Award-winning 'Centre County Report' offers more opportunities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the years, “Centre County Report,” the weekly TV newscast produced by Penn State students, has churned out top-notch work, earned many awards and launched numerous on- and off-camera careers.

In an effort to provide more opportunities for students, the College of Communications has created a second section of the 400-level course that produces the newscast. Student-produced newscasts will air Tuesdays and Fridays starting in the 2016 spring semester.

“Centre County Report” airs live at noon on Campus Cable on the University Park campus. A live stream of the show may be found at commedia.psu.edu online as well. The newscast is rebroadcast by WPSU-TV in the evenings, reaching 530,000 households in 29 counties of central Pennsylvania.

With the second section, the number of opportunities for Penn State students to get valuable experience will double.

“That’s the big word I think that myself and Dean (Marie) Hardin have used. It’s about opportunity for more students,” said Steve Kraycik, director of student television and online operations.

“We have already seen what a benefit a class like ‘Centre County Report’ can be for these students in giving them hands-on, real-world experience. The problem we were running into was there were far more people applying than we had spots available. By opening this new section, I think it’s going to just give an opportunity for those who are qualified to be able to get into this course and experience it.”

With two sections, the course will accommodate 36 students. Each section will be the same in concept, but coverage and shows will differ depending on the news.

“I think much like you’d approach a daily newscast in the real world, the news and sports of the day and weather of the day are going to dictate what are in those shows,” said Kraycik. “I think where the Tuesday class will help us is covering things, in particular over the weekend, that would have been old news by the next Friday, are now much more relevant.”

The benefit of doubling in size does not stop in the “classroom,” where students have access to a state-of-the-art TV studio. The ultimate goal of “CCR” is to prepare students for jobs following graduation and it has met that goal.

Most students in the course are broadcast journalism majors, but Kraycik said he encourages students majoring in telecommunications to apply because the course offers a valuable opportunity for those who want behind-the-scenes experience in television as well.

“I can’t say enough about the foundation that it provided,” said Willie Jungels, a 2014 Penn State graduate with a degree in journalism who is now an associate producer for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. “Probably everyone that you talk to will tell you the significant impact that it had. You really got a feel of what it was like to turn around stories and be a part of a news team.”

Kelly Rippin, who earned her journalism degree in 2010 and works as a reporter for WZTV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, credits “CCR” with readying her for her first job upon graduation as a reporter for WBOY-TV in Morgantown, West Virginia.

“I produced, I wrote and I edited my own show,” said Rippin. “I did all of that stuff, and that’s small-market TV, but I was ready for it. There never was a point where I looked at them and was like, ‘Wait, I have to do this?’ or ‘I don’t know how to do these things’ or anything like that.

“You’re a step ahead of a lot of people. It really kind of puts you in the mind of what an actual job is going to be like and it’s amazing.”

“CCR,” in conjunction with the College of Communications, has sent students to Cuba (2014), Hong Kong (2015) and covered the papal visit to the United States earlier this year, providing them with an unmatched mix of international and high-level experience.

Over the last three years, “CCR” has earned nine regional Emmy Awards, as well as awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Broadcast Education Association — which twice named it the nation’s best collegiate newscast. A special edition of the program, “Centre County Report in Cuba,” was named Outstanding Magazine Show during the 36th annual College Television Awards in Hollywood.

Last Updated December 16, 2015