Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
November 17, 2008
DeKalb — For student journalists at Northern Illinois University’s Northern Television Center, covering the Feb. 14 tragedy meant more than gathering and presenting the facts.
The events mandated a more meaningful kind of storytelling, one that put viewers into the shoes of students.
“We felt a sense of necessity in providing that coverage and in sharing with the world what our students felt. It was so important to be able to share that with the rest of the world – that unbelievable but horrible experience – so that they would know and understand,” said Allen May, general manager of broadcast news at NTC.
Members of the Illinois Broadcasters Association agree.
NTC’s Feb. 14 coverage earned second place in the long-form programming category of the 2008 Student Silver Dome Awards. NIU’s students also took second place in the “Best TV Newscast” category for a Feb. 14 submission.
“To be able to be recognized for that work, I think, meant to the students a sense of validation, a sense that something important had been accomplished on behalf of the university and on behalf of the students we lost,” May said. “In that regard, this was anything but just another newscast or a news tribute. Symbolically, it meant we had carried out a journalistic obligation. We needed to do that for them, and it was an honor that we were able to share it in a way that judges were able to see its role and its significance.”
The awards were presented Nov. 7 at the annual IBA-University Conference held at Illinois State University. More than 200 students from 12 colleges and universities participated at the conference and competition.
It was the first time in at least a decade that NTC students were honored with three excellence awards in a single year: “Top Shelf Sports,” a previous winner in long-form programming, won third place this year.
May is not surprised.
His students create and tape four 25-minute broadcasts each week, each of which airs four times: 6, 8 and 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon Tuesday through Friday on campus cable Channel 20.
Broadcasts also are streamed on the Department of Communication’s Web site and posted on www.myspace.com/northerntelevisioncenter. On election night, NTC students broke new ground by producing a half-hour live newscast streamed to Communication Web page.
And “Top Shelf Sports,” launched only four years ago as one students’ independent study and the owner of three IBA trophies, receives its own showcase every other Friday at 6, 8 and 10 p.m.
So does the occasional public affairs project and news magazine.
“The students in the other programs that we compete with for these awards come from several of the best programs in the country. We’re talking about Northwestern, and the highly respected program at Southern Illinois University, and these students here compete with them and win,” May said. “They recognize that what they’re doing here stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best students and the best programs, not only in Illinois but nationwide.”
Yet May has no doubt that the students who were on the job during those cold and gray weeks last February realized their place long before the recent round of recognition.
“I’ve not had a group of students who have exhibited more dedication and more of an importance about telling the story to the world like they did. It has been life-changing for them,” he said. “These awards have given them a clear sense of how important the mission of a journalist is and the journalistic obligations to accuracy and informing and enlightening the public.”
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