The 2018 Medill cherub program made history when it gained access to the Northwestern News Network studio on the fourth floor of the McCormick Foundation Center and invested in 16 new camera kits with video capabilities.Instructor Carlin McCarthy, who ran the Show Off broadcast club on Sundays, seized the opportunity for a major upgrade.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great, if now that we have access to the studio, we also request it for Sunday and give the students a chance to do a broadcast?” McCarthy said. “I wanted to incorporate the new equipment. I wanted to incorporate new skills. I wanted people to feel like they were making a product they were proud of, rather than just a lot of interviews.”
The Show Off team produces two full broadcast news reports each week. Student reporters create three story packages, which two different teams of anchors present with unique scripts. The final product is a three- to five- minute video, which closes the club presentation every Sunday night.
Show Off was some cherubs’ first experience with professional broadcasting equipment.
Reporters used Canon 80D cameras to shoot in the field, and standing cameras with built-in teleprompters in the studio, as well as professional-grade audio and light boards.
Avery Maslowsky of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, had considerable experience with her school’s broadcasting department before coming to the Medill cherub program. However, she described her school’s equipment as much lower grade and said she appreciated the chance to experiment with more complex equipment.
“It’s nice to learn different angles and real machinery,” Maslowsky said. “It seemed professional. That also has to do with the set itself. We film in the actual Northwestern newsroom.”
Throughout the summer, McCarthy strove for a hands-off teaching approach, hoping to maximize student creativity and initiative.
“What I thought was, ‘Let me bring these students in, let me give them a space to learn, to try new things, and then see where they go with it,’” McCarthy said.
This independence allowed Show Off attendees to pick up leadership traits with technical production skills, both necessary to a successful broadcast studio.
Andrew Rowan of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, tried every major role Show Off offered, from reporter to producer. He said it helped him see how every job on a broadcast team is essential.
“I knew broadcast was rooted in a team,” Rowan said, “but I didn’t understand it until I got here and saw that the broadcast fails if there’s no teamwork and communication.”
For Taylor Schmitt of La Grange, Illinois, Show Off helped her improve at training staff. When an anchor’s earpiece failed during the first show, Schmitt acted as a mouthpiece between the anchor and the producer. McCarthy said Schmitt became a role model in the studio, helping each week’s new production staff members with the equipment.
“Since I figured out the board pretty quickly and was the most vocal about actually knowing how to do it, I ended with the job of teaching other people,” Schmitt said.
By the last week of Show Off, the student team produced an eight-minute broadcast on their own, complete with motion graphics and complex video packages.
“Show Off is the highlight of my week, every week,” Schmitt said. “What surprised me was how much I ended up loving broadcast.”