by Leanne Stuck
It may be nestled just outside the small City of Niagara Falls, but Niagara University is offering world-class opportunities to its students. The university is giving college students the chance to live in New York City and intern at CBS Broadcast Center - a dream for any aspiring broadcast journalist.
Niagara University communication studies students have been able to spend their summer in the "Big Apple" working with the best names in the news industry at WCBS. This internship is a chance to receive hands-on news experience working in one of the busiest newsrooms in the country. This program is not offered at many other universities, which is why this internship is a special part of Niagara University.
How has such a small university been given such a great opportunity? It all comes down to one special alumnus.
I sat down with Niagara University's Communications Department Chair Dr. Mark Barner to learn more about this program.
Q. How did Niagara University get the opportunity to send communications students to WCBS?
A. Several years ago we invited the president of WCBS, Peter Dunn, to come to NU and speak to our students. Peter is an alumnus of NU, although his degree is actually in English, because the CMS department did not yet exist. Mr. Dunn was very gracious in meeting and talking to our students and offering them advice on their future careers. As part of his talk, he also offered the opportunity of summer internships at WCBS.
Q. Why do you believe that this is a great opportunity for your students?
A. The internship program at WCBS is a great opportunity for students because it gives them a chance to experience real-world broadcast news operations at a major-market station. They offer internships in various departments, including news, sports, sales, promotions and others.
Q. What type of students do you look to send on an internship like this?
A. Students interested in pursuing a career in broadcast news are the obvious choice for this experience. While we have a good relationship with the management there, acceptance to the program is not a sure thing. Students still need to go through a rigorous application and interview process. They also need to be aware that the internship is not paid and that they must find their own housing for two months in New York City - not an inexpensive venture.
It may be an expensive endeavor, but according to Niagara University senior Nicholas Solly, it was well worth both the rigorous acceptance process and housing fees.
"Overall, WCBS was an incredible experience that gave me very beneficial knowledge on the news industry while working first-hand with news professionals," he said of his experience.
Solly was an intern in the heart of the newsroom at the assignment desk. He was able to work with some of the best assignment editors in the industry. His daily jobs were researching and preparing stories for WCBS news reporters to cover.
He shared with me what a typical day working in a market one newsroom was like.
"My daily tasks would change from day to day," Solly said. "Typically, I would search for stories through small news outlets in the NYC area that could be picked up by WCBS. In addition, I would answer calls from the community that had interesting topics or press releases that they wanted us to use. I would also help with developing stories by calling police departments and searching the Internet for photos of the people who were involved with that day's stories."
Solly was not the only student who was given this opportunity. Cole Bielecki, a senior at Niagara University, was also accepted into this internship program, but worked in a different department offered at WCBS. Bielecki was an intern in the creative services department, where he was able to edit and create promotions for upcoming stories that would air each day.
"I had an amazing experience at WCBS," Bielecki said. "Everyone in the creative services department was friendly and very helpful. They allowed me to have creative freedom on the promos that I was editing, which I didn't expect going in. I was treated just as I was part of the team. I learned a lot about the promotional side of news, which I couldn't really learn in a classroom."
Not only is this internship program a great learning opportunity to gain work experience for these students, but it is also beneficial in that it teaches them how to adjust to another lifestyle. We all know the hustle and bustle of a New York City life is much different than our quaint home in Niagara Falls.
"It was quite the adjustment," he said. "It was a lot different. It took a week or two to get used to, but after that I was fine. I actually enjoyed the NYC lifestyle more. It was just a lot easier to do something. If I wanted to go grab some food, all I had to do was walk out of my apartment and there were tons of restaurants to choose from. In Niagara Falls, I would have to drive. NYC is a lot faster pace than Niagara Falls, which could be tiring sometimes. One of the hardest transitions for me when I first got to NYC was sleeping, because I wasn't used to hearing all the loud noises, such as sirens, and people honking their horns in their cars all night"
Although it was quite an adjustment for all of the interns at WCBS, the experience and knowledge that each and every student gained made this internship one they would never forget.