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Jan. 27, 2011
MARYVILLE, Mo. - For decades, student-run media at Northwest Missouri State University have ranked among the top of college publications in the country and served as a training ground for students who have gone on to successful careers in journalism, media relations, advertising and education.
Now the University and its Department of Mass Communication have taken another step to ensure students are prepared for the next phase of an evolving industry.
The walls that for years divided the Wells Hall basement into a series of office compartments housing Northwest's student-run print media were knocked down during the fall trimester. This month, The Northwest Missourian newspaper, Tower yearbook and Framework Interactive online magazine moved into a vastly improved and open newsroom.
The new Student Media Converged Newsroom provides a spacious and enhanced professional environment for students working within a variety of media. Open workspaces fuel collaboration among the staff members. A glass-walled conference room provides a professional space for staff meetings and interviews. Flat-screen televisions are tuned into news networks where the latest headlines scroll across the screen.
A room that once was the Tower yearbook office is now a studio where broadcast and journalism students can collaborate on newscasts. It includes an audio editing bay and control room where students can record and edit audio to appear on The Northwest Missourian's website.
"We're really excited about this," said Doug Sudhoff, who chairs the Department of Mass Communication. "We are tremendously grateful to our University administration. They saw the necessity for this as a teaching tool and were willing, during difficult times, to provide the money to do this."
Northwest's Department of Environmental Services completed the renovation, which included removing all partition walls and replacing the drop ceiling, doors and frames. The in-house crew also textured the remaining walls, painted the area and laid new carpet. Electricians saved thousands of dollars by retrofitting existing light fixtures with energy efficient ballasts and bulbs. Dr. Paul McGraw, vice president of environmental services, estimates the University saved about $14,000 by completing the renovation in-house.
Wells Hall had served as the University's library until construction on the B.D. Owens Library was completed in 1983 and the Department of Mass Communication subsequently moved into the former library. While Northwest's student run-print media are housed in the Wells Hall basement, the second floor serves as the headquarters for Northwest's radio stations KXCV-KRNW and KZLX as well as television station KNWT.
The University renovated the space after years of discussions among mass communications faculty and media professionals recognized the student publications area was not conducive to the multimedia approach many news agencies are taking. Faculty benchmarked with other universities and newspapers including The New York Times and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Laura Widmer, assistant professor of mass communications and director of student publications, said the converged newsroom better reflects today's needs in the mass communication industry. Widmer envisions the staffs sharing personnel as well as equipment and resources. Designers, for example, may work on assignments for the newspaper, yearbook and online magazine, rather than working for one medium at a time.
"We had some physical constraints before with broadcasting being upstairs and the print media being downstairs, and not being able to have audio and video and web and print come together," Widmer said. "With this renovation, it will provide an open newsroom that will provide information and delivery through audio, video, web and print. I think we're going to have a 21st-century model that's a much more workable environment for students."
Student publications staff members, who spent the fall trimester working within a temporary space in the Thompson-Ringold Building adjacent to Wells Hall, said they are seeing immediate results of the improved newsroom.
"It's definitely opened communication between all sections," said Brittany Keithly, a senior journalism major from Falls City, Neb., who is editor-in-chief of The Northwest Missourian. "Being able to roll your chair out to talk to someone - it's made communication so much better than having to go somewhere else."
The renovation comes as the Department of Mass Communication, like many academic departments at Northwest, is closely examining its curriculum.
"We're hearing from our alums and from professionals who we consult with regularly that the barriers between various media are crumbling," Sudhoff said. "There will be a major developed for those who are interested in what we now call journalism, but it will prepare them to enter the industry not just as it is in this moment but as we see it evolving in the next five to 10 years."
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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