Student reporters at Fresno State serve as centerpiece for global news report

by Erika Castañon

Fourteen universities, eight countries and a five-hour international news broadcast — and Fresno State students were the center of it all.

Fresno State students in the Mass Communication and Journalism Department anchored the Global News Relay in March, which included 20-minute segments produced by each of the participating universities on “The Impact of Sports in Our Community,” an in-depth look at cultural influences that affect participation in sports.

Faith Sidlow

It was a chance for students to connect with those making an impact in the local community and share those stories with the world. The stories ranged from a Jedi exercise class and unicycle football to minority representation in sports and childhood obesity.

Other U.S. universities participating included Alabama, Baylor, Boston, Texas State and West Texas A&M, plus universities from Australia, Bulgaria, Egypt, England, Indonesia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The project was founded in 2014 by the University of Salford in Manchester, England. This was Fresno State’s second year as a participant but first year as host.

The University funded a studio upgrade to make it possible for the students to host the production.

Faith Sidlow, assistant professor in the department, says working on this newscast has created a dynamic of peer-to-peer teaching.

“The cool thing about the relay is it brought us all together in the Mass Communication and Journalism Department, says Sidlow, who has nearly three decades of TV broadcast experience. “We needed something that would make us all cohesive, show our strengths and work toward a common goal.”

Students from broadcast journalism, multimedia production and public relations — in addition to a student from art and design — combined their skills to make the project possible.

Fabiola Ramirez Muñoz, a double major in broadcast journalism and multimedia, and Janet Zaragoza, also a broadcast journalism major, produced the newscast.

Ramirez Muñoz admired the teamwork in the department. “I think for once we will be able to shine in a project done by everyone,” she says. “I don’t think we’ve seen that in any other project that we’ve done.”

Multimedia and women’s studies major Natalie Nigg served as technical director for the relay and operated the new Tricaster, a professional, multi-camera production system.

“It improves our green screen capabilities so now we can do a multi-cam green screen,” Nigg says. “We can change the background and make it look like we are actually on a set, and then on top of that, we have live-set capability so we have the ability to put our talent in virtual sets.”

Professional, hands-on experience like this is attractive to many students, Zaragoza says.

“It gave me the chills to know that I was going to produce a five-hour show and get that experience here at Fresno State,” Zaragoza says. “It’s something that I am going to be able to tell future employers that I have done with my partner.”

Sidlow says she hopes the students who are involved in the project will gain a more global perspective in covering and consuming news.

“We have a tendency to pay attention to our own little worlds, but there’s much more out there than just Fresno and the Sunday night football game,” she says. “Once our students graduate, they will know how to function on a global level, and the Global News Relay is the first step in being able to do that.”

— Erika Castañon is a student news assistant for University Communications at Fresno State.