It's like I never left

July 6, 2015 01:30

By Lydia Timmins, RTDNA Contributor

The scanner is blaring behind me, the monitor in front of me blinks updates, I smell coffee and someone is crinkling a bag of chips.

Yes, I'm back in the newsroom! How did I get here?

A recap: I spent 22 years as a producer in a variety of markets on the East Coast and a Midwest venture. During the second half of my TV career, I found out my company was willing to pay for grad school. Never one to turn down a benefit, I completed a Master’s in Journalism, then went on to do a PhD in Mass Media and Communication. As that degree completed, my company was bought-- and I took the buyout. I now teach journalism and communication at the University of Delaware. I started writing this column to explore the evolution that I and other newsies are making... newsroom to classroom.

But what about from classroom to newsroom? Yes, some profs (Simon Perez from Syracuse comes right to mind) do it. But how?

In my case, I hosted two people from a station in my old market who were looking for interns. I mentioned to them that I might like to come visit for a week, just get back into the newsroom, refresh my skills. Instead--they asked if I would be interested in some vacation relief work for the summer!

So here I am, in a familiar place that's also new. The AP beeps are still here. The technology hasn't changed too much. It's a lot easier to get video in house now, from the field and from network feeds. The news itself hasn't changed much either. And I'm even working with some people from my former station.

That scanner just said 3 kids, 2 adults, graze wounds... and my blood pressure is up. Cut-in? Chopper squeeze? Sheesh, I'm only in my first day of training. But the adrenaline never left, now did it?

I’m in it, and yet I still have the academic part of me observing the action. How are the managers deciding what to do? What words do the desk people use when they describe a scene? How are all the journalists deciding what to cover... and what NOT to cover?

I hope to answer, or at least shed light on, some of these questions as the summer progresses. I can answer them from my own anecdotal experience, but now I am looking at situations from another perspective. The academic perspective isn’t better or worse, just another way to see how the news goes from an event that happens to a story that’s told.

And I hope that in turn I can take a fresher point-of-view back to my classrooms in the fall. My life’s work now is to prepare the journalists of tomorrow. I can do that more effectively by being a journalist today.

Lydia R. Timmins is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Delaware.