Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Back To School

I went back to school on Monday.

Hi, it's Sheila.
It all started for me at the Scripps School of Communications at Ohio University - my love for broadcast news, that is.

I fell in love with Ohio U. the first time I set foot on the Athens campus. I was lucky to have many professors and mentors there who helped me along the path to my career and taught me skills I use every day on my job. But I didn't have a good handle on exactly what I wanted to do with my life until my classes with Journalism professor Don Shoultz. The news bug bit me hard in his newscasting classes. Students filled every role in a newsroom - producer, copy writer, reporter, news and sports anchor, editor, etc., and we put our newscast on the air on the Athens access channel. The channel was called ACTV, so we produced the "ACTV (pronounced Active) 7 News."

That's where I learned the acronym K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Stupid! Even now, when I write stories I still hear Don's deep voice booming, "Talk to your typewriter!" Yep, that was before everything in a newsroom was computerized! And if your news copy wasn't clean, that was going to be a big problem when the anchor tried to read it live on the air. I have a confession to make. The first time I met Don Shoultz, I was terrified. He was a barrel chested guy whose personality hit you full force. I felt like he knew everything and I knew nothing. Turns out, he loved his students. He and his wife had all of us over to their house at the end of the quarter. And Don wanted us to know everything he did! He loved molding good journalists, strong writers who weren't afraid to ask hard questions, and who were just as nit-picky as he was about the proper style of writing broadcast news.

These days the students are on the public TV station, WOUB, and the newscast is called Athens MidDay. The beloved professor is Mary Rogus, a former TV news Executive Producer. She's not gruff like Don was, but Mary demands much of her students. Now I know how valuable it is to have a mentor like Don or Mary, who expects only the best. Mary invited me back to school this week to work with the students on a newscast and co-anchor it with them. I couldn't wait for that day to arrive! The young men and women on the job with me Monday were full of energy and questions. I quickly felt like a member of their team, writing my copy for the newscast, and talking with Mary and the students about writing style. It was a good refresher for me, but it felt so good to teach too. I loved talking with these young Bobcats about upcoming internships and what they want to do with their lives. Before I knew it, we were on the air with a good, solid newscast complete with bubbly weathercaster and Mercy HS grad Molly Nocheck. Sarah Tranelli was my co-anchor, and Paul Maier did sports. A Fairfield native named Adam Schrand directed, and made me feel like I was in my own TV studio. And here is where I will give them the ultimate compliment - every single one of the students with whom I worked on Monday was a professional. I know they will have no trouble getting into the business one day.

Unfortunately, the Athens MidDay class is about to become a casualty of Ohio University's switch to the semester system next fall. It will be replaced with some other classes to give students their hands on experience, but it won't be quite the same. Mary told me she's sad, but times change, and we all move on. Don't we all know that? My old friend Don went to work for CNN after I graduated from Ohio U., and he passed away a couple of years ago. But he's still alive in all of the producers, reporters, and anchors he helped mold. And he's part of the reason I will always go back to OU when I am asked - to pay it forward to the next generation of broadcast stars.

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