Northeastern journalism students have captured four 2021 regional collegiate Emmy awards, their largest haul in two years, reflecting both a TikTok-fueled fervor for visual storytelling and the university’s efforts to get students to envision news beyond the printed word.
Multimedia journalist Gianna Barberia, who graduated in 2020 and who just started a new job in June at Cheddar News in New York, won top honors in the Serious News category for a report on Northeastern’s response to the pandemic. Parts of the segment were filmed on Centennial Common on the Boston campus. She won another award for a compilation of highlights from previous news reports.
“Working in TV and broadcast news has always been my goal,” says Barberia, who produced both segments for a class taught by Mike Beaudet, journalism professor of the practice at Northeastern.
“One of the things I’ve been pushing in the Journalism Department is to boost our video offerings and underscore the importance of video storytelling,” says Beaudet, who is also an investigative reporter at a Boston TV station. A winner of 19 Emmys in his own right, Beaudet since 2015 has been submitting students’ work, which has won awards every year since.
“We’ve had such incredible video storytellers as students and it’s been satisfying to see them get recognized for their work,” he adds.
A series of short, student-created stories that came out of a Northeastern journalism class trip to Panama in February of 2020 won a pair of Emmys in addition to the two won by Barberia. Graduate student and multimedia sports reporter Matt Cunha’s segment on BMX bikers and skateboarders beat out other submissions, as did a three-story newsmagazine-style profile of Panama by Danae Bucci, Katarina Torres Radisic, and Alyssa Lukpat.
Bucci and Lukpat have graduated from Northeastern since that Panama trip in 2020 and have gone on to other journalism roles. Bucci is a TV news reporter at the ABC affiliate in Savannah, Georgia, and Lukpat is a reporting fellow at the New York Times. Radisic is expected to graduate in 2022.
Carlene Hempel, a journalism professor at Northeastern who previously worked in print and television newsrooms, has been the driving force behind the on-the-ground overseas reporting opportunities for students. In addition to Panama, students have been to Cuba and Spain. Venice, Italy, is next in 2022.
“It’s experiential learning at its best,” says Hempel, who has long been involved with the Dialogue of Civilizations system at Northeastern in which she leads about 18 students for five weeks to another country to function as a traveling press corps. She came up with a separate idea of creating a semester-long course about a topic or country, then traveling there for spring break.
“It’s life-changing for these students to be able to go to these countries without any sense of geography, without any sense of landscape, culture, or language, other than what we’ve learned before we get there, and have to produce these pieces.”
The trip to Panama resulted in 16 stories in total that were written, shot, photographed, and produced by a dozen Northeastern students. “We were trekking through rainforests looking for this little bug that infects people and gives them a heart condition,” Hempel recalls. “What could be more affirming that you want to be a journalist than to be trekking through a rainforest with a scientist looking for a little beetle.”
Audio podcasts were produced from the trip, and hundreds of photographs were taken, but it was the video footage that caught the attention of the Emmy judges. It is an increasing acknowledgment of the TikTok craze that has fueled a demand for video, says Barberia, one of the student Emmy winners.
“The rise of TikTok and social media as a whole has not only sparked a demand for video content but has created a tremendous amount of competition,” she says. “You don’t have to be a professional videographer or photographer to share visual content. You can shoot a quick video on your cell phone and post it immediately to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people.”
Bucci, the fellow graduate, has more than 185,000 TikTok followers. She thinks part of the attraction lies in viewers seeking out the personalities behind the videos.
“I’ve seen that with my own TikTok,” Bucci says. “People aren’t necessarily interested in news but they’re interested in seeing my life as a news person. And I just happen to do that through the video medium because you can see it more and you can kind of get it behind the scenes that you can’t with print.”
She credits Northeastern for creating well-rounded reporters who disseminate news through a range of channels. “There are so many classes at Northeastern that are specifically focused on making sure you have video skills and multimedia skills as well as audio for podcasting and social media skills,” Bucci says.
Hempel, the journalism professor, doesn’t think print reporting will be overtaken by video—“it’s neck and neck,” she says—but views the shift as an opportunity to broaden and balance the university’s approach to teaching the next generation of reporters.
“Those three things—print, podcasting, and video—for content delivery. That’s how people want to receive their information.”
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