Students gain real-world experience, tour media outlets


Photo by: Courtesy of JaConna Brooker

Mass Communication students Brandon Ryback, JaConna Brooker and Michelle Carter visit CBS46 during spring break.

JaConna Brooker , Staff Writer

During Spring Break, three FMU mass communication students visited various media outlets in Atlanta, Ga.

David Baxley, assistant professor of mass communication, accompanied the students on the trip, which was funded through a Ready to Experience Applied Learning (REAL) grant. The REAL program funds non-traditional learning experiences at FMU.  Baxley said he hopes the trip was fun and educational as the students gained knowledge in their respective fields.

“I hope our students use this trip as motivation for learning even more about their chosen field,” Baxley said. “Whether it’s public relations, print journalism or broadcast news, you must have a passion for what you do. I saw our students’ eyes light up on the trip. I believe it sparked their curiosity even more. The students gained great exposure to real-world experiences during our trip. We’re thankful to the REAL grant committee for funding this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our mass communication students.”

The participants visited the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” (AJC), CNN, WGCL-CBS 46 and Anna Ruth Public Relations (ARPR) firm. According to Baxley, the trip exposed students to the day-to-day operations of various news media outlets in Atlanta and showed them qualifications for employment.

Students first toured the AJC newspaper to better understand how print journalism is continuously changing. Tracy Brown, AJC’s deputy managing editor, gave the students a tour around the newsroom. She spoke to students about how the newspaper has implemented changes to attract younger readers. 

Brown said AJC is incorporating podcasts and adapting a more mobile-friendly atmosphere at the paper. Brown explained potential employment opportunities for recent college graduates who possess the technology skills to use social media to attract new readership.

Students took a VIP tour of the CNN headquarters where they had a chance to see how one of the world’s largest news organizations operates. They witnessed different productions, learned about the history of CNN and the many different cable stations connected to it, such as HLN and CNN Español.

The group then visited CBS46, Atlanta’s CBS affiliate. Ashley Thompson, a reporter for the station, led the students on the tour. She showed students the technical aspects of newscast productions and introduced them to anchors and staff explained their position. Students watched the live production of the noon newscast from the studio.

Students visited ARPR last where they met Jennifer Blackburn, the senior account manager. Blackburn expressed the value of having a connection with coworkers and clients to be successful in the field. Blackburn said it is important to understand the clients you work with because of the varying personalities.

According to Blackburn, it is very important to be well-versed in digital skills. In public relations, those potential connections help build credibility. She said, in certain cases, the message a public relations professional is trying to convey must appeal to news reporters as successful. Blackburn said depending on the type of public relations specialist the person is or wants to be will determine if in-house or out-house is best for them.