For the new executive board of USFtv, this academic year is not just a chance to build on the previous efforts of the organization’s founding members. It’s an opportunity to reexamine the parameters of what campus television can be and to open the process of creating community-based media to a greater variety of people both on campus and off.
This is the first year that the relatively young organization’s executive board has not been made up of founding members. David Burgis, the station’s new executive producer, acknowledges the essential role of the founding members while leaving the door open for the exploration of new possibilities. Of his predecessor, Dave Binegar, Burgis said, “He built this pretty strong framework. Now the trick is to use that foundation as a launching pad.”
Burgis hopes that the process of creating material for the television station will become more collaborative this year. One way that he intends to do this is by opening meetings to all members, regardless of whether or not they are on the executive board. According to Burgis, this is a move towards a less hierarchical, more decentralized model, one that will diversify programming and encourage new viewpoints to be showcased.
In terms of the programming, Burgis promises that students can expect to see familiar features return, such as the USFtv newscast, “USF Talks,” sports, culture shows and a timeslot to showcase student films. Although some of these features will return to campus screens without drastic changes, Burgis promises that people can expect more from “USF Talks.” In line with his idea of emphasizing USFtv as a place for “community programming,” Burgis hopes to make this feature more interactive with “interviewers butting heads with the interviewees.” He also hopes that people will use “USF Talks” as a soapbox, presenting their views in a style not unlike a videoblog.
For the first time, the position of culture director exists separately from any other position on the board, allowing the station to create a greater focus on lifestyle programming. Narrative shows like “Sunshine Scandals” will return together with new programs like a celebrity gossip show that Burgis says is in the works.
Student films will remain an important part of USFtv, with a more aggressive campaign for submissions from artists living both on and off campus. This year, the channel also wants to show full-length features created by students. These movies would show once and would most likely be accompanied by a big premier event.
As for taking the new broadcast in a different direction, Kate Elston, USFtv’s director of news, said, “we’ve started to build a connection with the Foghorn.” Elston wants to ensure that a collaborative relationship exists between these two news outlets.
“The newspaper has more leeway in [terms of production]. Our turn around time is longer, so we’re hoping to fill in the gaps of any stories the Foghorn has. Hopefully we will share [an] audience that way.” Elston’s approach seems to be aiming towards a more comprehensive coverage of news on campus that spans across a variety of media. With greater communication between the two organizations, Elston also hopes to make sure that coverage of events is not redundant, but that USFtv always has a new layer or angle to contribute.
A key challenge for the new executive board is building recognition on campus. In the past, USFtv has suffered from the same affliction that plagues many on-campus organizations – most of the time students are either unaware of their existence, or are not in the loop about new work that is being produced. Danielle Watchmen, this year’s publicity director, hopes to change that for USFtv. According to her, a key part of this strategy is “working hard to make sure that we are really present, especially in the freshman dorms,” since the station’s viewership consists of students living on campus. In addition, Watchmen is looking to create a weekly prize giveaway through the station’s website where viewers who respond correctly to questions about programming could win things like USFtv t-shirts and chapstick.
Increasing visibility on campus should be easier with some pivotal technological additions that have been made to the campus over the summer. Flat screen TVs have been installed in common areas like the Market Cafe and Outtakes. On Oct. 3, the televisions will display USFtv’s first cablecast of the season.
Elston is confident that this first cablecast will reflect a high level of quality. According to her, the broadcast journalism class offered last spring helped recruit students who were not only interested in working, but could also bring their skills and knowledge to the table. She added that many returning reporters and editors on staff have now interned for papers or television stations and will have valuable experience to share.
Burgis, for his part, sees this semester as a good opportunity to build a backlog of strong programming for the first cablecast of the spring semester. In addition, he wants to use this time to train incoming members. He is most excited about the content that won’t air until February of next year, but wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly the station is planning. Already looking well beyond the upcoming season premier, he promises, “campus television changes forever February 2009.” For now, USF students will have to settle for this year’s first cablecast which airs October 3 on channel 35 exclusively on campus television screens.