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Top photo, from left, Dr. Shawn McIntosh, Samantha Kniskern ’18 and Victoria Weichel ’18
work behind the scenes. Below, Dan Wohler ’17 anchors an edition 
of Beacon Web News.

Students Broadcast to Campus and Beyond via Beacon Web News

03/22/17

They’re on television screens in the cafeteria, in the Campus Center, and also online, delivering MCLA’s news to an ever-growing audience, with increasing recognition. Samantha Kniskern ’18 of Milbury, Mass., and Dan Wohler ’17 of Methuen, Mass., are the students behind Beacon Web News (BWN).

Last October, with some help from Peter Gentile, the director of MCLA’s television studio, and Dr. Shawn McIntosh, a professor of digital journalism, the two students implemented a visual broadcast version of The Beacon student newspaper.

“I wanted a platform to share my work with others” beyond the classroom, explained Kniskern, an anchor, reporter and producer for BWN. “The process moved pretty quickly. We went from ideas to reality in a span of a few weeks.”

Since then, she said, “we have had a successful episode every week.”

During each production, Kniskern and Wohler typically are helped by four to five other students. And, several others recently began to create and contribute content as reporters in the field.

According to Gentile, a $400,000 upgrade to the campus’s television studio last year – that included seven new ENG cameras and accessories, an AVID Media storage server and five high definition (HD) studio cameras – was crucial to the development and implementation of BWN.

The studio’s six AVID editing work stations, Kniskern points out, are the same used by 80 percent of film and news productions in the country. MCLA’s studio also features a new HD switcher system and two green screens that create the show’s virtual set.

“This upgrade to full HD made a program like BWN possible,” Gentile said.    

In addition to her editing expertise, “I have improved my script-writing skills and camera presence,” Kniskern said. “I now have a solid skill set that is used in both film and news broadcasting.”

Episodes of Beacon Web News are filmed live-to-tape each Wednesday morning. Although they range from six to 12 minutes in length, the work put in to produce each show takes much longer: a three-minute package requires three hours of editing.

“This does not include filming the package and interviewing sources,” said Wohler, an anchor and reporter. “Then, once the package is edited together, we still have to script out our voiceovers that run through the story.”

When BWN first launched, McIntosh said, both Wohler and Kniskern were shocked to hear how many people on campus had seen them on screen.

“Some students even thought they were on CNN somehow, because the screens usually show TV shows on them. They continue to get positive comments from people every week, saying they are waiting to see the next episode, and never miss it,” McIntosh said.

“That’s what makes all of our hard work worth it for me,” Wohler said, who plans to become a broadcast/multimedia journalist. One day, he’d like to anchor a program like NBC Nightly News.

“BWN has allowed me to gain anchoring experience, as well as on-location reporting experience,” he said. “MCLA is a small school with a wealth of opportunities and resources waiting to be seized.”