Student-produced TV show set for national debut Thursday

April 28, 2008

Some semester- and yearlong efforts by students in the College of Communications at Penn State have come together as a magazine-style television show scheduled for its national debut at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 1, on the Big Ten Network.

The first of three episodes of "We Are: The Millennials," which focuses on the interests, stories and themes of college-aged students, represents the culmination of much hard work by students in COMM 497F: "Big Ten Network," taught by Topher Yorks, a senior producer/director at WPSU-TV.

Additional episodes of the show -- the first TV program produced by Penn State students in a high-definition format -- are scheduled to air on the Big Ten Network in June and July.

"The students built a new series from the ground up -- including the name," said Yorks, an Emmy Award-winning producer. "They produced, directed, researched, wrote, shot and edited. They developed segment content and did everything involved in a television production."

The students also made the most of an opportunity provided by the College of Communications and Penn State Public Broadcasting.

While the launch of the Big Ten Network in August 2007 provided an additional outlet for college sports, it also created a venue for communications students to exhibit their talents. The Big Ten Network's programming approach, and its stated mission, includes several hours of non-sports and university-produced programming each month. The universities in the conference have made a commitment to producing content for the network.

Penn State's approach to providing content -- and providing valuable hands-on experience for students using state-of-the art equipment and studios -- has been aggressive in terms of finding a way to capitalize on the programming opportunities. The course taught by Yorks, who was assisted by senior lecturer Thor Wasbotten, emerged from discussions between Anne Hoag, associate dean for undergraduate education and outreach in the college, and Ted Krichels, general manager of WPSU.

WPSU, the Public Broadcasting Service station housed at Penn State, has worked diligently since the idea of the Big Ten Network first arose to play a large role in providing content. Likewise, the college has been proactive in its approach to crafting partnerships and relationships with WPSU and the network.

Several other classes exist in the college that allow students to produce work that airs on broadcast TV. The magazine production class differs in that it allows students a bit more freedom in terms of determining content and subject matter because Kritchels and others wanted the final product to "reflect the world as seen by students, not just something created for them."

"This class is a great way for students to gain real-life experience," Yorks said. "They built their resumes and worked with state-of-the-art equipment. 'We Are: The Millennials' is the perfect example of the kind of opportunity available to students in the Penn State College of Communications."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009