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Centre County Report Adjusts To Remote Learning, Helps Students Gain Experience From Home

The Centre County Report is one of the most valuable parts of a broadcast journalism major’s experience at Penn State. Like many other clubs and programs, it’s had to make several adjustments ever since the university transitioned to remote learning.

For those unfamiliar with the CCR, it’s a student-run news telecast that doubles as a course offered by the Bellisario College of Communications. Students in the class fill a number of different roles of a local news broadcast. They work the control board, run things behind the scenes as producers, and, of course, speak on camera as anchors, among other jobs.

Under normal circumstances, students would complete one news broadcast per week, but the cancellation of in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester has completely changed how the CCR operates.

“With no student access to the TV studio, the class can’t produce live newscasts,” said Steve Kraycik, an assistant teaching professor in the Bellisario College who oversees the CCR. “We quickly shifted to a model where the students are working from home and producing news stories from their hometowns. It’s not ideal, but we have the technology to make it work: phones with excellent cameras, the ability to do interviews by Skype or FaceTime, and editing software on their laptops.”

Kraycik, who has more than three decades of experience in television as a news manager and producer, meets with his students via Zoom on Monday and Friday mornings. Instead of running pitch meetings in-person, Kraycik now approves story ideas and scripts for different pieces throughout the week.

Despite not having access to Penn State’s top-class facilities out in Innovation Park, the students are, in Kraycik’s estimation, making the most of this unprecedented, unwelcome situation.

“Honestly, [the students have adjusted to remote learning] better than I expected, simply because it’s such a big shift from doing in-studio productions,” he said. “Everyone is disappointed we can’t do newscasts as we normally would, but the students have really embraced the challenges of producing stories from home. They’re doing some very good work.”

“I think the coronavirus has taught us all how to be a little more vigilant in the news we’re receiving and putting out truthful, representative, and important news for people who are looking for answers,” Hunter Kelly, a senior broadcast journalism major currently taking the class, added. “It’s made us get way more creative.”

Kelly also said he plans on producing his own live newscast from home beginning next week. That might be above and beyond his new call of duty for CCR, but he knows just how important it is for people to be informed during a time like this. He’s taking it upon himself to provide people with a “one-stop-shop to get their news.”

While Kraycik said that managing his team of 18 student journalists has been a challenge, he’s proud of the work they’ve produced from their hometowns in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.

The Centre County Report’s coverage from home has included broader national and international stories that have emerged from the coronavirus pandemic and local stories from places outside of Centre County. Kraycik’s students have, of course, still been on top of stories in Happy Valley — including Penn State swimming & diving’s reaction to the cancellation of their season and COVID-19’s impact on gyms in downtown State College.

Although the CCR’s stories look and sound a little different after incorporating interviews conducted through digital mediums like Skype and FaceTime, the student reporters are still creating plenty of content regularly. Kraycik thinks the students’ ability to adapt to such trying circumstances will be beneficial going forward.

“Unfortunately, the anchors can’t get their reps at the anchor desk while we’re working remotely, but they can still work on their storytelling and technical skills like editing and writing — and their reporting as a whole,” he said. “Again, not ideal, but I think these students will have a great experience to tell future employers about how they continued to produce quality news content through this crisis.”

Since there are only 18 students on CCR’s team right now and, well, more than 18 broadcast journalism majors at Penn State, many students are simply missing out on opportunities to gain valuable journalistic experience because they aren’t on campus.

Kraycik’s advice to those students is simple: create content on your own, and utilize your personal social media accounts to share it.

“This is a unique experience that even veteran TV reporters and anchors are learning themselves for the first time,” he said. “Today, everyone has the basic tools you need to do this: an iPhone or similar mobile phone with a great camera built-in, Adobe editing software that’s available to all Penn State students, and your imagination.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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