HOW WFUV TRAINS STUDENTS
Provided by George Bodarky, News Director, WFUV
The WFUV News Workshop
Each semester, WFUV News Director George Bodarky conducts a news workshop that teaches students the “abc’s” of radio broadcast journalism. The workshops are a free resource for Fordham students and they are 90 minutes long. To accommodate as many students as possible, the workshops are held during the university’s activity period. Occasionally, Bodarky conducts evening and Sunday workshops due to growing demand. Students are walked through all phases of news gathering, writing, anchoring and reporting.
The workshops begin with an overview of WFUV’S newsroom which includes an introduction to the Associated Press wire service and the station’s digital editing system. We also talk about the various sources of news, the ethical issues involved in news gathering and opportunities that exist in the field. The workshops are an entirely hands-on experience. It’s a living classroom, if you will. The students are each given an opportunity to walk through the computer system to get a feel for it and help them understand how it works. A great emphasis is placed on the importance of understanding news and keeping abreast of current events.
Week two involves getting more involved in WFUV’s editing system. Each student takes a turn editing soundbites. Students are also taught how to conduct phone interviews. The workshops balance the technical aspects of conducting interviews with the journalistic aspects. Students are also taught different interviewing techniques.
Weeks three and four are focused on announcing. Students are taught breathing exercises, how to mark their copy, pacing, inflection and other aspects of news delivery. They are taught about regionalisms and other obstacles to news delivery. They are also given exercises on how to improve their voice and delivery. The students are also put behind the microphone and given a shot at news delivery. The students are taught that they’re not only reading words, but also communicating a message.
Weeks five and six are dedicated to radio newswriting. The focus is on how to write clear, concise and conversational copy. We discuss attribution, how to keep sentences short, how to paraphrase quoted material and write for the ear. We review the various sources of news and how to successfully write from them. The students are given press releases to practice newswriting. Eventually, they practice writing a complete newscast under deadline.
In week seven we re-cap the workshop and introduce the students to long-form, and documentary-style features. We also teach the students how to use the WFUV’s state-of-the-art field-recording equipment, including professional-caliber flash recorders and RE-50 microphones.
Workshop students are encouraged to sign up for regular shifts in WFUV’s newsroom to shadow veteran students and contribute as much as they can.
The WFUV Internship
WFUV does not have an internship program like other media outlets. Instead, students who complete WFUV’s news workshop enter an “internship phase” – normally one semester of shift work in the newsroom. They continue to shadow veteran students on the desk and get edits and feedback from WFUV’s news professionals. Interns contribute story ideas and take responsibility for completing deadline assignments that broadcast during WFUV’s local newscasts. After demonstrating a commitment to WFUV’s newsroom, interns qualify for paid employment at the station.
Through a partnership with Fordham University’s work study program and the station’s own significant financial commitment, WFUV employs about 70 students stationwide – about fifteen of them in the newsroom each semester. They are paid for hourly shifts as newscasters, reporters and producers. While many college work study programs offer short shift work for students in administrative and support roles, WFUV’s student employees are encouraged to dedicate at least two full-day shifts a week to the station. This allows students to work as true media professional, whether it’s covering an entire drive time newscast shift or traveling with the New York City mayor’s press corp.
The WFUV Contract
WFUV is committed to training students in how to become media professionals. In return, the station asks that students make a serious commitment to WFUV. To that end, students are asked to sign the following “News Contract.” The document drives home the message that WFUV is rare and professional opportunity for college students; and it clearly spells out the expectations the station has of them.
By signing on as a paid employee in the WFUV Newsroom, I agree to the following:
- To provide at least two weeks notice for any time off. I agree to work my normal shift on holidays, university breaks, midterm and finals weeks, unless I request the day off well in advance. I will show up on time for my shifts and stay for the duration. I will call the newsroom if an emergency prevents me from arriving on time.
- To prevent campus activities, internships and other jobs from interfering with my shifts in the WFUV newsroom. I will make WFUV my primary job and schedule any other activities around my newsroom shifts.
- To take responsibility for all station equipment. I will not bring food or drink into the newsroom or any studio areas. I will report all equipment problems to the News Director or Assistant News Director immediately. I will honor all rules set by the engineering department regarding use of the equipment (e.g. do not download programs or photos on any station computers without permission).
- To pay for any field recording equipment I damage, lose, or misplace. I will operate the equipment and treat it exactly how I was taught to do so. I will report all malfunctions immediately. I will keep all equipment in its assigned kit. I will ask permission from the News Director or Assistant News Director before using any kit. Upon my final day of employment, I will turn in the kit; otherwise, I will accrue a fine for each day the equipment is late, and understand that Fordham University Security will be alerted. I understand that the same rules apply for WFUV’s press credentials.
