Global News Relay provides intense microcosm of newsroom experience

Global News Relay

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~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

Just a few minutes into the broadcast, the power went out. A teleprompter stopped working. Time zones around the planet created challenges. But despite a few glitches, it all came together, fueled by lots of caffeine, snacks and pizza.

Months of planning between journalism students in 17 universities from 10 different countries culminated in a six-plus hour broadcast of news stories focusing on solutions to society’s problems.

The Global News Relay was founded in 2014. Fresno State first participated in the event in April 2015 when it was hosted by the University of Salford in Manchester, England.

This year once again, Fresno State’s Department of Media, Communications and Journalism hosted Global News Relay, taking the lead for organizing a Herculean task of coordinating the story lineup, timing, schedule, promotion spots and actual segments from each contributing school.

This year’s theme was “Solutions Journalism” – ways in which journalists can not only report on significant issues, but help make a change in their communities.

But even the theme presented challenges. Initially the intended focus was to include activism. But this could have been problematic for student journalists in some parts of the world where activism could be viewed as anti-government action.

Faith Sidlow, an award-winning former television news reporter, teaches broadcast journalism at Fresno State, including the class that produces Fresno State Focus, a public affairs program produced by students in the MCJ Department.

“We wanted to make sure that students at all of the universities could participate no matter where they lived or what media restrictions they faced,” Sidlow said. “Instead of just covering problems, we tried to get our students to focus on organizations and individuals who were offering solutions.”

Modern communication technology – Skype, Google Hangouts, email, WeChat – allows students around the world to collaborate, in the weeks ahead and on the day it all took place, reaching more than 6,000 viewers according to Facebook analytics.

In a discussion several days after the broadcast, students met with Sidlow to discuss what went wrong, what went right and if they would consider hosting the event again next year.

Jordan Kemp admired the chemistry of his student colleagues:

“You were quick on your feet when things didn’t go right. Even if things got hectic for a moment, we were still able to come back together. It’s refreshing to be part of a team that can be so cohesive.”

At one point, one of the students saw Sidlow eating a piece of pizza that was lying around, and told the professor, “That’s from last night.”

“If you haven’t been to bed, then last night isn’t last night, it’s still today,” Sidlow replied.

Tristan Lewis from Clovis and Mary Kate Paquette from Bakersfield co-hosted the live news relay, along with Juan Avila from Porterville, Courtney Rodgers from Clovis, Edmer Archila from Mendota and Elsa Mejia from Madera. Natalie Nigg was the director of operations.

“Other than some minor things, this has got to be one of the smothest long-form newscasts we’ve ever done,” Archila said.

Paquette said Global News Relay was a “great experience”:

“It’s real world experience. The ad-libbing – it was stressful and crazy, but it gave us that ability to act on the fly.”

Even with all the planning in the months leading up to the event, all of the students agreed that more advance organization would have helped the final product.

Students from the Fresno State Focus newscast will also contributed stories and interviews throughout the day, interspersed with live (via Skype) and prerecorded segments from 17 other universities from around the world.

Kim Stephens is a professor in the broadcast journalism option. She also co-hosts “Great Day,” a five and a half-hour weekday morning news program, and anchors Midday News for KMPH Fox26 in Fresno.

“Our students get top-notch, real-world hands-on experience with Global News Relay,” Stephens said. “Everything these students do for the Global News Relay are things we do in a real newsroom:

  • These students met with colleagues to plan the show.
  • They formulated the theme, style and social media campaign.
  • They put together promos for print, social and broadcast mediums.
  • They planned, reported, wrote, edited and anchored stories.
  • They planned, prepped and set up on-set interviews.
  • And then they did those interviews live – on set.

… When these students go looking for jobs in the field, they can honestly say they have real experience. I am very impressed with all of them.”

Dr. Chandra Clark teaches new media at the University of Alabama. Packages from her students covered topics including foster grandparents, homelessness, community gardens and Special Olympics. Participating in Global News Relay expanded her students’ perspectives:

“They realize they aren’t the only ones learning about broadcast news and it gives them a bigger perspective of the career they are entering,” Clark said. “They are also exposed to trying to put on a professional product that eyes from around the globe will see. It gave them a great sense of pride to not only be featured in the newscast, but the fact that their story actually aired to a global audience via livestream. The live Skype interview with myself and my student Taylor Walton was an added bonus for them to see how interactive and live the show really was.”

Sandra Whitehead, a journalism instructor at Marquette University, had students who reported on a spring break service trip to New Orleans to help rebuild communities destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

Global News Relays gives students “a chance to do real reporting,” Whitehead said. “It is real work. It is also international – students experience telling a story to an international audience.”

The show aired live on CMAC and also on the Fresno State Focus Facebook page.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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