“Can you help us get a tour of a local TV station?” asked Lauren Hittinger, president of RIT’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. I don’t have a ton of influence in the world, but I was pretty sure I could make that happen. Having recently agreed to serve as professional advisor to the PRSSA, opening up a door at a former employer was a reasonable request.
So, last Friday, I joined five students at the studios of 13WHAM-TV, the local ABC affiliate. Steve Dawe, the station’s news director, graciously agreed to show us around. I tried, unsuccessfully, not to be a distraction. Although it’s been 12 years since I worked at Channel 13, there were still former coworkers and friends around every corner. Thankfully, Steve plowed ahead with the tour while I socialized.
The tour included the newsroom, the control center and the studio. The students even got to sit in for the 5 p.m. newscast. Seeing their reactions to everything reminded me there’s still a special magic to TV production, and I was very fortunate to have enjoyed a career in the industry.
While I knew this would be an interesting experience for the group, I wanted to make sure one important message got across. For those of us who work in the public relations arena, it’s essential to understand the workings of the media. That perspective came from Brian Houseman. As 13WHAM’s assignment editor, Brian is usually the point of contact for PR professionals looking to gain news coverage for their organizations.
I pointed out to the students that Brian is the person that members of University News reach out to with story ideas. He admitted there are days he receives hundreds of news releases, which only highlights the importance of relationships and how they help PR professionals rise above all that noise. But I particularly appreciated Brian’s acknowledgement that it works both ways. He can always turn to me to help the station address a need in generating news content. Basically, we exist to serve each other.
So while the bright lights and cool broadcast technology made for an engaging tour, it still came down to one message—relationships, above all, are what make things happen. My thanks to Steve, Brian and the 13WHAM staff for their hospitality.
Above: News director Steve Dawe joins members of RIT’s PRSSA chapter on the 13WHAM news set.
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