#MasonCOMM students tour WJLA-TV, Channel 7 to reveal "the inner workings of regional broadcasting"

Professor David Miller takes COMM 353 students to tour the station in Rosslyn, Virginia as part of finals week

by Livia Benjamin

#MasonCOMM students tour WJLA-TV, Channel 7 to reveal "the inner workings of regional broadcasting"
COMM 353 students tour WJLA-TV, Channel 7 Rosslyn station

During finals week, Professor David Miller's broadcast journalism class toured WJLA-TV Channel 7 in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Public affairs manager Bonnie Wood explained that the tour's purpose was to reveal the inner workings of regional broadcasting.

"When you watch television from home, you never see so many aspects of it. There is the director, the producer, the writer, the graphics person... a lot is going on behind the scenes", said Wood.

During the class visit, students had numerous opportunities to interact with many of the station's anchors, reporters, and personalities. 

Chief Meteorologist Veronica Johnson explained how broadcasting the weather helped her conquer her shyness, emphasizing the importance of practicing and preparing if you are serious about something. 

Dave Lucas, an anchor for the station since 1993, provided a similar lesson during the commercial break of his live show. To gain confidence and a conversational tone in a newscast, he advised students to set up a tripod and "just practice."

During the hour-long tour, students explored newsrooms, studios, control rooms, assignment desks, and postproduction facilities.

Brad Byrne, Editor-in-Chief of Mason's student-run newspaper, The Fourth Estate, was curious about broadcast news. "I'm more of a print guy, but after learning about the news desk aspect of it, I could see myself doing something like producing at some point in my career," said Byrne. 

For others, like Mason senior Josh Yourish, the trip only confirmed their career path.

"As someone who wants to get into broadcasting, seeing everything that goes into it makes it seem more real," said Yourish.

During their walk through the green room, the class briefly met Alison Starling, a seven-time Emmy Award-winning anchor who is currently the anchor for the 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. broadcasts. 

In addition, the group met recent Mason graduate Oscar Avalar. The former media production student is now a production assistant at WJLA-TV after earning his skills in the program and working for Mason Cable Network.   

"I was inspired. Seeing it in person made me feel more motivated," said Margarita Orange, a junior whose concentration is in Media Production. "It just confirmed everything that I'm doing." 

It was a pleasure meeting Mason students, Wood said later. "They were terrific, and we were so glad they asked so many questions! And we may have converted some print journalists to broadcasters!" 

Miller, the Broadcast Journalism course instructor who has led station tours in the past, hopes field trips like these will inspire the next generation of reporters and producers. 

"The end of the semester field trip was a nice way to put a bow on the course," said Miller, who is also the coordinator of the Media Production & Criticism concentration. "Connecting principles with practices is crucial for students. The WJLA-TV tour demonstrates how one's professional aspirations can be realized daily in the professional world."