QUINCY, Ill. — Lauren Beeman sits in an anchor chair on Quincy University’s new television news set and sees what could be her future.

The QU senior wants to be a broadcast political analyst, and the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment could help her get there.

It’s just a short walk down a hallway from the old set to the new one, but it’s a light- year’s leap in technology — and a potential drawing card for the university’s communication degree program.

In the old studio, “every day it was kind of a new project. Something wouldn’t work right. It was always just a really big task. It was older equipment,” Beeman said. “Being here is like Christmas morning for us. It’s indescribable. When you walk into here, you would not in your wildest dreams expect a university to have this caliber of equipment.”

The nearly-finished $300,000 set and control room, modeled after the one used at WGEM-TV, was part of a $450,000 gift to QU from Quincy Media Inc.

“It’s really exciting for them to have the opportunity to work on industry standard software, which is what the professionals use,” said Nora Baldner, assistant professor of communications.

“We can do everything except play back the video for the story. As soon as we have that, we can start turning this on and start doing shows,” Baldner said. “The word is we’re close.”

In the meantime, students practice anchoring on the set in the Connie Niemann Center on QU’s North Campus, make graphics and learn how to switch a show. “We’re using the equipment and learning the equipment,” Baldner said.

“This just changed everything, especially for new students coming in and getting to work with this,” sophomore Abigail Moore said. “This is exactly what we’re going to be going into. We get to work with this equipment, so we’re going to be ahead of the game when it comes to getting jobs after graduation.”

Work to convert the former cafeteria space into a news studio started in June. Fischer Builders built the studio, anchored by a set donated from a QMI property being renovated. Trainers from Canada-based Ross Corp. spent nearly a month during the summer training students and Baldner on the latest version of software equipment installed in the control room, and students continue to provide some sweat equity to the project.

“If they know this equipment and they graduate, they can walk into almost any broadcast station and hit the ground running,” Baldner said. “The software we used last semester was like a VW bug. Now we’re in here with a bunch of Cadillacs, and we haven’t even scratched the surface quite yet of all of the potential of what we can do.”

The control room boasts workstations for an audioboard operator, director, producer, teleprompter operator and a graphics producer — all vital jobs for a television newscast — and plenty of work space.

“We know in the industry that there’s a demand for people who can do this work in the control room,” Baldner said.

“Students who really like creating graphics or producing a show or directing a show get that experience in here.”

Students receive experience both on the set and in the control room, designed as a teaching lab. Bailey Greubel, a senior, said she prefers being on set, but senior Evan Powell, who originally thought he wanted to be an anchor, now prefers working behind the scenes.

“The equipment in the other studio was obsolete,” graduate student Sarah Vahlkamp said. “Having this equipment will provide a lot more opportunities.”

Once the studio is fully operational, plans call for doing a weekly news show focused on the QU campus, then to expand coverage next semester to the Quincy community.

“We distribute content on our website and social media as well, and we also have the Falcon newspaper. We’re operating as a large media company with a lot of distribution platforms,” Baldner said. “Ultimately I want to be one of the media entities in town that’s competing with everyone else.”

Now, Baldner said, it’s up to the students to take advantage of the new opportunity.

“It’s their turn to match this level of quality, say thanks so much for the great equipment, let us show you what we can do,” she said. “I think that’s probably what’s got me the most excited to see their potential. You raise expectations, and people meet them or go over. We just raised the bar. Now it’s their turn.”


Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/2yrbIKE


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The Quincy Herald-Whig.

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DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
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