It’s Friday afternoon beneath blinding studio lights and students are bustling around the studio in Andersen Hall, anxiously awaiting the clock to strike 3:30 p.m.
Nebraska Nightly, a subsection of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ Experience Lab, is a student-produced and recorded news show that airs on its YouTube on various Fridays, throughout the semester, according to its website.
“The idea is ‘do from day one,’” Brian Petrotta, an assistant professor of sports media and communication and the faculty liaison for Nebraska Nightly, said. “That’s the ethic that we want to get across, and so the Experience Lab is a great way to do that.”
The college offers six experience lab programs, each tailoring to specific skills that students can use in a “real-world setting,” according to its website.
“It’s almost like a mini internship within the college, so you don’t have to go out and be hired somewhere else,” Petrotta said. ”You can actually get the practical experience inside of the college.”
Petrotta said that out of the eight students that participated in Nebraska Nightly this semester, only a couple had previous experiences with broadcasting.
Hannah-Kate Kinney, a sophomore broadcasting, journalism and advertising and public relations triple major, who helped plan the Experience Lab as a student lead during her summer internship with the college, described the opportunity as “flying a plane while building it.”
“As we got closer to getting into the details of this is what it’s actually like to build a newscast, I think there was a moment, probably there in October, when there was some self doubt and you could kind of feel it that they weren’t sure if they could pull this off,” Petrotta said.
According to Petrotta, the best part of the experience has been to see the growth in students “from day one” and the excitement of their success.
“That first newscast, which was on November 5, I was actually serving as the floor manager, so I was right there in front of the anchors, and I would say about 30 seconds into that first newscast, I could see in their eyes that they saw that they were doing it and they saw that they could do it,” Petrotta said. “The jubilation after that first show made all of it worth it, and I was like ‘this is why I got into teaching.’”
The lab also incorporates professionals in residence, also known as PIRs. Nebraska Nightly PIRs include people who work in the news broadcasting industry and assist students in their production, Petrotta said.
“We have several PIRs to come and help us and they have different roles in the newsroom, as well as our team does,” Kinney said.
The college introduced Nebraska Nightly, as well as the Experience Lab program, for the first time this fall semester.
“This is really exciting to get to build something from the ground up,” Petrotta said. “That opportunity doesn’t come along very often, so I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the growth of this program and lay the foundation for this program.”
The students have experienced professional development throughout the semester, developing skills that will transition them to a professional newsroom, Kinney said.
“On our last day with the PIRs, two of them handed me business cards, like, ‘Whenever you need us, whenever you need a job, here you go,’” Kinney said. “So that’s a tangible thing that I can take away from this.”
Nebraska Nightly will continue into next semester with triple the amount of students and hopes to air more frequent broadcasts, according to Petrotta.
“I think it has just been a wonderful experience. Again, the growth that we have seen, the change in confidence from the beginning of the year, turning that excitement into knowing that they can do it,” Petrotta said, “that, to me, that’s what the experience lab is all about.”