the morning show arena.
“It makes you be resourceful in ways you didn’t realize,” she said. “I did a little bit in the past with taped shows on campus. They do wonderful work, but if something goes wrong in taping, you do it again. … For us, if something goes wrong, there’s no do-over. You just have to move on to the next thing, go-go-go. It makes you think on your feet, but also rely on other people in a way that I don’t think I ever have before.”
Yet, she stressed it does not mean that people or performances always go according to plan.
“One time on the show we featured dancers who were wonderful, but their piece was half as long as they said it would be,” Maraghy recalled. “All of a sudden it was like, ‘Umm, have them do it again.’ … Our biggest blunders – while all learning experiences – are when we didn’t have a back-up plan in place, multiple plans, ready to go on the air immediately.”
5. Bottom line, wake up and dive in.
“Always just try it,” said Maraghy. “We had a lot of people who meant well, but would say, ‘You’re never going to get students to wake up that early in the morning. You’re never going to get the funding for a whole new show.’ You’re always going to be told no. There’s always going to be somebody playing naysayer. That’s totally fine. But ignore that and keep going because if you’re ever going to fail or attempt something new or try something creative, especially in the communications field, college is the time to do it.”