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Students Take Control of the Media in New Minor

Digital Media Provides Diverse and Engaging Lessons

UMass Lowell Image by Meghan Moore
Students write, produce and appear in news segments as part of the new TV production class in the digital media program. Photo by Meghan Moore.

By Julia Gavin

Sean McCarthy directs camera operators, asks on-air talent to speak up and edits on the fly behind the controls of Mahoney Hall’s new TV studio. He’s worked in media for several years, but saw the new TV production class as an opportunity to improve his knowledge of the shifting field. Helping to build the studio was a bonus.
“We started with an empty room, blue walls and a desk,” says McCarthy, a graduating philosophy major with a concentration in communications. “But we worked hard setting up equipment and getting the studio ready. It’s cool to start at nothing and have a professional studio in just a few months.”
While the studio has only been up and running for a semester, the groundwork for the new digital media minor and its classes have been in the works for some time. Director and lecturer Wael Kamal came to campus a few years ago focused on bringing media studies opportunities to students.
“With shows and advertising moving online, TV may seem like old media, but it’s still alive and it’s changing,” says Kamal. “The classes have been very successful so far and we’re anticipating rapid growth as more students learn of the hands-on studies we offer.”
The minor covers the changing media field including online multimedia production, TV and filmmaking. Students will also learn about the history, laws and artistic aspects of media by taking classes in several departments, capitalizing on the minor’s interdisciplinary nature.
“I like that there are faculty from different areas in the program who are connected to media,” says McCarthy. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people and learn more about media and film from different points of view.”
Students in the minor follow the life of a story or project from inception to publication, picking up writing, technology and communication skills along the way. Kamal feels the program gives students a look at journalism and media production as they exist now “almost like a one journalist show” as one person is often responsible for writing, photography, video and promotion of their work.
Lights. Camera. Action!

In the TV production course, students cycle through every role in the studio from talent to director to producer of their own news segment. 
“The hands-on experience I’ve gotten in this class helped me get a job as a technical representative for the company that makes some of our equipment” says McCarthy, who has worked as assistant manager of the studio and helped Kamal troubleshoot throughout the semester. 
Many of the students have prior TV experience from classes or local stations, but the topic is brand new for some, including Kaleigh Curran, a marketing major who was looking for a challenge and found it in the studio.
“Learning as a team is valuable in the class. In a TV studio, all the roles rely on each other and it takes high levels of communication and coordination from everyone on set to be successful,” says Curran. “The class doesn’t feel like your typical school class. It feels like training for a real world job.”
That hands-on experience is exactly what Kamal strives for in his classes. He says that students wouldn’t be as excited about digital media listening to a lecture in class. The professional equipment, fast pace and possibility for costly errors keep his TV production class on their toes, no matter their role.
“When you’re producing a live show like the ones students make in class, it requires detailed planning and execution,” says Kamal. “If you’re not ready with your shot when the director switches to your camera or you make a mistake that shows a blank screen, that’s lost advertising time and viewers.”
From pros moving in to the industry to those just starting in the media world, these lessons will stay with students. The growing minor is thriving because of the support it’s receiving across the university and the excitement of those looking to its future. Curran was drawn to the program after a conversation with Kamal about the possibilities of digital media. She hasn’t looked back.
“I’ve only just dipped my toes into the media world and I couldn’t be any more excited to discover all it has to offer me.”