Spartan Newsroom dream comes to life on Election Day

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Journalism junior Jess Todd interviews journalism senior Sergio Martinez-Beltran, left, and journalism faculty member Jeremy Steele in the School of Journalism's newsroom on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016.

Darcy Greene/MSU School of Journalism

Journalism junior Jess Todd interviews journalism senior Sergio Martinez-Beltran, left, and journalism faculty member Jeremy Steele in the School of Journalism's newsroom on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016.

The 2016 election cycle has been one of hard work for presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But they’re not the only ones who have been spending countless hours working to turn a dream turn into reality.

Tuesday’s election brought together nearly 300 student journalists in a new broadcasting studio and newsroom in the heart of the Communication Arts & Sciences Building. The new Spartan Newsroom started as a vision of Michigan State University School of Journalism professor Troy Hale.

“Look at our students,” Hale said Tuesday night as students worked within a new glass-enclosed space along the main corridor of the building. “They look like professionals. They don’t have Spartan gear on, they have suits on and they have dresses on. They look like TV people. They look like reporters and producers and they’re being treated like them right now.”

When Hale and other MSU students were covering the election in 2012, they were doing so in a WKAR-TV studio hidden within the bowels of the Communication Arts & Sciences Building. Hale wanted a room where students could produce live news coverage every day, and he wanted to do it in a space where everyone could see the work students were doing.

Hale went into his office and got to work.

The project started with a proposal of what Hale thought the college could do. The proposal turned into drawings, and Hale took his idea to School of Journalism Professor Lucinda Davenport. Davenport and College of Communication Arts and Sciences Dean Prabu David, who approved Hale’s idea.

The new space brings students from different journalism concentrations — from photo to video to print to broadcast — together into one place.

The room is equipped with an anchor desk, stations for students to edit video and photos and a desk where students will be pumping out written content all day.

The production equipment allows broadcasts from the space to be streamed via the Web or social media, or to be transmitted to WKAR-TV.

Hands-on since day one

On Tuesday, the on-air talent was able to interview MSU professors and talk to professional reporters across the country, including Spartan alumnus and NBC News correspondent Steve Patterson.

“I think you guys are getting a real time look at what this is,” Patterson said in a Skype interview with students. “You are getting real hands-on experience, which is going to get you prepared faster than I was.”

MSU journalism professor Lori Ann Dickerson spent the day working with beginning journalism students, who were interviewing student voters and non-voters across campus.

“What’s really fun about today is the fact that instead of sitting in a classroom and telling you guys what it’s going to be like, we’re actually doing it,” she said. “That’s just a colossal difference.”

Journalism junior Jess Todd spent much of Election Day broadcasting behind-the-scenes interviews with students and faculty on Facebook. He said his work as a student has cemented his passion for journalism.

“It’s definitely really fulfilling,” Todd said. “I’ve wanted to go into this kind of stuff since high school, and now that it’s really coming true and I have the opportunity to do that just at the school itself instead of having to go out and find other opportunities. It’s definitely a sweet feeling.”

Although the newsroom was operating for Election Day, there’s still more work to do. Crews will continue installing equipment in the space to get it ready for regular classroom use in the spring semester.

David, the college’s dean, said he is impressed with the work students have done and hopes this newsroom can create more opportunities to bring together students’ work with the college’s professional media assets, including WKAR-TV and radio.

“The students who we have, we want them to have a wonderful space to practice their craft and hone their skills,” David said. “We want this to be a real teaching hospital so students can do work that goes right into WKAR and WKAR can do live programming that goes right into here.”

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