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American Today



New(s) Projects for Broadcast Journalism Class

By Mike Unger

Photo: Senior Don Michael Mendoza

Senior Don Michael Mendoza co-anchored the class's Filipino newscast.

The moments before the School of Communication’s broadcast journalism class’s first-ever live newscast were frenetic - the movie Broadcast News got it just about right.

When it began, the show featured live shots and in-studio interviews with guests also for the first time.

“It definitely raised the level of professionalism in the class,” Professor Carolyn Brown said of the live newscasts, which were posted on the class’s Web site after they were produced. “We try to push the students to do more each semester.”

This year, that included producing newscasts in Spanish, and for the first time, Filipino.

“I think this idea of doing multilingual newscasts is [vital],” Brown said. “The media right now, the way it’s changing, having skills in different languages in different communities is really important.”

Senior Don Michael Mendoza is a Washington native whose parents are Filipino immigrants. He, along with Amanda Simmons, anchored a short Filipino broadcast that included stories about the Iceland volcano, carbon emissions, and sugar exports from the Philippines.

“We thought all the stories out in English, and together, Amanda and I have basic knowledge of Filipino,” Mendoza said. “She had her mom on the phone for any questions we had. We sent the broadcast to our relatives who were impressed but said we used a few words that no one uses. We did a story on the pope, and Amanda tried to translate the phrase ‘deeply moved,’ but there was no way to do it.”

Minor glitches like that aside, the newscast went off without a hitch, and Mendoza said producing it was a fantastic experience for several reasons.

“Exploring the language beyond what I use with my parents was interesting,” he said. “Also, applying the skills I learned in class. I went on YouTube and watched clips of Filipino news to get the cadence right. The way you speak to someone on a normal basis is very different than the way you annunciate a newscast.”

Carmen Castro is learning that firsthand as an intern in the Washington bureau of Univision, a Spanish-language television network. A student in Brown’s graduate class, Castro anchored one of the Spanish broadcasts.

“You don’t only have to do the verbal things, but you really need to decide what the focal point of the news is to a Spanish audience,” said Castro, who reported on stories including the D.C. Council’s debate of medical marijuana and the anniversary of swine flu season in Mexico.

The Spanish and Filipino broadcasts were not done live, and they were shorter than the 30-minute live show the students pulled off in April. As part of those, reporters did their live shots from in studio in front of news graphics created by students, and the in-studio guests (AU professors) were interviewed in front of the camera.

“The biggest challenge was just getting it done in time,” Brown said. “We put together a whole show starting at 11:20 until 3. That’s a really short period of time to go out, report, come back and write a story, edit it, and have it ready for air.”

It was a blunt introduction to the high octane world of TV news, but despite the speed bumps along the way, Brown’s students know they’re better off for having taken the ride.

“I decided what the topics were, wrote it, and did some production behind the camera,” Castro said of her Spanish broadcast. “When I send it to [prospective employers], I can show them I’m not just a pretty face in front of the camera.”