- To stay focused and work diligently to complete news assignments, meet deadlines, and develop original stories. I will refrain from socializing, personal web surfing/emails/phone calls, computer games and other distractions during “slow downs” in the newsroom. I will refrain from posting anything in the newsroom unless approved by the News Director or Assistant News Director.
- To follow the directives of the News Directors and News Managers. I understand that in addition to the News Directors, the student News Managers have the authority to assign stories, edit copy and assist reporters in all aspects of the newsroom.
- To avoid writing extra hours on the timesheet on top of my normal shift hours unless first approved by the News Director or Assistant News Director.
- To dress respectably. I understand that business casual or better is a good rule of thumb and will not wear shorts, sweat pants or ripped clothes to work. I understand I may be called upon to cover last-minute news conferences or greet dignitaries at WFUV.
- To volunteer 4-hour shifts of active support during WFUV fund drives in the fall and spring. I understand that fund drive weeks are all-hands-on deck operations that require extra hours of all WFUV employees. I will contribute an unpaid 4-hour shift on the phones or otherwise behind the scenes during each drive to help make it a success.
- To attend professional development sessions. Because of my responsibility to develop my news skills and the costly nature of these events, I understand that my participation is mandatory, unless I give notice of a scheduling conflict on the day the event is announced to me (usually via email), or an emergency arises. I understand there are no exceptions for last-minute school work, extra-curricular activities, etc.
- To craft my class schedule to allow for free blocks of time if I would like to be considered for a News Manager or leadership position in the newsroom. One or two weekdays or free blocks on weekday afternoons are optimal for managing the newsroom, advanced field reporting, and special project assignments.
By signing this contract, I agree to honor all above rules and understand that violating them could result in suspension or dismissal from WFUV News._______________________________________________________________
WFUV STUDENT BROADCASTS
Student work broadcasts all over the WFUV program grid:
More than half of WFUV’s local newscast shifts are reserved for student anchors, including the prime afternoon drive time shift. Veteran students deliver 2-minute newscasts weekdays from 4pm – 6:30pm. Developing newscasters anchor shifts weekdays at Noon, Saturdays at 8am, 1pm and 4pm, and Sundays at 8am, Noon and 8pm.
WFUV sends student reporters into the field daily to gather interviews for newscasts. They carry press credentials from the New York City Police Department, and this grants them access to the same high-profile news events that other media professionals attend. WFUV’s student reporters feed on-location reports or return to the station to produce news wraps with context.
Students in WFUV’s newsroom shine brightest during election nights. They file live reports from campaign headquarters, interview leading politicians, and package well-researched reports for the following morning’s newscasts. Interns and novice reporters support the field reporting effort by conducting research and offering technical support while live coverage is on the air. This team effort has garnered WFUV News numerous awards in both professional and student media competitions since 2001.
Other Team Projects and Specials
The WFUV newsroom offers a ripe opportunity for its many students to team up on long form projects. In 2006, a team of students initiated and produced a half-hour special called War Stories from the Homefront, which featured stories from local Iraq War veterans. Led by WFUV’s George Bodarky in 2004, a team of students spent an entire night interviewing grave shift workers. The result was an enlightening and award-winning documentary called Working the Night Shift. It was broadcast on some of WFUV’s sister-NPR stations, and it won awards from the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters’ Association, the Radio and Television News Directors Association.
Other award-winning projects that included hands-on contributions from WFUV students include:
Let’s Get Digital – a one-hour documentary about the controversial intersection between music and the internet.
Subculture – a one-hour special exploring quirky underground culture for the New York City Subway’s centennial.
Democracy on the Block – a documentary about unusual democracies in New York City and how they’re functioning a year after 9/11.
National and Foreign Correspondence
WFUV attracts a significant number of globally-minded students who do a semester abroad or participate in global service projects with Fordham University. Those students who carried a microphone with them have produced reports for WFUV about orphans in Calcutta, Guyanese immigration, and post-Katrina New Orleans. Students abroad also have called into WFUV with breaking news, such as a report from Sydney, Australia following the 2002 bombing in Bali.
In 2006, WFUV’s Scott Detrow won a fellowship from Fordham University and used it to travel to South Africa with a radio kit. Detrow created a one-hour documentary about AIDS service providers, and it won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award.
WFUV student voices and productions have been heard on public radio stations nationwide. They have contributed news reports to National Public Radio, which air on hundreds of affiliates in the U.S. They regularly post work on The Public Radio Exchange (www.prx.org) – a program swapping resource that allows public radio stations to review and download standout radio productions. PRX has been a conduit for student work to air on dozens of leading U.S. radio stations, including WNYC-New York and KQED, San Francisco.