Wayland students hit airwaves with weekly newscast

PLAINVIEW - It's 3 p.m. on Thursday, and Paul Finley is giving the springs in an outdated office chair a workout with his nervous energy. Rocking quickly and tapping his fingers anxiously on the control desk in front of him, Finley is bouncing questions around the bustling control room and into his headset microphone, making sure all parties are ready to begin.

With everyone in place, Finley points a finger to his left, cuing the video operator to begin playing the introduction. A photo collage featuring Gates Hall comes up on the screen, and the audio controller begins the music, cuing the anchors to begin their introductions.

Just a minute in, the tape featuring a recorded interview lags, and Finley calls the whole process to a halt. A few takes later, they're back on track and well into the newscast. But time is ticking away, and Finley's slight rocking says he won't really be able to relax until the last fade out.

Welcome to the world of television news. Even as a freshman at Wayland Baptist University, Finley is familiar with the details of newscasts, having worked a few years at an Amarillo news station just out of high school.

But this is not a network station, and his cohorts are not professional anchors and cameramen. They're all students, getting valuable experience in television production and a crash course in patience and diligence.

A project of Wayland's department of mass communication, the weekly newscasts began airing a month ago and are broadcast on WIN-TV, Plainview cable channel 6 (the Plainview affiliate of FamilyNet), on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and on Fridays at 4:30 p.m. The cast features news from the campus as well as city and national news, with sports and profiles on Wayland faculty.

The 30-minute newscast is filmed, edited and staged completely within the Wayland campus. A working studio located in the Harral Arts Complex is home to the casts' two anchors, seniors E.J. Martinez of Mesa, Ariz. and Kira Ingle of Little Elm, and the camera operators, Tino Garcia, a sophomore from Plainview, and Curtis Beeman, a sophomore from Lovington, N.M.

In an adjoining room, separated by a large glass window, Finley sits at the control desk, while Daniel Coutinho, a sophomore from Komoros, operates the teleprompter and Senior Dean Forest operates the video tape decks. Jason DeGray works the audio controls at the back of the room, while Paul Sutton, a freshman from Abernathy puts a final read on his sports report from a nearby desk. Steve Long, assistant professor of mass communication at Wayland, oversees the newscast as advisor.

"The newscast is primarily put on by students from my production class, and there are about 10 students involved altogether," Long said. "Our journalism students also help gather and write stories, and we edit all the packages for stories together during the week."

Long said the newscast is the first regular attempt at such a project in nearly 20 years, and he's excited to see current students get involved.

"Back in the 1980s, they did a newscast regularly. They were trying to do it on a daily basis, though, and I think they just burned themselves out on it," Long said. "Every year, I've brought it up to our students, and when we mention what's involved with it, I don't get much interest."

This year, that changed. Long said Finley and Sutton became interested in the often daunting project last spring and began talking it up to other students. The two spent the better part of the summer working on ideas for the newscast and getting the studio and equipment in line with their needs.

"We have all this stuff here and felt like we should do something with it," Finley said. "If we're going to have a mass communication department, it just needs to be done."

Two recent donations of used cameras and editing equipment - from First Baptist Church in Lubbock and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary - helped beef up the studio resources.

The experience has definitely opened the eyes of students, who are learning exactly what is required in producing television news and the time commitment necessary to make it work on a college campus.

"A lot of people are getting good, hands-on experience here," said Martinez, a senior who is considering a career in broadcast journalism or other mass communication arenas. "It really feels like a lab because we can really learn how to do different things ourselves. Mr. Long knows a lot and brings a lot of information to the classroom lectures, but this experience just adds to it."

Finley said he's had to be patient and realize not everyone has the experience he has, and he feels that four weeks into the newscast, things keep getting better. The key, he said, was to realize the limitations of the group.

"Our second newscast was the worst. Everyone was so pumped for the first one, so I think the second one was our sophomore slump," Finley said. "We had to learn what we could and couldn't do. But it can only get better. The more experience we get, it'll start flowing better."

And what does Finley think will be key to keeping the newscast going each semester, a goal he has for his time at Wayland?

"We just have to keep showing up and making news."