St. John’s Television and Film Students Visit CNN Studios

St. John’s Television and Film Students Visit CNN Studios
December 2, 2019

Putting theory into practice is one of the cornerstones of St. John’s University’s Television and Film program. For more than 40 years, the University has housed a state-of-the-art television studio that allows students in the program to hone their craft. Last month, these students enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit the ultramodern studios of CNN at Hudson Yards in New York City—and get a glimpse into their possible career.

The tour was organized by Brenda M. Laux ’93SVC, Adjunct Professor of Mass Communication, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS). Prof. Laux was employed at CNN for several years and has worked at and done freelance projects for several other news organizations, including NY1, PBS, and WABC-TV.

“A visit to a real-world television studio is invaluable,” observed Basilio G. Monteiro, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Mass Communication. “It allows students to assimilate and internalize what they study in the classroom.”

He added, “I am very grateful to Prof. Laux for bringing our students to CNN studios and sharing her expertise and enthusiasm. Our CCPS faculty always explore opportunities to give students direct experience.”

Prof. Laux noted that while she was a student at St. John’s, several of her professors were working professionals who invited students for a look behind the scenes at film and television production. “That is why I like to take my students on these tours, and why I encourage our alumni in the industry to talk with them,” she stressed. “Students need to see and hear what it is really like.”

Mass Communication major Jenna Nace described the visit as a “reality check” for the group, who had only been familiar with the equipment at the St. John’s Television Center. “The visit was so hands-on that you got the sense of how it is to work there,” she recalled. The trip helped clarify the areas of production on which she will focus.

Senior William Zavaleta envisions a facility like CNN as the “endgame” for him and his fellow students. “Working in a place like this is the ultimate goal for many of us,” he stressed.

St. John’s students toured several control rooms, stages, and editing suites. After the visit, sophomore Carlito Palmer’s appreciation for the St. John’s Television Center was cemented. “What we do here is like a microcosm of what they do. Their equipment may be a bit more advanced, but it is essentially the same.”

Students also heard from Bill McLoughlin ’80SVC, a former President of WRED-TV, St. John’s University’s Television Club, and Director of Studio Operations for CNN New York. He answered their questions about CNN’s day-to-day operations and discussed internship opportunities.

Most of the students who visited CNN aspire to work in the film or television industry and credited St. John’s for connecting them with its vast alumni network.

“I would like to conquer the director’s chair someday,” William observed. “That is the most intimidating and stressful job, and I want to challenge myself. Here we had the chance to speak to someone who is actually in the trenches.” Some other avenues students want to explore include screenwriting, camera, editing, and animation.

Senior Brian Borgerson enjoys Prof. Laux’s class because it puts theory into practice. “This class is almost all hands on. One week I am in the control room, and another week I could be operating the camera,” he said, adding that the class helps him discern his future career path.

Kayla Kmett, also a senior, credited the constant practice she gets on the equipment with vastly improving her skills. “You can talk about it all day, but if you do not experience it firsthand, you will not understand.”

Students at St. John’s are permitted to work with equipment in the Television Center as early as their first year. In addition to Prof. Laux’s production class, they are encouraged to join WRED-TV, creating their own productions or working on those of their fellow students. The Center also employs student workers, who assist professors and students with the equipment.

William likes the atmosphere Prof. Laux creates in her class, which mirrors conditions in a fast-paced control room. “We learn a lot in such a short space of time,” he stressed. “She always pushes us and challenges us to do more. It is a great way to prepare yourself for what is to come.”